Klaasen Looking Forward To Making History At ATP Cup
South Africa's Raven Klaasen is 37 but he's hardly slowing down. The veteran right-hander reached a career-high No. 7 in the ATP Doubles Rankings in 2019 and, along with partner Michael Venus of New Zealand, made the doubles title match of the Nitto ATP Finals.
Ahead of the ATP Cup, to be held 3-12 January, Klaasen talked with ATPTour.com about which South African's serve he'd like the most, his three favourite things about his country and what he's most looking forward to about the inaugural ATP Cup.
Which countrymen did you watch, on the television or in person, as a kid growing up?
I just missed the back end of Kevin Curren’s career. I heard about him a lot but I started watching when Wayne Ferreira was starting to play good tennis, so I caught most of his career. He was probably the South African that I watched play tennis the most and [he was] a big inspiration for me.
If you could take one shot from one of your ATP Cup teammates and add it to your game, what would it be?
Kevin Anderson’s serve. Give me that. I would take that in a heartbeat. I think if you can start points like he does, it would make my job a little easier.
Who is the funniest player in the team and why?
That is a good question. I think we all think we are pretty funny in our own right, but right now I am going to go with myself. I am going to be confident there.
What are the three things you love most about your country?
I think South Africa is a beautiful place to live. I have grown up there and not ever wanted to leave. The scenery is the first thing, the second thing is the weather — we get spectacular weather — and right now, in the past year or two, the wine country has started to be a big one for me. The weather, beaches, scenery and people are fantastic.
What percentage of your national anthem can you sing?
I can sing the whole thing, but I probably understand about 60 per cent. I know what to say and I understand the meanings, but two of the languages I don’t speak.
Name three Australian animals.
Wallaby, I want to say kangaroo and what is it, a dingo? Dingo, yeah.
Talk about the team sports you played growing up. What did it mean to be playing as part of a team?
I played quite a bit of rugby growing up. My dad was a good rugby player and I played until I was about 14 or 15 years old. I think that team aspect is really spectacular when you are going out there and have more motivation than just the self satisfaction to put a result together. Looking back and seeing how happy people get when you are doing well and how nice it is supporting other guys is really a fun part of team sports.
Who would be most likely to turn up late to an ATP Cup team dinner?
Can I pass on this one, because I might have to say myself!
What do you enjoy most about Australia?
It is such a similar culture to South Africa. We have similar things that we enjoy, we are big sporting nations and [share the] Southern Hemisphere weather. Coming back at the beginning of every year is exciting to me and I look forward to going back there for many more years.
What are your earliest memories of playing tennis in South Africa?
The earliest vivid memories would probably be at 10 to 11, but I have got some vague memories of being next to the court [at a younger age]. Both my parents played league matches and they were pretty competitive tennis players themselves, so they had me next to the court — my mum says — when I was an infant. I don’t have great memories of that but I do remember some early days when we were young kids hanging out at the court, not even playing, just being around tennis. That is probably where the love of the game started.
Who on the team would be the best to dress up as the team mascot?
I’d say Lloyd Harris is probably the one to go to there. He is a pretty confident individual and I think he’d pull that off pretty good.
What would be a signature comment from your home country?
It is also a greeting, but we say ‘Howzit boet?’. That is just ‘How are you doing?’. ‘Boet’ means brother as a loose translation.
What are you most looking forward to about ATP Cup?
It is part of history. To get the opportunity to play this tournament, that is going to be massive for us. It is something that I look forward to and something that I will cherish when I look back one day. I have got a little guy now and to pass that story on to him will be a lot of fun. Having the South African boys on the team and hopefully giving some struggles to the other teams out there, that would be a lot of fun to me. I look forward to that event a big deal.