NewsSportsTennis

Resilient Alex Eala moves one step closer to Wimbledon main draw

MANILA, Philippines – No quit. All heart.

Eight times, Alex Eala found herself on the brink of getting eliminated. But each time, she refused to give up and eventually snared victory from the jaws of defeat.

And so for the second instance in just a month, Eala stands a win away from making history.

The 19-year-old rallied from a set down and saved eight match points to triumph over former world No. 22 and 2021 French Open semifinalist Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, 1-6, 7-6(9), 6-3, in the second round of the Wimbledon qualifiers on Wednesday, June 26.

It was the third longest ladies singles match for the day, lasting two hours and 33 minutes.

The grueling victory pushed Eala closer to becoming the first Filipina to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam event.

By the time the third set was played, Eala still had some extra bounce in her steps, which kept her on her toes while the 26-year-old Zidansek began to fade fast.

From a 2-2 deadlock, Eala raised her game a notch to seize a 5-2 cushion. It was all over by the ninth game.

Eala got off to a cold start and could hardly put up any resistance in the opening set, only scoring in the sixth game after going down 0-5.

The second set, though, was a showcase of Eala’s tenacity.

Determined to not exit the famed grass courts of Wimbledon just yet, she erected a 4-2 advantage. But it proved to be a gap not too huge for Zidansek to overhaul.

The Slovenian strung together the next three games to go up 5-4, then had two chances to end the match in the 10th game when she held double break point at 40-15.

Yet Eala, the world No, 162, miraculously held serve to even the second set at 5-5 before going into a tiebreak.

The match again appeared all but over when Zidansek, currently 110th in the world, reached triple match point at 6-3. But Eala somehow steeled her nerves and took it a point at a time to level anew at 6-6.

Zidansek, who made the second round of the Wimbledon main draw in 2019, gained three more match points, the last at 9-8, but Eala scored the next three points to win the set and extend it to a decider.

Although Eala may be fueled by the chance to make history, it will not be easy as she faces 23-year-old Lulu Sun of New Zealand next.

Last month, Eala fell just a win short of reaching the French Open main draw.

Previously representing Switzerland where she grew up, Sun is a former US NCAA Division 1 champion when she was a member of the University of Texas in Austin.

And this 2024 is turning out to be Sun’s best year in the professional tour as she achieved a career-high world ranking of 123 just this week. She won the ITF W50 Roehampton in Great Britain last February, defeating hometown bet and former world No. 38 Heather Watson in the final.

Just this May, Sun bagged the biggest tournament of her career when she emerged champion of the ITF W100 Bonita Springs in the United States. – Rappler.com

Got comments, questions, or insights about this story? Head to the sports chat room of the Rappler Communities app, available for iOS, Android, or web. Access our chat rooms by tapping the Community tab on the app. See you there!

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button