Tennis: Alex Eala achieves singles-doubles title sweep in Milan juniors tilt

Rosy Mina

Posted at Jul 18 2021 07:17 PM | Updated as of Jul 18 2021 08:15 PM

Tennis: Alex Eala achieves singles-doubles title sweep in Milan juniors tilt 1
Alex Eala. Courtesy of Trofeo Bonfiglio website and Francesco Panunzio

MANILA — No. 1 seed Alex Eala of the Philippines sustained her dominance in the JA Milan 61° Trofeo Bonfiglio tilt by clinching the singles championship Sunday in Italy, a day after she bagged the girls’ doubles crown with Madison Sieg of the United States.

Juniors No. 3 Eala stunned No. 16 seed Nikola Bartunkova of Czech Republic in the final, 6-3, 6-3, at Campo Tribuna in Tennis Club Milano Alberto Bonacossa.

Eala cruised to a 4-1 lead, and converted a break to serve for the opening set at 5-1. Bartunkova replied with a break to trail at 5-2, then saved set points to inch closer at 5-3. Eala took the set, 6-3, on her third set point.

The Filipino ace gained a 4-1 edge in the second set and Bartunkova broke to catch up at 4-2. Eala answered back with a break to serve for the match at 5-2. The Czech fought off three match points to break and trail at 5-3. Eala finally claimed the title on her fourth match point, 6-3, with a break of serve.

On Saturday, Eala and Sieg outlasted Sofia Costoulas of Belgium and Lucija Ciric Bagaric of Croatia, 6-4, 4-6, 13-11, in the girls’ doubles final of the Grade A clay tournament.

Eala’s singles-doubles sweep in JA Milan last happened in 2016 courtesy of Olesya Pervushina of Russia. Since the prestigious Trofeo Bonfiglio was founded in 1959, the singles-doubles sweep has happened in the tournament at least seven times.

For the 16-year-old Filipino, this isn’t the first time that she won the singles and doubles titles of a tournament. In 2018, she claimed the singles and doubles crowns at the I Trofeo David Ferrer. The surface was also clay.

SUPREME IN SINGLES

With her title win on Sunday, Eala is now part of the Trofeo Bonfiglio girls’ singles roll of champions, which features Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens, Belinda Bencic, Dominika Cibulkova, Anna Kournikova, Gabriela Sabatini, and Virginia Wade.

Eala began her singles campaign in Milan by easily defeating Brenda Fruhvirtova of Czech Republic in the first round, 6-1, 6-2, and Kayla Cross of Canada in the second round, 6-1, 6-1.

She went on to score difficult wins over No. 13 seed Ksenia Zaytseva of Russia in the third round, 7-6(3), 4-6, 7-5, and No. 6 seed Costoulas in the quarterfinals, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4. 

The top seed then trumped 14-year-old Mirra Andreeva of Russia, 7-5, 6-2, in the semifinal before edging out Bartunkova in the final in straight sets. 

Eala and Bartunkova are now 1-1 in the head-to-head as the Czech beat the Filipino in the quarterfinals of the 2019 ITF World Junior Tennis Finals.

The JA Milan is Eala’s fourth junior singles crown, following the titles she won at the 2019 JA Cape Town, 2018 Phinma-PSC International Juniors 1, and 2018 I Trofeo David Ferrer.

In the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour, the WTA World No. 630 has one professional title which she won in January at the W15 Manacor tournament in Spain.

DAZZLING IN DOUBLES

Following their hard-fought doubles title win on Saturday, Eala and Sieg join the list of Trofeo Bonfiglio girls’ doubles champions, which includes Victoria Azarenka and Olga Govortsova, Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci, and Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Barbora Strycova. 

The JA Milan doubles crown is the fifth girls’ doubles title for Eala, following her wins at the 2021 Roland Garros Junior Championships with Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia, 2020 Australian Open Junior Championships with Priska Madelyn Nugroho of Indonesia, 2019 JA Plantation with Evialina Laskevich of Belarus, and 2018 I Trofeo David Ferrer with Joelle Lilly Sophie Steur of Germany.

The road to the Milan final saw No. 1 seeds Eala and Sieg overcoming Stefania Bojica of Romania and Matilde Jorge of Portugal in the first round, 6-2, 6-1, and Anastasiia Gureva and Ekaterina Maklakova of Russia in the second round, 6-3, 3-6, 10-7.

They proceeded to defeat two more Russian tandems: Zaytseva and Yaroslava Bartashevich in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-3, and No. 5 seeds Kira Pavlova and Diana Shnaider, 6-3, 6-4, in the semifinals before conquering the final at the expense of Costoulas and Ciric Bagaric.

THE RETURN OF TROFEO BONFIGLIO 

The JA Milan, which made a comeback this year with its 61st edition after being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prides itself as being among the most important junior events in the world. The Trofeo Bonfiglio Hall of Fame web page states, “The champions of tomorrow… today!”

Its first champion in 1959 was Sergio Tacchini. Other notable boys’ singles winners are Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Goran Ivanisevic, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Alexander Zverev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

In the boys’ doubles, among the past champions are Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki, Andy Roddick and Julien Cassaigne, Guillermo Coria and David Nalbandian, and Thomas Johansson and Magnus Norman. 

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