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Tennis: Alex Eala booted out of Japan Women’s Open

Alex Eala at the 2023 W100 Tokyo tournament in Japan. Ando Securities Open on Facebook

Qualifier Alex Eala failed to match her best WTA result after being defeated in the opening round of the Japan Women’s Open in Osaka.

The 18-year-old Filipino, currently at a career-best ranking of World No. 195, struggled against qualifier Himeno Sakatsume of Japan, 0-6, 3-6.

For the 184th-ranked Sakatsume, it was her first main draw triumph on the WTA Tour secured at the 250 level.

Eala, meanwhile, posted her maiden WTA main draw victory as a wildcard at the 2021 Winners Open in Romania, a WTA 250 event where she bested Argentine Paula Ormaechea before losing to Egyptian Mayar Sherif in the second round.

In Tuesday’s opener at the ITC Utsubo Tennis Center, Eala’s string of errors gave her 22-year-old opponent a 3-0 lead.

Sakatsume, a five-time ITF women’s singles champion, notched a quick service hold at 40-15 then broke for the third time to serve for the set at 5-0.

Eala brought the next game to deuce, but her netted forehand allowed Sakatsume to claim the first set on her second set point, 6-0.

The Japanese ace took the early lead in the second set, 2-0, by breaking due to a double fault and holding serve after three deuces when Eala’s forehand crosscourt shot was called out.

The Filipino teen equalized by holding serve at love courtesy of a long forehand and then breaking on her third opportunity in the fourth game with a backhand service return down the line.

Sakatsume responded with a break at deuce, and held serve via a service winner to regain the lead at 4-2.

Eala, who has four ITF singles titles, inched closer at 3-4 by overcoming two deuces to win the game on serve.

Another hold by the Japanese forced Eala to serve to stay in the match at 3-5 in the ninth game, where Sakatsume advanced to 40-30 by firing a confident forehand approach shot winner.

Sakatsume converted her only match point after Eala hit a backhand into the net, 6-3, to reach the second round against World No. 39 and third seed Xinyu Wang of China or 138th-ranked Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, a two-time WTA champion.

In the qualifying draw, the No. 5 seed from the Philippines moved past 281st-ranked Mexican Fernanda Contreras in the first round, 6-3, 6-4.

She completed a comeback win over World No. 297 Sohyun Park of South Korea, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, to qualify for a WTA main draw for the second time in her career since the Thailand Open in January.

Just last week, Eala qualified for the W100 Tokyo on the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour and posted a singles second-round finish alongside her doubles semifinal result with home bet Natsumi Kawaguchi.


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