Harshana Godamanne; Sri Lanka’s shining star in Tennis

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    It has been a long while since the racket sport was introduced to the country by the British and Sri Lanka has taken considerable strides in the sport reaching the international sphere gradually. Despite the introduction in the British era, Tennis hit an all time low in the country when, in the early 2000’s, the country hit a rough patch in the sport.

    Against all odds, it was the efforts of the newcomers in that era that guaranteed a prospective future for the sport. It was during that era that the young Harshana Godamanne started his journey in the sport. From being an amateur tennis player, Godamanne rose to ranks of being the most highly accomplished Sri Lankan in the sport winning the national title on several occasions and later ascending to the world stage as well. 

    Starting off his professional career in the year 2002, Harshana has represented the country in 44 ties in the Davis Cup, while winning 61 out of the 84 games he has played. The recently concluded Davis Cup tie re-established the veteran’s credibility when Sri Lanka’s survival in the top tier fell in the hands of Godamanne. With the scores tied at 2-2 against Lebanon,  Godamanne’s expertise was evident in the deciding single, with him winning it comfortably and giving Sri Lanka the win. 

    A proud product of Royal College, Godamanne who is currently residing in the United States, had the time to speak to ThePapare.com about his long standing professional career and his experiences in the Davis Cup. 

    I started when I was 4 years with my brother Chamika Godamanne, in our drive way. We use to put a rope across and play tennis. That was the beginning and then later he got me a small racket because I was trying to play with his one.

    I can’t remember a special reason. I think because back then my brother and sisters were playing tennis and I believe I was eager to try it out too.

    Surprisingly Godamanne took the world stage when he was just 13 years of age making his way in national team for the Under 14 ITF cup and later went down in history to be one of the youngest players in the national contingent for the Davis Cup. 

    I represented Sri Lanka for the first time at an Under 13 ITF International event. Then later represented the Sri Lanka Davis Cup team for the first time in 2002 when I was 17 years old.

    Being the best at what you love and representing the country in it can be called any sportsperson’s greatest feat. Harshana describes it with a sense of pride

    Winning Nationals is always an Honor. Knowing that I am the best in my country at what I love to do is just surreal. But overall it gives me a lot of confidence in myself.

    It is always a proud moment to wear the Sri Lankan colors and carry the country’s hope on my shoulders. I used to not like it at the beginning, but as years went by I enjoyed it more and more. Nothing beats the feeling of winning a match for Sri Lanka. It is a childhood dream of any kid to represent your country. That feeling is indescribable; extremely special.

    Godamanne has been a regular in the Davis Cup contingent from 2002 and he relates it as a ‘dream come true’.

    I have been a part of the Davis Cup team since 2002, Missed the year 2004 due to studies. But (I) haven’t missed another year otherwise, to date. 

    Just being part of the whole experience is a dream. Davis Cup is the world cup of tennis. I have always cherished every moment when I walk out on court and I take it very seriously. I never walk off the court with my head down. I go there and put my mind and body to the extreme test and walk off with any result. Good results are a by-product of my hard work. As far as I know that I gave it all without holding anything back, I’m happy. 

    I’ve had many disappointing losses in the past but I managed to overcome those and take it as a positive and move on. Losing a match for Sri Lanka can be truly devastating.

    Dominating the racket sport in the cricket crazy sub-continent is a road taken by few, understanding the difficulties they will undoubtedly encounter on the way. Godamanne is one such Spartan who took his chances. He relates that his greatest strength were his friends and family who motivated him all along.

    I take a lot of pride is carrying my team. Even though I am the senior player, a lot of my performance is based on a lot of support I get from my family, team and friends. I truly enjoy playing at home in front of tennis enthusiasts. I do not think about the finish line. I always try to do my best for the team. I win some, I lose some; like every other athlete. It’s a fact that I can’t control always. But I know I can control myself. So I do that to the best of my ablity and the results follow. 

    When ThePapare asked him what his greatest achievement in the sport was, the veteran kept aside his illustrious achievement list and spoke humbly about the Sri Lankan rank which according to Harshana is his greatest glory.

    Highest accomplishment is definitely helping Sri Lanka come to a ranking of 62 in the world, from rank 92, 13 years ago. I really cherish that.

    Owing to higher education commitments, Harshana currently resides in the United States. But that has not prevented him from doing what he loves. From taking 20 hour flights just to join the national practice sessions for the Davis Cup and later leaving the country in the evening of the final day, missing out on the celebrations, Harshana is someone who is self motivated.

    When one is passionate about what they do, nothing will prevent them from pursuing their passion. Harshana continues to share the passion as he works overseas on a mission that nurtures the sport.

    I work at a non-profit tennis club called Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center in Boston, as the Assistant Director of Tennis. I work with all different levels. And it’s great to be able to work with people and share my knowledge and experience. I’m lucky because I get paid to do what I love, can’t ask for more.

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