Just as the first four letters of his surname ‘Goda’ explains in Sinhalese, Harshana Godamanne, has now transformed himself to be an inspirer in local Tennis. As his close friends call him, ‘Goda’, which means ‘accomplished’ or ‘perfect’, Godamanne has every right to be the guiding light of a young Sri Lanka (SL) Davis Cup [...]


Harshana here to ensure SL Tennis is ‘Goda’


The Sri Lanka Davis Cup team

Just as the first four letters of his surname ‘Goda’ explains in Sinhalese, Harshana Godamanne, has now transformed himself to be an inspirer in local Tennis. As his close friends call him, ‘Goda’, which means ‘accomplished’ or ‘perfect’, Godamanne has every right to be the guiding light of a young Sri Lanka (SL) Davis Cup (DC) team.

Despite today’s outcome against Indonesia in the Davis Cup of BNP Paribas Asia Oceania Group II, where the loser risks being demoted to Group III next year, Godamanne is glad he is among a set of youngsters who could put Sri Lanka on the global map of Tennis, in the long run.

Godamanne (30), who has an impressive tally of close to 50 National titles in all age categories, including 5 National Men’s Singles titles, is currently based in Boston, USA coaching Tennis. He is firmly of the view that his playing days are numbered, after taking up to coaching, which, according to Godamanne, is a totally different level of the sport.

Godamanne’s present state of mind is added value to the young SL DC team of Sharmal Dissanayake, Yasitha de Silva, Alex Fairbanks and Avindra Perera. Over the years, SL Tennis has had its ups and downs at international level but the local competitions have kept growing, despite not producing stars.

Harshana Godamanne, Sri Lanka's motivating factor

The trend continues to move on but, according to Godamanne, in the past 5 years, almost all aspects of Tennis have changed for good. Godamanne, the most successful Tennis player Sri Lanka has produced in recent times, believes it is high time SL breaks its shackles and focus on being more productive as professionals.

“We have a lot of potential. The reason why most players drop out is because they don’t see a future path in Tennis. Why most youngsters pick cricket more is because they see a future. But overall, the system has to change, everyone has to be professional, be more serious about it. Yes you must enjoy the game and have fun while doing the hard work. Potential wise, I don’t think we are anywhere short of talent,” Godamanne told the Sunday Times.

Currently ranked at 1,100 in Singles and 1,441 in Doubles, in World Tennis Rankings, Godamanne has much to offer as a player to our little island nation. While convinced he could be actively involved as a player for another year or two, Godamanne is on the right track to motivate the youngsters and guide them on the correct path.

“Earlier, it was based on what we have (as individuals). In the past, it was dependent on individuals and, in the long run, the level drops. But now, looking at the future the current DC team has players pretty much in the same age range and equal skill levels. If we can protect them, build up on them and invest on them for the future, I think we will have a very good team in 2 to 3 years,” he explained.

As of now, Godamanne believes that SL is still at the stage of getting its players up to standard, giving them more experience at DC, where the atmosphere is totally different from playing individually at local competitions.

“What SL lacks is support. Obviously, when you look at cricket, there is safety and huge financial backing for the player, whereas in Tennis it’s totally different. Sri Lankans do have talent. If you compare with other countries, Sri Lankans are naturally athletic, because of their habitat. You hardly get such naturally athletic individuals in the world. What we really lack here is financial support, whereas there are players who are willing to commit themselves. I did it myself for a short time and would have gone further, if the support had continued to take me to a different level. The support system is important for the growth of a sport,” asserted Godamanne.

For the former Royalist Godamanne, playing Tennis is all about passion. Without passion, in a country such as SL, Godamanne believes it’s a tough task to engage in an outdoor sport like Tennis, where the weather generally warm.

“Right now in SL, you need more trainers and coaches, and the mindset and the attitudes have to change. Professionalism is topmost in any sport, especially Tennis. In other countries they follow a strict order of conduct and enjoy good results. To achieve that we must begin to change.

“We don’t have enough variety for the players to play against locally. We have a small number of players who play each other right throughout the season. More exposure is a must to overcome that hurdle,” he added.

Godamanne will return to Boston after the DC tie against Indonesia, but is committed to return to SL at any given time to help the local players. Currently, with a totally changed view as a teacher of Tennis, than a player, Godamanne has begun to see a wider viewpoint in the game, which he thinks is required to guide the youngsters. He is slowly winding down on his playing career, with intentions of pursuing a career in coaching, which could be a plus point for SL Tennis.

“I’ve been teaching Tennis for the past 5 years and the coming couple of years maybe my last as a player. I’m supporting the SL team to reach a level where they will not need me in the future. But I will always be there to help them at any given time,” he concluded.

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