Tennis Europe Junior Tour

In the Spotlight: Niall Pickerd-Barua

In the Spotlight: Niall Pickerd-Barua

The first player from Wales to top the Race to Monte-Carlo rankings, Niall Pickerd-Barua is in a good place right now. A 15-match win streak at the end of 2023 saw him rack up three consecutive singles titles (plus two doubles) and establish a lead at the top of the Race to Monte-Carlo rankings that he still holds.

With the Junior Masters firmly in his sights, he’s made a strong start to 2024, with two Category 1 semi-finals already under his belt. We caught up with Niall recently to find out more about this impressive run.

Thanks for speaking with us. Let's start with an easy one that we ask most players: How did you first hear about Tennis Europe and get into our tournaments?
Well, I first heard of it because my sister started playing and I always wanted to compete in these events, and so that’s what got me into it!

And when was it that you first started getting into tennis seriously, thinking “okay I want to play tennis - I want to dedicate my life to this”?
When I was about three or four years old.

Anyone in your family sporty?
Just my sister, really.

So, is it just something that piqued your interest?
Well, I just really enjoyed playing and competing, fighting for every match. I Just enjoyed that.

What's the transition to Tennis Europe been like for you?
Well, it's been a good transition because you're so used to playing the local faces. You know them a lot. You know how they play. It's better playing in the Tennis Europe tournaments, because you play against players you don't really know that well and it tests your game. So, it's great.

And what do you have to say about the level on the Junior Tour?
There’s a good level …a very good level.  There’s great competition. Also, the American juniors (who come across to play in Europe) are also quite strong.

So, you've been at the top of the Race Monte-Carlo for a while now! Is that a big objective for you?
Well, yes. Obviously to make it there to Monte-Carlo at the end of the year.

What have you heard about the tournament?
It's a very prestigious event and obviously the top eight boys get to play it. So, it's a very, very prestigious event which I'd like to compete in.

Do you have a plan, let's say this year, as far as tournaments that you're going to play?
Well, I want to play all the Super Categories and the Category 1s really… some Category 2s as well, maybe.

Again, from what you've seen on social media, are there any events that you might enjoy?
Roehampton was my favourite last year.

Moving on from Tennis Europe, are there any players who you look up to?
My all-time hero is Rafael Nadal… I just love everything about him.

Having played an event like Les Petits As and knowing that your idol won that tournament, is that extra incentive when you go out on court or just not really on your mind?
Well, it's very inspirational knowing that he walked through the same doors and played on the same courts.

Is there something about his game, perhaps, that you've taken on?
His forehand I think, and his mentality as well.

What do you think are your strengths?
I think my forehand down-the-line.

What things do you think you could improve?
Yeah, my serve in general and the pace on it. I'm getting it in good spots, but just the pace in general.

Tell us a bit about your background…
My dad is from India and my mum is from Germany. But I was born in Cardiff in Wales, so I am Welsh…and ultimately British.

What about the team competitions? Do you look forward to them as well?
Yes, the Winter Cups and of course the Summer Cups would be good…

Is there anything you find difficult about having to move around and travel week to week?
No, I really enjoy traveling and visiting new places.

Speaking of languages, do you speak any other than English?
Just German.

One thing we always ask the young players as well is how they combine education with tennis and training.
You’ve just got to fit it all in and be disciplined really.

What's your schedule like?
I wake up quite early, have a tennis session in the morning and get a bit of school done and then maybe another tennis session and fitness and then some school afterwards.

Is it a physical school or an online school?
Online school.

And when it comes to training, is there anything you specifically like or dislike?
Conditioning is tough on court, but it makes me better. So, it's okay.

Do you think that online schooling is more beneficial for you, or would you prefer 'regular' school?
Well online it’s very flexible. You can do it anywhere in the world, anytime … obviously at (a regular) school you're with friends but I guess it's what you prefer, really.

Speaking of friends, in the tennis world who are your buddies on the Junior Tour?
A few of my British guys (smiles).

How do your non-tennis mates react to having this tennis player friend travelling all around the world?
Well, they're obviously very proud and I still get to see them when I'm back at home training, so it's okay.

What are your hobbies, apart from tennis and maybe even disregarding sport altogether?
I like mountain biking. That's it. (laughs)

Ok, so another sport then (laughs)

What are some of your objectives, for the short term or for the next year or two?
Well, short-term, I probably want to make it to Monte-Carlo. Then longer term, probably be ATP Top 100 ranked and playing all the Grand Slams

Thinking of these big tournaments, do you have any favorites?
Wimbledon and Roland Garros.

So you like clay as well as grass, then?
Yes, I love clay! 

Which surface would you say you're better on: grass or clay?
I'd say clay, but my game is very suited to grass as well.

I know you’re still young yourself, but do you have any advice that you could maybe give to anybody who's younger who might be thinking of ditching the traditional way of learning and dedicating their life to tennis or some other sport?

Well, just be disciplined really… and find time for what you do, that’s it.
And with that, I assume your parents help you a great deal.

Yeah, they do. They're very, very helpful and wouldn't be able to do what I do without them really!
Thank you so much, it’s been great to get to know a little more. Good luck with the rest of the year and getting to Monte-Carlo! 


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