Thehan Wijemanne, just 17 and excited to play a more demanding role | Page 3 | Sunday Observer

Thehan Wijemanne, just 17 and excited to play a more demanding role

5 September, 2021
Thehan Wijemanne (Pic by Ranjith Asanka)
Thehan Wijemanne (Pic by Ranjith Asanka)

Thehan Wijemanne has just one Davis Cup tie under his belt against Paraguay last year but the 17-year-old is looking forward excitedly to take over the mantle of leading Sri Lanka tennis into the future.

“More than pressure I am pretty excited. It also motivates not just me, all the players. In this situation actually to be very honest, all four players are at a good level,” said Thehan, an AL student of Royal College.

“We are playing three ties. Not like last time where it was just one tie. It’s very demanding for the players because they might have to play every day. All the players might have to play big matches. Everyone is being motivated and we are all practicing very hard,” said the lanky southpaw who made his Davis Cup debut against Paraguay.

“We have a kind of new team. We have Yasitha who is very experienced. He has played many Davis Cup matches. We have two debutants but it’s a very strong team this year,” said Thehan also buoyed by the High Performance programme initiated by the Sports Ministry.

Thehan is ready to soak pressure and take on the mantle of a senior player in the side.

“Last time I played number three. There was number one and two. This year hopefully I will play a more demanding role like may be one or two because of that obviously it is more pressure. We may play three matches and I am expected to win two or all three. I am also very excited. From small days, I have been waiting not just to be in the team but specially win matches for Sri Lanka,” said Thehan displaying great maturity on his young shoulders.

He also expects tough competition especially from Hong Kong and Vietnam who have top ranked players while some other countries have players in top 300 or 500. “Group 3 is especially tough because there are so many countries. From nine three will go up, three will stay and three will come down. Definitely our goal is to either stay or go up, not get relegated,” he said.

“This year mainly because of covid, the tournament is played in a bubble with ties finishing in four days. Sometimes we have to play three ties in four days with one day of rest. We might play three days in a row even with ties consisting of two singles and one double. It’s different from a normal Davis Cup of five matches in two days (singles, doubles and reverse singles). That’s the difference. In another one you can lose two but in this one if you lose two, you have lost the tie,” he explained.

As for preparations which were limited, he said: “Obviously we knew there was a Davis Cup this year. Players are now at a good level. Coach is preparing us endurance-wise. One player will also play singles and doubles. Some players who play important roles will have to be very fit physically and mentally.”

“Main difference in playing Davis Cup and maybe Nationals is you are not playing for yourself. Like you are playing for your whole country. Your match maybe will decide the tie which means the team, the coach, all of them will be dependent on you. But the good thing is you have team mates to look back on,” said Thehan wiser by the experience in Paraguay.

“For me last time going to Paraguay, it was a very good experience for me because I saw how the team works. Even though we lost that tie, how we practiced, how we went there and trained. Also the coach (Renouk Wijemanne) is a past Davis Cup player. So I think he will do a good job even getting the newcomers to play a more demanding role. I think from right now onwards he is preparing us. All four players have a good chance of playing,” he said.

Although he is the reigning national doubles champion with Chaturya Nilaweera, the coach will take a call on the doubles pairing.

“Right now we have experienced players like Yasitha (de Silva) and also Vibuda (Wijebandara) who is also very experienced. That way, coach has a good decision to make. Even if Chathu and me don’t get to play doubles, I am confident that we will do well. We are practicing with different combinations. At the end of the day best two should play,” he said.

He shrugged off the pressure weighing on his young shoulders.

“For me in my head there is little pressure. Obviously all the players have pressure. As soon I got selected, first thing is ‘Oh my God, you need to play and win’. Also these are players who we’ve never played before. We are at a different level,” he said.

“For me pressure is definitely there but I am excited too. I am looking forward to hopefully pull off most of my matches and do the best I can. I am confident that the whole team will do the best they can. Even if don’t make it to Group 2 because the countries this time are very strong, we will do our best obviously to stay in Group 3. We have a good chance,” he said.