In a career-defining move, Queenstown tennis pro Ben McLachlan has been chosen to play Davis Cup – for Japan.
Though a New Zealander, the 25-year-old doubles specialist’s mother Yuriko is Japanese, and he holds a Japanese passport.
With a current doubles ranking of 136, he’ll be Japan’s top-ranked doubles player for its World Group play-off against Brazil.
That takes place in Osaka, Japan, from September 17 to 19.
By contrast, he’d have struggled to make NZ’s Davis Cup team as he’s behind French Open winner Michael Venus, Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak in his world ranking.
McLachlan, who left for China last Friday after two weeks training back home, says he’s thought about registering as a Japanese player since he started specialising in doubles about two years ago.
He’s “pretty excited” to make the Davis Cup team.
“I originally didn’t think I was going to get chosen just ‘cos I changed pretty recently – it’s happened pretty quickly.”
He believes switching countries is the best thing for his career.
He expects he’ll benefit from better training facilities and invitations to big-money Japanese tournaments.
Another carrot is that Japan’s hosting the 2020 Olympics, where tennis will feature again.
McLachlan’s long-time Queenstown coach, former doubles pro Lan Bale, says his Davis Cup selection is “quite mind-blowing, really”.
“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 is effectively a business decision, he says.
“The alternative was to stick around in NZ and make peanuts.
“It’s sad for the development of NZ 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.