Dream match foiled as Alex Eala falls to world No. 30 in WTA Madrid Open

Ariel Ian Clarito

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Dream match foiled as Alex Eala falls to world No. 30 in WTA Madrid Open

CHALLENGER. Alex Eala in action in the 2024 WTA Madrid Open.


A win could have pushed Alex Eala to a rare showdown against women's tennis world No. 1 Iga Swiatek

MANILA, Philippines – Alex Eala’s dream matchup with world No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland will have to wait another time. 

The 18-year-old Filipina teen fought in the trenches but could not convert in the end game, falling in three close sets to world No. 30 Sorana Cîrstea of Romania, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4, in the second round of the WTA Mutua Madrid Open on Thursday, April 25. 

It was a heartbreaking defeat for Eala, who fought back from an opening-set loss and staved off match point in the second to still put herself in a position to score another shocker at the red clay court of La Caja Magica in Madrid, Spain.

Eala, the world No. 170 former US Open girls singles champion, punched above her weight and went toe-to-toe with the 34-year-old-old Cirstea. The Romanian is a former quarterfinalist of both the French Open and the US Open. 

The first four games of the first set all resulted in service breaks before Cirstea stepped up her game to zoom to a 5-2 advantage. 

Eala held serve for the first time in the eighth game to narrow the score to 5-3, but Cirstea, the tournament’s 27th seed, would not be denied and sealed the opener on her serve. 

The Filipino teen found herself trailing for most of the second set but managed to stage a rally and force a tiebreak. 

Facing match point at 5-6, Eala scored the next three points to extend the second-round contest to an exciting finale. 

Eala appeared on her way to her second career victory over a top 50 player when she opened a 3-1 lead in the deciding set. 

Cirstea, however, showed her veteran poise and regained control of the match to go up 4-3. Eala tied the count for the last time at 4-4 before Cirstea put her away by pocketing the last two games to close out the long, drawn-out battle which lasted two hours and 17 minutes.

Cirstea will now advance to the third round to face Swiatek who triumphed in two sets over Wang Xiyu of China, 6-1, 6-4.

Eala will have plenty of takeaways from her third campaign in the Madrid Open, a WTA Masters 1000 event, as she’s also expected to jump to around 156th. in the world rankings. 

It was only the second time Eala has advanced past the opening round of a WTA event. She also earned her second career victory over a player ranked in the top 100 when she prevailed over world No. 41 Lesia Tsurenko in the opening round. –  

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