Clinching National crown is a dream come true – Yasitha de Silva | Daily News

Clinching National crown is a dream come true – Yasitha de Silva

Yasitha with the National singles trophy
Yasitha with the National singles trophy

Becoming the National champion in any sport is an uphill task which needs abundance of talent, stamina and commitment. Yasitha Rangana de Silva achieved that rare millstone recently by clinching the Sri Lanka Tennis Nationals’ men’s singles crown beating the fancied defending champion Sharmal Dissanayake.

Yasitha has excelled in both the National and international tennis arena participating in a number of international tournaments. He has recorded his best international singles ranking of 1663 (Association of Tennis Professionals - ATP) and 2252 (International Tennis Federation-ITF).

Yasitha’s passion for tennis grew by watching his elder brother playing when he was just 11 years old. He started his sporting career with basketball and later took up to tennis, following his brother’s footsteps. Born on 3-7-1995, Yasitha is an old Anandian whose tennis career has been greatly moulded by his present coach Niranjan Cassiechetty who is also his first coach.

“My coach has been a pillar of strength to me right from the beginning who identified my talent and guided me throughout my career. With his support I had to make a choice taking up tennis seriously while giving up basketball as I have to strike a balance between studies and sports,” Yasitha went on to say.

His first international appearance in tennis was in 2011 where he was selected to the unde-16 Junior Davis Cup team. 2016 has been an memorable year for Yasitha as he qualified to represent the country at two top international events, Davis Cup and Asian Games. Since then Yasitha has an uninterrupted appearance at Davis Cup. In the same year Yasitha partnered by another ace player Dineshkanthan Thangaraja won the doubles Bronze medal at the South Asian Games in India. He also represented the country in doubles at the 2019 South Asian Games in Nepal. Yasitha also boast of an impressive domestic career as he won the National doubles titles in 2016 and 2017 partnered by Sanka Athukorale. He also entered the singles final at the 2016 Nationals, but had to be satisfied with runner-up position going down to Sharmal Dissanayaka. Yasitha also entered the singles semis at the Nationals in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but was unfortunate not to enter the finals.

He did his A/Ls in Commerce stream and entered the Colombo University in 2016. He has maintained a superb sporting record during his university career and was adjudged the Most Outstanding Sportsman for four consecutive years from 2016 to 2019. He had the rare honour of captaining the Sri Lanka contingent for the 2019 World University Games in Italy. He graduated with a Management & Finance Degree in 2019.

“Becoming the National champion is a dream come true. I have worked hard to achieve this feat. I dedicated my time and energy to continue my practices throughout 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. I even did not think about obtaining a job after completing my Degree, till the Nationals concluded. Only after the Nationals that I Joined the MAS Holdings and attached to the Financial and Production division of the company,” said the champion.

Commenting on the memorable National finals match Yasitha went on to say; “Sharmal is a very talented player and he had the distinct advantage of being the defending champion as well. I knew that he will reach the final this time too. But I was well focused and determined as I felt things were going in my favour in the first set. I tried to keep my opponent busy as much and drag the game to the wire. It was an exciting first set where I defeated Sharmal in a tie-breaker (7/6). I was in high spirit to enter the second set, but Sharmal did not turn up due to an injury to compete in the second set”.

Speaking about his favourite players Yasitha said; “I admire Harshana Godamana who is also a left hander like me. He can be considered as a role model in Sri Lankan tennis. I feel blessed to be in the same National team along with him. My international iconic player is Roger Federer. I am a keen follower of his playing style and have leant a lot from him in and out of the courts”.

When asked about his opinion on developing tennis in the country, the 25-year old National champion said; “We have to produce more professional players. At present we have very few full-time professionals compared to other South Asian countries. We have to attract professional players in their early twenties and provide them with jobs and other facilities, so they can fully concentrate on tennis. It will surely raise the standard of tennis in Sri Lanka. We also have to increase the number of professional tournaments providing the players financial stability and increasing the competitiveness. We have to foster professional level if we are to keep our school level harvest intact with a career in tennis. Sri Lanka has a high number of participation at junior level tennis, but many of these talented players drop out from the game as there is no strong mechanism to retain them beyond the school level”.

Commenting on his future plans Yasitha said that his short term aim is to try and get Sri Lanka into Davis Cup Group II. “At present we are in Group III and 2020 edition of Davis Cup was cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic. Hopefully 2021 edition will be conducted in June – July. We have time and if we committed to the task, I am sure that we can make it happen this time,” Yasitha explained.

"A big thank should go to SLTA for conducting Nationals in a troubled time like this where all sports activities are greatly hindered by the Covid-19 pandemic".

Yasitha also took time to thank his school coach, Anupa Maththemagoda, his physical trainer Jaliya Yasaratne, his parents and only brother for the support and encouragement they always give him in all his endeavours.