Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Osaka and Djokovic win Australian Open 2021

Six Sri Lanka para athletes win medals at World Para Grand Prix in Dubai

- By Ishan Samaraweer­a Times.

The players’ pre-event preparatio­n, of last year’s

US Open and the

French Open in the late autumn of

2020, though restricted, was liberal compared to Australian precaution­s. In 2021 Australian Open [AO], except for the semi-finals and the finals, any trained eye would have noticed the lack of good playing form in players in the early rounds. Pre-event practice is to acclimatis­e, critical for good playing form. Four weeks prior to AO, Australia quarantine­d overseas arrivals, it restricted pre-event regular player preparatio­n and it showed.

AO, apart from being a compulsory event for top 130 in the world rankings, turned out to be the big relief event to the world of sports. Even with whatever that was not there, AO of this year will go as the turnaround event in time to come. It provided the norms to conduct two weeks long sporting events with no-nonsense precaution­ary measures.

Russia

The change of guards; from the older generation, we still have three known names, Serena Williams, Nadal and Djokovich. They reached the semi-finals and a final. New names are repeatedly appearing. Prequarter­finals line up of a Grand Slam draw is a good indicator of the new arrivals. AO had New-Gens and surprises.

The country that will provide top men in the near future will be Russia. They seem to have funnelled the best talent into tennis. They won the ATP’s Nations Cup two weeks ago. At the AO 2021, they had five prominent players; Medvedev, Rublev, Karatsev, Khachanov and Safiuilin. All of them are powerhouse­s with excellent eye and reaction for elite tennis. Karatsev, as a qualifier reached the semi-finals AO 2021. In the past Russian women dominated. There are some still the top 50. There were two Russian men in the semi-finals, Karatsev and Medvedev.

Eastern Europe

Eastern European and Scandinavi­a are the other strong bases. Most of them train in the Mediterran­ean countries; climate and access to event are the reasons. Czech Republic, Serbia and Slovenia have a very strong women player base. Poland always provided a lonely warrior. It was Agnieska Radwanska some time ago and now a Grand Slam winner Iga Swiatek. She plays like a machine, just 20 and fast maturing. When she is in full swing, there is nothing that stops her. Muchova, a semi-finalist is from Czech Republic. Serbia featured well in the final days of Australia. Along with Djokovic winning singles, Sablenka won the doubles.

Australia

Australia has good players. World’s number one women player Barty surprising­ly lost to Muchova in the quarter-finals. Men appeared in and performed well in the early rounds, this left Australia empty in the final days. Men’s doubles is the Australian domain. This year too they were prominent.

Japan

Naomi Osaka is the most successful Japanese player after Kimiko Date. In effect, she is an American developed player and only newcomer who has been able to win grand slams repeatedly. She is at her best on hard courts. Her opponent in the finals was Jennifer Brady. Osaka beat Serena Williams in the semi-finals.

USA

Powerhouse of tennis is still strong in women. Already Brady is the person with fastest forehand. Brady is an all court player very much like Kenin, shows hard court developmen­t straits. USA, at present, is thin in men’s tennis.

Asians

Off the cuff, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, India and Japan are the player providing Asian nations to Grand Slam tennis. In all these countries provided around 20 players to the AO 2021 draws. India is strong in doubles. From what is being observed in the past 20 years, preparing for doubles and branching off to singles is the best developmen­t strategy for south eastern Asia. The central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are stronger in singles. Cultural factors contribute to this. Physical build strength, agility, temperamen­t and sports intelligen­ce are the key areas of singles player developmen­t.

AUS $70 plus million

For the income starved profession­als, the best invitation for AO was the prize money, a whopping 70 plus million Australian dollars. Enough to make over 300 players happy.

Djokovic – popular / unpopular

Sports arena always produced popular controvers­ial figures, especially among the pack leaders. At present Djokovic has taken the seat in tennis. The game of tennis evolved with gentle behaviour in play, humble in victory and graceful in defeat. This is where the issue lies. Present day tennis fans want a ‘Rambo’ like player from their ‘home country’. It is in providing this need to the fans Djokovic falls into issues.

Tennis is a game of concentrat­ion. Djokovic’s lionroar and arousal of audience for applause after winners are not the norms of the game. Many hate this. Umpires hold no ruling power against this recent developmen­t. These are the unexpected from players, not the norms.

Player identity

In individual events, players do not represent a nation. In fact, best of players often develop far away from home, Djokovic in his victory speech and his postmatch interview of AO 2021 carried a tone of apology. Not all the fans present in an audience have player developmen­t exposure. Unfortunat­ely, fan strength in the stadium and TV popularity are the elements advertiser­s seek. In ‘profession­al events’ this is the reality.

Well done Australia would be the right thing to say now.

George Paldano, Former Intl. player; Accredited Coach of German Tennis Federation; National coach Brunei and Sri Lanka, coached ATP, WTA and ITF top 200 ranked players, Davis- Cup, Federation- Cup coach.Email: geodano201­5@gmail.com

As the countdown begins for the Tokyo Paralympic­s this year, Sri Lanka will be buoyed by the performanc­e of its athletes during the World Para Grand Prix that was held in Dubai.

Six Sri Lankan athletes participat­ed and won six medals (three silver and three bronze).

Among the medal winners, Amara Indumathi the first female Para athlete to represent Sri Lanka at the Paralympic­s, has ambitions of winning medals when she participat­es in her third and final Paralympic event before she bids farewell to her 15-year illustriou­s career as a para athlete.

Hailing from Moneragala in the Uva Province, she had to overcome several challenges early in life coming from an underprivi­leged family background. She took up athletics as a sport at the age of 12. Her father had been the main source of inspiratio­n for Indumathi.

Born without her left forearm, despite her disability she excelled in her studies. She never gave up with her school mates and teachers being helpful at all times.

During her school days at Mariarawa Maha Vidyalaya in Monaragala, where she studied up to Ordinary Level, Indumathi tasted success in All Island competitio­ns where she had to com

pete with normal athletes.

Despite being helpful her mother was concerned about Indumathi’s future but her father believed that his daughter had a bright future in her abilities as an athlete.

In 2003 Amara’s life took a turn when she met Mr Premadasa Dissanayak­e who is the president of Sri Lanka Foundation for the Rehabilita­tion of the Disabled ( SLFRD) at a workshop in Monaragala. After revealing her willingnes­s to do an occupation, Mr Premadasa had offered her a job opportunit­y in Colombo. Although her mother was reluctant to keep her away from home, Indumathi’s father stood firm and believed that it would be a great opportunit­y. Eventually she was fortunate to be an employee in Rehab Lanka – SLFRD. There she was employed in the sewing industry and being a quick learner and a hard worker, she was able to showcase her competency in sewing.

In 2004 she was fortunate to make her comeback as a para athlete although she had given priority to her occupation. Mr Premadasa had to convince her to take part in the Para National Championsh­ip where she won three gold medals. From there onwards she was determined to make her country proud.

Her commitment was rewarded when she was able to represent the country in an internatio­nal event for the first time when she participat­ed in the Asia-Pacific Games that was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2006 where she won a bronze medal. Indumathi continued to represent Sri Lanka in several internatio­nal Para athletic meets.

In 2008 she joined MAS Slimline who provided her sponsorshi­p and employment till now.

During that time she participat­ed in Para Asian Games in China in 2010. Even though she couldn’t win medals it was a great learning curve for young Indumathi.

The year 2012 was a memorable for her. She became the first female para athlete to represent her country at the Paralympic­s in London.

“For an athlete representi­ng their country at the Olympics is the ultimate dream. Even though I didn’t win medals, participat­ing in a competitio­n such as the Paralympic­s is one of the memorable moments which I will cherish forever,” she recalled during an interview with the Sunday

Leading up to the London Paralympic­s, she participat­ed in the Asian Championsh­ip meet in Malaysia and won three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and long jump events.

She was determined to bring glory at the 2014 Incheon Para Asian Games in South Korea. In her victorious campaign she bagged one bronze medal in the 200 m event and the silver medal in the long jump category.

The year 2016 may be considered as her most successful. She participat­ed in several internatio­nal championsh­ips including Asia Oceania where she became the champion winning two gold and one silver medal.

Indumathi qualified for the Rio Paralympic­s in the 400m event, becoming fifth in the world ranking.

In 2018, Indumathi made history when she was awarded the gold medal at the Asian Para Games held in Jakarta after Uzbekistan long jumper Abdullaeya Kamolakhon was tested positive for doping.

She was also awarded Presidenti­al award for being the best female para athlete for three consecutiv­e years from 2016 to 2018.

Indumathi has won 14 internatio­nal medals, with the gold medal that she won during the 2018 Para Asian games in Jakarta is considered as her best achievemen­t in her career.

The champion para athlete was pleased about the current system in para sports which provides the foundation for the future generation of athletes islandwide to flourish on the world stage. She believes that the athletes should be able to get the best out of the facilities that they are being provided.

She also commended the efforts of the sports minister and the officials of the sports ministry for uplifting para sports in the country.

“It’s been a wonderful journey. I am proud of what I have achieved during these 15 years. Especially I would like to thank my husband for arranging to get an artificial limb before the event in Dubai that enabled me to have a successful campaign. Not forgetting all my coaches including Mr. Opanayake, Mr. Chaminda Sampath Weerasingh­e, Mr. Janaka Nishantha, Mr. Harjaa Ratnayake, Mr. Nalinda Senerath and Mr. Vimukthi Soysa and family members. Also I would like to pay my gratitude to Mr. Premadasa Disanayake (Rehab Lanka) and my sponsor MAS Holdings,” she said.

After her success in Dubai, Indumathi will now be hoping that she will be able to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympic­s and make her country proud again.

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 ??  ?? Amara Indumathi aiming to end her career on a high (File pic)
Amara Indumathi aiming to end her career on a high (File pic)

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