Tennis: Silver lining to ATP Finals exit for Michael Venus


Michael Venus of New Zealand, left, celebrates a winning point with John Peers of Australia. Photo / AP

A day after failing to qualify for the doubles semifinals at the ATP Finals in London, Michael Venus is on his way home.

The Kiwi tennis player has avoided jeopardising his preparation for the Australian Open by being stranded in London until December 12.

The 33-year-old originally had a managed isolation voucher booked for earlier this month after the Paris Masters. But after he and Aussie partner John Peers qualified for the season-ending championship, Venus tried to change the voucher to enable him to compete in London.

But the Government wouldn’t allow swaps or make exemptions and Venus reluctantly grabbed one of the extra vouchers made available for December 13, three weeks after the tournament ended.

That meant the prospects of being unable to train for five weeks due to the London lockdown and managed isolation at home, severely disrupting his preparation for the new season starting in January.

However, Venus spent hours on the New Zealand Government website each day refreshing in case any vouchers came up to allow him to depart earlier, and found one.

“One popped up for the 23rd so I managed to get that and got a flight,” Venus said.

“Some flights get cancelled every so often and people’s itineraries change, so I have been on there five hours a day and hitting refresh pretty constantly. They are only up there for a few days and I just feel thankful I was able to nab one.”

Venus is relieved he will be able to see his family sooner having been away from his pregnant wife Sally and two-year-old daughter Lila since departing for the US on August 12 to resume the Covid-hit season.

It also means he will be able to prepare properly for the new season.

“It’s great we will have all the facilities and coaching (coach Will Ward is in Auckland) to prepare for next season,” Venus said.

Venus was determined to play in London to boost his chances of securing a top 10 ranking to guarantee a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

“It was a very unusual week, not my typical one in terms of preparing but we still went out there and played some good tennis. It would have been good to finish and play the final there. But it wasn’t meant to be.”

It’s been a successful first year together for Venus and Peers who finished 2020 ranked sixth as a team with Venus projected to finish the year ranked 13th or 14th in the individual ATP doubles rankings.

They captured ATP 500 titles in Dubai and Hamburg as well as an ATP 250 title in Antwerp.

Venus says his partnership with Peers has really developed.

“We normally have six weeks off in the offseason but to have an extended break in the middle of the year you don’t know how things will turn out when you get back out there. So, to be able to have the win in Dubai before Covid and to get things rolling when we were back is really pleasing. I am really happy with where my game’s at.”

Venus doesn’t know when he will play again with the ATP calendar not finalised yet for before January’s Australian Open, but says he should know more in the next week.

“I think from seeing how the end of this year has gone, the tournaments will go ahead and we will have a calendar – it’s just a matter of where and what weeks and filling in those spots, so it’s just a matter of being ready once January rolls around.”

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