Steely Alex Eala inches closer to French Open main draw 

Ariel Ian Clarito

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Steely Alex Eala inches closer to French Open main draw 

GUTSY. Filipina tennis star Alex Eala in action in the 2024 French Open qualifiers.


Ranged against an opponent who knew her game quite well, Alex Eala survives in the trenches to inch closer to a historic appearance in the French Open main draw

MANILA, Philippines – Alex Eala came back from the grave and snatched a victory that, at various points in the match, seemed improbable. 

In the process, she kept her hopes of a maiden Grand Slam main draw berth alive. 

Eala inched closer to a historic appearance in the French Open main draw after she prevailed over 18-year-old Taylah Preston of Australia, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, on Wednesday, May 22, in the second round of the qualifiers at Roland Garros. 

Turning 19 on Thursday, May 23, Eala was coming off a dominant display in the opening round where she dismantled world No. 197 Ma Ye-Xin of China, 6-1, 6-1, on Monday, May 20. 

The world No. 137 Preston was equally impressive in the opening round, prevailing in straight sets over Croatia’s Tara Wurth, who, just the previous week, bagged the title in the ITF W75 Zagreb.

Eala realized early on that she would have to be prepared to fight in the trenches against an opponent who knew her game quite well. 

On her way to the 2022 US Open girls singles title, Eala defeated Preston in straight sets in the Round of 16. The two also partnered in the doubles competition of the WTA 125 Oeiras in Portugal last April. 

In what turned out to be a test of nerves, Eala and Preston figured in a see-saw battle in the deciding third set. 

The world No. 160 Eala got things started with a service break, but Preston showed that she too had the ability to bounce back as she broke the Filipina in the second game. 

Another exchange of service breaks ensued to keep the score even at 2-2. 

Preston regained control of the match and jumped to a 4-2 lead, which would have taken the juice out of other opponents. 

But Eala proved that she was no ordinary opponent.

The Filipina came alive and collared the next three games to seize the upper hand at 5-4. 

Preston managed to tie anew in the 10th game, but that proved to be her final stand. 

Eala broke Preston for the 11th time in the match in the 11th game of the deciding set, then held serve in the 12th game to come out with a victory.

In the opening set, Preston opened a 4-1 lead by breaking Eala twice. 

The Filipino slowly started getting her groove and claimed the next three games to tie the count at 4-4, only for Preston to break serve in the 10th game to give the Australian a one-set advantage. 

The second set was developing into a repeat of the second set with Preston erecting a 4-2 advantage. 

Just when Eala appeared down and out, she summoned whatever vestiges of fight she had left and claimed the next four games to steal the set from a stunned Preston. 

Eala will have little time to rest and recover as she is scheduled to take on world No. 93 Julia Riera of Argentina on Thursday, May 23, at 4 pm (Philippine time). 

The winner of the match will join 127 of the world’s best players in the main draw of the only Grand Slam event played on clay. –

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