A talk with tennis top talent – Anika Seneviratne | Sunday Observer

A talk with tennis top talent – Anika Seneviratne

24 January, 2021

Sri Lankan women’s tennis top seed Anika Seneviratne continues to dominate as she won her second singles division hard court National Championship last week, beating Janali Manamperi at the finals last weekend.

Having already conquered her third consecutive clay court singles division National Championship in 2020, this was just one more accomplishment to her extensive and impressive collection of accolades, one she had already conquered once before in 2018.

Facing more and more opponents on an International level, Anika competes with the best on an equal footing and with every match, she consistently showcases to the world the incredible top level talent Sri Lanka has to offer.

In a brief interview, Anika tells us about her outlook on tennis as a sport, what it means to be a high-level competitor and offers a peek into what it is like in the competitive world of tennis.

It is no exaggeration to say that you are, quite consistently, one of, if not the best women’s tennis player in Sri Lanka. How would you describe being in that position?

Thank You! There have been many really good women tennis players over the years and it’s an honour to be considered as one of them. Tennis is one of the hardest sports in the world, and to compete and play at this level is extremely tough. I have worked really hard and there is a lot of pressure since every player I play really wishes to beat me. The challenge is to stay fit, focused and preparing and training right for every match is crucial.

What kind of training do you undergo in between competitions? Would you say you do something special relative to the average tennis training regimen? Any special pre-game rituals?

The period I load up on training is two-three months before tournaments, doing weights, physicals and on court activity which is monitored. Ideally two weeks before the tournaments I do less and prepare for matches. I also take breaks in between which is very important for peak fitness. I also play other sports to break the monotony and enjoy myself. I pray before every match and listen to music or watch a movie.

As a national and international level competitor, you would have taken part in all sorts of competitions in various places. Do any come to mind as being particularly enjoyable or especially difficult?

The Junior Commonwealth Games in Bahamas was a really good experience. I made it to the quarter-finals in the singles and we lost to England in three sets in the mixed doubles quarterfinals - 14/16 after having a few match points! In the last Asian Games I got to play the Chinese and Asian No. 1 and world Number 21 Shuai Zhang in the second round and lost 6/2, 6/2 with 5-6 points going to deuces. Winning the team silver and an individual bronze at the South Asian Games was also very special.

How has your general experience competing on an international level been, in comparison to playing nationally?

The difference in the standard of the players you face, the surfaces you play on are all different and has its own challenges. Locally, the players know your game and it’s hard to play the same players over and over again. I only play 2-3 tournaments in Sri Lanka now and probably wouldn’t have been playing much here even without Covid.

How are your personal feelings on the sport itself?

On the whole, I think tennis can be an extremely fun activity. I thoroughly enjoy playing with my friends and even watching matches. But over the years, playing tennis competitively and at such a high level has shown me that tennis either makes you or breaks you, and most of the time it is the latter. It is a relentless sport that can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining.

Do you feel any different towards playing competitively as opposed to playing for fun?

Definitely nice when you play for fun, but we hardly get a chance to do so. Competitions are a lot of hard work and it becomes monotonous after awhile. You need lots of breaks and other activities to keep you interested.

Do you have any special personal interests outside of tennis?

Many. I love theatre, music and dance. I also love horse riding and car racing.

What do you see your future in tennis? What goals do you have in mind?

Nothing major in particular but I do plan to play tennis at college level and see how things go from there. Other than that, I prefer to take things a day at a time and not look too far ahead.

What advice do you have for your fellow women tennis players and for anyone looking to pick up the sport competitively?

From my personal experience I would just say that I completely sympathise with any woman involved in competitive tennis. It is one of the most demanding and exhausting activities I can think of.

For anyone looking to play competitive sport, I would say, be prepared to have everything you know change. It is a cut-throat environment and winning and being the best is not half as glamorous and exciting as you might think. That being said, if you love what you do, and you are passionate about it, then never allow anyone else’s opinions or comments make you second guess yourself. You will face ups and downs, but perseverance is all that matters at the end of the day.