Alex Eala shows class in dominant Asian Games debut
HANGZHOU, China—Alex Eala put on a show in her Asian Games debut, pummeling Sarah Ibrahim Khan, 6-0, 6-0, in women’s singles tennis on Monday at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre.
Ranged against a rival nearly twice her age, the 18-year-old Filipino tennis prodigy simply overpowered the 32-year-old Khan from start to finish, highlighted by a couple of aces, to progress to the next round.
“It was a great game and it was good for my confidence,” said Eala, currently ranked No. 191 in the world. “I think I came in with a great attitude and a great mindset.”
A gold medal here in the Asiad offers an automatic spot next year in the Paris Olympics.
Eala admitted that it would be a steep climb going to the finals where a star-studded cast vies for that lone Olympic berth.
“I’m amused by the presence of the (Asian tennis) stars here, but I have to remember that this is still a competition,” said Eala.
Chinese promising star Zheng Qinwen is one of the top draws looking to punch that Paris ticket.
Presently ranked 22nd in the world, Zheng advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2023 US Open after defeating last year’s runner-up Ons Jabeur.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to focus. There are a lot of things to do, the games, events and stuff. I will try to treat this as another tournament,” said the fourth-seeded Eala, who will face either Kazakhstan’s Aruzhan Sagandykova or India’s Rutuja Bhosale in the next round.
Eala will likewise see action in the mixed doubles with Ruben Gonzales. Both armed with impressive credentials, the tandem is billed among the favorites.
Another member of the team is Francis Alcantara, who is aiming for a podium finish to end the nation’s medal drought in the Games since Filipino-American Cecil Mamiit spearheaded the squad to a pair of bronzes in the 2006 Doha edition.