ASB Classic: Kiwi Paige Hourigan picks brain of tennis icon Venus Williams

There's a big difference between a former world tennis number one and a New Zealand number one.

But on several occasions this week, the gap has been just metres, after 21-year-old Paige Hourigan got the call-up to be hitting partner for long-time hero Venus Williams.

"Just to be on court with her, be in her box and be surrounded by her was just… wow."

Hourigan admits nerves lead to her missing the main draw in the singles, but she's been quick to adopt her new mentor's sage advice.

"You always try to see the negative in what you're doing and be a perfectionist, so you need to always try to see the positive and keep moving forward - no-one can be perfect. That's what I've really got out of it."

The admiration is not just a one-way street, with Williams also impressed with the Kiwi.

"She's a gorgeous young lady," says the seven-time Grand Slam winner. "She's got a lot of power and is serving well, so the sky's the limit.

"Tennis is that kind of sport where you make your own destiny, so I hope her destiny is greatness."

Paige Hourigan in action at the NZ Residential championships
Paige Hourigan in action at the NZ Residential championships. Photo credit: Photosport

Hourigan is still going strong in the doubles draw, playing in Saturday's semi-finals, alongside partner, American Taylor Townsend.

She's planning to use another gem from the Williams sister to give her an edge.

"She just told me that I have a very good serve and to sometimes use the off-pace serve, because serving bombs all the time, people can get used to it - just try to vary it up and put in a slow one every now and then."

Currently ranked 545th in the world, Hourigan's hoping to crack the top 200 by the end of this year.

"I know it's quite a high goal, but I know I can do it with a lot of hard work and determination."

Just one win away from a senior doubles title on home turf and picking the brain of an all-time great, Hourigan's giving herself every chance to make it happen.