Amritha and Dineshkanthan  win National tennis titles



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By Revata S. Silva


Amritha Muttiah (Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)

It was reinstatement of supremacy in National tennis as Amritha Muttiah and Dineshkanthan Thangarajah successfully defended their National titles in women’s and men’s singles respectively as the duo got the better of their rivals Saturday morning in their finals with tremendous ease on the penultimate day of the 97th Sri Lanka Tennis Nationals at the SLTA, Colombo.


Former three-time champion Amritha’s years of experience proved too much for her young opponent, Nethmi Waduge, who was beaten 6-0, 6-3 before Dineshkanthan got the better of his Indian opponent Tanvir Ashiq 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 to win a second National singles title in a row.


"Winning a Nationals is always special. Nethmi is a young player but she had beaten very good players to come to this finals. She coming to the finals this year is great. I think she now needs to work harder... I don’t have plans to go to USA to further my tennis though I’ve already got a scholarship there. I want to stay here and play for my country," said a happy Amritha, 21, who has now won four National Singles titles in a row.


"I didn’t play well in the first set. She (Amritha) was really tough as an opponent. I was only the runner-up in Under-14 Doubles last year (in Nationals). So, winning the titles in Under-14, 16 and also ending up runner-up in women’s singles this year is, I think, due to my hard work. I thank the SLTA coaching staff, consisting of Upul Priyantha, Shalini de Silva, Sankha Atukorale and K. Sudharshana, etc. I hope to win all my matches in future," young Nethmi told Sunday Island after a remarkable campaign in this year’s Nationals.


Meanwhile Dineshkanthan said he felt more relaxed this year than what he felt last year when he first won the singles title.


"They say it’s tough to defend a title. But I felt more relaxed this year than when I first won the championship last year. I met Amresh (Jayawickrema), whom I defeated in the finals last year, in the quarters itself this year. Sharmal (Dissanayake whom Dineshkanthan met in the semis this time) has now progressed quite a lot. I got some tough matches before the finals so I was a bit relaxed in the finals today (Saturday). Sharmal will be a good competitor for everyone in future. He has made a good progress. He played a very good game with me in the semis. I won a very close match. After this November, following my exams, I plan to focus on the Davis Cup and other foreign tournaments."


Recalling the people who helped him come this far in an elitist sport like tennis, the Batticaloa-based Dineshkanthan, 21, who played Saturday morning in front of his father Thangarajah, a school teacher, and brother, a medical student passing out from the Jaffna University, gave credit to his coach Dinith Pathiraja and his school St. Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya which gave him a tennis scholarship at a very young age, after school coach Pathiraja had recommended him to the school authorities.


"If not for Dinith sir, I wouldn’t have been here. I should thank my school as well because if not for it, I wouldn’t have been in Colombo. The Father Rector of the school that time, Father Felician Ranjith Perera and the present rector, Father Travis Gabriel and all those who supported me until today, throughout the Nationals, they should all be remembered. And my parents and my brothers who supported me coming from Batticaloa, staying in rented houses and rooms here in Colombo with me when I played the tournaments. And I should thank my physical trainer Jaliya sir, my masseur Mr. Kodituwakku, ‘Dunlop’ which was my sponsor for ten years and my present sponsor ‘Head.’


"In future, I need to give my support to Batticaloa and Jaffna to develop their tennis because that is where I started my game. That is what I first need to think of probably after my career," said Dineshkanthan.


On the final day of the Tennis Nationals today, the finals of the Mixed Doubles and Wheelchair Tennis Men’s Singles are scheduled to be held in the morning and the prize-giving is to be held in the evening at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association premises.


The Tournament Referee this year for the Nationals is Anoujon Subramaniam and the main sponsor of this year’s Nationals is Airtel.


RESULTS


Men’s Over-35 Singles:


Final: Rohan De Silva (1) bt Nishantha


Losing semi-finalists: Anil Nanayakara and K. A. Sudharshan


Men’s Over-45 Singles:


Final: Samuel Balasinghe bt Niroshana Jayasundara


Losing semi-finalists: Sobitha Weerasekera and Col. Mahesh Abeyratne


Wheelchair Men’s Singles:


Semi-finals: W. P. J. Wijesiri bt N. R. L. Jayasundara (3) 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, R. A. L. S. Ranaweera (5) bt H. M. L. Senarathne 6-2, 6-7 (3), 7-5


Mixed Doubles:


Semi-finals:


Amritha Muttiah & Rajeev Rajapakse (1) bt Vinuri Wickramaratne & Heera Ashiq 6-4, 7-5, Roshenka Fernando & Thangarajah Dineshkanthan (2) bt Shalini de Silva & Sankha Atukorale 6-3, 7-6 (5).



BEST-EVER WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS


Sri Lanka (up to 1972 Ceylon) Tennis Nationals began in 1884. According to available records, a Women’s (Ladies’) Singles championship had been held for the first time in 1888 where one Miss I. Watson has emerged the champion. But, from 1889-99, either no Women’s Singles event has been held at the Ceylon Tennis Nationals or there has been no proper record available on those events of the tournament. And from 1915-18 and again from 1942-45, no Nationals tournament has been held due the two World Wars.


According to the available records, G. D. H. Alston and Doreen Sansoni hold the record for the most number of Women’s Singles titles (7). The latter also holds the record for winning most number of successive Women’s Singles titles (6). This puts Ms. Sansoni as probably the best all-time women’s singles player of Sri Lanka tennis.


Sheila Roberts and Saranga Sangakkara hold the No.2 spot for the most number of Singles titles (6). Lihini Weerasuriya is the 3rd in the list with 5 titles.


For the most number of consecutive National singles wins, Sangakkara holds the 2nd place with 5 successive titles. Amritha Muttiah on Saturday, Aug. 25, joined the 3rd place of this elite group of champions having won 4 consecutive singles titles (from 2009-12). She thus joined Weerasuriya and Jithmie Jayawickrema, who too have won 4 titles in a row.


Key: Champion’s Name / Overall Women’s Singles Titles Won / No. of Women’s Singles Titles Won Successively (Years)


R. Elliot – 4 / 3 (9001-3)


G. D. H. Alston – 7 / 3 (1920-22)


Doreen Sansoni – 7 / 6 (1935-40)


Sheila Roberts – 6 / 3 (1949-51)


C. R. Warren – 3 / 3 (1952-54)


Ranjani Jayasuriya – 4 / 3 (1957-59)


Dechu Appiah – 3 / 3 (1960-62)


Lita Liem – 3 / 3 (1965-67)


Manisha Perera – 4 / 3 (1977-79)


Lihini Weerasuriya – 5 / 4 (1985-88)


Saranga Sangakkara – 6 / 5 (1993-97)


Jithmie Jayawickrema – 4 / 4 (2005-08)


Amritha Muttiah – 4 / 4 (2009-12)


Note: Criterion for list is to have won at least 3 or more National Women’s Singles titles.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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