Tennis: Race to get US players on court

After more than 13 hours in the air, six members of an American college tennis team will have just minutes to warm up for their first matches in the Wanaka Open today.

The team of 16 from the University of California, Berkeley, has had travel problems getting from San Francisco to New Zealand.

The team will step off a plane at Queenstown airport at 4.30pm today and six of its members will step on to the court for qualifying matches in Wanaka at 6pm.

Team member Ricki McLachlan is already in Queenstown - his home town - and says the players are not fazed by the less than ideal preparation for today's event.

''It's not ideal, but they're into it. They'll enjoy it.''

McLachlan and brother Ben are students at Berkeley and their college team-mates will be in New Zealand for a week on a pre-season trip to play tennis and also enjoy some of Queenstown's adventure tourism activities.

Ben McLachlan is Berkeley's top player and the two brothers won the New Zealand men's doubles championship in Auckland last month.

The brothers have been on scholarships at Berkeley - Ricki for three and a-half years, Ben for two and a-half years.

Ricki told the Otago Daily Times yesterday he was due to graduate with a degree in globalisation in May and had not yet made a firm decision on his future.

''Tennis is my passion and I want to stay involved whether it is coaching or playing to some degree.''

He said there were professional coaching opportunities open to him although he believed he would ''struggle'' as a player on the professional circuit.

The brothers are still coached by Queenstown professional Lan Bale, who coached at Berkeley for two years before moving to Queenstown in 2002. Ricki McLachlan said Bale had just been named New Zealand Davis Cup team captain.


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