Adithya Karunaratne is hoping to take her career to the next level after winning her first title as a professional and taking over the mantle of Hong Kong’s top-ranked women’s tennis player. The 20-year-old made her tournament breakthrough in November when she won an ITF US$15,000 (HK$117,000) tournament in Monastir, Tunisia, beating Japan’s Lisa-Marie Rioux 6-4, 6-2 in the final. She followed up two weeks later by reaching the final of another tournament in the same city, losing 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4 to Romanian Ilona Ghioroaie. The Hong Kong Sports Institute athlete, who is based in Barcelona, and trains out of the WeTennisBcn academy, wants to focus on US$25,000 tournaments in 2022 in her quest to move up the rankings and eventually tackle the top-tier events. “It feels great to have reached another milestone by winning my first US$15,000 professional title in Tunisia,” Karunaratne told the Post . “It was a result of continuous hard work and the support of a great team. I want to thank WeTennisBcn for their guidance and support. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Adithya Karunaratne (@adi.patali) “They believed in me when I was struggling. I would also like to thank my sponsors Joma and Wilson for making me feel my best out there. And finally, thank you to the Hong Kong Sports Institute and Hong Kong Tennis Association for all their help and support. “While US$15,000 tournaments are incredibly tough, they do not offer much in terms of [ranking] points. Therefore, I aim to focus more on US$25,000 and above tournaments next year. Even though the level of the tournaments change, the fundamental targets remain the same – trying to improve in terms of personal level and subsequently, my ranking.” Karunaratne was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Hong Kong with her family when she was five years old. She is part of the HKSI set-up and her performances in Tunisia moves her to the top of the Hong Kong women’s rankings above Wu Ho-ching and Eudice Chong. Her WTA ranking rose to a career-high 646 before dropping to 649 while her ITF ranking is 271. She said playing on the tour has taught her the importance of strong mental health and the value of self-belief, a concept that is part and parcel of sport but something she admits to largely ignoring in the past. “Winning this tournament has definitely instilled a stronger sense of belief within me,” she said. “While I know that my success in one tournament does not guarantee my success in other tournaments, I am more aware of the mental strength it takes to come out victorious. In the past, many people have told me that the most important asset for an athlete to have is mental fortitude. “Though I listened to them, I never truly believed it until this past tour. The flow of a match can easily change depending on the way you are thinking. Throughout the whole tournament, I constantly reminded myself to be how I want to be on court: brave, positive and calm. My team at WeTennisBcn constantly supports us players to be the best version of ourselves. I found this advice to be pivotal. “Going into tournaments, I feel a sense of calm. I realise that no matter how good or bad I might play, the most important thing is that I keep believing in myself. I do not have any special expectations for the next tournaments because I know how close winning and losing truly is. “If I continue to think like this, I know that I will be able to balance the pressure I might feel in the future. This is not to say that I don’t feel any pressure because that would simply be untrue. There is always something to be nervous about,” Karunaratne, who is hoping to attract Hong Kong sponsors to supplement her European backers, said.