The 31-year-old Michael Venus has established himself as one of the best doubles players in the world in the last couple of seasons, entering the top-30 in June 2017 and settling inside the top-20 since the previous summer.
The Auckland native has won eight ATP doubles titles from 20 finals, including Roland Garros with Ryan Harrison in 2017, and he found a perfect partner in the experienced South African Raven Klaasen last year, sharing the chemistry on the court and seeking big goals in 2019.
Michael and Raven kicked off the year with the final run in Auckland, defeating the Bryan brothers before losing to Jan-Lennard Struff and Ben McLachlan to finish runner-up. Leonardo Mayer and Joao Sousa halted them in the quarter-final of the Australian Open and Venus flew back to Auckland where he trained before heading to Europe, entering the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam together with Raven as the third seeds.
After that, the team will travel to Marseille, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami, hoping for good results and the place in the top-10 at some point this season. Michael and Raven lost two out of three matches at the ATP Finals in London back in November and one of their goals is to return to the elite doubles event again this season and prove their quality against the strongest squads in the world.
"It would be cool to crack the top-10," Venus said. "But I try not to focus on it as that can play on your mind and you don't have control over what other guys are doing with their rankings and points.
Raven and I are more about doing the things we need to be doing and playing well, then we'll get the results and hopefully we'll end up there. The first two tournaments we played this year, it felt like we were in sync straight away.
Things that both of us had been individually working on over the offseason were working. That was great to see, because sometimes it takes a bit longer. If we can keep doing those things, hopefully we can continue to play at a high level.
If we do that, we'll put ourselves in good positions in matches and tournaments. Klaasen and I had some great matches in Auckland. We would have liked to have played a bit better in the final, but credit to the other guys, they took it out of our hands and forced us to play not as well as we had been.
For every team that starts the year, the ATP Finals is where they want to play at the end of it. It means you've had a good year and been one of the top teams. We'd love to be back there playing, but there are a lot of great teams out there and we're going to have to put our heads down and do some work."