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18th of January 2018

New Zealand

McLachlan aiming for grand slams

Queenstown tennis player Ben McLachlan is eyeing up the sport's pinnacle events.

Having switched nationalities to Japan, played in the Davis Cup and won the Japan Open, the doubles specialist is coming off the best six months of his career.

After spending the past three weeks on a break back home, he has the grand slams in his sights.

Now 73rd in the world doubles rankings, the 25-year-old has climbed significantly since ending 2016 just inside the top 200.

That ranking was key in qualifying for the grand slams - firstly, the Australian Open next month.

Players had to enter online by January 5, at which time they would be notified if they were successful.

If the combined ranking of McLachlan and his partner was inside the top 57 entrants, he would qualify.

He thought he was a 50% chance of being inside that, although if not, there was time to improve before the French Open at the end of May.

It all bodes well for McLachlan, who has had a whirlwind finish to the year.

''Very happy,'' he said when asked how the year was.

''Things just kind of turned pretty quickly.

''The first half of the year wasn't a great half of the year. But then I won my first challenger in June and then I got selected for Davis Cup and then won another one, then I won Tokyo [the Japan Open].

''So things changed pretty quickly.''

While still very much a Kiwi, the switch to playing for Japan had brought success.

Not only had it brought about his selection to play in the Davis Cup, it had enabled him to gain a wildcard entry to the Japan Open which he went on to win alongside Yasutaka Uchiyama.

That was no mean feat, as the tournament rates at the level just below the grand slams.

On the way to winning he beat both of the past two US Open-winning pairs, showing his ability to mix it with the best.

''It was just a bit of a dream week.

''Going into the tournament I would've been pretty thrilled getting through the first round.

''It was the first round where we probably actually played the worst - not that bad but we were a little bit nervous going out there.

''From there we didn't think about too much. We were just having fun and the crowd was great supporting us.

''By the end of the week we just realised we'd won the tournament.''

Alongside that the Davis Cup had been a great experience, at which he played against Brazilians Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares - ranked third and 12th in the world respectively.

That had given him the confidence he could play at that level and showed him the step up was not so big.

Having played mostly at the Challengers level this year, McLachlan hopes to play more ATP Tour events in 2018.

He had one coming up in India - where he would somewhat reluctantly see in the new year - and would try to get into the ASB Classic in Auckland.

Ultimately, he was unsure where he hoped to be in a year's time, although he thought the top 40 could be a good goal.

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