Alex Eala bests American opponent to begin Rancho Santa Fe Open

Rosy Mina

Posted at Oct 06 2022 05:05 AM | Updated as of Oct 06 2022 05:20 AM

Alex Eala at the 2022 US Open Juniors. Photo courtesy of Alex Eala on Instagram.
Alex Eala at the 2022 US Open Juniors. Photo courtesy of Alex Eala on Instagram.

MANILA — Qualifier Alexandra “Alex” Eala of the Philippines is through to the second round of the Rancho Santa Fe Open after routing American wildcard Dalayna Hewitt, 6-1, 2-6, 6-0, on Wednesday in California.

Eala, 17, was off to a smashing start in her first-round main draw match at the $80,000 International Tennis Federation (ITF) event held at Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) World No. 281 overcame seven deuces to break and advance to 4-0, then broke back to serve for the set at 5-1.

She saved three break points and forced two service return errors to wrap up the first set, 6-1.

Hewitt, the 21-year-old WTA World No. 401, upped her serve in the second set by committing zero double faults and firing five aces, including the ace out wide that brought her to a 3-0 lead.

After a brief medical timeout called by Eala, Hewitt widened her lead to 5-2 after saving two break points and forcing a backhand return-of-serve error.

The American broke serve on her second set point via a backhand volley crosscourt winner, 6-2, to send the match to a decider.

Eala flipped the script in the third set by racing to a 3-0 edge, courtesy of a Hewitt double fault.

In the following game, the Filipino fought off two break points and held serve by converting her fourth game point.

Eala broke again to serve for the match at 5-0 after the American hit her 19th double fault of the match, which was more than half of Eala’s total of eight double faults.

At 40-30 in the sixth game, Eala sealed the match at 6-0 after forcing a backhand service return error. 

In the second round, Eala will play against 23-year-old Canadian and WTA World No. 280 Katherine Sebov, whom she beat in straight sets at the W60 Madrid semifinals in June. 

The reigning US Open girls’ singles champion began her W80 Rancho Santa Fe campaign as the No. 2 seed in qualifying, where she moved past Latvian Deniza Marcinkevica, 6-1, 6-3, and American Alana Smith, 6-0, 6-0.

Following her recent feat in New York where she became the first Filipino to win a junior singles grand slam title, Eala resumed her participation in the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour, where she has won the 2021 W15 Manacor and 2022 W25 Chiang Rai titles.

The Rafa Nadal Academy scholar is among the recipients of the 2022 ITF Grand Slam Development Programme.

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