Alex Eala suffered a 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6 defeat to Chinese top seed Zheng Qinwen but successfully ended the country’s 17-year medal drought in tennis on Thursday at the city’s Olympic Tennis Centre in Hangzhou, China.
Several inches shorter than the Chinese ace, the 5-foot-8 Eala recovered from a sluggish start with a dominant performance in the second set.
Fatigue, however, caught up with her after double duty on Wednesday when she played singles in the morning and mixed doubles later in the day.
Just like her singles match against an Indian rival, the mixed doubles was also exhausting. Eala and first-time partner Francis Alcantara needed three sets to defeat the top-seeded pair of Yuki Bhambri and Ankita Ravinderkrishan Raina from India.
Eala stands a chance to win another bronze if she and Alcantara can beat their Thai rivals in the quarterfinals.
For a while, the 18-year-old Eala appeared to be headed for a big upset over her 21-year-old rival. She had taken a 3-1 lead in the deciding third set, a game she capped with a sizzling return.
But Eala’s magic suddenly disappeared, as she was limited to just four points for the rest of the way.
While Eala was looking tired and weary, the Chinese bet, ranked No. 23 in the world, was gaining momentum. And she started bombarding the Filipina princess with wicked forehand winners.
Eala was held scoreless in the 8th game, and that proved to be the end of her, as Qinwen took a 5-3 advantage.