PHL tennis champ Eala hints at Women’s Grand Slam bid

Congratulations, Alex Eala! (Alex Eala Facebook)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Rising Filipino tennis star Alex Eala, fresh from her 2022 U.S. Open Junior Singles championship, shared on Friday that she is well under way in readying herself for her next challenges to sustain her victories and hints at a possible bid for a Women’s Grand Slam.

Eala on Friday helped kick off the ‘917 Festival’ hosted by Globe, one of the country’s leading telecommunications and internet networks, where she also serves as an ambassador.

She expressed shock over the anticipation in her matches, citing the Philippines’ reputation in the sports world as more focused on basketball and volleyball.

Right now, she is preparing in California for her next tournament, which is important as she remarked eyeing a Grand Slam bid.

She said that she had already made changes to her preparations in the past few months, not only for the U.S. Open, but for the next competitions, citing being fresh from her 2021 injuries.

“Women’s Grand Slams are definitely in my radar. I wouldn’t say that I’m so far in getting into qualifying, but that will of course depend on the next couple of months,” Eala said.

She said that despite her U.S. Open win, it would not be the biggest thing in her life just yet, citing other opportunities in tennis that will surely arise in her future.

“[The U.S. Open is] a big win, but I don’t think it’s something big enough to change my life. I know that I have bigger goals that I want to achieve, and I’m trying to take it step by step right now,” she said.

“I’m super happy with all the reactions that I’ve been receiving and all of the positivity that has been coming my way, but I try to keep my head down and keep working,” she added.

The experience in being in the professional leagues since 2020, Eala says, helped her a lot to win in her first and only juniors competition of the year, and she hopes to learn more as she ventures deeper into the pro leagues.

She said that she was very focused on her professional career, and her recent tourney would be her last junior competition of the year.

Her focus for 2023 would be professional tournaments under the International Tennis Federation and the Women’s Tennis Association, with a couple of junior tilts on the side.

“In my experience, I see that the pros are much more mentally strong in the tight moments. There are some juniors that can hold their own during high-pressure moments but I fear that it’s more of a common thing that you see in the professional tours and I hope to see more of that and learn more about it,” she said.

“I think that as I increase my level and increase in tournaments that I play, I will be stronger in those tight points and play against much more experienced players,” she added.

As to the 2023 Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, she said that she was open to joining again with optimism for better results, but added that she “would have to see” based on her schedule.

As to tennis superstar Rafael Nadal’s photo of her in his Instagram stories after her win, she shared her utmost happiness, say that “It’s not an everyday thing that that happens.”

She has been a student of Nadal’s namesake academy, located in Mallorca, Spain, since 2018.

She also expressed sadness over the recent retirement announcement of another tennis legend, Roger Federer of Switzerland, and likewise recalled the legacy he’s leaving in their sport.

“I was super sad to wake up to this news. As you all know, he’s such an icon in this court, and the thing I most admire about [Federer] is his grace on and off the court, his composure and just how he carries himself, and the image he’s built up over the years,” she said.

The 17-year-old Eala, who began playing in the junior leagues in 2018, is currently ranked No. 288 in the world by the WTA, and No. 35 in the juniors league by the ITF where she ranked No. 2 in 2020.