Alex Eala stays the course in chase for Asian Games gold, Paris slot
Alex Eala hopes to hit two birds with one stone. —POOL PHOTO
HANGZHOU, CHINA—Alex Eala has approached the 19th Asian Games (Asiad) here with guarded optimism with too many possible pitfalls in a tournament brimful of world-quality competitors.
With a trip to the 2024 Paris Olympics attached to winning a gold medal, the 18-year-old Filipino tennis wonder would rather just stay the course, hoping to eventually reach the summit.
“I try to take it one step at a time. The people here are really good; it’s high level and I don’t want to expect too much,’’ said Eala after taking her act to the quarterfinals with a 7-6, 6-2 victory over India’s Rutuja Sampatrao Bhosale on Tuesday.
“But I’m very determined, hopeful and I’m going to do my best every time,’’ added the regular International Tennis Federation (ITF) women’s circuit campaigner.
Seeded fourth in the tournament, Eala is again favored in the quarterfinal stage, where she’s bound to face No. 8 Kyoka Okamura of Japan, a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 winner over Savanna Ly-Nguyen of Vietnam.
From there, it could only get way more demanding where Chinese top seed Zheng Qinwen and second-ranked Zhu Lin are anticipated to figure in the semifinals, as well as No. 3 Ankita Raina of India.
The women’s Olympic tennis meet at Roland-Garros next year will feature 64 players with 54 others gaining direct entry by virtue of their rankings in the Association of Tennis Professionals or the Women’s Tennis Association by June 10, 2024.
France, as the host country, is entitled to one assured slot while the six final qualification places described as ITF places will come from the continental championships, which includes the ongoing Asiad.
“As far as I know, only the champion here will get a sure spot in the Olympics. Other than that, my current ranking won’t be enough,’’ said Eala, presently ranked No. 192 in the world.
“But the cutoff will still be next year. It’s definitely one of the goals, but it’s very difficult to get into the Olympics, especially for tennis. Definitely in tennis,’’ added Eala.
She drew an opening-round bye and blanked Pakistan’s Sarah Ibrahim Khan, 6-0, 6-0, in the second round before her conquest of Bhosale to reach the quarters at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Tennis Court.
Eala, who harnessed her skills at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Manacor, Spain, sees the girls’ singles title she won at the 2022 US Open as the most memorable accomplishment in her young career.
Adding an Asian Games gold plus an Olympic adventure next year can make it more gratifying for the nation’s current toast in the sport. INQ