A do or die battle today
Lankans in with a chance of making it to the next division
|A lot will depend on how Harshana fares today. (Picture by Saman Kariyawasam)
Three teams may battle for two positions as the Davis Cup Division Three Asia-Oceania competition heads in to the final day at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association Courts (SLTA) today. The prize is the promotion to Division two of this prestigious tournament.
Sri Lanka take on Lebanon in a must win tie. If Sri Lanka win and giant killers Oman defeat United Arab Emirates (UAE), then all the results will be looked at before the two teams that will be promoted are named.
Sri Lanka will have to be at their very best to defeat the top seeds and Lebanon is also a team the Lankans have not played before. It is a big ask but not an impossible one. Ironically the fate of the three nations may lie in the hands of two individuals. The highest ranked player in this tournament is UAE’s Omar Bahrouzyan who is number 1200 seed in the ATP list. Should Bahrouzyan win his singles and clinch the doubles with his partner, then all hypothetical scenarios go off the court. A Sri Lankan victory over Lebanon would guarantee both teams’ promotion to the next division.
The other player who is due a good performance is Lanka’s own Renouk Wijemanne. Should Wijemanne win his game it would take a lot of pressure off Harshana Godamanne who many believe has been the player of the tournament so far.
A fairly large crowd at the SLTA yesterday, was still raving over Godamanne’s performance on Friday. Even the player admitted it had been tough as he had to win his singles match and then partner Rajeev Rajapakse in two doubles matches to ensure the home team’s progression to the final four.
In the first singles match against UAE, Renouk Wijemanne lost to Hamad Abbas Al Janahi 6-2, 6-1. Godamanne continued yesterday from where he had left off on Friday. He served three aces in the first game against Bahrouzyan. That set for the tone of the match. Godamanne broke his opponent’s serve in just the fifth game and went on to win the set in about 24 minutes by six games to two.
The Lankan was on fire and clinched the second set in just 17 minutes. Godamanne did not drop a single game. His second serve was almost as fast as his first serve. Bahrouzyan scratched his head and slammed his racket on to the court in frustration as he was subjected to barrage of brilliant back hand and fore hand winners.
Bahrouzyan and his partner Mahmoud-Nader Al Baloushi fared a bit better in the crucial doubles encounter against Godamanne and his partner Rajapakse. But the visitors were never in the hunt as the Lankan pair served well dished out some superb snap forehand and backhand winners. Bahrouzyan seemed amazed and applauded and smiled wryly the quality of the tennis played by the home pair. The Lankans were not stretched at any point as they cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 to set up a tasty clash with Lebanon.
Speaking to The Sunday Times after the victory Godamanne said: “There was a lot of pressure, but I took it one point at time. When I get on to the court my entire focus is on my opponent and I turn out everything else. A good start is important to me because I have a tendency to almost shiver for first couple of games in a set. As a result I tend to focus that much harder. And yes I am serving pretty well at the moment. Friday was the toughest day for me as I was involved in three ‘must win’ matches. As for my future plans, I will be going back to Thailand with our coach Dominik (Utzinger). But I will certainly come back next year to represent Sri Lanka at the Davis Cup.”Rajapakse who also played a fine game said: “This was the third deciding game that we have played. I am going for shots and they are coming off. I believe that I am playing at my best. I have good understanding with Harshana (Godamanne). We play point by point, but also plan ahead. Having the crowd behind us is also great.”
And indeed the crowd was. Instead was the customary ‘papare bands’ and cymbals, spectators used water bottles filled with ice cubes to cheer the Lankans on.
Sri Lanka beat United Arab Emirates 2-1
Vietnam beat Singapore 2-1
Lebanon beat Oman 2-1.
Malaysia beat Saudi Arabia 2-1