New Zealand bound . . . 12-year-old Tamika Saxby will play in her first international squash tournament, to be held in Auckland
New Zealand bound . . . 12-year-old Tamika Saxby will play in her first international squash tournament, to be held in Auckland

NZ test for Tamika

By BRAD GREENSHIELDS

IT'S time to start taking on the world.

Having beaten nearly everyone in Australia that plays squash in her age group, Tamika Saxby is this weekend playing in her first international event to test herself against the best that New Zealand can offer.

For the last two years the star junior has finished runner-up at the national titles and now Saxby is off to Auckland to take part in the New Zealand national junior titles.

Despite her impressive record in Australia, the 12 year old only has modest expectations for success on her first ever trip overseas.

"It's a 32-player draw so I'm just hoping to get to the last 16," she said.

"It's just basically for experience and stuff and anything better than that will be a bonus."

Unlike the Commonwealth Games where Australia beat their smaller neighbours in just about everything, it's highly unlikely that Saxby will find the competition as easy as those who won gold in Melbourne.

The junior development program for squash in the land of the long white cloud is at an advanced stage and taking part in this tournament is a good opportunity for the Woolgoolga High student to measure where her squash game is at at the moment.

Unlike the top Aussie juniors that Saxby often faces at state and national level, she will need to overcome knowing almost nothing about any of her opponents that she might meet this weekend.

"I know a couple of the girls there from when I played them a few years ago but that's about it," she said.

In preparation for the event, Saxby has played in a couple of lead-up tournaments as well as practicing with top locals Daniel Spring and Justin Bale.

There'll be no rest for the star junior upon her return though as the first major event for juniors in 2006 as part of the national junior series will be held during the school holidays in Thornleigh.

National selectors will be closely monitoring the form of the top players at this series as Saxby keeps an eye on trying to gain a spot in the national team next year for the World Junior Championships.

"I've improved my fitness with a lot of training," Saxby said of the hard work she's been putting in to take her game to the next level.

"I've been doing sprint recovery work as well as beep tests, I've just been working hard with Daniel (Spring)."

Already ranked at number one for her age in New South Wales, a top effort this weekend will see Saxby's name known beyond these borders and could be the first step towards another Australian having the wood on those from across the ditch.



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