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Alex Eala: The Road to Wimbledon
Fresh off winning her second girls’ doubles grand slam title, Filipina tennis sensation and long-time Globe ambassador Alex Eala is setting her sights on capturing a possible third. Eala is scheduled to compete in the girls’ singles and doubles tournaments at Wimbledon in London, England, next week.
Riding the crest of her girls’ doubles title win in the 2021 French Open a few weeks ago, the 16-year old expressed her excitement at heading to London to compete in the oldest tennis tournament in the world and one that is widely regarded as the most prestigious.
“First of all, I'm super excited to go to London. It's going to be my first time there and also my first time competing on grass. So that's going to be a new experience. I'll need to learn how to adjust to it. We're doing everything we can, but in case I'm not able to, then that's fine as well. I'll go there and just get used to the court,” said Eala, who is the no. 3 ranked junior player in the world.
Eala is obviously making strides in the international tennis scene now, but it wasn’t long ago when she was taking baby steps in the sport. She held her first racket at age three and began training at four before joining her first tournament a couple of years later.
It wouldn’t take long, though, before Eala started winning trophies. In April of 2013, at the tender age of eight, she won the 10-under class title of the Truflex championship series in Cebu City. A few months later, she would go on to capture the 8-and-under crown in the Little Mo international tournaments, winning all three stops in Colorado, New York, and Florida.
Fast forward a couple of years, Eala would conquer Croatia and hoist the Dubrovnik Dud Bowl Championship for 11 and under girls. Then, in 2017, Eala—who was just 12 at the time—would be ranked no. 1 in the Asian Tennis Federation. Along with doubles partner Priska Madelyn Nugroho of Indonesia, she was awarded the Doubles Player of the Year by Tennis Europe.
The year 2018 would be a banner year for Eala as she competed in the Les Petits As-Le Mondial as a wild card entry and went on to beat the Czech Republic’s Linda Nosková to become the series’ first ever wild card champion. Impressed by the youngster’s feat, the French Tennis Federation gave Eala a berth in the qualifying round of the 2018 Roland Garros Junior French Open. She lost in the second round to American netter Peyton Stearns.
Later that year, Eala finally broke through, winning her first U-18 crown in Alicante, Spain, with a finals victory over Spanish rival Jessica Bouzas Maneiro in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) G5 Tournament. She would also continue to raise the country’s banner high as she joined a couple of Tennis Europe tournaments -- the Duren tournament in Germany and the Hasselt tournament in Belgium. She was later deemed the 2018 Overseas Player of the Year by Tennis Europe.
Eala’s prodigious skill got the eye of the Rafa Nadal Academy, the prestigious tennis institution in Mallorca named after the tennis legend, which provided scholarships to her and brother Miko.
To this day, Eala cherishes the opportunity to polish her skills at the academy and even the little talks she had with Nadal himself.
“I asked him (Nadal) a question the last time I talked to him, and it was how did he keep going and not burn out despite all the success he’s had at such a young age. And he told me just to be humble and accept everything that the coaches say and keep wanting to improve. So that's what I'm doing now. And I think I'm going to carry that for the rest of my life,” shared Eala.
2019 was a year that Eala achieved a pair of historic feats for the Philippines. First, she helped the country capture its first-ever berth in the ITF World Junior Tennis in 26 years. Then, later in the year, she debuted in the main draw of the US Open Juniors competition, becoming the first Filipino to play in a grand slam tournament since Jeson Patrombon did it way back in 1991. She would end 2019 on a high note, teaming up with partner Evialina Laskevich of Belarus to win the girls’ doubles competition crown at the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships in Florida.
The following year saw Eala earn a berth in the main draw of the Australian Open juniors championships. She certainly did not let that moment slip away. She and Nugroho won the girls’ doubles title, making her the first Filipino to win a juniors grand slam since Francis Casey Alcantara achieved the feat in 2009.
In October, Eala stormed the juniors’ singles tournament of the 2020 French Open and made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to French netter and eventual champion Elsa Jacquemot. With that feat, Eala made history once again as she was the first Filipino to reach that stage of a grand slam tournament since Felix Barrientos did it at Wimbledon in 1985.
Eala started 2021 with a bang as she captured her first professional championship by winning the W15 Manacor with a three-set win over Spanish bet, Yvonne Cavalle-Relmers. She would go on to compete in nine other professional tournaments, including the prestigious Miami Open, for which she was given a wild card entry. There, she gave world No. 29 Viktoria Kuzmova a run for her money before falling in the first round.
The 16-year old would have another moment of crowning glory in 2021 as she and Russian partner Oksana Selekhmeteva won the 2021 French Open girls’ doubles championship against Maria Bondarenko and Amarissa Kiara Tóth with a 6-0, 7-5 victory in the finals.
Now, with her eyes set on Wimbledon, Eala fondly looked back on her decorated career and mused how it all would not have been possible without the support of Globe.
“It is very costly to have tennis as a career in general, and for Globe to have my back since I was probably seven, it means a lot to me. I think it's really amazing how they were able to step up and make people's lives a bit easier and happier, including mine. So I'm a very, very proud ambassador,” said Eala.
“Globe is such a big part of not just my career, but of my life, and I definitely wouldn't be here without that support,” she added.