Alex Eala now takes crack at Grand Slam immortality
Alex Eala is on a stage no Filipino before her has ever set foot on.
And on Sunday, the prodigious 17-year-old will have an entire country backing her when she aims to go even farther.
Eala extended her magical run in the US Open Juniors on Saturday morning (Manila time), with a 6-1, 7-5 (5) nipping of Canadian ninth seed Victoria Mboko for a spot in the final and a crack at a tennis grand slam title none of her illustrious predecessors ever came close to claiming.
It was the fifth straight sets win for Eala, a scholar at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Spain.
Eala also had a semifinal exit in the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros where she was dealt a 6-3, 6-2 shellacking by Frenchwoman Elsa Jacquemont, who eventually ruled the tournament over Alina Charaeva of Russia.
“Isa pa (one more win),” Eala posted on her Facebook account after her 81-minute conquest of Mboko that set up a title clash with world No. 3 and tournament second seed Lucie Havlickova of the Czech Republic.
Eala fought back from a 1-3 deficit in the second set, finally pulling even at 5-5 with Mboko and then later at 6-6 before displaying poise and game to deny the Canadian the chance to extend the match to a deciding set.
Mboko sealed her doom with a double fault at match point.
Havlickova, who ruled the 2022 French Open singles, took down Diana Shnaider of Russia, 6-4, 6-4, to book a ticket to the final.
What Eala has done was erase all previous records formidable Filipino netter of yesteryears established, with Felix Barrientos the only one to make it as far as the semifinals, doing it in the 1985 version of Wimbledon.
Seeded 16th that year, the flamboyant Barrientos lost, 7-6, 6-0, to eventual runner-up Eduardo Velez of Mexico that forged an all-Mexican finale for the title against Leonardo Lavalle.
Lavalle, the top seed, dominated his unseeded countryman, 6-4, 6-4, in the title match.
Eala, the daughter of the former national swimmer Riza Maniego, can further rewrite Philippine tennis history with a win over Havlickova by becoming the only singles Grand Slam champion from the Philippines.
Eric Taino and Francis Casey Alcantara have junior doubles slam titles like Eala.
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