Tennis prodigy and Globe ambassador Alex Eala fought hard but ultimately fell short against the world no. 104 Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, in the first round of the Miami Open qualifying draw at the Hard Rock Stadium in Florida on Monday.
The 15-year old Filipina was not fazed by the magnitude of this tournament, which has attracted the very best Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) players in the world, as she played like she belonged and zoomed off to an early 2-0 lead. Kuzmova, though, regained her bearings and took the upper hand, 3-2, before Eala nabbed it right back, 4-3.
Kuzmova held serve to knot things up at 4-4 but Eala, who is ranked no. 736 in the WTA singles rankings, held her own serve and then broke the former’s serve to win the first set, 6-4.
In the second, Kuzmova bounced back and established a 4-1 lead before eventually grabbing the second set, 6-4, to tie the game up at 1-1. The third set saw the Slovak netter open up a commanding 5-1 lead. Eala kept her hopes alive by winning the next game to trail, 2-5, but Kuzmova proved too skilled as she won the next game to close the set and the match in two hours and 21 minutes.
Nevertheless, it was a noteworthy showing for the Filipina tennis ace who was given a wild card entry in this competition that has long been considered the “fifth grand slam” in tennis. Among the big names competing in this event are Australian Ashleigh Barty who is the top-ranked tennis player in the world, world no. 2 Naomi Osaka of Japan, third-ranked Simona Halep of Romania, and world no. 4 Sofia Kenin of the United States.
In a release from the WTA, Eala said the transition from being a junior to a professional has not been easy but she will persevere with the support of her family.
“Transitioning from being a junior to a professional is a scary point in one’s career. I am unsure about what the future holds and there are a lot of ups and downs. My family never failed to support me and know they are rooting for whatever I do,” Eala said.