Prince Edward to visit SL tennis headquarters today


A graphic photo of the proposed SLTA Indoor Tennis Complex. Prince Edward will lay the foundation stone of the proposed building today during his visit to the Colombo-7 tennis headquarters.

Prince Edward and his wife Sophie are now in Sri Lanka. (Files)

by Revata S. Silva

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and the youngest of four children of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, will visit the Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA) today. The Prince’s brief SLTA stay will last from 3.10 to 3.50 p.m., marking possibly the grandest foreign-dignitary visit since Independence (1948), at this Colombo-7’s Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha venue, previously named Ceylon Lawn Tennis Association (CLTA).

Prince Edward and wife Sophie are now here as the chief guests of the country’s Independence Day celebrations, to be held on February 4 in Colombo.

At the SLTA, Prince Edward is to lay the foundation stone of the proposed new Indoor Tennis Complex, a first in the country, on the northern end of the SLTA, adjoining Green Path, now Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha.

On his SLTA visit today, Prince Edward, also the present vice patron of the Commonwealth Games Federation in London, will meet Sri Lanka’s Commonwealth Games athletes along with the Sri Lanka wheelchair tennis team, its Davis Cup tennis team and the Fed Cup team.

Wheelchair Tennis

Exhibition Match -

The royal visit’s other highlight will be the exhibition wheelchair tennis match, to be played by current top Sri Lanka players, Gamini Dissanayake, R. A. L. S. Ranaweera, D. S. R. Dharmasena and H. M. C. Senaratne, all army soldiers who lost their limbs during the 30-year civil war. All of them, but Senaratne, are among top 100 in current ITF world rankings with Dissanayake, former world no. 45, being the best player the country has produced. Wheelchair tennis was introduced in the island in the late 1990s yet in 2001, the programme reached new heights under the then SLTA president Suresh Subramaniam.

Iqbal Bin Isaack, present President, SLTA, said in a media communique on Wednesday: "The British Royal Family has a history of being closely associated with tennis as patrons of the game. SLTA is the 2nd oldest tennis association in Asia and we celebrated our centenary in 2015. SLTA is honoured by this historic Royal visit as we inherited the game from the British. The visit allows us the opportunity to gain worldwide exposure for our wheelchair tennis that has brought immense credit to our country.

"The Rs. 800 million new Indoor Tennis Complex with floodlit courts will be a major leap forward for Sri Lanka’s tennis, and we are thankful to Mr. Aelian Gunawardene of JAT Holdings in developing the new complex."

History -

The CLTA was founded in 1915 by some British planters in Nuwara Eliya with the then Governor, Robert Chalmers being its first president. The Governors were customarily appointed CLTA president, a practice that prevailed till 1946. Then the CLTA headquarters was shifted down, to Colombo, in 1954 from its first venue, ‘Chalet’ at the up-country city, near now famous Nuwara Eliya Hill Club.

The present SLTA venue in Colombo first belonged to now-defunct Garden Club, an exclusive reserve for the British then living in the city. The Garden Club’s classic clubhouse can still be seen by the eastern corner of the present SLTA premises, near which the new Indoor Complex is to emergence soon.

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