Queenstown brothers Ben (20, front left) and Riki McLachlan
(21), along with their fellow University of California,
Berkeley, team-mates and coaches, are competing at the
annual Wanaka Open. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
The Wanaka Tennis Club is hosting its biggest tournament
yet, thanks to an American college team which has significantly
boosted both the quality and size of the field.
The University of California, Berkeley, has sent its
12-strong men's tennis team - plus coaches, a manager and
support crew - to the annual Wanaka Open tennis tournament,
which began on Saturday and finishes today.
Queenstown brothers Riki (21) and Ben McLachlan (20) - who
won the New Zealand men's doubles championship in Auckland
last month - are on tennis scholarships at the university,
where they spend nine months every year, returning home to
Queenstown for their holidays.
Ben is Berkeley's top player and Riki is team captain.
Yesterday morning, the pair welcomed the rest of their
team-mates into Queenstown Airport for a week-long stay in
the resort, where they are being billeted with local tennis
''Our team usually takes a big trip every three or four
years, usually to Hawaii or something,'' Riki said.
This year, New Zealand was the chosen destination because of
the McLachlan brothers' connection and because of a Berkeley
link with their Queenstown coach Lan Bale, who was assistant
coach at the college 12 years ago. The Wanaka tournament was
also an ideal way of easing the players back into some
pre-season competition after their Christmas holiday break,
head coach Peter Wright explained.
''The stress level isn't so high [compared with other
tournaments] ... but the competition is always high.''
After experiencing flight delays in San Francisco, the
American team, which includes two Danes and a Frenchman, was
expected to land at Queenstown at 4.30pm on Saturday, just in
time to play matches in Wanaka at 6pm. However, they were
unable to get a connecting flight south from Auckland, so
spent Saturday night in a hotel before flying into Queenstown
at 9am yesterday morning before
driving to Wanaka for the first of the players' games at
11am. The series of travel disruptions left no time for
pre-match warm-ups. None of the players had been to New
Zealand before, and all were impressed by their brief look at
the country before taking to the tennis court, Mr Wright
''You land at Queenstown Airport and it's just the nicest
place in the world.''
Wanaka Tennis Club president John Lyness said this was the
first year the tournament had been held over three days,
which was partly because of the larger field of entrants the
Berkeley contingent had attracted. Last year there were 24
players in the men's single competition, which had increased
to 39 this year.
''This year we've got them from all over the country because
of the Berkeley guys ... it just brought down a few more from
the North Island,'' Mr Lyness said.
The field also included two other top international players
from Hungary and France.
''This would be the strongest singles tournament played in
New Zealand apart from the Heineken Open ... that's what some
comment has been.''
The Wanaka club's coach Perry Crockett agreed the inclusion
of the Berkeley team had been a huge boost for the event.
''It's just increased the strength of the tournament. I'm
even thinking along the lines that it's something we should
carry on doing every year, inviting colleges to bring their
teams down as a pre-season tournament.''
After the tournament the American college team will split
their remaining time in Queenstown between training and
adventure tourism activities.