by Margarette Joelly Nunez || Photo Credit: Troi Santos/Rappler Philippines
Alex Eala stamped her name in the book of records as the first Filipino to clinch the Grand Slam singles title after overthrowing World’s No. 3 Lucie Havlickova, 6-2, 6-4, in the finals game of the 2022 US Open Girls Singles in New York last Sunday, September 11 (Manila Time).
The Filipina tennis sensation hatched the best play of the match in the final set at 2-2 with a drop shot-lob-forehand combination, followed by a quick left-handed forehand swift, all to capture the crucial point.
Shaking the early-game jitters off, Eala fell to a 1-2 start in the opening set of the finals game. However, the new record-holder managed to put Czech Republic’s Havlickova in a slump, nabbing five straight games and ending the set at 6-2.
Eager to take back the lost battle, Havlickova put up a hard fight with Eala in the second set, wherein she came off with a 4-3 lead. But the Filipina starlet denied the No. 2 seed of her forceful entry by dominating the next three games that concluded the 68-minute match.
The Rafael Nadal Academy prodigy’s stellar performance clinched her another Grand Slam Juniors title after the two triumphs from doubles 2020 Australian Open and 2021 French Open.
En route to the final match, she stunned Canada’s Annabelle Xu in the first game, 6-3, 6-0; Slovakia’s Nina Vargova in the second round, 6-2, 6-3; Australia’s Taylah Preston, 6-2, 7-6 (1); Russia’s Mirra Andreeva in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-0; and Canada’s Victoria Mboko in the semifinals, 6-1, 7-6 (5).
Eala shares the credit with her tennis icon, Nadal, and the athletic genes in her roots, which sparked her passion for bringing pride to the Philippines.
“Buong puso ko itong ipinaglaban, hindi lang para sa sarili ko kundi para makatulong din ako sa kinabukasan ng Philippine tennis [I fought for this title wholeheartedly, not just for myself but also for the purpose of helping the future of Philippine tennis],” Alex Eala said as she held back her tears during her victory speech.
Finally, she added, “So hindi lang ‘to panalo ko, panalo natin ‘to [This isn’t just my victory, it’s our victory].”