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MANILA, Philippines – A shot at her first ever ITF W40 pro title.
Alex Eala put herself in a position to bag the biggest pro title yet of her career when she gutted out a 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 victory over fourth seed Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany in the semifinals of the ITF W40 Kyotec Open at the Tennis Club Petange in Luxembourg on Saturday, November 18.
After winning her first three matches in the tournament in straight sets, the ninth-seeded Eala was pushed to the limit by Friedsam, a 29-year-old German who was once ranked 45th in the world and has made the fourth round of the Australian Open and the third round of Wimbledon.
The third set proved to be a question of who had enough left in the gas tank.
Eala’s persistence in the two opening sets proved crucial in zapping Friedsam, who after evening the count at 2-2, could not keep up with her young Filipina rival.
The 18-year-old Eala broke Friedsam in the sixth and eighth games to pull off the win after two hours and 30 minutes.
Another triumph will give Eala her fifth pro crown after winning one ITF W15 trophy and three ITF W25 titles.
In the opening set, Eala had to save three break points to prevent Friedsam from taking over the lead. The recent Asian Games double bronze medalist could not convert on a set point in the 10th game as Friedsam showed composure and tied the count at 5-5.
After going up 6-5, Eala would not be denied in the 12th game, scoring the first service break of the match to go up by a set.
The second set was just as close as the opener with the score remaining tied at 4-4. Friedsam made her big push in the ninth game when she had triple break point at 40-0.
Eala fought back valiantly to save two break points, before Friedsam finally gained her first service break of the match to go up 5-4.
The Filipina would not easily give up the second set, saving multiple set points in the 10th game. Friedsam once again dug deep into her well of veteran experience to close out the second set and extend the match to a decider.
Standing in Eala’s quest for the championship will be another veteran foe in third seed Oceane Dodin of France.
The 27-year-old Dodin, who has not dropped a set en route to the finals, has a career-high world ranking of 46 and has seen action in the main draw of all four Grand Slam events, including this year’s French Open where she made the second round.
In the ITF W60 Nantes held two weeks ago, Eala lost in the semifinals to Gabriela Knutson of the Czech Republic. Dodin emerged champion of the tournament after defeating Knutson in the finals.
This will be Eala’s first finals trip in a W40 level event. She made the finals of the ITF Madrid Open, a W60 level event, in 2022 but fell to Marina Bassols Ribera of Spain in straight sets. – Rappler.com