MANILA – Alexandra “Alex” Eala of the Philippines is the first Filipino to reach a junior grand slam singles final after posting a hard-fought semifinal triumph at the US Open on Friday in New York City.
No. 10 seed Eala, a two-time junior doubles grand slam champion, defeated No. 9 seed Victoria Mboko of Canada, 6-1, 7-6(5), on Court 12 of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
In her second junior slam singles semifinal since the 2020 Roland Garros, Eala took a 3-1 lead by breaking back on her fourth break opportunity with a swift backhand crosscourt winner.
The 17-year-old Rafa Nadal Academy scholar continued to dominate the first set by forcing errors from her 16-year-old Canadian foe.
Serving for the set at 5-1, Eala held at love, 6-1, after Mboko netted a forehand.
The battle for a place in the final escalated in the second set, where Mboko broke serve on her third chance to be at 3-1 after Eala hit a long forehand approach shot.
Eala caught up by getting the break back with an explosive forehand winner and holding serve courtesy of a long backhand shot by Mboko.
The 16-year-old Canadian clinched a crucial service break on her second opportunity in the eighth game with a solid forehand down-the-line winner.
As Mboko was serving for the set at 5-3, Eala broke serve after Mboko sliced a forehand long.
They reached a 6-6 deadlock and proceeded to clash in a tiebreak, which was neck-and-neck until Eala secured a pivotal mini break with a forehand crosscourt winner to be at 5-4.
She gained two match points at 6-4 by forcing a long service return, but Mboko fought off the first match point with a backhand service return winner.
On her second match point, Eala broke into tears after claiming the victory, 7-6(5), following a double fault committed by Mboko.
Eala, a singles quarterfinalist and doubles semifinalist in 2021, started her US Open Juniors campaign with quick victories over Canadian Annabelle Xu in the first round, 6-3, 6-0, and Slovakian Nina Vargova in the second round, 6-2, 6-3.
She defeated No. 8 seed Australian Taylah Preston in the third round, 6-2, 7-6(1), and No. 14 seed Russian Mirra Andreeva in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-0.
In her maiden junior slam singles final on Saturday, Eala will face Czech No. 2 seed Lucie Havlickova, who ousted Russian No. 7 seed Diana Shnaider, 6-4, 6-4.
As for the Junior Girls’ Doubles event, No. 4 seeds Eala and Andreeva ousted American wildcards Shannon Lam and Iva Jovic in the first round, 6-2, 6-2, before giving a walkover to Germans Carolina Kuhl and Ella Seidel in the second round.
Eala, a former International Tennis Federation Juniors World No. 2, triumphed in the girls’ doubles finals at the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 Roland Garros.
Since January, the Women’s Tennis Association World No. 297 has been competing in professional tournaments with two titles under her belt: the 2022 W25 Chiang Rai and 2021 W15 Manacor.