Michael's Road To The US Open
"It's always a challenge to brush the pressure component off"
ASICS Ambassador and French Open Doubles winner Michael Venus takes us on his journey to the US Open.
Every pro tennis player looks forward to playing the slams. For me, the US Open is particularly special because, having gone to college here and trained in Florida for years, the US is like my second home. Playing with American Ryan Harrison (who's also a good friend) makes that home vibe even stronger.
Slams are an adrenaline rush. I think I experience equal parts excitement and pressure. The stakes are high. It's always a challenge to brush the pressure component off and focus on your game - point-by-point. But that ability is critical if you want to win.
In the run-up to the Open, I've played the US Open Series - tournaments in Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Winston-Salem. Ryan and I made the semifinals of Cincinnati, beating top seeds Kontinen/Peers. Both Kontinen and Peers are incredible players so it's pretty humbling to get a victory over them (as a sidenote, they're also both great guys who I can always share a laugh with on tour). The other three tournaments were first round losses, but if someone had said all I'd win this year was one GrandSlam and a 250, I'd have taken it. Unfortunately in pro tennis, losing (and learning from it) is as much a part of your job as winning.
The background to the matches we played as part of the US Open series is a tonne of training and admin that the public doesn't usually see. I do about 45 minutes of flexibility/mobility exercises every day, about 30 minutes footwork, and hit anywhere from 1-3 hours. In addition, there's post-practice stretching, physio, and mental exercises. Around that, I'm constantly trying to make sure I eat enough of the right stuff and get all my admin done (like getting rackets restrung, making sure I have all the right on-court gear and supplements, booking hotels and flights etc). The behind-the-scenes admin sounds mundane, but I think it's important to know how much goes into making it to match day.
Having done all the prep, I'm excited to play what will be a challenging first round US Open match against Fabrice Martin and Jeremy Chardy.
I took a tough first round doubles loss at the US Open this year, but had a taste of victory in the mixed doubles with my very talented partner Hao-Ching Chan (against Amanda Anisimova and Christian Harrison of the US).
It’s easy to get down about a loss - any athlete hates to lose - but the key is to focus on what you have to do next to improve and make the most of the next match or tournament. To that end, I always do a bit of analysis after a loss as to what went wrong/what I can do better. There are usually a few key things that I need to work on. That analysis is on track and I’m looking forward to trying out each improved aspect of my game in the mixed doubles (and during the Asia leg of the ATP Tour in a few weeks time!).
Playing mixed doubles is always fun - the stakes aren’t as high as they are for doubles, which takes the edge off in a big way. That helps me play without tension and be more adventurous with my game.
Next up in mixed we play Rosolska/Gonzalez. Ryan and I played Gonzalez in the final of the French Open and I played with Rosolska in mixed doubles at French, so I have some sense of what to expect from them. They can say the same thing though, so it will be an even playing field in that regard on the day!
Last night Angel Chan and I won our mixed doubles quarter final against Rohan Bopanna and Gaby Dabrowski.
We dropped the first set 4-6 but were able to make a comeback to take the second 6-3 and then the super tie break 10-8. Gaby and Rohan won the mixed doubles title at Roland Garros this year, so it was always going to be a tough match. I was pleased that we were able to create opportunities and make the most of them to move into the semis.
The schedule has allowed a couple of days off between matches, so in addition to my usual training, I'm hoping to get out and see a bit of New York - check in on Central Park and maybe see a comedy show.
We play Oliver Marach and Ana Rodionova in the semis. It'll be another challenging match, but I'm looking forward to playing my first mixed doubles grandslam semi-final!
Angel and I won our semi-final match against Marach and Rodionova,6-1, 7-6. It was another fun match on one of the show courts with a decent amount of Kiwi supporters present (always massively appreciated!!)
Our semi-final win lined us up for a final match against Jamie Murray and Martina Hingis in Arthur Ashe stadium. Arthur Ashe is the biggest tennis stadium in the world, so getting to play there in a US Open final was a huge moment for me.
Murray and Hingis are incredible players, both individually and as a team. They won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title this year, so I knew it would be a tough match.
We lost the first set 6-1 which had me a bit worried we were in for an embarrassing defeat. But we were able to turn the tables and take the second set 6-4. Then we were up 8-7 in the super tie break, but ultimately wound up losing 10-8.
Obviously it would have been ideal to win the title, but having only met Angel moments before first stepping on the court together at the US Open, I'm pretty pleased with our performance. I'm also very happy to have played in a US Open final on the biggest tennis stadium in the world.
I'm heading to NZ now for a bit of a break before going on to Asia and then Europe for the final leg of the tour.