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Davis Cup 2021: Young Sri Lanka gives hope for future




The young Sri Lanka put up a credible performance in Jordan in the Davis Cup: (from left) Non-playing Captain Renouk Wijemanne, Chathurya Nilaweera, Yasitha De Silva, Thehan Wijemanne, and Vibuda Wijebandara

The four-member Sri Lanka team, which took part in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Zone Group-III in Amman, Jordan last week, got demoted to Group-IV on Friday (17) after losing against both Syria (3-0) and Jordan (2-1) in their Round Robin ties.

Yet the young team gave much hope for the future with their courageous performances.

The Sri Lanka team, sans its veteran campaigners such as Harshana Godamanna, Sharmal Dissanayake, and Thangarajah Dineshkanthan, fought their hearts out coming tantalisingly close to entering the play-off stage where they could have either stayed on in Group-III for another year of gained a promotion to World Group-II back again next year.

Had debut campaigner Chathurya Nilaweera, 16, won his close second singles match against professional tour player of Jordan, Mousa Alkotop, 23, on Friday, Sri Lanka could have reached the play offs on account of their beating of Jordan 2-1.

Before Nilaweera, Yasitha de Silva had won his singles 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) against Seif Adas. Nilaweera lost the first set 6-2 and won the second 6-3. In the deciding third set, he had had two match points at 5-3. Yet the more experienced Alkotop eventually won the set 7-5.

But Sri Lanka can say they missed the opportunity to retain their Asia-Oceania Zone Group-III position in 2022 by a mere “point margin”.

De Silva and Thehan Wijemanne lost the doubles against Jordan 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 to lose the tie 2-1.

The following nations were competing in Asia/Oceania Group III this year: Hong Kong, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pacific Oceania (as a region), Qatar, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Vietnam.

Three pools of three teams contested the round-robin stage. The top two teams in each pool entered the play-offs, with the three winners –Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Pacific Oceania– earning promotion. Jordan, Malaysia, and Syria retained their Group-III positions.

The bottom team in each pool was to be relegated to Asia-Oceania Group IV next year and, therefore, Sri Lanka which was grouped with Syria and hosts Jordan faced relegation to Asia-Oceania Group-IV next year.

The Sri Lankan team consisted of the reigning National Champion Yasitha De Silva, Thehan Wijemanne, Chathurya Nilaweera, and Vibuda Wijebandara, with Renouk Wijemanne being the Captain.

One of the biggest setbacks that they had to face this time was that Sri Lanka was in the “red list” owing to the present Covid-19 situation. As a result the team had to quarantine inside their hotel for seven days upon their arrival in Amman.

Since this was communicated to the Sri Lankan team at the last minute, they did not have time to adjust their flight schedules to arrive in Jordan early so that they would have adequate time to acclimatise themselves before their first match against Syria on Thursday (16).

Therefore, they had to go and play their first match with the minimum of preparation against strong Syria. Even then De Silva lost his match against Yakoub Makzoume only in the tie break in the third set – 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4). This was a credible performance by him.

Wijemanne lost his match against the experienced Kareem Al Allaf in straight sets 6-0, 6-4. It was a good performance by him in the second set.

In the doubles, Nilaweera and Wijemanne put up a good fight against Amer Naow and Kareem Al Allaf before losing 6-4, 7-6 (9-7).