MANILA – The W80 debut of Alexandra “Alex” Eala continued to be a success as the Filipino qualifier made it to the Rancho Santa Fe Open quarterfinals in California on Thursday.
The Rancho Santa Fe Open is an $80,000 event on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Women’s World Tennis Tour.
Eala, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) World No. 281, posted a 7-6(6), 6-2 second-round victory over WTA World No. 280 Katherine Sebov of Canada at the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club.
Although the 17-year-old Filipino won in straight sets, she had to overcome shaky starts in both sets, including the tiebreak.
Eala trailed the 23-year-old Canadian, 1-4, until she equalized with a service hold at 40-30.
The players exchanged service breaks twice to be at 6-6, and proceeded to a tiebreak where Sebov advanced to 5-3 after clinching her third mini break.
Eala fought on to 5-6, then held serve twice to earn a set point at 7-6. Her fourth mini break clinched the first set, 7-6(6).
In the second set, an Eala double fault handed Sebov a 2-0 lead. But the Filipino quickly broke back then held to love to level at 2-2.
The fifth game went the distance with six deuces, and it went in favor of Eala, who was able to convert her fourth break opportunity.
At 4-2 in the seventh game, she managed to gain two break points, the second of which was earned at deuce via a precise forehand down-the-line winner.
A decisive Eala forehand drop shot caused Sebov to return with a netted forehand approach shot, allowing the Filipino to serve for the match at 5-2.
With three match points on hand, she let out a backhand crosscourt winner to secure the victory, 6-2, and improve her head-to-head record versus Sebov to 2-0.
In the quarters, she will face a more senior opponent in 28-year-old Mexican and WTA World No. 229 Marcela Zacarias.
Eala’s run at the W80 Rancho Santa Fe began with straight-sets wins in the qualifying draw over Latvian Deniza Marcinkevica, 6-1, 6-3, and American Alana Smith, 6-0, 6-0.
In the first round of the main draw, she bested American wildcard Dalayna Hewitt, 6-1, 2-6, 6-0.
Eala, who became the first Filipino to win a junior singles grand slam title at the US Open last month, is aiming for her third professional title on the ITF Tour.
She won her maiden pro championship in 2021 at the W15 Manacor in Spain, and followed this up in April with the W25 Chiang Rai crown in Thailand.
The former ITF Juniors World No. 2, who also has two junior girls’ doubles slam titles, bagged three bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Games in May for singles, mixed doubles, and the women’s team event.