The Sunday Leader

SLTA Gear Up For March Nz Tie

With more than a 100-year tradition, Davis Cup by BNP Paribas is world tennis’ premier team competition, as well as the largest annual event of its kind. The symbol of this prestigious event is the impressive silver Davis Cup trophy, donated by Harvard student Dwight Filley Davis back in 1900.

It was initially confined to the British Isle and the USA, but has with time become the most prestigious inter-nation event for men, embracing the whole world. For little Sri Lanka the Davis Cup presents a chance to display its wares to the world. Today, more than 120 nations compete regularly in Davis Cup.

The world group with 16 nations is the pinnacle of the competition. The other countries compete in Groups 1-1V, divided across three regional zones: Americas, Asia/Oceania and Europe/Africa.

Sri Lanka’s association with Davis Cup goes back to 1953. L. Percival Ernst was the first Davis Cup Player/Captain of Sri Lanka. The first team comprised of L.P.  Ernst, D.L. Fonseka (Manager), D. Scharenguivel and Rupert Ferdinands.

The first tie was against Holland where Sri Lanka lost 5-0. It was also mentioned that ‘Ceylon does not need to send a Davis Cup Team the following year, as they lost to the weakest side in Europe’.

Sri Lanka re-entered Davis Cup competition in 1956. In 1988 the competition was conducted on a zonal basis with Sri Lanka slotted into the Easter Zone & Asia/Oceania Zone.
Sri Lanka Davis Cup record reads, 51-61 win/loss as at 2009, having played for 57 years.
Sri Lanka has not played in the Zone’s Group II since 1999 which means it has taken 11 years to return to Group II. Sri Lanka’s best ever performances in the Davis Cup was from 1989 to 1992 when it made to Group II semi-finals for four successive years, and again in 1995.

In 2001, Sri Lanka was demoted from Group IV and in 2004, was promoted back to Group III in Jordan. The 2004 team comprised of Renouk Wijemanne, Rohan De Silva, Rajeev Rajapakse and Franklyn Emmannuel. Team manager – Irshad Othman.

Last year Sri Lanka fought itself back to Group II in Syria.  It produced the most decisive victory in its Davis Cup history by winnings all of its’ five encounters, conceding just six games on its triumphant march. The team that did Lanka proud: Harshana Godamanna, Rajeev Rajapakse, Sanka Athukorala, Guyanga Weerasekera and non playing Captain, Asiri Iddamalgoda.

This year Sri Lanka will play New Zealand from March 5-7 in Colombo. It will be the Kiwis tennis players’ first visit to the island, which gives the Sri Lankan fans their first opportunity of watching the Kiwis in action.

The Sri Lankan team will have undergone three months of preparation, including a two-week stint in Bangkok, for the tie. With a development program in the outstation ongoing, SLTA President Maxwell de Silva hopes for some measure of success in next month’s tie so as to boost the sport’s future here.

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