© Michael Venus

Michael Venus, his fiancee Sally and one-month-old baby Lila take the ferry to The O2 for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals.

From Proposal To Baby's First Credential, Venus Comes Full Circle At The O2

Alongside Klaasen, Venus will face Cabal and Farah for a place in the semi-finals on Thursday 

Michael Venus was two hours into his 13-hour flight from Shanghai to London last month when he received a text message from his fiancée Sally: her water had just broken and she’d gone into labour.

“That’s probably the longest flight I’ve ever had in my life!” he said.

Venus, who alongside doubles partner Raven Klaasen had been beaten in the Rolex Shanghai Masters quarter-finals on Friday afternoon, landed at Heathrow at 6 a.m. Saturday and got an Uber straight to the hospital. His daughter, Lila Grace, was born at 1 a.m. on Sunday.

“I still had some time,” he said. “I guess good for me, not so good for [Sally], she had a long labour, but unbelievable to be there for it.”

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From becoming a father to returning to The O2, it’s been quite the month for Venus. In the days following his daughter’s birth, the Auckland native celebrated his 31st birthday and qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals with Klaasen in their team’s debut season. This week, exactly one year after proposing to Sally on the rooftop of The O2, he returned to the special venue with his wife and their daughter.

“That was an awesome week. She was born two days before my birthday – I felt having her was a great present,” he said. “And then on top of that, to have the icing that we’re going to be playing here was pretty cool. Her first credential that she got was here at the [Nitto] ATP Finals, so you can’t ask for much more.”

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Similar to American John Isner, who has been joined at The O2 by wife Maddie and two-month-old daughter Hunter Grace, Venus has been learning to balance the responsibilities that come with fatherhood and finishing the 2018 season on a strong note.

He has played three tournaments in the four weeks since Lila’s birth, but has been trying to help out as much as possible when he is home. “I’ve got pretty good at changing diapers and trying to soothe her and put her down a little bit at night so that Sally can get a little bit more sleep,” he said.

This week, the family has relocated from their home 25 minutes outside of London to the player hotel, where Venus stays in a separate room the night before matches as “it’s not ideal to be getting up two or three times”. But once the match is done, it’s “back on nappy duty”.

On Thursday night, Venus and Klaasen will play Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah for a place in the semi-finals. Sally and Lila will be at The O2 to support him, watching from the suite upstairs, as they have been all week.

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