Queenstown tennis pro Ben McLachlan, who sensationally won the Japan Open doubles title on Sunday, says “the final was actually probably the least nerve-racking [match] for me”.
Wildcard entries for the ATP World Tour event in Tokyo, he and Japanese doubles partner Yasutaka Uchiyama had already scored upset first-round, quarter-final and semi-final wins.
“Going into the tournament, I was thinking that if I could win one or two rounds it would be a successful tournament.
“I guess, after beating the United States Open champs [in the quarters], we felt like we could beat anyone.
“But I think we did a great job of just focusing on each match as it came.
“Yes, there was a lot on the line in the final and the biggest crowd [including the Japanese Imperial Family’s Princess Mako], but we were still definitely the underdogs.”
Amazingly, they only dropped one set at the tournament, in the first round.
McLachlan, in his first ATP-level event, and Uchiyama shared the winners’ purse of $US101,440 [$NZ141,383], and the former lifted his world ranking from about 135 to 80.
McLachlan admits he wouldn’t have got a wildcard entry if he hadn’t recently changed his playing allegiance from New Zealand to Japan.
He qualified due to his mother’s nationality.
That had also allowed the 25-year-old to be selected for Japan’s Davis Cup tie against Brazil last month, where he first teamed up with Uchiyama.
“Unfortunately ‘Uchi’ wants to focus more on his singles ranking so I will probably look for other partners to end this year,” McLachlan says.
“Hopefully I can start to get into some [ATP Tour] events but I will still need to play [lower-level] ‘Challengers’ to try and get up a little higher.
“If I can finish the year strong, I think I have a good chance of making the Australian Open [grand slam tournament in January].”
Meanwhile, Queenstown tennis coach Lan Bale isn’t surprised by McLachlan’s stunning success.
“Only that it happened so quickly,” he says. “I was expecting this to play out over six to 12 months, maybe a bit more. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the next 12 to 18 months transpires, and if things go well for Benny, he could be who knows where this time next year.”