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MANILA, Philippines – Alex Eala bowed out of the 19th Asian Games singles tennis tournament with her head held high, as she copped a bronze medal following a valiant 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-3 loss to top-seeded, world No. 23 Zheng Qinwen in Hangzhou, China on Thursday, September 28.
Down 2-5 in the second set, Eala somehow found new wind in her legs with her back against the wall, surviving match point after match point and game after game before forcing a tiebreak that she also eventually escaped by the skin of her teeth, 7-5.
Running on fumes, the world No. 190 Filipina star willed herself to an unlikely 3-1 lead in the third set over her 20-year-old foe, opening a small window for possibly the Philippines’ best Asian Games tennis finish in 61 years, or since Johnny Jose won gold in men’s singles in 1962.
Eala’s gas tank, however, sputtered to empty just as Zheng was finally getting back into form. The Chinese standout – who reached a career-high world No. 19 this year before settling at 23 – rained down a volley of shots in the end, pinning Eala’s score right where it was with a five-game swing for the win.
Despite the loss, the 18-year-old Eala still won Philippine tennis’ first Asian Games medal since 2006, when Cecil Mamiit also won bronze in men’s singles competition in Doha, Qatar.
Eala’s second-set win is also a great sign of things to come, as it marked the first time in her career she won over a player inside the World Tennis Association’s (WTA) top 25. – Rappler.com