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Former British junior Tanysha Dissanayake, who played against Emma Raducanu, retires aged 21 due to long Covid

Tanysha Dissanayake was once a promising British tennis player who competed at Wimbledon and played alongside Emma Raducanu at events. But she has been forced to retire from the sport at the age of 21 after being left bedbound by long Covid. Dissanayake last played in the summer of 2021 and has revealed how badly she has been impacted by Covid since.

By James Walker-Roberts

Former British junior Tanysha Dissanayake has retired from tennis at the age of 21 due to the effects of long Covid, saying she feels “a million years away” from being able to play again.

Dissanayake played alongside Emma Raducanu at a third-tier tournament in Sunderland before the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March 2020.

She was close to breaking into the top 1,000 in the world rankings at the time but did not compete again for another year.

On her return to action in 2021 she tested positive for Covid-19 following three weeks of competing in Greece and has been unable to play since.

Her last practice was in October 2021 and she has now announced her retirement.

“It’s been a crazy journey and I’d do it all again if I could but after over a year of being unwell, it is time to move on,” she wrote on Instagram.

“This was the hardest decision I’ve had to make and even harder to accept. I don’t know a life without tennis in it but this sport has taught me so much and I know that great things are in store.”

Dissanayake, whose idol was former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova, said as a junior she had hoped to reach the top 20 in the world and play at all four Grand Slams.

But now she says she doesn’t think she will “ever be fit enough” to return to the court as she has been largely been housebound for the last year.

“Deep down I knew that it would be nearly impossible to get back earlier on this year, but I kind of just wanted to hold on a little longer,” she told the Times.

“I just didn’t want to accept that my career was ending so soon because of Covid, because of a virus so out of my control, but I think eventually I got to a point where I was like, I’m 15 months in, I’m still housebound, still mostly bedbound, unable to do most basic things.

“To get back to playing the sport at a relatively high level day in day out, I don’t think I’ll ever be fit enough for that. But if I am, that’s a million years away.

“When I tried to go back to training, my heart rate shot up to 198 in eight minutes. I had barely even finished the warm-up at that point, and that should never have happened. I think that’s the moment when the gravity of the situation really hit me.”

Among Dissanayake’s career highlights was playing junior doubles at Wimbledon in 2018 against 2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez.

She also beat Raducanu, who overcame Fernandez in last year’s US Open final, as a junior.

“I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity to play at Wimbledon,” Dissanayake added.

“It was the moment of a lifetime, the moment I’ve been waiting for and training for since I was four or five years old. Just to be there at the front of Centre Court on the grass was a moment I can’t quite describe.

“I do wish I had another chance to be back there but at the same time I am very grateful that I had the opportunity that not so many people in the world get.”

So severely has Dissanayake been impacted by Covid that she now spends most of her time in bed.

“I rarely speak to people because even just the act of keeping up a conversation can take a toll on me the next few days. The act of having a shower is almost like doing a conditioning session for me.

“I haven’t read this year and I’m someone that loves to read and get to know more about different things. It was one of my passions. I love to study, I like my academic side of things, but I can’t read a paragraph. I can’t even finish the leftover doctor’s notes I get. I have to get my mum to read and fill out the doctor’s forms for me because I can’t do it myself.

“Just simple things that I never thought I would struggle with, especially at my age, have just become almost impossible.”

Dissanayake left her house in the summer to go on holiday to Portugal.

She says it took her weeks to prepare and to recover from the trip, for which she required a wheelchair.

“I didn’t leave my house for almost a month before so I can prepare and have enough energy for that trip,” Dissanayake says.

“I only left the villa two or three times despite the restaurants and everything being just around the corner. On top of that it took me three weeks to recover from that trip. That one five-day trip took seven weeks of my life. I didn’t do any moving, I didn’t walk, I didn’t hike, I didn’t do anything crazy and it still took that much.”

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