McLachlan brothers hoping to feature in new pro tournament

Ben McLachlan.
Ben McLachlan.
New Zealand is not exactly the hotbed of world tennis.

But the country, which is often left off the global map, will be hoping Tennis New Zealand and the Lavie Tennis Academy have hit an ace with the launch the Premier League tennis tournament next week.

And the McLachlan brothers of Queenstown — Riki and Ben — are aiming to feature prominently.

It is being billed as the first professional tennis competition in the southern hemisphere since Covid-19 wrapped its evil tentacles around the world.

Several experienced ATP tour professionals have been confirmed, including Ben McLachlan.

The New Zealander plays under the Japanese flag and has carved out a very decent career on the doubles circuit.

He is ranked world No58 but reached a career high of No18 two years ago.

His older brother Riki is one of his coaches and he spoke to the Otago Daily Times yesterday in the lead up to he tournament, which gets under way on Wednesday.

"I’m excited. It is an awesome idea," Riki said.

"I work at the academy that has put it all together and it is just cool to get so many good players back in the country. And everyone was a little bored and need something to work towards."

The format features 24 players split into eight teams of three competing in round robin and finals play.

Each rubber will involve two singles games and a doubles match. All 112 games are being played in Auckland and the tournament will be broadcast on Sky.

"It is going to be a lot of tennis and the guys are looking forward to it. It will be pretty demanding physically."

To make the tournament even, the top-ranked eight players were split into separate teams and the remaining players were drafted.

Ben McLachlan is teamed up with Connor Heap and Chris Zhang. His brother is the team coach.

"We know them really well. Connor Heap went to the same university in California as Ben and I.

"And Chris, I wouldn’t say I’ve coached him, but I’ve helped him a little bit."

Riki said he had coached his brother for long enough that it felt natural now and there was no awkward dynamic between the pair.

"We’ve had a good relationship and I always feel like I can tell him what I think is best for his tennis."

Riki said Ben was self-motivated and a relaxed character, which made his job that much easier.

"But we are always trying to add things to keep it exciting as opposed to just trying to maintain a certain level.

"He is a pretty mellow guy but I guess there is a balance with trying to play with a little bit of fire as well."

Riki thinks the event could have potential to become a regular feature on the calendar rather than just an event designed to bust the boredom cultivated by Covid-19.

"Hopefully it is not a one-off. I know the Lavie Tennis Academy would like there to be a second one and potentially more moving forward.

"I guess it has come at the right time due to the unfortunate circumstances. But if we can make it a regular thing it would be awesome."

The tournament will also feature the likes of New Zealand Davis Cup representatives Rubin Statham and Artem Sitak and ATP world No77 Cameron Norrie, who represents Great Britain.


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