Eala's US Open win inspires players, enthusiasts at Villasis tennis tournament

Rosy Mina

Posted at Dec 04 2022 06:47 PM

Pangasinan tennis scene feels Alex Eala's inspiration 1
Pangasinan tennis scene feels Alex Eala's inspiration 2
Pangasinan tennis scene feels Alex Eala's inspiration 3
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2022 US Open Girls’ Singles champion Alex Eala of the Philippines. Photo courtesy of SPOTV NOW.

Participants of the Villasis Tennis Club First Quadrangular Invitational Tennis Tournament in Pangasinan take the Oath of Sportsmanship. Photo courtesy of Rosy Mina.

All smiles at the Villasis Tennis Club First Quadrangular Invitational Tennis Tournament in Pangasinan. Photo courtesy of Boying Reyes.

Participants of the Villasis Tennis Club First Quadrangular Invitational Tennis Tournament in Pangasinan. Photo courtesy of Boying Reyes.

MANILA – More than two months since her title triumph in New York, Alex Eala’s historic US Open Juniors singles crown remains to be the talk of the town in Villasis, Pangasinan.

During the Villasis Tennis Club (VTC) First Quadrangular Invitational Tennis Tournament, not only was Eala’s achievement mentioned but also her drive to help contribute to Philippine tennis.

“When Alex Eala won the junior championship in the US Open, she said, ‘Para makatulong din ako sa kinabukasan ng Philippine tennis.’ Sana ito ay maging inspirasyon sa ibang probinsya alang-alang sa improvement and development ng tennis sa Pilipinas,” co-tournament director Boy Mina said during the opening ceremony.

Co-tournament director Boying Reyes added that Eala, the first Filipino junior singles grand slam champion, motivates aspiring aces and even casual club players who are just as passionate about tennis.

“Naging inspirasyon ng mga tennis players si Alex Eala, especially sa young ones. Then kaming matatanda naman, very supportive sa mga bata,” Reyes told ABS-CBN News. 

The tournament, held from November 19 to 20 at the VTC Tennis Court at the Saint Anthony Abbot Parish Ground, featured tennis clubs from the Pangasinan towns of Villasis, Bayambang, Calasiao, and Metro Tayug composed of Tayug, Santa Maria, San Quintin, Natividad, and San Nicolas. 

The event is the brainchild of Villasis Water District Board Member Noli “3-1” Sales, who remarked that it was done “for the love of tennis.” 

He beamed upon seeing Facebook posts on the tournament, “Na-pro-promote natin ‘yung tennis with this activity.”

He also praised the 17-year-old Eala, who won the girls’ doubles titles at the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 Roland Garros. 

“Napansin ang tennis dahil sa kaniya. Noon, ‘di masyado. Ngayon, may awareness,” said Sales. “Sana magtuluy-tuloy ang success niya para laman pa rin ng balita ang tennis.”

A sport worth promoting

After 18 doubles matches in the B+, B-, and C classes, Calasiao Tennis Club emerged as the champion with seven wins, thereby receiving PHP 10,000 cash and a trophy.

Host VTC achieved five wins, Metro Tayug Tennis Club finished with four wins, and Bayambang Tennis Club notched two wins. The winning tandems received their medals after every match. 

Pangasinan 5th District Board Member Nicholi Jan Louie Sison graced the tournament, while retired Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Divina of Metro Tayug gave an inspirational talk.

Among those who bagged medals in their respective categories were Natividad Vice Mayor Rodrigo “Cocoy” Rafael and former San Nicolas Mayor Leoncio “Jangget” Saldivar III. 

Rafael, a former mayor of Natividad, is overjoyed that Eala is exhibiting a world-class level in a sport which he regards as a “battle of the mind.”

He added, “Kung ano ang pangarap niya, pangarap namin ding mga tennis players,” pertaining to Eala’s big dreams to win a slam as a professional and reach the WTA World No. 1 ranking.

Meanwhile, Saldivar, now a Consultant for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in Pangasinan, believes that local tennis communities must be nurtured.

“I think isa ito sa sports na makakapanalo ang Pilipino ng gold sa Olympics especially dahil may world-class players na tayo,” he said. 

Agreeing that tennis is not just physical but also mental, he commented, “Dapat ma-i-promote ito sa kabataan.”

Eala, other PH aces as role models 

Among the young VTC players whom Eala inspires is 17-year-old Janiel Rodriguez, who won the bronze at the Department of Educations’ Region I Athletic Association (R1AA) Meet in 2019. 

Before 2019 ended, Rodriguez won the gold at the Pangasinan II Division Meet to earn a slot at the 2020 R1AA, which was unfortunately called off due the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite this setback, she still persevered, thanks to the guidance of her father and coach, VTC President Nelson Rodriguez, as well as her tennis learnings of being patient and calm under pressure, plus the inspiration provided by Eala.

“‘Pag pagod ako, it is not an excuse,” she said at the sidelines of the quadrangular tournament. “Pagod din siya pero narating niya ang mataas na level.”

Eala, a former ITF Juniors World No. 2, has two singles titles on the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour from the 2021 W15 Manacor in Spain and 2022 W25 Chiang Rai in Thailand.

Apart from Eala, other Filipinos making waves overseas are Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales, who each claimed three ATP Challenger doubles titles this year.

Francis Casey Alcantara, who also competes on the ATP Challenger Tour, bagged three ITF Men’s World Tennis Tour doubles crowns this season.

On the juniors side, Joewyn Rey Pascua and Axl Lajon Gonzaga won back-to-back titles at the 2022 J5 Yogyakarta in Indonesia. 

Pascua brought home two more titles this year from Vietnam: the J5 Tay Ninh singles and J4 Ho Chi Minh City doubles championships.

For Rodriguez, she is greatly driven by the current crop of Filipino international tennis champions. 

“Kapag ayaw ko na at gustong sumuko, iniisip ko if sila kaya nila, kakayanin ko rin ‘yun,” said the Grade 11 student of Don Ramon E. Costales Memorial National High School in Villasis.

The love for tennis goes on

Eala and her fellow Filipino players were not just mentioned at VTC during the quadrangular tournament.

Club members casually talk about Eala’s WTA ranking, which reached a career-high of World No. 214 on October 31, making her the highest ranked Filipino on the WTA Tour.

They also wonder about her next tournaments and if the current WTA World No. 217 will soon compete as a pro in the four grand slams.

Another recent topic of discussion is 17-year-old rising star Pascua, who hails from Mapandan, Pangasinan. 

As Eala and other Filipino aces continue to inspire tennis players and aficionados, tournament participants also vowed to carry on with promoting their favorite sport.

“May talo, may panalo, pare-pareho lang. Ang importante, camaraderie,” stated VTC President Rodriguez during the closing ceremony of the multi-town tilt. 

Sportsmanship was evident during the matches, wherein occasional disputes of line calls were quickly resolved.

Team members did not only cheer for their townmates but also hailed great shots from their opponents. Off the court, they bonded over breakfast, lunch, and unlimited coffee.

Tournament participants then ensured to hold a second leg, with Calasiao Tennis Club proposing a drawing of lots to determine the next host. 

Metro Tayug, through Rafael and Saldivar, subsequently volunteered to host the next edition. 

Meanwhile, shortly after hosting its first quadrangular tournament, VTC is set to hold another event this month, a non-competitive one at that.

It will be another free tennis clinic helmed by VTC President Rodriguez, who teaches the sport to whoever is interested, including out-of-school youth, for as long as they are aged 8 and above.

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