MANILA—Filipino tennis star Alex Eala continued her maiden run at a $60,000 International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament with a thrilling come-from-behind Round 2 win Wednesday in Bellinzona, Switzerland.
The 15-year-old World No. 715 overpowered 32-year-old World No. 206 Laura-Ioana Paar of Romania, 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-0, to reach the 3rd round where she will face World No. 284 Simona Waltert of Switzerland.
It was the second meeting between Eala and Paar, the No. 12 seed who got a bye in the first round.
With her 2nd round result at W60 Bellinzona, Eala improved to a 2-0 head-to-head with Paar, whom the Filipino defeated in 3 sets in the W25 Grenoble opener in February.
In their rematch on clay in Switzerland, Eala was the first to convert a break point in the fourth game of the opening set after forcing deuce with a forehand return of serve winner. This gave the Filipino a 3-1 lead.
The next five games were won through breaks of serve until Paar held to level at 5-5. The Romanian churned out a crucial break to lead at 6-5 and Eala responded with a break to bring the first set to a tiebreak.
Paar led the decider 3-0, and Eala secured two consecutive mini breaks to catch up at 3-4. Down 4-6, Eala saved two set points to equalize at 6-6. Paar broke to set up her third set point, which she won to clinch the tiebreak, 8-6.
Eala turned things around in the second set where her first serve improved to 67 percent from 58 percent in the first set. Eala took a 4-1 advantage despite Paar forcing the fifth game into deuce. Eala went on to claim the second set on her first set point, 6-1, in just 31 minutes.
The Filipino ace sustained her momentum in the final set where she quickly took a 5-0 lead. Down 0-40 in the sixth game, Eala challenged Paar further to catch up at deuce, eventually setting up her first match point. She converted the break opportunity to prevail 6-0.
In the 3rd round, Eala will have another rematch with Swiss wildcard Waltert, whom she faced twice in Spain last month. Their head-to-head is 1-1 with Eala prevailing in the W25 Manacor first round and Waltert taking revenge the week after in the W15 Manacor opener.
Eala, the 2020 Australian Open junior girls doubles champion and a 2020 Roland Garros girls singles semifinalist, made it to the W60 Bellinzona main draw as a junior exempt due to her ITF Juniors year-end No. 3 ranking in 2020.
The Rafa Nadal Academy scholar kicked off her W60 debut on Tuesday with a 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over World No. 323 Margot Yerolymos of France.
According to ITFTennis.com, the W60 Bellinzona is Eala’s “biggest tournament of her fledgling career on the ITF World Tennis Tour.”
The ITF article continued: “One of only five 15-year-olds to have won a professional women’s title in the last three years, Eala certainly isn’t any old teenager — ringing endorsements from a 20-time Grand Slam champion confirm that,” pertaining to Spanish superstar Nadal.