Venus relishes his time on big stage
PHOTOSPORT IF there was any doubt about what a special year it’s been for Michael Venus, that should end when he takes the court in front of 17,000 spectators each time he plays this week.
New Zealand’s top doubles player qualified with American Ryan Harrison to play at the prestigious and lucrative season end ATP finals at the O2 arena in London.
It is the biggest event outside the Grand Slams, with only the top eight singles players and doubles teams invited.
For Venus, it’s further evidence that he’s reached the tennis elite and has been a target of Venus and Harrison’s since they won the French Open in June.
‘‘Once we had that success at Roland Garros, it was definitely a goal to try to play here,’’ Venus said from London on Saturday, the day before he and Harrison take on Henri Kontinen from Finland and John Peers in their opening match.
‘‘To be here is great, I’ve never been here before for the tournament, but I’ve watched it on TV every year,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s something that you want to do and I’m really excited with the opportunity we’ve been able to get. So I’m trying to enjoy it all and hopefully it goes well.
‘‘We’d love to be able to come back here again, but you don’t know if that will happen, so we’ll enjoy moment.’’
Harrison is the only specialist singles player in the doubles tournament and his court time with Venus has been limited throughout the year.
But for this event, they’ve been able to prepare fully, something Venus hopes will pay off.
‘‘Typically throughout the year we don’t practice together much because Ryan is playing singles,’’ Venus said. ‘‘So this has been a different week, being on the court together and getting to work on some things.
‘‘We played some practice points against some of the other doubles teams, then also we did some more doubles specific drills with us on half a court.
‘‘So we mix it around and try to keep things interesting. They’ve taken care of us really well, I think we’re ready to go and hopefully we’ll come out playing well.’’
There’s no reason why Venus and Harrison shouldn’t be optimistic about their chances. At Wimbledon they had a match point against Kontinen and Peers.
Kiwi Michael Venus has had a breakthrough year.