Venus up against top-20 Spa­niard

Sunday News - - TENNIS - DAVID LONG

NEW Zealand’s Michael Venus has been drawn against 2016 ASB Clas­sic cham­pion Roberto Bautista Agut.

It’s a tough first round as­sign­ment for the dou­bles spe­cial­ist, with Bautista Agut the tour­na­ment’s fifth seed.

With the top four seeds given first round byes, Venus would have hoped for some­one not quite as good as the Spa­niard, ranked 19 in the world.

Venus’ last sin­gles match was against Xia Zi­hao, of China, who was ranked 800, and the Kiwi lost that 7-6 7-6.

Venus doesn’t even have a sin­gles rank­ing th­ese days, but his tal­ent in this form of the game shouldn’t be un­der­es­ti­mated.

The only rea­son he de­voted him­self to dou­bles was be­cause he could make a bet­ter liv­ing in this form of the game.

Venus has a huge serve and a strong vol­ley. How­ever, against Bautista Agut, whose strength is his con­sis­tency, he will have to be ex­tremely ag­gres­sive, look to win points as quickly as pos­si­ble and not get drawn into long ral­lies.

It could well be that the Venus v Bautista Agut clash is the fea­ture match to­mor­row evening as they both ar­rived in the coun­try early.

‘‘It’s a great draw [for Venus],’’ Clas­sic tour­na­ment direc­tor Karl Budge said.

‘‘Mike is go­ing to have to go out there and play his game.

‘‘The rea­son why I gave him a wild­card is be­cause he can go out there and hurt peo­ple and that won’t change against Bautista Agut.

‘‘If Mike is on his game, he’ll push Bautista Agut all the way.’’

There are plenty of other mouth-wa­ter­ing con­tests in the first round. Like four-time Clas­sic cham­pion David Fer­rer play­ing Wu Yib­ing, of China, who was given a wild­card for the tour­na­ment.

Two of the most promis­ing young play­ers on the circuit will go head to head, with the eighth seed, An­drey Rublev, of Rus­sia, go­ing up against Greece’s Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas.

De­nis Shapo­valov will play a qual­i­fier first up, but if he wins that match he’ll play Juan Martin del Potro in the sec­ond round.

Dou­bles spe­cial­ist Michael Venus.

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