Nishangan Nadaraja

By Revata S. Silva


In what could be termed one of the rarest feats by a Sri Lankan tennis player, former Sri Lanka Davis Cup team member Nishangan Nadaraja, 19, will leave for USA this week to play at the highest collegiate tennis there, the NCAA Division 1 tennis. Nadaraja, who emerged from humble beginnings from an ordinary Negombo family, joined St. Peter’s College, Colombo leaving Wijayarathnam Hindu Central College, Negombo aged 12 in 2008 before achieving great heights in local tennis under the tutelage of St. Peter’s Head Coach and SLTA Director of Coaching, Dinith Pathiraja.


Nadaraja has received a full (100%) scholarship at Alabama A&M University to read for a four-year BSc Degree in Accountancy while representing the university at the competitive National Collegiate Athletic Association or NCAA.


A complete outcast in the traditionally elitist Sri Lankan tennis, Nadaraja, the elder son of a family of two sons, in a way writes a fairytale of an ordinary Tamil boy reaching unprecedented heights in national tennis.


“I owe all this to Pathiraja sir. He is behind all the success of my tennis and he did all the background work too in preparing me to get this scholarship, which is a very rare opportunity for a tennis player,” Nadaraja told The Island on Tuesday, Jan. 11.


Leading players of the caliber of former Sri Lanka stalwart Arjun Fernando had played at the top level NCAA before. Representing the University of Southern Illinois, Fernando became one of the top eight players in NCAA Div-I in the late 1970s.


Nadaraja won the junior nationals Under-18 in 2014 after reaching last four in the senior Nationals in 2013 losing to Harshana Godamanna in the semi-finals. He was nominated to the Sri Lanka Davis Cup team for two ties in 2012 before getting an ITF junior world rank of 407 in 2014.


“I thank my coach Pathiraja sir, my school St. Peter’s and its Father Rector, the SLTA and its president, my parents, my uncle and all who helped me in my tennis,” said Nadaraja. “My first priority is to come back and win a Sri Lanka (senior) Nationals after improving my game in America.”


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