Tennis: Croatian 3rd seed ousts Alex Eala after hard-fought match in Spain

Rosy Mina

Posted at Mar 04 2021 11:33 PM

MANILA—Croatian 3rd seed Jana Fett beat Filipino tennis sensation Alex Eala in the second round to knock her out of the W25 Manacor ITF tournament in Spain on Thursday. 

Despite the efforts of World No. 763 Eala, Fett pulled through with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory in 2 hours and 57 minutes. The World No. 210 Croatian will face World No. 296 Italian Jessica Pieri in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The Round 2 match between 15-year-old Eala and 24-year-old Fett at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar kicked off with Eala taking a 2-0 lead. Fett caught up to even at 2-2 before Eala led again at 4-2.

Fett recovered quickly to level at 4-4, forcing Eala to scramble for the ball with her placements. Eala carried on to win the next two games, breaking the Croatian’s serve to take the first set, 6-4. 

The tables were turned in the second set as Fett advanced, 2-0. Eala powered through to even at 2-2, but Fett regained control with a 5-3 lead before taking the second set, 6-3. 

The third set saw Fett with a 2-0 advantage, which she extended to a 4-2 lead. Eala’s power forehand forced an error from Fett, causing the Filipino to break, 3-4, but the Croatian replied with a break in order to serve for the match. 

Fett fired an ace to gain a match point, but committed a double fault that brought them to deuce. Eala took advantage of a crucial break point to close the gap, 4-5, and fought on to level at 5-5. Fett went on to claim the next two games, 7-5, to march into the last 8 round.

The W25 Manacor is Eala’s fifth pro tournament of the year. In Wednesday’s opening round, she posted a 6-1, 6-4 win over World No. 284 Simona Waltert of Switzerland. 

2021 has been a banner year for the Filipino teen ace as she clinched her first professional title at the first leg of the W15 Manacor in January. She had quarterfinal finishes in the next two legs of the W15 Manacor and in the W25 Grenoble tournament in France. 

With all eyes on her as she continues to rise in the WTA rankings, Eala is well aware of the arduous process of making it in the world tennis scene. 

“I’m not really pressuring myself to do anything quickly or to go up the ranks like super, super fast,” Eala said in an interview on Tennis Talks of Unified Tennis Philippines.

“I’m just trying to take it step by step and I’m really focusing on improving my game now more than the results,” the Rafa Nadal Academy scholar continued as she spoke with Filipino player and fellow Australian Open junior doubles champion Francis Casey Alcantara.

Eala ended 2020 as the juniors World No. 3, allowing her to be a junior exempt player in several pro tournaments in the ITF World Tennis Tour such as the W25. In January 2020, she and Priska Madelyn Nugroho of Indonesia won the Australian Open junior girls' doubles championship while in October, she had a semifinal finish at the Roland Garros girls' singles tournament.

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