Heartbreak at Roland Garros: Alex Eala falls short in French Open main draw bid

Ariel Ian Clarito

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Heartbreak at Roland Garros: Alex Eala falls short in French Open main draw bid

REPRESENT. Alex Eala of the Philippines in action in the 2024 French Open.

Alex Eala's Facebook page

In a match that could have gone either way, Alex Eala misses the chance to mark her 19th birthday with a historic Grand Slam berth after bowing to Argentina’s Julia Riera in the final qualifier of the French Open

MANILA, Philippines – On the day she turned 19 years old, Alex Eala missed out on making history.

Eala fell short of her breakthrough bid to become the first Filipino female player in the modern era to earn a spot in the Grand Slam main draw when she fell to Julia Riera of Argentina, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, in the last round of the French Open qualifiers on Thursday, May 23. 

The deciding thid set saw Riera attempting to pull ahead when she went up 4-2, but Eala would not go away easily and leveled the count anew at 4-4. 

Alas, the Filipina teen could not hold on to her serve in the ninth game, enabling Riera to pocket the next two games and steal the match.

Eala did not lack effort and resilience in a match that could have gone either way. 

The world No. 160 Eala scored more points than Riera the entire match (108 vs 104) and had better first serve percentage (75% vs 59%). Eala also committed just two double faults, but these came in the crucial stage of the third set.

Coming in as a clear but live underdog, Eala got off to another slow start and found herself trailing 0-4 in the first set against the world No. 93 Riera. 

But the 5-foot-9 Eala snapped out of her sluggish early form and racked up the next six games to win the opener, blanking a shell-shocked Riera who had no answer to Eala’s sudden surge.

Riera, who is riding a wave of recent success after winning the ITF W100 Wiesbaden Tennis Open in Germany and ITF W75 Axion Open in Switzerland this past month, gained control of the second set when she opened a 5-3 lead.

But just like Eala’s second-round encounter against Taylah Preston of Australia – where she trailed in every set but rallied each time to eventually win the match in three sets the previous day – the Filipina once again displayed indomitable resolve and drew even at 6-6 to send the set to a tiebreak. 

Riera, however, would not be denied, jumping to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreak, providing her enough cushion to close out the set, 7-6 (3), and extend the match to a decider.

With the win, Riera will be one of the 16 qualifiers who will join a main draw cast made up of the best players in the women’s tour. 

Nineteen out of the top 20 players in the world will see action at the famed red clay courts of Roland Garros, led by world No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland, who will gun for her third straight French Open title. –

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