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‘Davis Cup languish’ continues for 10th year

This year’s most looked forward to men’s international tennis event came to an end in the historic Iranian capital city of Tehran last Sunday (13).

The outdoor clay court surfaces at the popular Iranian tennis destination at the Enghelab Sports Complex, where one would find over 40 tennis courts spreading across a vast area, expected the host nation to get the much anticipated Group-II qualification in this Group-III Asia-Oceania Zone event held from April 9-13. Amidst mediocre organisation by the Islamic Republic of Iran Tennis Federation, this year’s Davis Cup saw a virtual revival of another Asian tennis powerhouse, Malaysia, who got a ticket to Group-II next year along with a fascinating South Asian tennis stronghold of Pakistan.

As both Harshana Godamanna and Rajeev Rajapakse led the Sri Lankan campaign with only Dinusha Wijesuriya, a debutante, featuring only in a single (doubles) match out of the 15 matches, Artha Hewacottege had to idle in the Tehran cold with his expensive headphones on during each and every rubber.

The fifth place Sri Lanka got in this year’s campaign was a poor achievement but as their coach Dominik Utzinger quipped, the island nation, which was a very strong contender when the new Zonal system was introduced during the late eighties, could possibly be struggling even in the lowest Group-IV if they lose the services of Godamanna, a player within top 1000 in the world now.

Some might argue why their specialist Second Singles player Wijesuriya was not allowed to go ahead with the very first tie that was against Malaysia. It was a sensible question. The selections were made by the Non Playing Captain and Coach when the tour was on. They had to pick from a four-member pool handed over to them by the four-member National Selection Committee headed by former Davis Cup stalwart P.S. Kumara. Wijesuriya who went on tour after convincingly getting through a proper trials round could have been the first option for the Second Singles rubber. But the decision-makers on tour, Rohan de Silva and Utzinger, looked to have given prominence to experience thus putting Rajapakase from the first day of the campaign.

When they capped Wijesuriya on day-three against a naïve Tajikistan side, that too after Godamanna complained over an injured shoulder. The Wijesuriya inexperience was showing in the way he played in that match, proving that a win would have been an absolute possibility if the ‘Godda’-Rajapakse combination went on to play.

But if a question is asked why either Wijesuriya or Hewacottege was not given a go at least in a virtual dead rubber on the final day against Vietnam –after Sri Lanka was through as far as their objective of remaining in Group-III was concerned—was too sensible a question. Will there be any better occasion for Sri Lanka to give the highest level exposure for their youngsters, future prospects? And, in the mean time, will these youngsters, after having all these vital international experience, continue to serve the country’s sport or will they go out seeking greener pastures leaving behind their so-called ‘national interests’ to some other set of more junior youngsters? That too is a question with a lot of sensibility.

Full Results:

Group A Round Robin: Pak bt UAE 3-0, Syria bt Viet 2-1, Pak bt Viet 3-0, Syria bt UAE 3-0, Pak bt Syria 3-0, Viet bt UAE 3-0

Group B Round Robin: Malay bt SL 2-1, Iran bt Taji 3-0, Iran bt SL 2-1, Malay bt Taji 2-1, SL bt Taji 2-1, Malay bt Iran 2-1

1st to 4th Place Play Off Round Robin: Syria vs Pak (not played), Iran vs Malay (not played), Pak bt Iran 3-0, Malay bt Syria 3-0, Pak bt Malay 3-0, Syria bt Iran 2-1

5th to 8th Place Play Off Round Robin: Taji vs SL (not played), Viet vs UAE (not played), SL bt UAE 3-0, Taji bt Viet 3-0, SL bt Viet 3-0, Taji bt UAE 2-1

Final Standings: 1. Pak, 2. Malaysia, 3. Syria, 4. Iran, 5. SL, 6. Tajikistan, 7. Vietnam, 8. UAE. Places 1 & 2 are promoted to Group-II in 2009. 3-6 will remain in Group-III in 2009 and 7 & 8 will be relegated to Group-IV in 2009.

ITF 14&Under Girls World Juniors team leaves for China –

The girls who will take part in World Juniors 14 and under competition held in Shenzen, China, from April 19-28 left Sri Lanka on Friday (18).

Hill Club Open at Nuwara Eliya

The first of the upcountry circuit tournament season, the Nuwara Eliya Hill Club Open Ranking (‘B’ Grade) Tournament was held from April 10. The Bandarawela Tourney was underway last week and the third one, Matale Open was a doubtful starter due to both organisational reasons and bad weather conditions as well. The Tournament Referee was Avantha Suranimala.

Results of Finals:

Boys’ U-18: Amresh Jayawickrama bt Michael Siyaguna, Men’s Open Singles: M. Siyaguna bt A. Jayawickrema, Men’s Open Doubles: Sankha Atukorale & A. Jayawickrama bt Sylvester Francis & M. Siyaguna

Girls’ U-18: Nilupul Goonasekara bt Roshenka Fernando, Women’s Open Singles: N. Goonasekara bt Shenelle Abeysekera.

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