Sri Lanka Draw Top Seed In Opening Davis Cup Tie

  • Davis Cup draw

SRI Lanka takes on top seed Philippines in the opening tie of its 2014 Davis Cup campaign next January, in Colombo.
Sri Lanka has been drawn to play in the top half of the eight-team Group 2 segment, a half that also includes Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam. The bottom half has Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Kuwait.
The top and bottom half leaders contest in the final to decide which one wins Group 1 promotion, whilst the other six countries figure in the relegation playoffs – with the bottom team of each of the two halves demoted to Group Three.
The Philippines earned top billing by virtue of finishing runner-up to New Zealand in the final of Group 2 this year. The Kiwis play in Group One next year.
History is solidly on the side of the Philippines. The two countries have met in Davis Cup competition on seven previous occasions – the first being in 1958 and the last, in 2006. The Pacific island-nation won all seven previous encounters, six without conceding a single match – the solitary Sri Lankan to overcome a Filipino in Davis Cup being Arjun Fernando, in the 1975 tie in Colombo.
Rohan de Silva, one-time Davis Cup representative and later non-playing Captain, however, bears lightly the burdens of history. “I am not contesting the validity of the Philippines top seed status; they earned it fair and proper – but that was an year ago, now they’ll have to come out and justify their seeding, and that sort of pressure is not ours to cope with,’’ says de Silva, “and with home advantage and playing before home crowd, we can cause them problems. Because of their superior reputation, we’re not going to roll over and die.’’
De Silva isn’t acting brave in the face of what records show as formidable odds.Our Group 2 engagements in Colombo lately have been quite impressive. Last year much was made of our opponents, Pakistan, too, based on the presence of its star player, Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi, once in the top ten of ATP doubles ranking and a highest singles ranking of 103. In the end, though, we lost narrowly, 2/3 – only because young Dineshkanthan conceded a walkover midway in his singles match due to cramps.
In 2010, trailing powerful New Zealand 0/2, Sri Lanka staged a stirring comeback and all but took the tie, losing 2/3.
The Philippines boast a hugely experienced professional in Treat Conrad Heuy,the 29-year-old US-based player currently ranked 26th in world doubles. He was doubles quarterfinalist in the recently concluded US Open. His ATP ranking in the singles, however, is less impressive: 1086.
It has to be noted that Pakistan’s Qureshi came bearing far more threatening credentials than that of the Filipino’s – and Harshana Godamanna won untroubled against Qureshi. That would mean that our players won’t see Heuy as insurmountable in the singles.
Over much of the last decade, Sri Lanka has conceded many Davis Cup ties only because of the absence of a second player capable of winning a singles match.  In other words, Godamanna had become another name for Sri Lanka tennis, being the sole contributor to the country’s successes. Such overbearing dependence on one player was happily ended last year when young Dineshkanthan Thangaraja scored his first singles win of consequence and Sri Lanka helped overcome Lebanon, 3/2 – and extend its standing as a Group Two nation for a third successive year.

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