Mike Venus became just the third New Zealander to win a grand slam tennis title in the open era, after clinching the title with best mate Ryan Harrison. Only Onny Parun, who won the French Open men’s doubles title in 1974 and Judy Chaloner, who won the Australian open women’s doubles title in 1979 have done it before.
Venus and Harrison share a special bond. They have been friends since they were eight years old. “He was like a brother growing up. He taught me how to drive, taught me how to a lot of things. One thing he didn’t teach me how to do was talk to girls but he was someone who’s been there for a lot of memorable moments of my life, including my wedding.”
Venus moved to America when he was just 15 years old. It was there, where he was coached by Ryan Harrison’s father, Pat, and became firm friends with his son. Just two months ago Venus was a groomsman at the wedding of Ryan Harrison. So these two share a special bond, which makes their achievement ever more special.
Their road to the final wasn’t easy. They took down the fourth, seventh and sixteenth seeds on their way to the final. Making their achievement, even more special, was the fact that every match they played went to three sets, which shows their fighting qualities.
The final was a very tight match. The first two sets were all about big serving, with both teams holding serve pretty comfortably. Venus and Harrison won the opening set in a tiebreak 7-5 before their opponents Santiago Gonzalez from Mexico and Donald Young from America took the second set also in a tiebreak 7-4. The third set was following the pattern for the match with both teams holding serve comfortably until the match exploded when Venus and Harrison broke at 3-2. What followed was a brand new script. Gonzalez and Young broke straight back before Donald Young couldn’t cope with the pressure and doubled faulted twice in a row to give Venus and Harrison the decisive break. Serving for the championship you could feel the nerves with a lot of tentative shots from both teams before Gonzalez sent a forehand long past Venus to hand them the title.
Michael Venus’s road to this point has been tough. Venus graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU) in 2009. Venus had a very successful college career. In his senior year, he finished number 7 in the nation for singles and number four for doubles. He then turned his attention to the pro circuit, with his focus being on singles. At the end of his first year (2009) on tour, Venus finished 587 in the world for singles and 681 in doubles. The next four years, Venus battled out on the futures tour playing small tournaments struggling to make a living, receiving no sponsorships and earning small pay cheques. Venus’s career changed towards the end of 2013. Mike Venus entered the Asia Oceania wild card playoff tournament. He entered the doubles with Indian partner Yuki Bhambri. They won the tournament to gain a wild-card into the main draw of the Australian Open. This came, on the back of a very strong 2013 season in doubles. Venus won two Futures events before moving up to the Challenger tier of tournaments, where he won three tournaments and came runner-up in two others.
At the Australian Open, Mike and his Indian partner Yuki Bhambri played extremely well. They made it to the third round and took down the tenth seeds along the way. After his success at the Australian Open, Mike Venus made the decision to solely focus on doubles. The 2014 season was all about improving his doubles skills and moving up the rankings. What that meant was, he needed to do well at tournaments to boost his ranking, which he did. He won three tournaments on the Challenger tour with a range of partners and came runner-up in three others.
2015 was the year he started moving up towards the ATP 250 level tournaments, which provides players with more ranking points and probably most importantly more prize money to help with their travel all around the world. 2015 was a very successful year for Mike Venus and April was an incredible month. He made three finals in a row with Mate Pavic from Croatia, who would go on to become his regular partner. Venus and Pavic won two of the tournaments and lost the other. Venus and Pavic moved up to the ATP 250 level tournaments and were pretty successful. They made three finals and were able to win of them. Venus won his first ATP 250 title in Nice beating Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer, the same team Venus had beaten in his first ever Grand Slam event at the Australian Open in 2014 and they were also a top 5 doubles team in the world at the time.
If 2015 was successful, 2016 was incredible. Venus made nine finals winning four of them, three of them with Mate Pavic and one at an ATP 500 level tournament with Robert Lindstedt. His favorite tournament win and probably his most famous victory came at the ATP 250 tournament in Auckland. Venus and Pavic defeated fellow kiwis Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniel in the semifinals before beating doubles specialist, Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky to grab the title. On top of all the success, Venus was very successful at Grand Slams. Venus started the year slowly losing in the first round of both the Australian Open and French Open before doing well at Wimbledon. Teaming up with Mate Pavic, they lost in the round of 16 (3rd round) 16-14 in the fifth set against Jamie Murray (brother of Andy Murray World number 1 singles player) and Bruno Soares. At the US Open Venus again playing with Pavic lost in the second round.
As I have mentioned earlier, 2017 provided Michael Venus with his biggest result of his career. Going into the French Open, Venus had been having a lean year by his standards. Venus who had changed partners to the experienced doubles player of Robert Lindstedt struggled for results. They lost either in the first or second round of tournaments including the Australian Open. Venus made the decision to switch partners, which resulted in him making two semi-finals at a Challenger level tournaments in Texas and Florida with a new partner, Santiago Gonzalez, who Mike would end up beating in the final of the French Open. Once the clay court season kicked off on the ATP tour, Mike teamed up with his best mate Ryan Harrison and in their second tournament together won a 250 level tournament in Estoril Portugal. Leading into the French Open Mike lost three straight matches before his heroics in the French Open.
Going into the French Open Mike had very low expectations as he had never won a set a the French Open. In the first round, Mike and Ryan Harrison played, Diego Schwartzman and Frances Tiafoe and in a tight match, Venus came through 3-6 6-4 6-4. In the second Round, Mike Venus potentially played the match of his life. He took down Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo who were the fourth seeds in the tournament but the best team in the world, in terms of results this year. In the third round, they were very close to exiting the tournament where they were down a set and a break at 6-5. They broke back and came back to win, 4-6 7-6 6-2. In the quarterfinals, they took on the seventh seeds. In another close match, they took them down 6-2 3-6 6-3. The semi-finals was again a tight match and came down to just a few points here and there. After losing the first set 6-4, Venus stormed back to win the second and third sets 6-3 6-4 to book themselves a spot in the final. As I’ve spoken about earlier the final was a tight affair but as we’re all aware Mike and Ryan came through 7-6 6-7 6-3.
One thing that I found out today, which I thought was incredible, is that he only just got a shirt sponsorship with New Balance. Previously, Mike had to go a buy all of this clothing and shoes from a normal store like you and me, and for someone who has had the success he has, that is amazing. With the victory at the French, Open, Mike’s ranking will jump from 39 in the world to a career high 15 in the world.