Eala carries lessons of loss to next tournament
Despite the loss—a narrow one at that—it was still achievement unlocked for Filipino tennis hope Alex Eala last Tuesday.
Stealing a set against Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova before bowing out, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, in the Miami Open qualifying will provide a lot of take-home lessons for the 15-year-old rising star, which she can use for her next tournament.
“Yesterday was huge, I played my first WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) tournament. I am having a great week here and such amazing experience,” Eala, the world No. 737, wrote on her Facebook page.
She gets to see action in yet another WTA event, the W60 Bellinzona Switzerland, which kicks off on April 5.
This time, Eala will compete straight from the main draw using the experience she had in her first WTA meet against older, higher-ranked opponents.
“There is so much for Alex to take away from this (Miami Open) tournament,” said her father, Mike. “It brought back memories of her just a few years ago when she was also playing as a qualifying wildcard in the French Open as a junior. Now, she is playing the women’s category.”
Undaunted by her older opponent, Eala used her sound service game to take the opening set against the 5-foot-11 Kuzmova, who at 22 is ranked No. 104 in the world.
“From Alex’s match, we saw big improvements in fitness and her game,” added Mike. “Still, for this top level of the sport, there still so much to learn and work on.”
The Switzerland tournament won’t be a walk in the park, too, as the tour’s midlevel players will compete in it.
“We hope Alex realizes that, with continued hard work and dedication, it is just a matter of time for her to be playing these top tier tournaments regularly,” said Mike.
Meanwhile, world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty said her near-50-hour flight to Florida to begin her Miami Open title defense this week was a bit jarring.
Barty spent the last year in her home country of Australia, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Miami will be her first tournament abroad since February 2020.
“Tough playing tennis after traveling again. Quite a while since I’ve done that,” said Barty, 24, who added that a pair of cancellations created “quite a wriggle around.”
—WITH A REPORT FROM AFP
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.