Sri Lanka to unleash future of tennis at Asia-Oceania Davis Cup | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka to unleash future of tennis at Asia-Oceania Davis Cup

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

Non-playing captain Renouk Wijemanne ‘happy to be working with a fairly young team’:

Sri Lanka will be competing at the Asia-Oceania Group 3 Davis tournament featuring nine countries in Jordan from September 15 to 18 with a new-look team.

Missing in the line-up will be veterans Harshana Godamanna and Sharmal Dissanayake who are unavailable.

The four-member Sri Lanka squad comprises Yasitha de Silva, Thehan Wijemanne, Vibuda Wijebandara and Chathurya Nilaweera while former Davis Cup star Renouk Wijemanne is the non-playing captain and coach of the side. Yasitha and Thehan have previous Davis Cup experience having featured in the Group 2 tie in Paraguay last year while Vibuda and Chathurya will be making their debut.

The nine participating countries are Hong Kong, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pacific Oceania, Qatar, Syria, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The draw will be held during the captain’s meeting on September 14 with the teams being divided into three groups. Ties will consist of two singles and doubles in a best-of-three format.

The first Davis Cup tournament held since the outbreak of the pandemic, this event was initially scheduled to be held in Vietnam but moved to the hardcourts of Jordan because of the rise in covid cases. Sri Lanka began training more than a fortnight ago with the players also getting vaccinated.

“We didn’t get lot of time for preparation and all of that but I am expecting it to be the same for all the other countries,” said Renouk who was appointed High Performance head coach by the Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA) recently.

“We are going to take it one tie at a time. I told players also to focus on the process and what they can control. The result is sometimes beyond our control,” said the 39-year-old who represented Sri Lanka in Davis Cup for five years from 1999 to 2007, winning 11 out of the 19 singles matches he played.

“I am happy with the way things are shaping up. They are playing quite well at the moment,” said Renouk who was assistant coach in 2017 during the Davis Cup Group 3 tie in Colombo when Sri Lanka got promoted to Group 2 and was also coach cum captain of the national team at the 2019 South Asian Games held in Nepal.

“But we don’t know the players who will come from the other countries because of this covid situation. Philippines was also supposed to be in our group but they have pulled out,” he said.

He was positive despite having been given a relatively new team.

“Harshana who is in the USA just got a job as head coach at University of Massachusetts. He is unavailable because he is running a first year programme there. Sharmal Dissanayake is also unavailable. We are relatively inexperienced in the sense that this is Thehan’s second year only, though Yasitha has been playing since 2016,” said Renouk who is an ITF Level 3 coach.

“But I am actually very happy. It’s like the future of Sri Lankan tennis. I think it’s really important that they also get that kind of experience and exposure. For the past two years because of covid they’ve not been able to get out and play any tournaments. I am happy for them. I am happy to be working with a fairly young team,” said Renouk who represented Sri Lanka at the 2002 Asian Games.

Asked whether the young guns would be able to put their hands up, the former national singles champion and three-time national doubles winner said: “Talent-wise I think they can match up. But there is a lot more in terms of maturity, in terms of their game and stuff they have to learn. So it’s definitely going to be much more of a challenge with this team compared to like having a Harshana Godamanna and Sharmal Dissanayake.”

“But like I said, I am excited to work with these young guys because they are really the future. I mean you never know, if we get a decent draw, we can put up a good battle. I am actually looking forward to it,” he said.

Renouk’s only head ache is deciding on the combinations since he is spoilt for choice. Yasitha de Silva is the reigning Hard Court Nationals Men’s Singles Champion while Thehan and Chaturya are the Men’s national doubles champions.

“Still we haven’t decided whether we are going to play with them (Thehan and Chaturya in doubles) or Yasitha or Vibuda. It all depends on the tie. We will take one tie at a time and see how it goes. See who the players are from other countries and then make a decision on the doubles. If one of the singles is playing doubles as well, it is quite a challenging task because you have to play singles and doubles shortly afterwards. If you are doing that two or three days in a row, back to back, it can be quite tough. So it depends on who we are playing and the draw and all of that. I will make that decision once we go there. But here I am going to try out all the different combinations and see with the four players we have. Yasitha is the go-to singles player. Other slot depends on who and how we are playing. Singles depending on country probably,” he said.

He has intensified training which is being held at SLTA morning and evening. “Obviously we will start tapering once we get closer to the tournament,” he said.