Michael Venus loves his sporting life but he also possesses a realistic streak.

There he was in Estoril a week ago bagging his sixth ATP doubles title in Portugal, with his good friend Ryan Harrison, cleaning up Spanish pair Tommy Robredo and David Marrero in straight sets.

Total delight, partly through winning but also doing it with a friend, whose family he knows well.

This week? A challenger event in the delightful little French town Aix-en-Provence. The outcome? A first round loss with Australian John Patrick Smith. Highs and lows, fillet mignon to a Big Mac.


But for now Venus wouldn't have it any other way.

He's doing okay, too. Venus is ranked No 36 in doubles, with $610,255 career winnings. But the 29-year-old Aucklander is in tricky territory.

Doubles is all about combined rankings with your partner, ensuring you sit inside the tournament cut-off number.

Venus would ideally like to be ranked No 30, or just inside. That makes him more appealing as a partner for the better players, who tend to prefer to partner others of similar standing.

Venus won four doubles titles last year with left-handed Croat Mate Pavic, ranked No 33, but he's now moved on to playing with higher-ranked partners.

Venus will team up with Harrison, the 47th-ranked singles player aiming to push his career ever upwards, at the French Open. However, Harrison won't play doubles at Wimbledon, where matches are five sets. So Venus is on the lookout.

"For Ryan, singles is his priority. He said 'I'll help you out, play as much as you need until you find a permanent partner,' so I'm in a push now to find someone for grass," Venus said.

"If I can get my ranking up to 30, or just inside, a lot more doors open."

Singles is not high among his priorities (he's played only three matches this year), but he hasn't fallen out of love with the solo game.

Far from it.

"I love being on the singles court. At practice, I'll still go and practice with the singles guys. It's definitely something I really enjoy. But it's just the way the system works.

"The singles has fallen by the wayside which is disappointing, but at the end of the day, it's my job, so I've got to do what's getting the results."

Ah, yes, the job. Venus is making a reasonable living but knows once he gets up a few more slots, things can change.

"You can look at having a coach come to you for [however many] weeks a year and do other things to lift your level. Where I am now, it's not quite feasible."

Which brings us to prizemoney.

"Sometimes it looks good, then I check the credit card statement. I'm booking all my own flights, hotels, food and it comes out pretty quickly. We have to cover all our own expenses. Say you lose early in a tournament one week. You have six days until the next one. It's not like some of these European guys, who can go home for four or five days."

Having girlfriend Sally Trafford based in London has been a significant help.

It's an unusual relationship in one sense: they might go a couple of months without seeing each other but Venus is convinced his recent improvement is down in large part to having happiness and stability, and a sounding board, on the other side of the world. But there are bad days.

"You sit in the room, everyone's asleep back home and you do ask: is this really worth it?

"But I love being on the court competing. You definitely have those moments. Then you have weeks like Estoril and you think how much joy you had out of that. That keeps you going. I guess it's a limited window. I don't know how much longer I get to do this. It's not going to last forever, so I just try and enjoy it."