By a Special Sports Correspondent
Women’s tennis in Sri Lanka is a glamour sport and players like Anika Seneviratne, Janali Manampperi, Neyara Weerawansa, Oneli Perera and Savini Jayasuriya have made it more than exciting.
However during this year’s restricted tennis calendar, troubled due to the present pandemic, one player who has come up fast and gained so much attention is 18-year-old schoolgirl Savini Jayasuriya. She has won the Women’s singles events in the SSC Open and the HNB-Hutch Clay Court Nationals this year apart from winning the Under 18 Girls’ Singles at the Junior National Tennis Championships.
She started playing tennis at the age of four and didn’t taste instant success. She was losing more games than winning and by age 11 she made it known to her loved ones at home that she wanted to try a new sport. But a change of mind coupled with more focus and determination to remain in the racket sport saw her finding the art of winning.
Soon she was making it to tours abroad with the national age group teams. She of course had her most challenging moment in the sport at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. She was down with dengue and had to play a separate trial to make it to the national team. Her participation at the games was made possible after a court case and the intervention of the country’s sports minister. But despite Savini travelling all the way to Indonesia she had to remain a mere spectator. Her late entry was not accepted by the games’ organisers.
She had her initial schooling at Bishop’s College Colombo where her life was more or less centred around tennis. However, the year 2019 was a special year for Savini and her teammates. The schoolgirls clad in purple t-shirts saw their efforts giving them the under 19 All Island Championships.
Apart from all what she has achieved there are many lessons that the sport has taught her. As much as hard work tops the list she once told during an online interview that it’s equally important to enjoy the game and make progress step by step. Her parents and her brother, who influenced her to take to the sport, probably have had the patience and wait till Savini started blooming as a flower. She has cherished her small wins and learned well from her losses. She has said often that her losses have made her a true sportswoman.
This year it all started happening for Savini. She beat Janali 6/1, 6/4 at the SSC Open. She got the better of Janali again at the HNB-Hutch Clay Court Nationals in the women’s singles 6/1, 3/6, 6/1. The latter marked her maiden Clay Court Nationals win too. At the Junior National Tennis Championships, representing her new school Gateway College, she beat Oneli Perera 6/1, 6/0. She made it to the finals of the 105 Colombo Tennis Championships, but lost to reigning women’s singles championships Anika Senewiratne 7/5, 3/6, 6/3.
She has also won many doubles events partnering Janali Manampperi. Her latest success at the doubles event was when she won the 105th National Women’s Doubles Championships of Sri Lanka partnering Janali. She is also a South Asian Games (2019) Silver medallist and represented Sri Lanka at multiple International tournaments including Asian Games 2018, Fed Cup and is a former Jr. Fed Cup player.
Tennis calls for an early start and hours of slogging at both the tennis courts and the gymnasium. She started training early and has been committed to the game, on and off the court. The women’s segment in the Sri Lankan tennis scene is so competitive and Savini knows that truly well. This season we didn’t see Anjalika Kurera (Probably due to school exams) and little of Rushika Wijesuriya (who has had overseas training exposure). Still the women’s segment produced the sparks and much of it was created by Savini.
Tennis analysts have already predicted that Savini would go great guns in the future. Her power player and the short-ball initiative she takes at matches have been noticed by tennis commentators who have aired their views during online tennis coverages. But overall Savini’s tennis story is one of highs and lows and also underscores the efforts of a teenager who wants to reach her potential and leave her signature in the tennis annals of Sri Lanka. All that was possible due to the support she received from her parents, coaches, the SLTA and close associates in her tennis circle.
She has had her share of foreign tours and represented Sri Lanka. She is in a sport where participants manage both their education and sport quite well. Savini knows that education and sport go hand in hand; a combination which promises to release to the world a well-balanced person. When the attention is on a sportsman or a sportswoman during present times spectators or your followers are looking beyond tennis to relate to you. This is true when a sportstar is selected as a brand ambassador and has to relate to an audience by speaking. She was chosen to answer questions at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association conducted ‘Tennis Talk’ (live Q & A Session-Episode 19) in March this year.
More than all what she has earned in tennis she says that the sport has given her the ability to believe in herself.
Dates announced for India’s tour of Sri Lanka
by Rex Clementine
India will send a second string team to Sri Lanka later this month for a six-match bilateral series. The teams will be involved in three ODIs and three T-20 Internationals with all games taking place in a bio-secure bubble at RPS. It is unlikely that spectators will be accommodated for the series due to current rising numbers of COVID cases. RPS underwent extensive renovation recently and hasn’t hosted a game in two years.
India have made tremendous progress in the game in the last ten years that they are able to send their main team to England, that too an extended squad and then send a second string team that looks not too bad on paper to Sri Lanka. IPL has opened up a whole lot of new opportunities for India.
India must be confident of winning in Sri Lanka even with a second string side. For example, their main team whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in ODIs when they toured here in 2017 and the following year at the Nidahas Trophy, they sent a second string team and won the competition where Sri Lanka even failed to make it to the finals.
Sri Lanka’s players or SLC will not be complaining. Tours by India will result in huge profits for SLC. Board of Control for Cricket in India has been extremely generous in helping out Sri Lanka coming in for hastily arranged series previously to bail out SLC that was feeling the pinch. This tour, however, was part of the Future Tour Programme.
In the three match ODI series, 30 points will be up for grabs in the ICC World Cup qualifiers and pitted against a weaker Indian team, Sri Lanka will be fancying their chances to win and boost their opportunities of automatic qualification for the sport’s showpiece event. At the moment Sri Lanka are languishing last at 13th position.
India will arrive on the 28th of June and after mandatory quarantine they will be allowed to train. The ODIs will be played on the 13th, 16th and 18th of July followed by the T-20s on the 21st, 23rd and 25th of July.
– 13th July – RPS – 2.30pm
– 16th July – RPS – 2.30pm
– 18th July – RPS – 2.30pm
– 21st July – RPS – 7.00pm
– 23rd July – RPS – 7.00pm
– 25th July – RPS – 7.00pm
Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice-captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya
Ishan Porel, Sandeep Warrier, Arshdeep Singh, Sai Kishore, Simarjeet Singh.
Ranindu draws with grandmaster, settles for third place
Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021
National Champion Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage fought hard to secure a draw against grandmaster Enamul Hussain on the final day as he settled for the third position of the Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Championship 2021.
Starting with the Sicilian Defense the grandmaster sacrificed a pawn and got a strong knight against Ranindu’s bad bishop early in the game. He used all tricks available to earn points as a win would have earned him the gold medal and the possibility to play in the Chess World Cup 2021. But Ranindu had other ideas as the Anandian achieved the third spot winning six points from nine games.
Bangladesh grandmaster Ziaur Rahman (2434) also secured a draw in a hard fought game against 11-year-old, Manon Reja Neer who is also from Bangladesh and settled for eight points. Bangladeshi grandmaster Enamul Hussain needed a full point to tie with the leader but finally settled for the second position as he drew with Ranindu. He had 7 ½ points.
Grandmaster Ziaur won the gold medal and the ticket to the FIDE Chess World Cup. A total of US$ 3,000.00 is distributed among the winners. While the champion receives US$ 1,000.00, the runners up wins US$ 700.00. Ranindu is entitled for US$ 500.00 as he was placed third.
FIDE master Susal de Silva of Nalanda College met his colleague A.A.C.B. Amarasinghe of SJP Chess Club and the game ended in favour of Amarasinghe. Amarasinghe scored six points out of nine games. There were five other players who had scored six points each but he was placed eighth according to the tie breakers. Susal had a total of five points after nine games. Amarasinghe too is entitled for US$ 100.00.
The Asian Zonal Chess Championship 2021, the preliminary event for the FIDE World Chess Cup 2021 for the South Asian region started on June 1 and was held on the Tornelo platform. A total of 39 players from South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka participated in the event. India is considered a single zone by FIDE and has a direct entry to the FIDE World Cup.
The Bangladesh Chess Federation conducted the event from Dhaka and the Sri Lankan players competed from the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka headquarters, Gangodawila, Nugegoda. The event which concluded on Wednesday was conducted according to the Swiss System of nine rounds.
Yupun set to climb up Road to Olympic rankings
Yupun Abeykoon would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.
by Reemus Fernando
Sri Lanka’s top ranked sprinter Yupun Abeykoon did well to finish fourth at the Rome Diamond League meeting on Thursday. Brushing shoulders against some of the world’s fastest sprinters, the national record holder clocked 10.16 seconds.
The fourth place finish will augur well for the sprinter as he aspires to earn a Tokyo Olympic berth. The 26-year-old is currently placed 65th in the Road to Olympics rankings and needs to secure a spot within the first 56 positions as only 56 athletes are selected for Tokyo Olympic 100 metres. To earn a direct qualification Abeykoon has to clock 10.05 seconds.
With Diamond League competitions guarantying more points, analysts believe that Abeykoon would secure a better position in the Road to Olympic rankings when the World Athletics update the rankings.
To secure the fourth place Abeykoon edged out some leading athletes who are placed higher in the Road to Olympic rankings.
He would be delighted to have placed fourth against a solid field that included American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.
US World Relay champion Michael Rodgers who is ranked 15th in the Road to Olympic rankings was placed fifth in a time of 10.25 seconds.
South African Akani Simbine clocked 10.08 seconds to win while Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah finished second in a time of 10.10 seconds. Emmanuel Matadi was placed third in 10.16 seconds.
None of Sri Lanka’s male athletes have reached qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics so far while Nilani Ratnayake is the only Sri Lankan athlete who is within the required ranking positions to book a berth. The steeplechase athlete is currently ranked 37th in the Road to Olympics rankings.
Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe is also closer to an Olympic berth in the men’s category. The javelin thrower is currently ranked 43rd in the list. High jumper Ushan Thivanka who has produced a superb 2.30 metres is ranked 51st in the list.
At the Rome Diamond League on Thursday one of the highlights of the night was Dutch long-distance star Sifan Hassan’s performance in the women’s 1 500m. The 10,000 metres specialist showed her prowess in the 1,500 metres, beating Olympic 1 500m champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya in a new meeting record of 3:53.63. It was also a world lead. Kipyegon was placed second in a personal best of 3:53.91.
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