ALEXANDRA “ALEX” EALA has spent the last five years bereft of a normal teen life. She’s been smashing one tennis ball after another with her racket under any weather condition away from home at the Rafa Nadal Academy in far away Mallorca, Spain.
But all that hardwork, effort and sacrifices yielded a very amazing result at dawn Sunday, when the country was far asleep.
At past midnight Sunday, Eala, 17, was beating Lucie Havlickova of the Czech Republic at the US Tennis Association Billie Jean King Tennis Center Court 11 in Flushing Meadows, New York.
And before she knew it, she won, 6-2, 6-4, a bewildered and shocked look on her face in the process dropping her racket.
Eala, the 2022 US Open girls’ juniors champion.
“I fought wholeheartedly not only for myself but also to help the future of Philippine tennis,” Eala said, and in Filipino, during the post-match on-court victory speech. “My victory is not only for me—it’s the victory of every Filipino.”
She toppled a giant of sorts at Flushing Meadows—she was ranked No. 10 while Havlickova was No. 3.
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“First of all, I would like to thank my family. Without them, I do not know if I can achieve this,” Eala said. “I would like to also thank those who prayed, to my sponsors and my teammates, to Rafael Tennis Academy.”
No other Filipino has accomplished what Eala did at the US Open—even the late great Felicisimo Ampon whose illustrious career marked with Davis Cup, international and continental victories was missing a major trophy.
Eala trailed 1-2 in the opening frame but won the next five games to make the first-set win a virtual walk in the park.
She was also down, 3-4, in the second set, but showed nerves of steel translated into crisp and lethal returns to bag the next three sets for the match and the trophy.
How sweet it was and now, Eala is heaping praises from all over.
“It’s the start of many beautiful things to come for her. It’s historic and inspiring,” Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said. “She inspires a lot of young players to continue or start playing tennis.”
“Alex would go a long, long way in her tennis career, which is just budding,” Tolentino said. “We expect Alex to bring more honors to the country.”
Newly-appointed Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Noli Eala, the US Open champion’s uncle, expressed appreciation for Eala.
“What a way to start my chairmanship of the PSC. My own niece gave the country another reason to be proud and to celebrate. Amazing,” Eala said in a tweet.
Senators were as proud as the country’s sports leaders. “Salamat at mabuhay ka, Alex Eala, sa pagiging isang maningning na inspirasyon sa mga kabataan at sa ating bayan sa iyong panalo sa US Open,” Senator Pia Cayetano said. “Hanggang sa mga susunod mo pang tagumpay!”
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano was as ecstatic as his senator-sportswoman sister.
“We are truly blessed with incredibly talented athletes! Congratulations to Alex Eala for being the first Filipina to win a junior Grand Slam singles title at the 2022 US Open!” Alan Peter Cayetano said.
“Ipinagmamalaki ka ng ating bansa at ipinagdarasal namin ang iyong patuloy na tagumpay,” he said. “Inspirasyon ka sa ating mga kabataan dahil sa iyong galing, sipag, at dedikasyon.”
“Our heartfelt congratulations to Alex Eala for winning the 2022 US Open junior girls tournament and bringing home the Philippines’s first ever singles grand slam title in tennis,” Sen. Nancy Binay said.
“Maraming salamat, Alex, sa karangalan at papuri na iyong inaani para sa bansa,” Binay said. “Isa kang inspirasyon sa bawat Pilipino at patunay na anumang pangarap ay kaya nating abutin basta’t mayroon tayong pagsisikap, tiyaga, at pananampalataya sa sarili at sa Maykapal.”