Jowelson Rangga ||
Red clay staining her pink shoes, Alex Eala brought herself closer to the net. Looking up into the bright French sky, she locked her eyes on the fuzzy, neon green ball her opponent just lobbed at her. Like a spring she coiled for tension, swung back her racket, and delivered a forehand powerful enough to leave skid marks on the powdered bricks coating the tennis court. Her opponent didn’t bother to run for it.
Eala won that point, and eventually, the game, set, and match. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to diminish the once cheery benches of Stade Rolland Garros to a tense silence, the 2020 French Open continues its stretch.
All in the meanwhile, however, high definition cameras ensured that on the other side of the world, her family and her fellow countrymen could see the Philippines represented in one of the most prestigious events in sports.
The 15-year-old Alex hails from a family of athletes, with a mother claiming bronze for swimming in the 1985 SEA games, an ex-PBA commissioner uncle, and a grandfather who pushed her to start playing tennis at the age of four. Throughout the next nine years of her life she was under her lolo’s wing and by her own admission, obtained the mental strength crucial in the sport.
After making her international debut at the age of eight where she won a tennis tilt for young players in Dallas, Texas, she was able to gain traction in the international junior tennis scene. Eventually attracting the attention of scouts from the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy, a training facility run by the 19-time Grand Slam legend himself situated in Nadal’s hometown of Mallorca, Spain. Eala became one of the lucky few able to attain a scholarship at this elite academy along with her brother, who has since graduated and currently plays tennis for Penn State University in the United States.
Alex eventually made it to the semi-finals of the Parisian tilt, before bowing out in straight sets to Elsa Jacquemont of France. Her historic run however, coupled with her prior win in the 2020 Australian Open junior women’s doubles, propelled her to be, as of November 2020, ranked world no.3 in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) girl’s circuit. More than that however, she made it a point to always take pride in representing the Philippines, wherever she might play and in whatever success she may achieve.
In an interview with the ITF, she has since stated:
“I feel that reflects well on the nation and shows how hard we work. The Filipinos are very underrated [in the sporting world], so to be able to add to their status is good.”