Michael Venus has done what no New Zealand tennis player could do for almost 40 years clinch a grand slam title.
Venus and American partner Ryan Harrison held their nerve to secure the French Open doubles crown at Roland Garros on Saturday, triumphing over American Donald Young and Mexican Santiago Gonzalez 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.
In a tightly-fought battle between two unseeded pairings, neither side gave up a service game in the first two sets.
Venus and Harrison then secured a crucial early third-set break, until the New Zealander’s service was broken back to put the match on a knife edge.
The 29-year-old did not let the mistake get to him, breaking back shortly afterwards before Harrison served out the tournament causing Venus to gleefully fling his racquet into the Paris air.
Venus can expect a decent world ranking boost for the victory, and will bank half of the winners’ prizemoney of 540,000 euros ($NZ838,000).
It is a seventh tour title for Venus and his second alongside close friend Harrison, with whom he played several events early in his career.
“I always knew he could play at this level and I’d kind of been knocking on the door, third round of a few of them,” Venus said.
“You never know going into a partnership how well it’s going to work you’re always hoping for the best and partly what’s helped is knowing each other so well. It’s great to be able to share it with someone so close.”
The 191cm Venus, a born and bred Aucklander, became New Zealand’s first grand slam winner since Judy Chaloner, who won the women’s doubles event at the 1979 Australian Open alongside Australian Diane Evers Brown.
The last man to achieve the feat was Onny Parun, with Australian Dick Crealy in the 1974 French Open men’s doubles.
The previous New Zealand finalist was Chris Lewis at Wimbledon in 1983, which he lost to American great John McEnroe.
To even reach the decider was a surprise to world No 39 Venus, whose three previous campaigns in Paris had ended in the first round, without a single set won.
“I guess I kind of took more of a doubles route and over the last couple of years, have worked my way up,” Venus said.
“(Ryan and I) have always spoken about being able to play together at a tournament and it’s just kind of happened where our rankings are around a similar spot it hasn’t been able to come to fruition until now.” NZN