Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Kiwi Venus out to stay rising on home front

Michael Venus faces Frenchman Benoit Paire. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Michael Venus faces Frenchman Benoit Paire. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Over the past few mornings Kiwi Michael Venus has woken slightly earlier than in a normal week on tour.

Venus, who faces Benoit Paire tonight in the first round of the ASB Tennis Classic, is getting used to a early morning knock on the door from his young nephews, eager to see if "Uncle Mike" is awake.

It is one of the joys of being back home for Venus, who spends up to 10 months of the year overseas.

Another is having a coach by his side, allowing him to have the best possible preparation for his home tournament. It worked in 2015, as Venus claimed the first win by a New Zealand male against an overseas player in Auckland for more than a decade, sparking memorable scenes in one of the highlights of last year's tournament.

For most of the rest of the season, Venus travels without a coach, relying on Skype and text messages for feedback and discussion.

"It would be the biggest thing I struggle with," said Venus. "You try to make do but it is not easy. A coach can pick up so many things, they notice things that you don't and can give you feedback straight away. It also stops bad habits creeping in."

In New Zealand, Venus works with former Davis Cup representative William Ward, who also accompanies him to some grand slam events.

"Within a few weeks back here things start to click," said Venus. "You definitely improve and I feel as ready as I can be."

Venus enjoyed a good 2015 season, with a first ATP doubles title (Nice) and two other finals, some memorable Davis Cup matches and that night last January, when he saved three match points in a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) win over Alejandro Gonzalez.

"When I think about the atmosphere last year, it still brings a smile," said Venus.

Venus, who gained his wildcard after winning the national championships, has had a different build up to last year. He played an invitational tournament in Te Anau and then doubles in Brisbane.

Paire is the most difficult opponent Venus could have drawn, the highest ranked player outside the four top seeds, who receive a first round bye.

Venus' match caps an impressive schedule today, with former winner Philipp Kohlschreiber, 2009 finalist Sam Querrey, sixth seeded Italian Fabio Fognini and defending champion Jiri Vesely also in action.

American Jack Sock was the most impressive performer yesterday, blasting world No56 Victor Estrella Burgos off the court 6-0, 6-4 in 49 minutes. Burgos ain't no mug -- he is the first player from the Dominican Republic to make the top 100 -- but couldn't get anything going against the world No26.

Australian qualifier Matthew Barton (world No299) achieved a remarkable 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Steve Johnson (No30) in his first match at ATP level.

Dutchman Robin Haase and Thiemo de Bakker also progressed.

- NZ Herald

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