Less than a year after helping Australia to a runner-up finish at the Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals, 16-year-old Naiktha Bains is readying herself to take part in another prestigious event for her country at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
The Australian, who was born in Leeds, England is one of four Australian juniors competing in the tennis event in Nanjing on 17-24 August, along with Priscilla Hon and boys’ entrants Harry Bourchier and Marc Polmans.
Last September, Bains teamed with Hon to reach the final of the Junior Fed Cup event in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, where they were narrowly beaten to the title by Russia. With positive memories of representing Australia in international junior team competition already in the bag, Bains has reason to be excited by the prospect of the Youth Olympic Games.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Bains of Nanjing 2014. “It’s something different. We don’t often get to take part in the Olympics - it only comes around every four years.
“I’ve played Junior Fed Cup and World Junior Tennis so I’ve done a team event before, but this is the Olympics, the Youth Olympics, so it’s going to be exciting.”
Like the other 3,800 athletes taking part across 26 different sports in the Games’ first visit to China, Bains will get to experience the buzz of competing for a team - something of a rarity in tennis.
“It is a bit different,” Bains admitted. “I like both (competing independently and in a team). In doubles you always play with someone but in the team environment everyone’s there fighting for their country. It’s different and it’s fun.”
Though she has never been to China, the world junior No. 23 doesn’t think she’ll have any problem acclimatising to the event – or indeed the humidity in Nanjing.
“It’s probably one of the few countries in Asia that I haven’t been to,” said Bains. “It’ll be fun to go to a new country and apparently the facilities are really nice so that will be good.”
While the venue might offer an entirely new experience, Bains is hoping to bump into some familiar faces when she absorbs herself in the Youth Olympic Village and the other sports.
“I might know a few of the girls there competing in different sports,” Bains pondered aloud. “One of my school friends is an Olympic swimmer so she might be there. Someone else I know might be there – but I’ll hopefully get to meet a lot of different people with different backgrounds, playing different sports. It’ll be fun.”
Bains certainly has medal prospects in Nanjing, having reached the singles final at the Grade A junior Trofeo Bonfiglio event in Milan in May and the doubles semifinals alongside Tornado Alicia Black at junior Roland Garros in June.
But silverware aside, just participating in the event is something of a dream realised for the teenager, who says she is routinely hooked by televised Olympic action.
“I love watching the Olympics, not just the tennis but all the other sports too,” she said. “To be there competing alongside all the other sports will be pretty cool.
"I wouldn’t say there’s anything in particular [I want to watch]. I’d like to just have a look at everything to be honest. I love sports so everything will be really fun to watch.”