Alex Eala caved in to Alice Rame’s power game and yielded a stinging 2-6, 4-6 defeat to miss the main draw of the W25 Manacor tournament at the Rafael Nadal Academy’s hard court in Majorca, Spain Tuesday.
Eala did survive some of Rame’s loaded serves and forehand hits but just couldn’t sustain her own counterattacks and strikes, blowing a 3-0 lead in the second set and two break points in the 10th game that paved the way for the French ace’s third straight-set win-in-row for a coveted spot in the 32-player main draw of the $25,000 tournament.
While she struggled a bit on her first serves, scoring 19 out of 34, Rame still packed her second blasts with might, going 18-of-34, including the clincher that Eala caught but which failed to clear the net at the near-empty court.
The 16-year-old Filipina, in contrast, grappled with her serves, making five double faults, the last giving Rame the advantage after forcing a deuce in the ninth game following Eala’s strong forehand return that sailed long.
Eala’s next forehand hit slammed into the net as Rame capped a stirring three-game exchange of breaks to go 5-4.
But Eala refused to give up, coming through with a tough down-the-line hit, a crisp backhand volley, and coupled with Rame’s wide forehand shot, she moved a point away from breaking back in the 10th.
That didn’t happen as the top ranked player in the qualifying phase took the next two points to force a deuce then parlayed Eala’s weak backhand lob shot to regain control and unleashed a powerful second serve to finish her rival in 1:54.
It was a sorry setback for Eala, who battled back from an early stumble, 0-2, by taking the next two games, only to yield to her taller, well-built rival in the next four to claim the opening set on back-to-back aces.
But Eala, who got past Slovenia’s Ella Hojnik and Mia Chudejova of Slovakia in straight sets, came out of the break in fiery mode, holding serve via love game then fighting back from 15-40 down with four straight points, including an overhead volley and a drop shot to break Rame.
She appeared to be in control and on her way to forcing a decider after holding serve again in the third game and going 40-15 up in the fourth. But Rame won five of the next six points to snatch the game then broke Eala in the next and held serve to force a 3-all count.
She broke Eala again in the seventh and though the latter broke back in the next, Rame proved clutch and took the ninth game then regrouped in the next to hold serve and frustrate the Rafael Nadal Academy scholar no end.