Can Raven Klaasen continue South Africa’s incredible success at this year’s Wimbledon and secure the first title of the weekend?
The 35-year-old doubles specialist from Kuils River, near Cape Town, will take to Centre Court later on Saturday for the men’s doubles final with New Zealand partner Michael Venus.
And on Sunday, Kevin Anderson will take on either Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in the singles final, while Kgothatso Montjane reached the ladies wheelchair semi-finals.
Klaasen and Venus will take on renowned American duo Mike Bryan – who normally plays with his twin brother Bob, who is injured – and Jack Sock.
There is no doubt that due to the 40-year-old Bryan’s experience and doubles record – he’s won 118 pro titles, including 16 Grand Slams – and he is part of the best doubles pair ever with his brother Bob. But while Sock is also a top singles player, he won the 2014 Wimbledon doubles title with Vasek Pospisil against… the Bryan brothers!
Klaasen and Venus came through two consecutive five-setters in the fourth round and quarter-final before taking four sets to win their semi-final against Frederik Nielson and Joe Salisbury.
Don't forget that Raven Klaasen & partner, Michael Venus, play their Wimbledon men's doubles final later today. They are scheduled to play third on Centre Court - after the delayed Djokovic v Nadal men's semi-final, followed by the Ladies final. pic.twitter.com/bPA7nlVxl1— Tennis South Africa (@TennisSA) July 14, 2018
The duo have played in two Grand Slams before, reaching the third round at the French Open this year after being knocked out in the first round of the Australian Open. They have won one ATP title as a combination.
Klaasen’s best effort at a major was reaching the 2014 Australian Open final with American Eric Butorac, having beaten the Bryan brothers, but going down 6-3 6-3 to Lukasz Kubot and Robert Lindstedt.
Klaasen has won 14 ATP doubles titles, with the last one coming in February this year with Venus in France. Will he add a 15th today at Wimbledon, and a first Grand Slam?
“It’s incredible to have reached the final,” Klaasen said after the semi-final win.
“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 too excited. I need to regroup and recover and come out on Saturday with Michael and give ourselves the best chance of the title.”
Klaasen has received well wishes from President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Sport Ministry’s Tokozile Xasa and Gert Oosthuizen, and hopes to make Mzansi proud in the final.
“When you get a congratulations from your President, then you know your efforts are recognised.
Congratulations to Kevin Anderson for reaching the men’s singles semi-finals and to Raven Klaasen for reaching the men’s doubles semi-finals at #Wimbledon. All the best to Kgothatso Montjane who’s going to become first SA black woman to play at Wimbledon. We are proud of you all. pic.twitter.com/hVW9CZKIiG— President Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) July 12, 2018
“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.”
Klaasen, who lost in the 2016 Wimbledon doubles semi-final, will bid to emulate former SA doubles star Wesley Moodie, who won the 2005 Wimbledon title with Stephen Huss. But he will have to wait to play until after the women’s singles final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber is completed on Saturday – which will follow the second men’s semi-final between Nadal and Djokovic.
Centre Court Order of Play
2pm: (12) Novak Djokovic v (2) Rafael Nadal
(11) Angelique Kerber v Serena Williams
(13) Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus v (7) Mike Bryan and Jack Sock@ashfakmohamed