Keeping it in the family: Tennis coach Mark Milburn with his sons, U15 NZ rep Kai, left, and U13 NZ rep Noa


Two out of three very promising tennis-playing Queenstown brothers are representing New Zealand this month.

Noa Milburn, 12, is playing for the NZ under-13s at the Australian Junior Teams Event on the Gold Coast, from next Friday, and Kai, 15, is playing for the U15s — same event, same place — from June 30.

Their other brother, Dan, 14, played for the U13 NZ team at the same event last year, while Noa was in the U11 side.

Kai, a Wakatipu High Year 11 student, and Noa, who’s Year 8 at Remarkables Primary, are both no.1 in NZ for their ages, and Kai also has a top-1000 International Tennis Federation (ITF) ranking for his age.

The brothers literally grew up on tennis courts — their dad, Mark, has coached for the Queenstown Tennis Club for the past 20 years.

And, thanks to their Japanese-born mum, Takako, they’ve played and trained in Japan each
Queenstown winter, till Covid struck — Kai even played for a Japanese side when he was about 10.

Next month, Mark’s taking Kai and Dan to Japan again for six weeks, followed by two weeks in Singapore where the boys will play two ITF tournaments.

Mark says Kai and Noa, ahead of their Gold Coast tourney where they’ll play Aussie state sides, are fit and, ‘‘technically, they’re tracking really well, but they’re probably just a
little bit underdone with match play’’.

In Queenstown, and the southern region, they don’t get much competition from boys their age, so they match themselves against adults instead.

‘‘It’s good for their maturity,’’ Mark says, ‘‘and there’s obviously different styles with adults they’ve got to combat.’’

Kai even travelled to Christchurch last summer to play inter-club tennis.

The boys say they’re inspired by local tennis pro Ben McLachlan, who also has a Japanese mum which enabled him to advance his career by switching to play for Japan.

As for their heroes, Kai says he likes aggressive players like Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcarez, while Noa singles out Daniil Medvedev.

Both are keen to turn pro, as is Dan.

Mark says he’s happy with his boys’ progress.

‘‘We can show them the way, but they’ve actually got to do the work and put the time in.

‘‘But, to be honest, it’s not too hard because they’re really keen and they’re always excited
about improving or getting the next opportunity.’’