Michael Venus knows New Zealand's Olympics fate is in his hands

Wednesday, 20 March 2024

Michael Venus knows it will be all down to him whether he and Marcus Daniell can play doubles together at this year’s Paris Olympics.

Venus has teamed up with India’s Yuki Bhambri for the Miami Open, which starts this week, as his usual partner, Britain’s Jamie Murray recovers from an abdominal strain, picked up at Indian Wells last week.

As Bhambri is ranked 62 in the world, while Venus is at 19, they are unseeded for the ATP 1000 tournament and have been given a tough draw of having to play second seeds Ivan Dodig from Croatia and America’s Austin Krajicek in the opening round.

Krajicek is currently ranked No 1 in the world, while Dodig is at No 5, so it won’t be an easy match for Venus and Bhambri.

But as well as playing for the prize of winning his 23rd career title, Venus is also competing to help his chances of making it to the Games in July as it will be on his shoulders whether he and Daniell can win back to back Olympic medals, having picked up a bronze at the Tokyo Games.

Daniell has a protected ranking of 56 from his almost two years out with a knee injury and even though he’s back playing again, there’s little chance he’ll his ranking above 56 before the deadline date, so will need to use his protected ranking for the Games.

But that means Venus will need to get his ranking high enough for them to be one of the 32 teams that make it in.

If Venus is back in the top 10 on June 10, they’re secured a spot at the Games, as Daniell’s protected ranking is inside the top 300. 

But if he’s not, spots are distributed using the combined rankings of both players, although priority goes to teams who have already qualified for singles.

Right now, Venus doesn’t know if his ranking is good enough to make it in, which makes the Miami Open all the more important, because the large number of ranking points up for grabs. 

“It’s hard to know, sometimes it’s high, sometimes it’s low,” Venus said of where the cutoff might be. 

“I feel that because it’s in Paris it’s going to be stronger than Rio and Tokyo.

“Obviously, if you’re top 10 you know you’re in. So that’s the easiest way to know you’re in.

“With Marcus protected at 56, I would definitely need to be inside the top 20 and probably higher than that, maybe around 15.”

Meanwhile, Venus has hailed Lulu Sun’s switching allegiance from Switzerland to the country of her birth as great news for tennis in New Zealand.

Venus, like most people passionate about the tennis in New Zealand, is delighted that the Te Anau-born Sun has made the move, which could hopefully mean there is a player representing New Zealand playing in singles at the grand slams soon.

Although things need to fall into place, it does increase the possibility that Venus could play mixed doubles at the Olympics with Erin Routliffe.

“It’s great for tennis in New Zealand,” Venus said. 

“Obviously, if we could qualify and get there, I’d love to play mixed doubles also. 

“But first of all I need to make sure I can get in with Marcus or whoever, so I need to win some matches myself and make sure my ranking is where it needs to be.

“But I’d love to be able to play mixed doubles with Erin there. Over the last six months she’s been winning a ton and doing well and has shown she one of the best doubles players in the world right now.”

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