Venus rev­els in ATP Fi­nals lux­ury

Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - Michael Burgess

Mike Venus will live like ten­nis roy­alty in the next few days.

The 31-year-old Auck­lan­der will be mix­ing with Roger Fed­erer and No­vak Djokovic, stay­ing in a lux­u­ri­ous suite next to the Lon­don Eye and en­joy­ing food pre­pared by some of the city’s top chefs.

And while pun­ters make their way to the ATP Tour Fi­nals by car or on the Un­der­ground, Venus will travel on a pri­vate play­ers’ boat, with a leisurely cruise across the Thames.

With his feats in the past two years — in­clud­ing win­ning the dou­bles ti­tle at Roland Gar­ros and reach­ing the fi­nal at Wim­ble­don — Venus has es­tab­lished him­self in the top ech­e­lon of the dou­bles game.

That means a com­fort­able liv­ing, en­try to all the grand slams and par­tic­i­pa­tion at the Mas­ters events. How­ever, dou­bles still takes a back seat to the glam­our of sin­gles, but in Lon­don next week, it’s dif­fer­ent.

With an ex­clu­sive field — eight sin­gles play­ers and eight dou­bles teams — the com­bi­na­tions en­joy a level of crowd sup­port and lux­ury they don’t usu­ally ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s a huge high­light,” said Venus, from his five-star ho­tel. “When Raven Klaasen and I first spoke about play­ing to­gether, it was our goal to make it to Lon­don. So to be here, around all the other play­ers, it’s great.

“It’s a big arena and usu­ally com­pletely full. There is one sin­gles and one dou­bles each ses­sion, and peo­ple tend to come out for both. And the court is the only thing that is lit up, with the crowd in dark­ness. The at­mos­phere is unique and ev­ery­thing about it, the whole ex­pe­ri­ence, is al­most per­fect re­ally.”

Venus, play­ing along­side Amer­i­can Ryan Har­ri­son, reached the semi­fi­nals last year on his Lon­don de­but. He would love a re­peat and ad­mits there are no ex­cuses for peak per­for­mance.

“Our ho­tel looks out over the Lon­don Eye and our suite has a few rooms,” said Venus. “A pri­vate boat takes us straight up to the pier each day. It’s not your typ­i­cal tour­na­ment trans­port. And the food . . . there’s no hold­ing back on the food. Ba­si­cally they have ev­ery­thing you could need or want, and if they don’t, you could ask for it and they will get it.”

World No 14 Venus and Klaasen (13) have en­joyed a strong sea­son. The high points were the fi­nal at SW19, an­other de­cider at the Toronto Mas­ters and a ti­tle in Mar­seille.

But they also reached the quar­ter­fi­nals at five Mas­ters 1000 events and made ATP fi­nals in Ja­pan and Hol­land.

“We have been very con­sis­tent,” said Venus. “In the first five or six months, we were do­ing well, mak­ing quar­ters of some big events. Then we had a break­through at Wim­ble­don and that showed us, in those big mo­ments, we can beat the good teams. I like where we are at.”

Venus and Klaasen are the sixth seeds, pit­ted against sec­ond-seeded Colom­bians Juan Se­bas­tian Ca­bal and Robert Farah, fourth seeds Jamie Mur­ray of Bri­tain and Bruno Soares (Brazil) and sev­enth-seeded Croa­t­ian Nikola Mek­tic and Aus­trian Alexan­der Peya in group play.

The re­wards are lu­cra­tive, with a US$100,000 ($148,000) ap­pear­ance fee per team, US$38,000 ($57,000) for each group win and much more for progress be­yond that.

And dur­ing the week, Venus also gets to mix with Fed­erer, Djokovic and the other leg­ends of the sport.

“You def­i­nitely see more of each other, be­cause there’s less peo­ple here,” said Venus. “Ev­ery time you see them, it’s ‘hi, how ya do­ing’ and they are nice and friendly. Ev­ery­one knows ev­ery­one and it’s def­i­nitely a spe­cial thing to be part of.”

Photo / Getty Im­ages

Mike Venus and Raven Klaasen have ex­celled in 2018.

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