New Zealand's Michael Venus has beaten the player he teamed up with to win last year's French Open doubles title in the first round of the Rome Masters.

Venus and his South African partner Raven Klaasen have beaten American Ryan Harrison and Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-4 in 1 hr 4. It was the first time Venus had played Harrison since the good friends ended their doubles partnership after reaching the semi-finals at last year's ATP World Tour finals in London.

Venus and Klaasen fresh off a quarter finals result in Madrid last week made a flying start, breaking Harrison's serve in the opening game. Venus faced a deciding point serving at 3-2 but held serve and then Verdasco was broken in the next game before Klaasen served out the first set in 28 minutes.

The first break for Venus and Klaasen came in the 5th game of the second set with Verdasco serving and finding himself 0-40 down, he saved two break points before Harrison netted. But they immediately broke back in the next game before Venus and Klaasen got the decisive break and games went with Klaasen finishing off the match with a forehand volley winner.


Venus and Klaasen will face 5th seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in the second round. A strong performance this week in Rome could take 16th ranked Venus to a career high ranking ahead of the French Open.

Meanwhile top seeds Kiwi Artem Sitak and his Dutch partner Wesley Koolhof have suffered a surprise first round defeat at the Bordeaux Challenger in France. They've lost 7-5, 6-1 to Moldova's Radu Albot and American Stefan Kozlov.

Sitak needed a medical time out after an Albot smash hit him in the ear and the Kiwi was broken at 5-6 to lose the first set. Albot and Kozlov cruised through the second set after breaking serve early.

Sitak and Koolhof have one final hit out at next week's ATP tournament in Geneva ahead of the French Open.

New Zealand's top singles player Rubin Statham has qualified for the main draw at the US $150,000 ATP Challenger tournament in Busan, South Korea.

Statham has won his final round qualifying match 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hr 27 over 30 year old Spaniard Guillermo Olaso. He has been drawn against Japanese 7th seed Go Soeda whom he lost a tight three setter against in Gimcheon last week 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Soeda is ranked 149 in the world but has been as high as 47.

In Incheon, Kiwi Erin Routliffe has advanced to the final round of qualifying at the ITF US $25,000 women's tournament. Routliffe has beaten Korean Yeong Won Jeong 6-4, 6-0.

She needs one more win later today against Australian Maddison Inglis to make the main draw.

Routliffe and her Mexican partner Victoria Rodriguez are the top seeds for the doubles and get their campaign underway today.