By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
A FOUR week trip overseas for Christmas sounds like the ultimate getaway after a hard year of school but for 14 year-old Tamika Saxby, the hard work is only beginning.
Ranked as the number one squash player in the under 15 age group, Saxby is about to embark on a tour overseas that will hopefully culminate in her gaining her first world ranking.
The gifted squash player is headed to the British Junior Open in Sheffield where an opening round victory will bring the Woolgoolga High student her first rankings points.
"The idea of travelling overseas is a bit exciting," she said as she packed her bags earlier in the week.
"It's really just for experience this year and I'm aiming to get a world ranking out of it this year.
"It would be good to get through a few rounds."
Saxby has already travelled overseas to play when she took on the best junior players that Asia can offer.
On that occasion she handled herself with aplomb but now she's also taking on the best players in Europe.
To prepare herself for this difficult task, Saxby will be training and acclimatising to the winter conditions for 10 days as a guest of former world champion David Palmer.
During this stint in Antwerp, the budding champion will receive tuition from top line coach Shaun Moxan where some hard work will surely be done.
During her recent preparations though, hard work and Saxby have been far from strangers.
"I've been training pretty much every day," she said.
"Lately I've been sharpening up and working on my speed as well as the normal things like the depth of my shots."
Saxby will need to adjust to the colder conditions quickly, not just because they can affect the condition of the courts that she will be playing on but also because she will be in chilly Edinburgh for the Christmas and New Year period.
The Scottish Junior Open is a perfect warm-up event for the biggest junior tournament in the world.
Edinburgh will give the talented junior her first look at some of Europe's best players in her age group as well as a chance to possibly gain a psychological edge.
As Saxby puts it: "This is a chance to see where I am at an international level."
As a member of the 2009 National Talent Squad, you can guarantee that this girl isn't just going over to the United Kingdom for a summer holiday.