Experienced Yasitha ready to spearhead Sri Lanka’s challenge | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Experienced Yasitha ready to spearhead Sri Lanka’s challenge

5 September, 2021
Yasitha de Silva
Yasitha de Silva

Reigning national singles champion Yasitha de Silva who is the most experienced player in Sri Lanka’s Davis Cup squad is ready to play the role of elder statesman in the side.

The 26-year-old proved that he has come of age in the domestic circuit when he captured his maiden national singles title in the 2020 Hardcourt Nationals defeating Sharmal Dissanayake against whom he was runner-up in 2016. However, he won the national doubles title partnering Sanka Atukorale in 2016 and 2017 to stamp his potential.

He has been a regular in the Sri Lanka Davis Cup side since 2016 having played eight matches, including a doubles win against Thailand in 2018. He also won a bronze medal in the doubles at the 2016 South Asian Games in India and represented Sri Lanka at the 2018 Asian Games held in Indonesia.

“It was a dream come true for me because representing Sri Lanka in a Davis Cup tournament was one of my main goals growing up. So to finally wear the Sri Lanka t-shirt and to compete in it was one of the best experiences ever,” said Yasitha recalling his Davis Cup debut.

But with the roles being reversed now, he is willing to shoulder the responsibility of guiding the youngsters.

“It’s difficult to even think about it five years back somehow making it to the team like these youngsters. To be the most senior guy in the team now, the tables have turned. It gives so much responsibility,” he said.

“Sri Lanka tennis is in a state where we need to rebuild again from the grass roots. These youngsters also have to learn how to play Davis Cup. How to be in the Davis Cup team, to compete. I have that sort of responsibility also in grooming them to continue Sri Lanka tennis,” said Yasitha.

An old boy of Ananda, his focus at the beginning was winning inter-school championship but this changed when he came under the wing of Niranjan Casiechetty in 2009.

“Things started to change and I started playing better,” said Yasitha who was selected to represent Sri Lanka Under-16 team in the Junior Davis Cup in 2011. He continued to play in local tournaments but didn’t travel a lot for foreign events.

“From playing school matches in 2011, I got into the Junior Davis Cup. I saw lot of foreign players and saw the level of players competing. I started playing more and improved my game,” he said.

Another game changer in his career was when he went for a month’s training in India in 2014 after his AL exam. “I started committing a lot more to tennis,” he said.

Playing in the senior Davis Cup team since 2016 also changed his perspective. “I got lot of exposure travelling to Thailand and Indonesia,” recalled Yasitha who participated in the campaign in 2017 when Sri Lanka got promoted to Group 2.

Studying and playing tennis was a difficult balancing act for Yasitha Rangana de Silva who graduated from the University of Colombo with a BSc in Business Management.

“While in university, it was tough to do exams and play tennis. During nationals I had exams. After getting my degree in 2019, my plan was to take 2020 to completely travel and play lot of tournaments. But unfortunately, covid and pandemic upset my plans,” said Yasitha who nevertheless managed to train locally as a full-time player last year and win almost all the singles tournaments he played.

Asked whether he had any role models or from where he drew inspiration, Yasitha said: “I guess one of the main inspirations came from my father. How he went about his work, the work ethic he had and how passionate he was when he came to his work. I learnt a lot from that. I was able to see that and apply that to my tennis career. Also there have been few professional athletes from different sports, that I have watched since I was a teenager and learnt a lot about the sacrifices and how work that is needed to achieve at high level.”

He also feels being a southpaw gives him an advantage making him a more aggressive player.

“I use serve to my advantage. Being a left hander helps me to win a lot of points. It allows me to change the game a bit more compared to right handers. My game mainly focuses on the serve.

“I have a decent advantage over right handers. If I am serving well and doing well, my whole game lifts and I am starting to play well,” he said.

Looking ahead at the tournament, he predicted a very tough Group 3 competition.

“Many countries in Group 2 because of new format came down to Group 3. Comparatively to past years, it is a very tough Group 3 tournament. It will give us an opportunity to compete at such a high level. To experience and to play good matches. Even to see what kind of level these guys are playing. We are fortunate that we are having this tournament in this current situation,” said Yasitha who is determined to do his best as a senior player to make Sri Lanka get some victories.

He lauded the youngsters in the squad as the best in the country.

“I think they have great potential when it comes to developing and becoming good players. I feel they are more focused. They sort of know the path that they need to go, to become like full-time players. I feel that they are in the process. With the high performance programme being implemented in Sri Lanka, in a couple of years these guys will be very much ready to compete at Group 2,” he said.

The long gap since the tie against Paraguay and lack of international exposure is something they have to deal with.

“That’s a major problem we face. I feel even youngsters, they were planning to go on ITF tours and play a lot of tournaments. Last year, even I was planning to travel and play in the Indian circuit. You can’t blame the situation. Everyone is facing this currently. It’s mostly to our disadvantage also because I feel compared to other countries we could have used that exposure playing in different countries and opposition. But we have to deal with what we have right now. Hopefully, the younger ones can get a good exposure from this tournament and build up their careers,” said Yasitha who started working as a Business Analyst at MAS Holdings six months ago.