Mental fortitude carries Eala to semifinal appearance
More than her aggressive game and overall skills, Alex Eala relies a lot on her mental toughness.It’s one of the qualities that caught the attention of the Rafael Nadal Academy (RNA) coaches, who recommended her for a scholarship two years ago, according to Alex’s father Michael.
It’s one of the traits that put Eala in the girls singles semifinals—and gave her a page in Philippine tennis history.
Down a set because of a problematic service game, Eala summoned her mental fortitude to overcome Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, in the French Open late Thursday.
The 15-year-old World No. 4 became the first Filipino girl or woman to reach this far in a Grand Slam singles event and even matched Filipino tennis great Felix Barrientos, who in 1985 made the semifinals in Wimbledon.
Eala also needed to dig deep to dismantle the resistance of 18-year-old Leyre Romero Gormaz of Spain Wednesday night to prevail, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, for that quarterfinal berth against Noskova.
“I felt nervous at the start of the third set,” Eala said after her round-of-16 match. “But overall, I felt I was in total control of the match.”
“One of Alex’s strengths is her mental fortitude,” Michael said. “This is one of her traits, which originally caught the attention of RNA coaches and what they continue to nurture while she trains there.”
Noskova, also 15 years old, is the 33rd ranked junior in the world, who bundled out Flavie Brugnone of France, 6-1, 6-2, to get to the final eight.
Eala is now in the position to help Philippine tennis level up after years in the doldrums as she fights for a finals seat facing hometown girl Elsa Jacquemot in Friday’s semifinals.
The victory also makes up for a defeat that ended her bid in girls’ doubles.
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