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

Michael Venus: 'I'm still trying to believe it'

Mate Pavic and Michael Venus after winning the ASB Classic doubles final. Photo / www.photosport.nz
Mate Pavic and Michael Venus after winning the ASB Classic doubles final. Photo / www.photosport.nz

Michael Venus will be left celebrating by himself tonight, after doubles partner Mate Pavic had to leave for the airport just a few hours after the duo had lifted the ASB Classic doubles trophy.

It was unfortunate scheduling - but probably the only time the Kiwi-Croatian combination had been out of sync all week.

Their 7-5 6-4 win over the seasoned American duo of Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky, was a superb performance and the culmination of an impressive week.

The wildcard combination won all their matches in straight sets. Among their victims were the third and fourth seeds and the experienced New Zealand team of Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell.

And they did it without dropping a single game on serve - a staggering statistic across a doubles tournament.

"I'm just stoked, really," said Venus. "It's unbelievable to do it at home, with family and friends [watching]; so many people here who have helped my tennis since I was a little kid."

Such a triumph might have appeared unlikely at the start of last week. They had been dumped out of the Brisbane ATP event after just one match, which was their first tournament together since October 2015.

But Venus and Pavic, who first combined in March last year, were quietly confident.

"We felt we were hitting the ball well but lost first round [in Brisbane]," said Pavic. "It had been a couple of months since we had seen each other but everything started to click."

Today's final was supposed to be a close match. Butorac and Lipsky were the fourth seeds, with tons of experience. They had a combined 51 ATP finals between them (31 victories) compared with Pavic (seven finals, one win) and Venus (one win in three finals).

But it didn't look like that on court. The local boy and the adopted Kiwi were the more assured team from the start, secure from the baseline and decisive with their net play. They didn't serve particularly well in the opening set - landing 59 per cent of their first serves - but were mentally strong, losing just three points on their second serve.

The first set turned on a moment of brilliance from Pavic, a squash-type shot from an acute angle that ran almost parallel to the net. It set up break point, which Venus converted to bring the crowd to their feet. Venus and Pavic then lifted noticeably in the second set.

"I'm still trying to believe it," said Venus. "I grew up watching this tournament, coming to see all the players ... so to do it here, it's hard to describe, really."

- NZ Herald

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