South Africa’s Raven Klaasen and his New Zealand partner Michal Venus are through to Saturday’s doubles final after they defeated the wild-card pairing of Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen and Britain’s Joe Salisbury 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-3 and 6-4 in Thursday’s semifinal clash.
The 13th seeds Klaasen and Venus will now oppose Americans Mike Bryan and Jack Sock, the 7th seeds, in Saturday’s final. The Americans defeated Dominic Inglot (Britain) and Franko Škugor (Croatia) 6-3 6-1 6-7 (11) 6-7 (4) 6-4.
It would have been a good omen for Klaasen that his semifinal was scheduled on the same court 1 where hours earlier his fellow countryman Kevin Anderson had sent tremors through the tennis world by toppling the great Roger Federer.
On the opposite of the net on Thursday, there was the intimidating presence of Frederik Nielsen, a former Wimbledon doubles champ and a leading player on the world doubles circuit for many years. Klaasen had gone up against Nielsen last September in his native Denmark in a Davis Cup match.
Playing with Ruan Roelofse, Raven ended straight-set winners against Nielsen and Thomas Kromann.
Klaasen and Venus only just made it through the first set with a slender 8-6 tiebreak margin and then suffered a dip form which allowed their opponents back in the game when they equalised with a 6-3 scoreline in the second set.
The setback, however, brought the best out of Klaasen and Venus and they wrapped the match 2 hours and 25 minutes later by taking the next two sets 6-3 and 6-4.
Klaasen and Venus collectively fared better with higher percentages on the first and second serves and claimed service breaks in the each of the two final sets.
“It’s increadible to have reached the final” said Klaasen, “You come to Wimbledon every year and hope to do well and prepare yourself to get to this stage in the tournament and then to do a step better than my last semi-final (2016) showing here is fabulous. I don’t want to get to excited, I need to regroup and recover and come out on Saturday with Michael and give ourselves the best chance of the title.”
Saturday will mark Klaasen’s second appearance in a major final after he reached the championship round at the Australian Open in 2014.
The 40-year-old American Mike Bryan, a former world No 1 doubles player, will be far and away the most decorated player in Saturday’s doubles final. He has won Wimbledon three times and during his career, he has a total of 16 major doubles titles. He has played in 30 major doubles finals.
Interestingly, Bryan finished runner-up four times at Wimbledon and in one of those four defeats, there was a South African on the opposite side of the net. He was the Durban-born Wesley Moodie and together with Australian partner Stephen Huss defeated Mike Bryan and his brother Bob, the top seeds, 7–6(4), 6–3, 6–7(2), 6–3 in the 2005 doubles final.
Moodie and Huss made history that day because it was the first time that a qualifier pairing had been crowned Wimbledon doubles champs. That record still stands today.
Klaasen said he was overwhelmed at the support he and Kevin Anderson and wheelchair tennis ace KG Montjane had received from back home. “When you get a congratulations from your President then you know your efforts are recognised. We also got well wishes from the Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation Gert Oosthuizen and Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa which means so much. It really motivates us to see how many people back home are motivated by our success” said Klaasen