HUA HIN, Thailand (UPDATED) – No. 4 seed Alexandra “Alex” Eala of the Philippines is glad to march into the qualifying second round of the WTA Thailand Open in Hua Hin on Saturday.
WTA World No. 214 Eala moved past fellow left-hander World No. 898 wildcard Xinyun Han of China, 6-1, 7-6(6) on Court 2 of the Hua Hin True Arena Sports Club amid windy afternoon conditions.
"This was a very good match for me, especially with the conditions of today and you know, it being my first qualifying match of a WTA 250. So I'm super happy with how I composed myself out there mentally," Eala told ABS-CBN News in an exclusive interview.
Despite being broken in the opening game, the 17-year-old reigning US Open Juniors singles winner broke back and proceeded to lead at 3-1.
The two-time ITF women's singles champion and Rafa Nadal Academy scholar saved three break points in the fifth game and overcame deuce in the following game to serve for the set at 5-1.
On her second set point, Eala clinched the first set, 6-1, after fighting off two break points.
Han, the 32-year-old former World No. 105, bounced back in the second set with a 2-0 lead.
Eala recovered with a break of serve due to a Han double fault, and went on to be at 4-2 after saving a break point with a forehand passing shot.
She posted a love service hold for a 5-3 edge, and served for the match at 5-4.
Han broke serve with a lob to equalize, and an exchange of service holds led to a tiebreak.
Eala leaped to 5-0 with her third mini break via a forehand volley winner, and secured six match points after Han hit a service return error.
The Filipino teen finally clinched the win on her seventh match point, 7-6(6), with a fiery forehand winner.
Eala, who won the junior doubles slam titles at the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 Roland Garros, needs one more win to qualify for the main draw of the WTA 250 tournament from January 30 to February 5.
The Thailand Open is Eala’s fifth WTA event, following her wildcard stints in the 2021 Winners Open main draw in Romania, 2021 Miami Open qualifiers in the United States, 2022 Miami Open main draw, and 2022 Madrid Open qualifying in Spain.