Thailand's Srichaphan praises Alex Eala as an inspiration to Asian tennis

Rosy Mina

Posted at Jan 30 2023 04:12 PM

Alex Eala at the WTA Thailand Open in Hua Hin. Photo courtesy of 2023 Thailand Open.
Alex Eala at the WTA Thailand Open in Hua Hin. Photo courtesy of 2023 Thailand Open.

HUA HIN, Thailand – Ahead of her Thailand Open first-round clash with 2022 Wimbledon semifinalist Tatjana Maria of Germany, Alexandra “Alex” Eala of the Philippines has already gained the attention of spectators, including Thai tennis icon Paradorn Srichaphan.

The former ATP world No. 9 is a co-tournament director of the WTA 250 event, and he caught a glimpse of the 17-year-old's qualifying matches over the weekend while doing the rounds at the True Arena Hua Hin Sports Club.

"I saw Alex play a couple of months before. And she’s a great young talent, you know, especially coming from Southeast Asia, and winning the US Open Juniors is really inspiring our Asian tennis," Srichaphan told ABS-CBN News.

Aside from the 2022 US Open Juniors singles title, Eala bagged the junior girls' doubles crowns at the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 Roland Garros. 

On the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour, she won the 2021 W15 Manacor and 2022 Chiang Rai singles championships.

In Thailand, Eala entered a WTA main draw via qualifying for the first time by ousting world No. 898 Xinyun Han of China, 6-1, 7-6(6), and No. 234 Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus, 6-2, 7-5. 

The Rafa Nadal Academy player currently ranked No. 217 in the world will challenge the 35-year-old world No. 63 and sixth-seed Maria in the first round on Tuesday.

When asked what he would advise Eala and other Asians competing in Hua Hin on how to reach the Top 10 level, Srichaphan mentioned the importance of building on experience.

"Well, to mention about the Top 10, it’s a long way to go. But yes, there is a process. And this is part of the process, entering tournaments like this," he said.

"Especially from my experience, if I’m playing in Asia, I feel like home. So I always get the big support. So, use that advantage to feel like the spectators are always supporting you. And just feel like home and it's going to be a secret to play well."

Srichaphan's co-tournament director, Grant Carpio, agrees that the Thailand Open is crucial for the long-term development of tennis in the region.

"Local and regional tournaments allow easier accessibility for players in terms of travel, opportunities through wild cards, and exposure through home crowds and local media. For some local players, having the chance to play in these WTA 250 level tournaments is the only opportunity all season to play in a tour-level event," noted Carpio, who is of Filipino descent.

As the Thailand Open main draw action gets underway this week, Srichaphan remains optimistic about the potential of Asian representation on the global tennis scene.

During the 2010 Hong Kong Tennis Classic, the five-time ATP singles champion told this writer that Asian tennis was “getting a lot better now” with Chinese superstar Li Na leading the pack.

More than 13 years later, he pointed out that there have been more tournaments being held in Asia, especially in China.

“Of course, that will give opportunities to Asian tennis players to join the tournaments. And not only big tournaments. We also have the ITF 15K, 25K, and 40K to make a good step, to make sure that they all get experience from small tournaments and gain those experiences to jump into the big tournaments. So I think it’s been good.”

Srichaphan, the first Asian-born player to enter the ATP Top 10 in 2003, concluded with greater hope: “I’m sure in the future, in the next 10 years, it will be also a lot better.”

The WTA Thailand Open runs until February 5.


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