Sports

Anika Seneviratne, Sri Lanka’s newest tennis queen

by Revatha Silva

Anika Seneviratne, 16, of Ladies’ College, Colombo won for the first time the Women’s Singles title at the 103rd Sri Lanka Tennis Nationals, on Saturday, 1 September at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA) hard courts, Colombo beating Anjalika Kurera 6/1, 6/3.

This final battle was of great significance as Kurera, a 14-year-old prodigy emerging from Negombo, had recorded an upset win, less than one month ago, against a fancied Seneviratne at the 103rd Colombo Championships, conducted by the SLTA Playing Section in Colombo.

But that tournament was held on clay surface whereas most of the leading present-day international tournaments, especially for the juniors, are held on hard surfaces.

The two top teenagers in local tennis put on a solid display of power tennis in Saturday’s final.

Anika took just 35 minutes to finish the first-set and in the second, Anjalika fought back after being 3/1 down, as a few unforced errors by Anika helped her to level scores at 3/3. At this stage Anika once again stepped up the pace and took the next three points to take the set as well as the match.

Anika had earlier won the Women’s Doubles title too, partnering her younger sister Alana. She won all her Singles matches without losing a set this year.

She beat her sister Alana 6/3, 6/2 in the 2nd-round and the US-based Rukshika Wijesooriya 7/6 (0), 7/5 in the quarter-finals before finishing top-seeded Janali Manamperi’s run in the semi-finals with a one-sided 6/0, 6/0 win.

By winning this Singles, Anika became the first player to hold both Clay and Hard Court National Singles titles in the same year. The SLTA, the ruling body of the sport in the country, conducted the Sri Lanka Clay Court Nationals for the first time this year.

Anika’s Triple Crown –

Anika won a prestigious Triple Crown in this year’s Nationals. Having already won both the Women’s Singles and Doubles, she won Mixed Doubles too, partnering Dineshkanthan Thangarajah.

The top-seeded duo got a walk-over in the event’s final from Manamperi and Heera Ashiq who had earlier beaten bottom-seeded Senuri Alexander and Sankha Atukorale in the first-round.

Sharmal wins three-in-a-row –

Meanwhile, Royal College old-boy and current Sri Lanka Davis Cup player Sharmal Dissanayake, 22, clinched his third back-to-back Men’s Singles title beating former four-time champion Thangarajah in the final 7/5, 6/1, also Saturday at the SLTA.

Last two years’ Women’s Singles champions, Thisuri Molligoda and Medhira Samarasinghe did not take part in the Nationals this year.

FORMER NATIONAL TENNIS CHAMPIONS –

SL National Women’s Singles Champions:

 (Since year 2000)

2000 – Vajira Premaratne

2001 – Shalini Pereira

2002 – Dinali de Silva

2003 – Thiyumi Abeysinghe

2004 – Udanthie Narahenpitage

2005-08 – Jithmie Jayawickrema

2009-14 – Amritha Muttiah

2015 & 16 – Thisuri Molligoda

2017 – Medhira Samarasinghe

(2018 – Anika Seneviratne)

SL National Men’s Champions

 (Since year 2000)

2000 – Dinuka Ranaweera

2001 – Renouk Wijemanne

2002 & 03 – Franklyn Emmanuel

2004 – Wincent Ligard (France)

2005 & 06 – Harshana Godamanna

2007 – Amrit Rupasinghe

2008-10 – Harshana Godamanna

2011-13 – Thangarajah Dineshkanthan

2014 – Heera Ashiq (Pakistan)

2015 – Thangarajah Dineshkanthan

2016 & 17 – Sharmal Dissanayake

(2018 – Sharmal Dissanayake)

(Info courtesy SLTA)

Note: Anika Seneviratne with the Women’s Singles trophy she won at the 103rd SL Tennis Nationals prize-giving last Sunday, 2 September 2018.