Alex Eala stays hungry as she is set to play two professional tournaments in California in the coming weeks with the hope of crashing the Top 200 Women’s Tennis Association, according to her Filipino coach Karl Santamaria.
“She will try to push her ranking below 200 by yearend so she can play the Australian swing in January and February and try to qualify for the Australian Open end of January,” said Santamaria who is now based in Melbourne.
Eala, who turned 17 last month, is currently ranked 297, having reached a career-high 280 in August.
The young prodigy is fresh from a historic victory in the US Open girls’ singles in Flushing Meadows, New York.
Eala has been on a roll since being invited as a scholar at the famed Rafael Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain four years ago.
She got the invite after winning the Les Petits As 2018 in France, the unofficial world championship for players 14 years and under.
Only 12, Eala defeated Czech Linda Noskova in the final.
“Nadal Academy approached Mike (Eala’s father) and negotiated Alex and Miko (brother) moving to Mallorca,” Santamaria recalled.
“I was all for it as this was really a great time to move to Europe if she was going to become a world-class player.”
The academy is home to around 150 players at any given time and charges around $62,000 a year for tennis lessons and school. That’s roughly P3.5 million.
Eala’s scholarship is paid for by friends and benefactors of the academy who donate between 3 and 4 million euros for scholars a year.
“The funds are also used to pay the coaches and living expenses for the player,” Santamaria said.
The other expenses – for the travel of Eala and her coach – are paid for by her parents.
The academy has drawn some of the world’s best players.
In the just-ended US Open, the academy almost scored a clean sweep.
Polish Iga Swiatek, the women’s champion, trained at the academy when she was 17.
Norway’s Casper Ruud, who lost in the men’s final against Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, has been training there since he was 18.
Martin Landaluce, the boys’ singles winner, also trains at the academy.
“It’s the advertisement and exposure to the tennis world that the best players are training there,” Santamaria noted.
He believes her student will go full-time professional.
“At her trajectory, college is not in the immediate plans,” Santamaria said.
Meanwhile, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. lauded Eala after she became the first Filipino to win a Grand Slam title.
“It is with immense sense of pride and joy that I congratulate Alex Eala on her historic win at the US Open Junior Girls’ Singles Championship,” Marcos said in a statement.
“Another Filipina has raised our flag and made our nation proud. To Alex, thank you for the honor you brought us, and, we, your kababayans wish you the best in your journey ahead.”
Philippine Sports Commission chairperson said he is very much willing to arrange Eala’s courtesy call to the Chief Executive.
But upon checking with Eala’s father, Mike, he was told that she will be very busy in the next three weeks.
“I was told by my cousin, Mike, that she still has a lot of tournaments to play in the next three weeks” said Eala, the paternal uncle of the country’s latest tennis sensation.
“But I will do everything to make the courtesy call possible. She deserves to have an audience with our President.”
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