University of Texas freshman Michael Venus came a long way from home - New Zealand, to be exact - to become a Longhorn. The tennis skills Venus developed in his homeland grew exponentially after moving to the United States during his mid-teens. Michael quickly became one of America's top junior tennis players, winning one tournament after another on his way to a No. 2 United States Tennis Association (USTA) Boys' 18 singles ranking. Michael recently took a few minutes to discuss a number of topics, including his transition to American life and his thoughts on college and professional tennis.
First, Michael, welcome to the University of Texas! You were born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand. What brought you and your family to the United States?
"I moved here when I was about 15. I have three older sisters, and two of them are going to college in Georgia, so my parents wanted to be closer to them. There also are more opportunities for my family and myself here."
Is there anything from New Zealand that you miss?
"I miss a lot of the food, for sure. I ate a lot of meat pies in New Zealand - they're phenomenal! That's my favorite thing to eat, so that might be the thing I miss the most."
Your move across the globe first brought you to Florida and then to the University of Texas. What did you know about the state of Texas before you arrived here?
"The impression my family and I had, from living in New Zealand, was that there were cowboys all over the place and everyone would wear hats and cowboy boots. I thought it was like a big farm. It's nothing like that at all."
Who inspired you to play tennis?
"My parents played tennis, and both of my sisters were always in tennis tournaments. I always saw them playing, so I wanted to play. I started playing tennis when I was about three or four years old."
Is there a professional tennis player whose style you emulate?
"Roger Federer is great, but I also like to watch James Blake and Rafael Nadal. I really like Nadal because he's always fired up and jumping around. He plays an in-your-face style of tennis, and I like that."
You've had the chance to travel around the world playing junior tennis. Is there one place you prefer to play more than others?
"I like playing in Australia. It's on the beach and a lot like New Zealand, but it's a little warmer. We've always had a bit of a rivalry with Australia, so it's good fun."
What was the primary factor in your decision to come to Texas?
"I liked the coaches. Coach (Michael) Center and coach (Ricardo) Rubio had some good ideas and plans for what I should be doing on the court. My parents also liked them and thought they were good, honest people."
Do you have any pre-match rituals?
"I always sit down and re-grip all of my rackets. I don't know why I always do that. It's just a habit I have had for a while."
What are three things you can't live without?
"Lately, I've eaten six or seven hot dogs a day, so that's one thing. I would be pretty bored without my tennis rackets, so that's another. I also couldn't live without my cell phone. That would be kind of weird."
If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
"It would probably be a professional basketball player, maybe someone really good, like LeBron James. It would be awesome to do the things he can do on the basketball court."
What are some of the goals you plan to pursue at Texas?
"I just want to help out the team as much as I can and wherever I can. I would like to play professional tennis some day, but I've got to get a few things accomplished first. I have to work on some areas of my game, but the coaching staff is helping me work toward that goal."
What are you looking forward to most as you begin your first season here?
"I just can't wait for the season to start. I'm excited about playing the home matches in front of the great tennis fans here. I'm looking forward to that experience."