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Naiktha Bains: "I've always felt British"

Naiktha Bains:
© Reuters
Bains moved to Australia aged eight and had represented her adopted country until April.

Naiktha Bains insisted she has always felt British as she explained her decision to switch back to representing the country of her birth.

The 21-year-old was a surprise new addition to the British rankings in April having represented Australia for nearly a decade.

Bains and her family moved from Leeds, where she was born, to Brisbane when she was eight. The plan had been for her to continue to represent Britain but the family were disappointed by a lack of support from the Lawn Tennis Association.

The LTA insisted it had not played a role in Bains, the British number six at 229th in the rankings, switching back while Tennis Australia was also quiet on the matter.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Bains said: "It was just a personal decision, something I've thought of over the years in terms of when I was old enough to make the decision.

"There was no rush so I decided after the Australian summer this year that I was going to switch. I was born in England, I've always felt British even though we lived in Australia. It was a family decision to move out to Australia just for the lifestyle really.

"Before I played Fed Cup for a country I wanted to play for the country I felt from and I wanted to represent and play for Great Britain."

Bains attracted a lot of attention as a teenager, with the likes of leading coaches Darren Cahill and Brad Gilbert impressed by her potential.

She has not made as swift progress up the rankings as had been hoped for and, having not been in the Australian top 10, switching to Britain has certainly elevated her status, with the LTA quickly embracing her return.

She has already benefited from wild cards into the grass-court tournaments in Surbiton and Nottingham, and into qualifying this week at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, where she was the only British player to win a round.

Bains' age and ranking would normally secure her a main draw wild card for Wimbledon, which this year comes with guaranteed prize money of £45,000.

It would mark a grand slam debut for Bains, who lost in the third round of qualifying at the Australian Open this year, but she insisted she was not looking for a handout.

"I'm hoping to get into qualifying myself, that was a goal," she said. "I think I'm six out right now so I'm hoping to move in. I'd like to say in a few weeks that I did that."

Bains is good friends with a number of the young British players and making the British Fed Cup team, who are back in the World Group for the first time in 26 years, is a major goal.

She talked with captain Anne Keothavong in Nottingham last week, and she said: "If I can get into the Fed Cup team I'd be pretty happy. It's obviously a great event to play in."

A slight but powerful player, this season has been Bains' best so far. She won a lower-tier title in Australia in March and she is predicted to hit a new career-high ranking on Monday.

Her tennis ambitions remain lofty.

"It's pretty standard to say the best in the world, right?" she said. "I'm just taking it step by step, slowly but surely moving up the rankings and doing as well as I can.

"The level at this time of the year is very high, all the grass-court tournaments are very strong. I guess it's just a matter of keeping going and keeping putting myself out there at this level and trying to do better and better."

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