MANILA (UPDATED) — Alex Eala of the Philippines marked another first in her blossoming professional career with a debut win at a $60,000 International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament in Switzerland on Tuesday.
The 15-year-old Filipino kicked off her W60 debut with a victory against 23-year-old Margot Yerolymos of France, 7-6(6), 6-2, in 2 hours and 2 minutes at the Tennis Club Bellinzona clay court.
World No. 715 Eala entered the W60 Bellinzona main draw as a junior exempt while World No. 323 Yerolymos was a lucky loser. Both players are ITF singles champions: Eala has one hardcourt title from the 2021 W15 Manacor first leg while Yerolymos has four clay titles and one hardcourt title.
At 1-1 in the opening set, Yerolymos converted a break point to lead at 2-1. They held serve in the next two games and with Eala trailing at 2-3, she had three break opportunities in the sixth game. Eala was able to break in her third attempt but Yerolymos broke back in the next game.
The eighth game was crucial as Eala broke again to level at 4-4. The Filipino ace then fought off two break points to take the lead, 5-4. The French replied with a hold of serve to even the first set at 5-5. They each held serve, with Yerolymos forcing a tiebreak.
They scored points through mini-breaks, until Eala finally held serve in the tiebreak to lead at 5-3. Yerolymos managed to catch up at 5-5 and then at 6-6. The Filipino clinched the tiebreak, 8-6, on her second set point.
In the second set, Eala cruised to a 3-0 advantage and it took Yerolymos four break point chances to get on the scoreboard, trailing at 1-3. The French held serve and Eala responded with her own hold of serve to have a 4-2 lead.
The Filipino had a pivotal break in the seventh game that allowed her to serve for the set at 5-2. Yerolymos tried to hold off Eala by saving two match points, but the Filipino teen asserted herself as she closed off the match, 6-2.
Eala will next play World No. 206 Laura-Ioana Paar of Romania, the No. 12 seed, who got a bye in the first round. In February, Eala and Paar faced off in France at the W25 Grenoble opener which Eala won, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
Prior to her W60 debut, Eala received a wildcard to the Miami Open qualifying draw where she went out in the first round against Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova in March. The Rafa Nadal Academy scholar, 2020 Australian Open Junior Girls’ Doubles champion, and 2020 Roland Garros Girls’ Singles semifinalist shared with Philippine media members that her brief stint in the Miami Open is still a good learning experience.