Alex Eala will be taking a huge step forward in her young career after earning her third appearance in the main draw of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) pro circuit on Sunday.
The Filipina teen prodigy fended off a determined challenge from 19-year-old Russian Kristina Dmitruk. She scored a 6-2, 7-5 triumph in the qualification round of the Thailand Open at the True Arena Hua Hin, Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan in Thailand.
The victory booked for Eala – now ranked 214th in the world – a spot in the main draw of the $250,000 WTA event. The tournament will run from January 30 to February 5.
Eala, the 2022 US Open girls’ singles champion, put on a dominant performance against world no. 234 Dmitruk, who in 2021 was the US Open girls singles runner-up and the Wimbledon girls doubles champion.
The 17-year-old Eala set the tone early by breaking Dmitruk in the very first game of the opening set. When the Russian inched herself back at 2-3, Eala pulled away and broke Dmitruk anew in the 7th game to bag the set at 6-2.
Things seemed easy pickings at that point for Eala who raced to a 4-2 advantage in the second set. But Dmitruk would not go away quietly. The Russian broke the Filipina for the first time in the 7th game and captured the next three games to take the lead at 4-5.
Just like in the previous round, Eala displayed composure as she tied the count at 5-5, then regained the momentum by breaking Dmitruk’s serve for the 4th time before closing out the match.
It was Eala’s second straight-set win after she defeated Chinese veteran Han Xinyun, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6), on Saturday.
The road ahead gets tougher for Eala as the cast in the main draw features a number of notable names.
Among the favorites in the event are top seed and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada, 2019 Thailand Open champion and former world no. 21 Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, second seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan who has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open and the US Open, third seed Chinese star Wang Xiyu who was the US Open girls singles champion and the Wimbledon girls doubles champion in 2018, and 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic, the youngest in the top 100 in the world at 82.