She has the perfect name for a boxer, but Barry University’s Anaeve Pain — who was born and raised on an exotic island with the Pacific Ocean as her backyard — prefers to knock opponents out on the tennis court.
Pain, whose name is pronounced Pahn and means “bread” in her native French, is from New Caledonia, which is located 750 miles east of Australia.
With the beach just steps from her back door, Pain, 20, grew up surfing, wakeboarding and scuba diving. While underwater, she would also catch fish. There was also a tennis court near her home, and that’s where she learned the game at age 4.
At 17, Pain left her country to train in Paris on the famed Roland Garros clay courts, where the French Open is held. But Pain wasn’t happy there.
“The mentality of the French Federation, I don’t want to say the people there were distant but …,” Pain said. “It was just different. I’m an island girl.”
In 2012, Pain was hit by a car while riding her motorcycle in her hometown. She sustained a broken right leg and considers herself lucky to be alive.
“The doctor said that I nearly lost my leg,” said Pain, who was sidelined for five months while she recuperated.
Soon after, she left the French Federation and began looking for a university where she could study and be a part of a tennis team.
Traveling from the United States to New Caledonia is too expensive for most college recruiting budgets — Barry coach Avi Kigel estimates a trip would have cost his program $4,000 — so Pain had to decide on a school sight unseen.
Pain chose to come to Barry and Miami, where the tropical weather and beaches remind her of home.
Fluent in English as well as French, Pain is a biology major who hopes to become a veterinarian once her playing days are over.
In the meantime, she has a lot of tennis to play. The 5-6 freshman has already competed in the French Open and Australian Open junior tournaments.
“She had a very high ranking in juniors,” Kigel said. “She had a lot of good wins, and I had a good feeling about her after talking to her on the phone.
“I’m happy to be right about her. She’s a great girl and a hard worker.”
Pain is so good that she immediately broke into Barry’s starting lineup, even though the Bucs returned five All-Sunshine State Conference players from a team that reached the national quarterfinals in the NCAA’s Division II last season.
Last month, she played No. 4 singles as Barry, ranked third nationally, upset No. 1 Armstrong Atlantic 5-4 on a neutral court.
Armstrong won the 2013 national championship, beating Barry en route to the title. But this year Barry is loaded, with four of the top 40 Division II players in the nation — sophomore Emma Onila of Romania at No. 8, sophomore Elisabeth Abanda of Canada (No. 9), sophomore Karina Goia of Romania (No. 19) and junior Linda Fritschken of Germany (No. 31).
Pain, who is unranked for now, said she is thrilled with her decision to come to Miami, even though the flights to get here took a combined 24 hours, including stops in New Zealand and Los Angeles.
“I had seen pictures of Miami on the Internet, and now that I’m here, I really enjoy it,” Pain said. “It is one of my best choices ever. I’m having the time of my life.”