Ben McLachlan in Melbourne with, from left, Karen Mitchell, Tony Oxnevad, Teresa Chapman, his father Craig and Felicity Oxnevad

“CRAZY”, “surreal” and “bloody exciting”.

That’s how Queenstowner Craig McLachlan describes his son Ben’s incredible, career-defining run in the Australian Open tennis grand slam.

Ben, 25, and his German doubles partner Jan-Lennard Struff qualified for today’s semi-final after beating world no.1-ranked combination, and reigning Wimbledon champs Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Craig watched the pair’s first two matches last week but missed Monday’s third-round win and their quarter-final.

“I run a small [tour] business, and when you’ve got work you’ve got to work.”

Craig says what’s amazing is it’s the pair’s first tournament together and Ben’s first grand slam – in his first ATP World Tour event last October, Ben and his Japanese partner Yasutaka Uchiyama won the Japan Open doubles.

That tournament came soon after Ben changed his playing allegiance to Japan, due to his mother Yuriko’s nationality.

“New Zealand doesn’t really fund high-performance tennis so if you want to get anywhere, you’ve kind of got to head away,” Craig says.

He notes Japanese fans in Melbourne are “going nuts” over Ben and Struff.

Ben signs an over-sized ball after yet another victoryPICTURE: GREG MOLLER


It’s “freaky” how calm his son is, he says: “I think he gets it from his mum.

“It’s amazing how he can still stay so cool because there’s a lot of people watching.”

Among the spectators is a large, ecstatic Queenstown Tennis Club contingent whom Ben name-checked on TV after Monday’s win.

Club president Teresa Chapman says: “We’re waving the Japanese flag because we have to acknowledge he’s playing under it – they gave him that opportunity, NZ didn’t.

“Next year we’ll have signs reading, ‘Queenstown Tennis Club, Home of Ben McLachlan’.”

Chapman says Ben’s “extreme finesse” beautifully complements Struff’s strength.

She also hails Ben’s brother Riki’s contribution as his travelling coach and manager.

“It’s a bit of a super-success for Riki, as well.”