Tennis is the only sport in Sri Lanka that has achieved the milestone of reaching a hundred years. No other sport is as old as this as announced by Iqbal bin Issack the president of the Sri Lanka Tennis Association (SLTA).

The best achievement by tennis is to remain in group II for the past five years. This has never happened in the long history of the sport in Sri Lanka.

SLTA will be celebrating this momentous 100th anniversary this year and boasts of taking great strides in promoting the sport in other parts of the country. They have also made progress in developing courts in about ten other places in the country so that tennis can be played by many more youngsters. This will encourage them to enhance their standard and represent the country some day.

SLTA will also be hosting the Annual General Meeting of the Asian Tennis Federation for the first time from November 26 to 28 at the Galle Face hotel. This move was initiated by vice president of SLTA Suresh Subramanium who is the General Secretary of the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF).

This will be a landmark event for the SLTA, which is the second oldest tennis Association in Asia.

This event will enhance engagements between the Sri Lankan tennis community and its Asian neighbours.

In the build up to its centenary celebrations, the SLTA has been deeply engaged in promoting the development of tennis in the island having successfully conducted multiple back-to-back tournaments commencing from February this year.

The first three professional-level events provided an invaluable stepping stone for local talent and were followed promptly with a further three junior level tournaments in July, finishing up with three International Tennis Federation under-18 tournaments for boys and girls that concluded in October.

The tournaments succeeded in drawing significant international participation with over 120 players, parents and coaches arriving in the country this year.

“However, the need to pursue with the sport by young players has to be looked into. This means that a good player drops out of the sport to pursue further studies and mostly due to lack of funds by the parents. Some players use it to obtain scholarships to the USA and thereafter they stop playing tennis,” said Iqbal bin Issack.

Issack also stated that the interest in tennis will also generate valuable opportunities for the private sector to partner with the SLTA to gain international exposure and prestige while helping to develop tennis in Sri Lanka.

“We also have many coaches who are making a living out of their new profession. They no longer have to work outside coaching as some of them have started academies of their own. We now have to update these coaches with new techniques from time to time,” said Issack.

“We are looking to hiring a foreign coach to do some advanced coaching to see some of our players reach a higher standard. This will enable Sri Lanka so send a player for the Wimbledon by 2025 at least,” observed Issack.

Tennis was introduced to Sri Lanka in 1868 by British nationals PF Hadow, Fonblanque and CHA Ross. The SLTA has enjoyed a rich and storied history since its inception in 1915 during which time Governor Sir Robert Chalmers served as the first President of the association. The sport has always maintained an enthusiastic following in Sri Lanka since then.

By T.B. Rahaman