Vamos Alex Eala!

Despite an overall complexion screaming adolescent, prodigy Eala is widely expected to shoulder the load reviving Philippine tennis.

September 14, 2022

Seventeen-year-old Alexandra “Alex” Eala is a 5-foot-9-inch lefty.

And, as tennis lore goes, southpaws trump careless right-handers. Grief which sometimes ends with smashed rackets.

Alex Eala herself paid her dues to southpaws in her historic run to become the first Filipina ever to win a juniors Grand Slam title.

All of Alex’s highly ranked opponents at the juniors US Open — eighth-seed Taylah Preston from Australia, 14th-seed Mirra Andreeva from Russia, ninth-seed Victoria Mboko from Canada, and No. 2 seed Lucie Havlickova of the Czech Republic — were righties.

All ended up crushed in straight sets by Eala’s potent left-handed forehand and two-handed backhand whippings.

Her quick work of Havlickova last weekend particularly had cruel beauty. In only 68 minutes, she downed the No. 2 seed (6-2, 6-4) on Court 11 of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York.

Surely, Eala’s power and success from the left side give conventional tennis wisdom that being a lefty is an advantage in tennis credence.

“Lefties naturally hit with a slight side spin and can serve wide to a righty’s backhand in the ad service box on the most crucial points, and right-handed players suddenly find they need to adjust their tactics in rallies after days or weeks of playing only righty opponents,” an old New York Times report on the lefty says.

Speaking of left-handers, tennis legend Roger Federer, a right-hander, told his biographer Christopher Clarey: “I think it’s nice to have them, because it also changes the dimensions of the court, the way you play. The spins come the way… that puts in a totally different game plan.”

Reshuffling patterns and tactics in a match with a lefty “takes more thinking” noted two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, a lefty.

Legendary lefties in tennis history are Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Monica Seles, and Martina Navratilova.

But no other Open-era tennis player epitomizes the lefty’s stylistic variety than legendary Rafael “Rafa” Nadal — a natural right-hander but plays left-handed — who has won an all-time record of 22 Grand Slams, including a record 14 French Open trophies.

Many say Spanish Nadal has an edge with his playing style, most notably his heavy topspins, two-handed backhands, which proved especially challenging for Federer during their storied duels in Open-era tennis.

After her sensational win, Eala paid deferential homage to her idol Nadal. Not so much on Nadal’s hard-charging style, but more on the crucial tiebreaker when playing the game.

“Not just because I’m in his academy (the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor, Mallorca, Spain),” but that “he fights till the end,” she said in her post-match press conference.

“His thoughts are so clear. He’s so calm, but at the same time, so fired up. I think I really tried to channel that energy during this whole week,” she added, referencing Nadal’s praised mental strength, relentless focus, and clarity of thought under duress, and playing each match point as if it were his last.

“Today, I was able to execute that very well,” champion Eala proudly said.

Eala’s tennis is truly a product of Nadal’s tennis school, where she is a scholar soon after RNA scouted her while reportedly playing in California.

She is now safely cocooned and thriving in RNA with her coaches Josep Salva, Daniel Sala, and Andrian Vaseaux.

Born in Quezon City in 2005 to Mike Eala and former national swimmer Rizza Maniego-Eala, Alex Eala began playing competitive tennis early in her life.

At just 14 years old, Eala made her juniors debut at the 2019 US Open.

This year she spent most of it playing in the pros and bagged recently two pro championships, notching her player rankings in the Women’s Tennis Association to 297.

With her Grand Slam title, Eala is now an irresistible force in Philippine tennis. Charisma even more irresistible and endearing when she sweetly thanked Filipinos who trooped to her finals match in teary-eyed Tagalog.

Despite an overall complexion screaming adolescent, prodigy Eala is widely expected to shoulder the load reviving Philippine tennis.

But she seems ready: “I said that it’s not just my win, it’s all of our wins. I did this not just for myself, I did it so I could help Philippine tennis.”

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