- SA doubles ace Raven Klaasen has confirmed that he'll play with NZ-born Japanese player Ben McLachlan in 2021.
- The duo recently won the ATP event in Cologne, Germany - their first tournament as partners.
- Klaasen's coach, Stefan de Kock, says his player is "moving as well as ever at 38".
He won the Cologne Open ATP title in a "love at first sight" initial pairing with Ben McLachlan last month after what was a harrowing, yo-yo like 2020 season, so it came as no great surprise on Sunday when coach Stefan de Kock revealed South African doubles ace, Raven Klaasen, will team up on an ongoing basis with the New Zealand-born, Japanese player next year.
Klaasen, whose world doubles ranking in 2020 has dropped from eighth - with a career-best seventh - to 20th at this time, initially paired up with Austrian veteran stalwart, Oliver Marach, during much of the trying coronavirus pandemic interrupted year, with the partnership getting off to a promising start while reaching the semi-finals in early Dubai and Rotterdam events.
But when tournaments resumed after a four-month break the South African-Austrian combination appeared systematically to have lost their rapport.
The pair won only one match in five tournaments, including shock first round defeats in both the US and French Opens in which they were seeded - and the looming split in the Klaasen-Marach combination was followed with what was viewed as no more than a makeshift new pairing for the 38-year-old Klaasen in the second of two German ATP tournaments in Cologne with the 28-year-old McLachlan.
With little expected from the partnership, Klaasen and McLachlan clicked instantly, and after progressing to the final, they upset two-time French Open Grand Slam champions, Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, in a vacillating three-set drama in which they saved 10 break points.
This success maintained the evergreen Klaasen's record of having won at least one ATP title in each of the last eight years, now numbering 17 in all - with appearances in both Australian Open and Wimbledon Grand Slam finals and two finals of the year-end ATP Finals.
De Kock said the South African-Japan combination had split for the next Austrian Open because of the players' previous commitments and although beaten 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 10-5 in the Paris Masters first round match last week against an on-fire Casper Ruud and Taylor Fritz, the instant understanding and enthusiasm between Klaasen and McLachlan, a six-time ATP winner, was again evident.
"Raven is moving as well as ever at 38," said his coach, "and we are looking forward to the 2021 season with a lot of confidence and expectation after a trying year."
De Kock said as he was currently coaching both Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse, two members of South Africa's Davis Cup squad, he had decided to put his name in the queue to fill the position of national team captain that was relinquished earlier in the year by Marcos Ondruska - something, he added, that would fit ideally with his existing programme.