US Open tennis junior girls’ singles champ Alex Eala inspires young Filipinos to go for the gold
Seventeen year old Alexandra Maniego Eala made history last Saturday when she won the US Open junior girls’ singles championship in New York by defeating Lucie Havlickova from the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-4. She is the first Filipino tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
Her feat is reminiscent of golfer Yuka Saso’s victory in the US Women’s Open in San Francisco last year.
Alex Eala blazed a trail of glory as she carved her niche in the history books. She defeated all of her rivals in straight sets. Seeded at no. 10, she beat eight-seed Taylah Preston from Australia, followed by 14th seed Mirra Andreeva in the quarterfinals and ninth-seed Victoria Mboko from Canada in the semifinals before toppling second seeded Havlickova in the championship.
Fittingly, her record feat happened in the city that holds a special place in her heart – New York. Her grandparents met and fell in love in this city. She won the title in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Flushing Meadow neighborhood of Queens borough, New York City.
She won two junior Grand Slam doubles titles previously: at the 2020 Australian Open with her partner Priska Madelyn Nugroho; and at the 2021 French Open when she teamed up with Oksana Selekhmeteva. She attained a career-high no. 2 in junior rankings after she made it to the 2020 French Open in the girls’ singles semifinals.
Remarkably, Alex Eala addressed the audience in Filipino during the post-match, on-court interview:
“Una sa lahat, gusto ko lang magpasalamat sa pamilya ko, kasi kung hindi dahil sa kanila, hindi ko ito kayayanin. Maraming salamat din sa lahat ng nagdasal at nagsuporta sa akin, sa aking mga sponsors, Globe, Nike, Babolat, and of course to my team and the Rafa Nadal Academy.” (First of all, I wish to thank my family, as I couldn’t have done this without them. Thank you, too, to all my sponsors…”)
She concluded her brief victory speech with a heartwarming dedication:
“Buong puso ko itong pinaglaban hindi lang po para sa akin kundi para sa kinabukasan ng Philippine tennis.” (I fought wholeheartedly not just for myself but for the future…”)
Hard work, scientific training and sufficient logistical support are the key ingredients in Alex Eala’s success — as it had been with Yuka Saso and our first Olympic gold medalist Hidylin Diaz. She took up the game early and attracted the attention of scouts from the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor, Spain where she relocated to develop her talent.
She expressed admiration for Nadal, one of the greatest players of all time, for inspiring her to develop mental discipline in being able to visualize and focus on each point as it is being played, and not to worry about the outcome of the match or how she would end up in the tournament standings.
Indeed, Alex Eala is a good role model for young Filipinos. Yes, the Filipino can be a world champion — with grit, perseverance and the will to win.
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