IT SEEMED a lifetime ago but it was only last February when a triumphant Alex Eala returned to the country after winning the Australian Open junior girls doubles title with Indonesian Priska Madelyn Nugroho. A few days ago, her maiden appearance in the French Open girls division saw her making it all the way to the semifinal round before falling to third seed Elsa Jacquemot of France, 6-3, 6-2.
Her semifinal run came after she made it also to the second round in the US Open after fighting through the qualifying round.
Currently ranked No. 4 in the world, the 15-year-old Pinay, who has been training at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Spain, is the most successful junior player from the Philippines in recent years. We’ve had a couple of junior doubles grand slam winners in the past but they weren’t as successful in the singles play.
I think its only Eala who has had success in both singles and doubles play and I hope to see her succeed in future competitions and make her mark in the women’s tour.
I know that’s a long way off for the leftie but if she succeeds in the women’s tour, it would be a big boost to tennis in the country. I remember the buzz created with Cecil Mamiit’s victory in the US Open over Andre Agassi close to two decades ago when we all learned he had Filipino lineage. Just imagine what would happen if our own homegrown athlete does the same in the women’s tour.
Tennis is a tough sport and even in the Southeast Asian region, we’ve seen our local kids compete and win against kids in the 12 and 14-Unders. However, somehow that transition from the 14-Unders to the older age brackets has created a gap with our neighbors.
Lucky players like Eala and a few others based in Manila cut that gap short by training in Spain under world-class coaches.
And sadly enough, our local players weren’t helped by the political intramural of the local tennis associations, which for a time, led to a dip in the number of youth events.
Hopefully, Eala’s recent success will lead to more youth events nationally and perhaps a couple or more slots for deserving players in prestigious camps like the Rafael Nadal academy.
I’ve always believed that given the right training and exposure, our young tennis players should be at par with the best of the world and it’s good that Eala is blazing the trail for future female players in the country.