MANILA — Alex Eala, the country’s top junior tennis player, climbed to career-high No. 4 in the latest girls’ ranking of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after ruling the juniors women’s doubles competition in the Australian Open in Melbourne over the weekend.
The Filipina tennis sensation jumped five ranks up from ninth place last month with 1,718.75 accumulated points.
Eala was initially tipped to go up to No. 8 in the world, but the impact of her semifinal win turned out to be a factor for her to go inside the Top 5 behind No. 1 Diane Parry of France (2,356.25 points), No. 2 Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra (1,971.25 points) and No. 3 Daria Snigur of Ukraine (1,930 points).
Eala teamed up with Indonesia’s Priska Nugroho in the entire duration of the women’s doubles event, and the duo, who were seeded fourth in the open, made a huge shocker after beating Latvia’s Kamila Bartone and Czech Republic’s Linda Fruhvirtova, the top seeds in the tournament.
Then the two defeated Slovenia’s Ziva Falkner and Great Britain’s Matilda Mutavdzic, who themselves entered the finals despite entering the tournament unseeded, in the championship round, 6-1, 6-2, in a record-setting 49 minutes.
The 14-year-old Eala became the first Filipino to win a juniors grand slam since Francis Casey Alcantara also captured the Australian Open boys’ doubles title with Hsieh Cheng-peng of Chinese Taipei in 2009.
This is also the sixth doubles title for Eala and Nugroho since they teamed up in 2017.
For her successful showing in one of tennis’ four grand slam events, Eala is the hands-down choice of the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) as its “Athlete of the Month” for January.
“Like all the other great Filipino athletes who made us proud in the last Southeast Asian Games, Eala did very well to put local tennis in the international map again,” TOPS president Ed Andaya of People’s Tonight said in a news release.
“Her success serves as an inspiration to the Filipino youth who hope to make a difference in the wonderful world of sports,” Andaya added.
Eala was to take a short vacation in the Philippines before returning to the Rafa Nadal Academy in Spain to continue her training. (PNA)