MANILA – Alex Eala is humbled and driven by the comments of US Open champions Carlos Alcaraz and Bianca Andreescu, who heaped praise on the Filipino teen and her promising potential on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour.
Speaking exclusively to ABS-CBN News, the 17-year-old Eala reacted, “I’m very happy with what I’m doing right now, tennis-wise. And I’m still not where I want to be, so although those comments are very flattering, I think it’s important to keep my head down and still continue working.”
In December, World No. 1 Alcaraz said that while he and Eala do not talk personally, he knows the results of his fellow teenager in the 2022 season, including her victory at the US Open Juniors singles final.
“I remember when I was watching her results in the juniors, I thought she has to play in the WTA,” the 19-year-old Spanish sensation told reporters at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
“She has the level and in 2023, I’m sure she’s gonna do great results,” added the youngest ATP World No. 1 who now has eight titles, the latest of which is from the 2023 Indian Wells Masters.
To this, Eala responded with awe and gratitude: “I mean, coming from him, it’s a great compliment. But yes, I’ve been working really hard and I think as I play more WTA matches, my level can only improve. I’m very confident with where my tennis is at right now.”
As for Andreescu of Canada, she talked about her practice session with Eala in January at the Thailand Open, where Eala exited the first round as a qualifier and Andreescu emerged as a semifinalist.
The former World No. 4 and three-time WTA titlist said that she got to speak with Eala during their training at the True Arena Hua Hin Sports Club.
“I feel that she’s very mature for her age, that’s one. And she’s accomplished so much already. She’s a very nice girl and she plays very well. And she’s a lefty, too. So that is also a tricky thing ‘cause there are not a lot of lefties on tour. So, I think she can do really great things in the WTA,” she told ABS-CBN News.
When informed of Andreescu’s nice words about her, the two-time International Tennis Federation (ITF) singles winner beamed with surprise and joy.
“It’s really nice to hear that from her because obviously, she’s done a lot, even greater things. So she’s done such great things and she’s very open-minded and very humble,” said the highest ranked Filipino on the WTA Tour, now the World No. 219 with a career-best of 214th.
“I’m not necessarily someone with such a great ranking in terms of WTA, so for her to just treat me normally, and she’s very fun and she can make jokes and things like that, it’s nice to see… like you can really see her humility.”
Aside from Alcaraz and Andreescu, other champions who have commended Eala include Thai tennis icons Paradorn Srichaphan and Tamarine Tanasugarn.
"She's a great young talent, and you know, especially coming from Southeast Asia, and winning the US Open Juniors is really inspiring our Asian tennis," said former World No. 9 and five-time ATP champion Srichaphan, who has watched Eala play a few times.
“Coming from him, it’s also really good. I’ve heard stories of what he was able to do,” Eala said of the first Asian-born ace to enter the ATP Top 10 in 2003.
Former World No. 19 Tanasugarn, meanwhile, talked about Eala's breakthrough in the 2020 Australian Open, where she clinched her first junior grand slam title in girls' doubles with Indonesian Priska Madelyn Nugroho.
The four-time WTA winner shared, “I’m happy for Philippine tennis because to see a young talent who wants to do well in the grand slam, it sparks the spirit of the tennis community in the Philippines.”
Eala, who also won the 2021 Roland Garros girls' doubles crown with Russian Oksana Selekhmeteva, appreciated what Tanasugarn said.
"I’m happy that my performance has reached places. Of course, it’s always an honor to represent the Philippines," said the former ITF Juniors World No. 2. "I’m focusing on my career, just working hard. And I hope that good things will come after as a result of that."
Eala, a Rafa Nadal Academy scholar, made her professional grand slam debut in this year's Australian Open with a qualifying first-round finish.
Her latest WTA result is an opening-round exit at the 2023 Miami Open as a main draw wild card recipient.