Ben McLachlan may play under the Japanese flag, but he grew up in New Zealand, spending his summers in Japan. He would watch the ASB Classic, an ATP 250 event, in his home country, and even became a ballboy at the tournament. And on Saturday, McLachlan gained a new experience in Auckland: he lifted the title.
McLachlan and partner Jan-Lennard Struff defeated 2018 Nitto ATP Finals qualifiers Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus 6-3, 6-4 to capture the doubles trophy. The pair overcame a break-deficit in the second set to capture glory after 65 minutes.
“It’s pretty unreal. I watched this tournament growing up as a youngster. Becoming a ballboy was an unreal experience,” McLachlan said on court after the victory. “It’s just a dream come true.”
This time last year, McLachlan and Struff had never played doubles together. But the Japanese-German duo has quickly established itself as one of the premier tandems on the ATP Tour. In their first event as a team last January, McLachlan and Struff reached the Australian Open semi-finals. And in their first tour-level final as a team last October, they triumphed in Tokyo.
It was an especially busy week for Struff, who also reached the singles semi-finals, losing a tough three-setter against Cameron Norrie in the last four on Friday before bouncing back for the doubles victory.
“They were very tough matches in singles,” Struff said. “I’m very happy that we could start the season with a win.”
While McLachlan/Struff earn 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points and a share of $90,990, Klaasen/Venus settle for a runner-up finish, yielding the pair 150 points and a split of $49,205.
It is also the second time the pair has finished second to McLachlan/Struff, as they also did so in Tokyo. Klaasen and Venus are now 1-5 in tour-level finals as a team.
“I think we played tennis at a level we can be proud of this week. Today, unfortunately, we didn’t have it. Those boys deserved to win,” Klaasen said. “I had a lot of fun this week. I think we could take this, build on the positives, come back next year and hopefully go one step further.”
Did You Know?
Mclachlan and Struff finished 2018 in 12th in the ATP Doubles Race To London.