It was back in September that a teenager from Macclesfield in the Adelaide Hills put the tennis community on notice in winning her maiden International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior tournament.
Current Seacliff Tennis Club and Strathalbyn Tyndale Christian College year 11 student, Caitlin Baker clinched the Junior International Championship at Adelaide’s Memorial Drive.
After qualifying for the event, Baker produced some incredible tennis and defeated the top three seeds on the way to securing her first ITF event.
Baker was understandably delighted when she spoke to the First Serve about it.
“The whole tournament was special in general, I actually played a tournament the week before and lost in the second round and I wasn’t expecting big things in the second one,” Baker said.
“To beat the top seeds, I was on a high going into the final and I knew that was anything was possible and I had nothing to lose.
“I was playing confidently at the Junior International Championship and felt that I could deal with the pressure situations effectively.
“I always play better in Adelaide in front of my home crowd and family and friends and that made it even better and to do it at home made it twice as good.”
Such a big win at home was a fitting end to a busy few months after Baker has played in several ITF and Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) Pro tournaments throughout Australia.
Whilst she said they were good experiences she found one of them easier than the other.
“The majority of them have been in Melbourne and Queensland and I’ve been really fortunate to travel interstate and play those, they’ve been good experiences,” Baker reflected.
“I’ve found the ITF’s more challenging as they were junior ones and I am more known there, I struggled to move forward with them a little bit more so it was harder.
“The UTR Pros were more senior and I was more of an underdog in those and had more of an anything could happen approach.”
Baker’s leadership has also been recognized when she co-captained the State Under 18 Pizzey Cup team in Perth and gained an All-Australian selection.
Baker is based at the Seacliff Tennis Club south of Adelaide, where she has played for three seasons.
She said despite it being over an hour to drive to get to the club from the Adelaide Hills, she loves it there.
“Seacliff Tennis Club is amazing, everyone works together so well, it’s such a great community,” Baker said.
“My coach Jan coached a girl who I got to know and she played down there so that’s how I got into it.
“I worked my way up in the team and got the opportunity to play at state league levels, it really is a great club that I love playing with.
“The long drive can be bit of a struggle but the tennis club overlooks the beach so it’s not a bad drive down, I can’t really complain.”
Baker is coached by her father Mark as well as Jean Van Rehnsburg who she has been with since she was ten years old and earlier this year Anthony Lane jumped on board to provide even more support.
Baker said it worked well having Van Rehnsburg and Lane as they have different expertise with the game of tennis.
“They are both great coaches but both so different which actually works well with my game as I can have a variety of things to talk about and work through different situations,” Baker said.
“Jan is more focused on the hitting side of things and Anthony is more tactical and can help me tactically how to beat my opponent which is good.”
The love of tennis started at a young age and Baker told the First Serve that she had a talented tennis family.
“I saw my parents hitting the ball when I was really young and was amazed how hard they hit the ball,” Baker commented.
“I went down to the local Macclesfield Tennis Club and started hitting the ball with my older brother Jake and my parents when I was only six years old.
“I was addicted to it and my brother and I would hit together for ages and I got into local teams down there.
“I played in a regional event in SA called the Foundation Cup, where I competed against other regions, and from there I got recognized and ended up getting a scholarship with Tennis SA and that’s how it all started.
“Jake and I hit together every day and he also plays for Seacliff, he is in the seniors with Seacliff and plays at a pretty high level of tennis.
“It can get a little competitive when we play against each other so we just stick to casual hitting rather than matchplay now.”
Baker said Ash Barty is someone she likes to model her game on and she loved watching her play and still watches her videos on replay.
Baker plans to continue with playing commitments in senior and junior State League at the Seacliff Tennis Club, where she has played for three seasons.
She has put her name down for a few interstate tournaments this year and has the under 18 Australian championships in December.
Baker said she will complete Year 12 next year and then hopes to take up tennis professionally.
She said that US College was a possibility as well but she would see how things go in the next couple of years.