MANILA—Philippine teen tennis sensation Alex Eala bowed out of her inaugural stint at a $60,000 International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament after suffering a 3-set loss in Bellinzona, Switzerland.
World No. 284 Simona Waltert of Switzerland outlasted World No. 715 Eala in the 3rd round, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, in 2 hours and 18 minutes. The Swiss wildcard will go up against No. 13 seed Jana Fett of Croatia in the Round of 8.
Thursday’s match at the Tennis Club Bellinzona clay court was the third meeting between 15-year-old Eala and 20-year-old Waltert, who were 1-1 in their head-to-head entering the event.
Eala was broken in the opening game and she immediately replied with a break. After she took a commanding 4-1 advantage, Waltert began to inch closer in the scoreboard. The Swiss clinched a hard fought break in the 7th game, where they went back and forth at deuce, to trail at 3-4.
At 4-4, Eala’s serve faltered, and a double fault allowed Waltert to serve for the set. Eala broke in the next game to level at 5-5, and Waltert broke back for a second chance to serve for the opening set, which went to the Swiss, 7-5, via a forehand winner.
The Filipino tennis prodigy bounced back in the second set where she took a comfortable 5-1 lead. As Eala was serving for the set, Waltert was able to break to improve to 2-5.
At 5-3, Eala made sure to claim the set on her second attempt. She fired shots with increased power and accuracy, and let out a scream when she secured two set points. Upon forcing a third set at 6-3, Eala was pumped up for the decider.
Both players held serve until Waltert converted a break opportunity to lead at 3-1 after hitting a drop shot, a tactic she used against Eala throughout the match. Faced with a break point in the next game, Waltert let out another drop shot that Eala returned to the corner of the baseline, causing the Filipino to break back and trail at 2-3.
Waltert broke again to extend her lead to 4-2 and then fought off Eala’s two break chances to advance to 5-2. The Swiss went on to break the Filipino’s serve to win the deciding set, 6-2.
Eala’s 3rd-round loss prevented her from reaching what could have been her fifth quarterfinal of the year following her W15 Manacor championship in January and quarters finishes in the succeeding two legs of W15 Manacor in Spain and the W25 Grenoble in France.
The Rafa Nadal Academy scholar was off to a strong start in Switzerland as she trumped World No. 323 Margot Yerolymos of France, 7-6 (6), 6-2, in the 1st round and vanquished World No. 206 Laura-Ioana Paar of Romania, 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-0, in the 2nd round.
Eala, a 2020 Roland Garros girls’ singles semifinalist and 2020 Australian Open junior girls’ doubles champion, entered the W60 Bellinzona main draw as a junior exempt for being the ITF Juniors year-end No. 3 in 2020.