MANILA, Philippines – More than staying on track of her dream to crash the women’s Grand Slam, Alex Eala was highly motivated to take her junior tennis campaign all the way to the championship to honor her late grandfather Roberto “Bobby” Maniego.
“I think that was really the biggest motivation for me going into this Australian Open. And this win is really dedicated to him,” said Eala, who won her first Grand Slam title with Indonesian partner Priska Nugroho in the 2020 Australian Open juniors doubles tournament.
Maniego – who introduced the Filipina teen sensation to the sport – passed away last November while both Eala and her brother Miko were training and studying at the Rafael Nadal Academy.
Although heartbroken, the Aussie Open titlist still felt happy to have fulfilled her grandfather’s dream for her to win a Grand Slam title.
“I’d like to think that he’s proud of me because we’ve been talking about me winning a Grand Slam ever since I started, so you know it was just hopefully the first of many,” added Eala.
Weeks after Maniego’s passing, Miko, 17, copped a title in the 2019 Hellenic Bank Masters Tennis Academy tournament and offered his win to his “Lolo Papa.”
Although not a professional tennis player himself, Maniego became the Eala siblings’ first tennis coach and played a big influence on their winning mentality. (READ: Alex Eala on the rise in PH tennis)
When Alex was two years old, he would already bring her to the sidelines to watch Miko play before eventually feeding her the ball when she was 4 years old.
Since then, Alex would come down on court with a small racket, shod in her kiddie LED light up shoes, to practice hitting with Maniego.
Maniego also fathered a trio of successful athletes as daughter Rizza Maniego-Eala, Eala’s mom, was a 1985 Southeast Asian Games bronze medalist while another daughter was a former national swimmer and a son was also swimmer-turned-tennis player for University of the Philippines.
As Eala continues to train and study in Mallorca, the rising talent vows to give her best in every tournament to return the support and sacrifices made by her family.
“I’m really happy that I get to share this title with them because they are really a big part of why I could win this title and you know, I’m just happy to be home and spend time with my family before I go back for a really long time again,” said Eala, who also reached a career-high world No. 4 juniors ranking after her first Grand Slam title romp.
With her current rank, Eala is assured of a berth in the main draw of the rest of the junior Grand Slams. But she continues to dream big and also aims for a shot at joining high-level women’s tournaments. – Rappler.com