HANGZHOU—Alex Eala’s on a roll in the 19th Asian Games women’s singles competition of tennis following an inspiring 0-6, 7-5, 6-0 come-from-behind victory over Japan’s Kyoka Okamura Wednesday.
She’s now assured of a bronze medal for having reached the semifinal round at the world-class Hangzhou Olympic Tennis Centre that resembles those of Flushing Meadows, All-England Club and Roland Garros complete with an enormous airconditioned center court.
Margielyn Didal, on the other hand, wasn’t the same skateboarding star as she was five years ago when she won gold in women’s street in Palembang, Indonesia.
The metal plates in her left ankle weighed her down in the Huangzhou final on Wednesday morning and she fell off her board in the first and second rounds and in three rounds of the tricks section.
She opted to withdraw with two more tricks across her name on the board.
“I decided not to risk aggravating my injury,” said the 24-year-old Cebuana Didal, who injured her ankle in a major international competition in Brazil October last year.
Eala, 18 and seeded No. 4, groped like a neophyte in the first set with numerous unforced errors to Okamora’s solid baseline game. She was out of her elements that she lost her first serve.
But Eala found her second win and rallied furiously in the second set that went the extra mile, before taking full control in the third set where the 27-year-old Japanese reeled to find her own game back.
Eala, a left-handed player who packs a powerfol double-fisted backhand, faces in the semifinals games top seed Zheng Qinwen of China, who survived South Korea’s Park Sohyn, 7-6 (4), 6-0, in the other quarterfinals matchup Wednesday.
Qinwen came into the Asian Games fresh from her upset of last year’s runner-up Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in New York lasty July.
Eala is ranked No. 192 while Qinwen No. 23 in the International Tennis Federation rankings.
The former US Open juniors champion has already secured the country’s first tennis medal since Cecil Mamiit and Eric Taino bagged two bronze medals in the Doha 2006 edition.
Eala teamed up with Francis Casey Alcantara in mixed doubles against top seed Yuki Bhambri and Ankita Ravinderkrishan Raina of India later Wednesday as Team Philippines—supported by the Philippine Olympic Committee and Philippine Sports Commission—had medal chances in wushu.
It was obvious that Didal’s ankle hasn’t fully healed as she couldn’t run the form that won her one of the four gold medals won in the 2018 Indonesia Asian Games.
She, practically, was half her true form in the eight-athlete final dominated by teenagers—gold medalist Cui Chenxi, who’s 13, fellow Chinese silver medalist Zeng Weh Hui, who’s 18, and Japananese bronze medalist Muyi Ito, who’s 16.
From the get-go, Didal was sore with her performance and could only register 23.39 points, less than a third of what the front-running Chinese and Japanese booked for themselves.
He second run was scratched and made three consecutive zeroes in the trick section before deciding to quit.
It’s now the 2024 Olympics that would pre-occupy Didal, who’s currently ranked No. 40 in the world—the top 44 in the world will qualify for Paris.
While winning gold was extremely difficult for most of the 45 countries seeing action in the games, China made it look so easy and is now looking unreachable atop the tally board with 73 gold medals.
South Korea was still a far second with 17 and Japan in third with 13.
Thailand had three golds, Indonesia three and Singapore two gold medals among the Southeast Asian Games countries.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes (CANON EOS R6)