Twenty-three days into 2018, Queenstown pro tennis player Ben McLachlan smashed his goal for the entire year.
McLachlan wanted to break into the top 40 doubles world rankings – but by qualifying for the doubles semi-finals of the Australian Open, his first grand slam, he catapulted from 73rd to 36th.
He also pocketed by far his biggest pay cheque – $NZ95,940.
Speaking in Queenstown the day after he and his new doubles partner, German Jan-Lennard Struff, narrowly lost their Melbourne semi, McLachlan admits he’s pinching himself “a little bit”.
“I think I gained a lot more confidence at the end of last year being able to play Davis Cup [for Japan] and then playing a bunch of top teams in Tokyo [to win the Japan Open doubles].
“Just comparing myself to those guys and realising if I play well [I can beat anyone].”
In Tokyo, he and Yasutaka Uchiyama beat the past two United States Open winners, despite being a wild card entry.
In Melbourne, he and Struff beat the world no.1 and reigning Wimbledon winners in the Aussie Open quarters.
Having started his career on the Futures circuit, McLachlan graduated to Challengers tournaments last year, winning three, but in no time he’s cracked the lucrative ATP World Tour, starting with Tokyo.
After his success in Australia, he expects he’ll now play the other grand slams – French Open, Wimbledon and US Open – along with more ATP-level events this year.
“It was always my goal to play in the grand slams,” he says. “Grand slams are so much fun, if I can play those all the time, it would be great.”
Looking back, he pays huge credit to his parents Craig and Yuriko, coach Lan Bale and brother and co-coach Riki.
McLachlan, now back in Japan to play Davis Cup against Italy, says switching his playing allegiance last year to Japan, courtesy of Yuriko’s nationality, was crucial.