Asian Tennis Federation President Anil Khanna addresses guests at the event
SLTA President Iqbal Bin Issack presents the Outstanding Contribution Award to Harshana Godamanna
The launch of the 100 years Commemorative Stamp with the First Day Cover being presented to British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, James Dauris
Asia’s second oldest tennis organisation, the Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA), hosted a grand felicitation ceremony and gala dinner to mark its 100th anniversary celebrations.
The event was attended by a host of esteemed dignitaries including British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka James Dauris, German Ambassador to Sri Lanka Dr. Jurgen Muhard, President of the Asian Tennis Federation Anil Khanna and Secretary of the Asian Tennis Federation Suresh Subramaniam. Representatives of Sri Lanka’s tennis playing fraternity especially a host of past and present champions and national-level players were among the honoured guests at the event.
Speaking at the inauguration of the evening’s festivities, SLTA President, Iqbal Bin Issack sounded an optimistic note for the future of tennis in Sri Lanka and called on all stakeholders to rally together in developing Sri Lankan talent and taking local players to the pinnacle of international tennis.
“Over the past 100 years, Sri Lanka Tennis has come a long way. This year in particular was a great year as we celebrated our fifth consecutive berth at the Group 2 level at the Davis Cup and Sri Lanka’s country ranking in the Davis Cup improved from 95 to 62 within ten years.
“It is now time to focus our attention on taking the game to the next level by grooming professional tennis players in Sri Lanka. It is only then that we can dream of having Sri Lankans playing in Grand Slam events and taking our country into the World Group at the Davis Cup,” he noted.
“An ambitious plan certainly needs the support of the Government, the business community and the tennis loving public. This is our dream and I seek your support and encouragement to reach these milestones and bring pride and honour to Sri Lanka,” he asserted.
To that end, Issack noted that the SLTA would be implementing an extensive restructuring of its coaching program and investing in the development if its players, coaches and officials with a particular focus on development of tennis academies and physical fitness centres, all with a view to shaping professional career tennis players capable of making an impact on the world stage.
Attendees were thereafter treated to a brief presentation on the rich and storied history of the SLTA over the past century. This was followed by the launching of the Centenary Publication of the SLTA in honour of the occasion. The announcement of a Centenary High Performance Fund initiative added emphasis to the future plans envisaged by the SLTA.
A special day issue commemorative stamp and cover to mark the SLTA centenary was also launched at the event.
Following speeches and warm wishes from the attending dignitaries, the SLTA held an awards ceremony to felicitate its past presidents along with all of Sri Lanka’s national tennis players, including many legends of the game from years gone by.
A further 14 players were also recognised for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the development of tennis in Sri Lanka over the years including two of the island’s great Wheelchair Tennis players, Gamini Dissanayake and Upali Rajakaruna, both of whom had made their mark on the international stage.
The SLTA also recognised the outstanding contributions of Gihan Perera, whose family has supported Sri Lanka Tennis across two generations; Suresh Subramaniam, a former president of the SLTA, tennis player and coach who has led the way in effecting a multitude of changes in developing Sri Lanka Tennis, and finally Harshana Godamanna, the only Sri Lankan to play at the professional level in the last ten years, and the country’s most successful Davis Cup player.
Overall the awards night was commended as being a grand success with event attendees heaping praise on the event organisers for their efforts in completely transforming the venue for the evening. Asian Tennis Federation President Anil Khanna noted that the evening was among the best that he had witnessed even at the international level.
As the SLTA celebrated its remarkable 100-year milestone, it is anticipated that the game of tennis will continue to grow in popularity. With a noticeable ramping-up of tournaments being hosted in Sri Lanka with international participation, it is expected that the game could potentially open up new tourist markets – particularly in light of the generally higher levels of affluence enjoyed by players in the international tennis circuit – while also generating fresh opportunities for businesses to gain exposure as the island grows into a regular tennis fixture in the years to come.