Queenstown pro to represent Japan

Ben McLachlan.
Ben McLachlan.
A Queenstown tennis professional  has been chosen to play Davis Cup — for Japan.

Although Ben McLachlan is a New Zealander, the 25-year-old doubles specialist’s mother, Yuriko, is Japanese, and he holds a Japanese passport.

With a doubles ranking of 136, he would be Japan’s top-ranked doubles player for its World Group playoff against Brazil.

That takes place in Osaka, Japan, on September 17-19.

By contrast, he would have struggled to make New Zealand’s Davis Cup team as he is ranked behind French Open winner Michael Venus, as well as Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak.

McLachlan, who left for China last Friday after two weeks’ training at home, said he had thought about registering as a Japanese player since he started specialising in doubles about two years ago.

He was "pretty excited" to make the Davis Cup team.

"I originally didn’t think I was going to get chosen just ’cause I changed pretty recently. It’s happened pretty quickly."

He believed switching countries was the best thing for his career.

He expected he would benefit from better training facilities and invitations to big-money Japanese tournaments.Another carrot is that Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympics, when tennis will feature again.

McLachlan’s long-time Queenstown coach, former doubles professional Lan Bale, said his Davis Cup selection was "mind-blowing".

"You’re going to be part of the national team in a country of 125 million — it’s a different dynamic."

Becoming a Japanese player was effectively a business decision, he said.

"The alternative was to stick around in New Zealand and make peanuts.

"It’s sad for the development of New Zealand tennis, but at the same time I didn’t see anyone bending over backwards to give him a leg up."

McLachlan’s biggest local sponsor, Bale notes, has been the Japanese owners of Arrowtown’s Millbrook Resort.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that in the next year or two he’ll play in grand slams."

McLachlan, whose best result this year was his first Challenger-level title win, in Italy, hopes to crack the top-80 as soon as possible. 

- Philip Chandler

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