No fanfare for Queenstown winner

NZ's forgotten winner: ASB Classic doubles winner Ben McLachlan training in Queenstown last month PICTURE: JAMES ALLAN PHOTOGRAPHY

A New Zealander won the ASB Classic tennis doubles in Auckland last Saturday, but going by the national media you’d hardly know.

Queenstown-raised Ben McLachlan, who has represented Japan since 2017, and German Jan-Lennard Struff beat Kiwi Michael Venus and South African Raven Klaasen in NZ’s top tournament.

But Auckland-based NZ Herald’s headline was: ‘NZ’s Michael Venus and Raven Klaasen lose doubles final at ASB Classic.’

And The Sunday Star-TimesĀ followed with: ‘Venus falls short in Classic doubles final.’

There’d been “high hopes of a NZ victory”, it said, but instead “Queenstown-born Japanese representative McLachlan” had lifted the trophy.

At least Mountain Scene’s sister paper, Otago Daily Times, ran ‘Brilliant Ben: Queenstown’s Best Nabs Doubles Title’ on the cover of Monday’s sports liftout.

The TV commentary team had also acknowledged there were two NZers on court.

McLachlan’s dad Craig says though Ben represents Japan, courtesy of his Japanese mum Yuriko, “he’s Kiwi”.

“He played Junior Davis Cup for NZ, he played all sorts of age-group tennis for NZ.”

Craig adds that Ben, through this win, should be seen as a role model for kids in Queenstown and the southern part of the South Island, proving you can make it from this neck of the woods.

Queenstown Tennis Club president Teresa Chapman says that due to the ‘Venus lost’ headlines, “all of NZ thinks the only Kiwi we had in it lost”.

they would have realised there is NZ talent coming through, and it’s on the strength of people like Ben McLachlan.

“I think they think he was born in Queenstown and disappeared to Japan at a very young age.”

Ben’s long-time local coach Lan Bale, who’s leaving town this week, says the coverage is “shitty” but typical of the Auckland bias he’s always faced.

[Tennis NZ] bias from Auckland even from when Ben and [brother] Riki were young, right the way through.

“Hopefully, from the years of working with me, Ben will see the bigger picture and just smile at stuff like that.”

Ben and Struff are this week back at the Australian Open grand slam in Melbourne where they broke through last year by making the semis in their first tournament together.