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(C) Alex Eala


WTA: Alex Eala outlasts Chinese vet, moves a win away from main draw

Alex Eala’s quest to make the main draw of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) pro circuit got off to a solid start when she won her first qualifying match in the 2023 Thailand Open.

The 17-year-old Eala defeated veteran Han Xinyun of China, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6), on Saturday at the hard court of the True Arena Hua Hin in the $250,000 WTA event held in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan in Thailand.

Eala, who made history last year by winning the 2022 US Open girl’s singles title, is coming off a disappointing stint two weeks ago in the 2023 Australian Open. She fell in the opening round of the qualifiers of the year’s first grand slam event despite winning the opening set and leading in the second set.

She made sure there would not be a repeat of that heartbreak as she thoroughly dominated the 32-year-old Han who was formerly ranked 105th in the world.

After a shaky start which saw her drop her serve in the opening game of the match, Eala immediately steadied the ship and raced to a 3-1 lead. Han fought back in the 5th game where she had multiple breakpoints, but Eala would not allow her to convert as the Filipina pocketed the remaining games to easily close out the first set.

Eala had another sluggish start in the second set as she saw herself trailing Han at 0-2. But just like in the opener, Eala would overpower her Chinese rival to go up 4-2. Han, however, refused to go away. She extended the set to a tiebreak, but Eala once again pulled away to get within a point of sealing the match, 6-1. Han rallied to again tie at 6-all, but Eala managed to steel her nerves and claim the next two points for the win.

#ReadMore  Alex Eala returns to winning ways in Manacor Leg 3 opener

Now at a career-high 214th in the world, Eala is aiming to further climb up the women’s rankings so she could become a fixture in the WTA and grand slam events. She is gunning for her third appearance in the main draw of a WTA event. She previously reached the second round of the 2021 Winner’s Open WTA 250 Romania and was eliminated in the opening round of the Miami Open in 2022.

Eala needs one more win on Sunday against the victor of the battle between Russians Ekaterina Yashina and Kristina Dmitruk to seal a berth in the Thailand Open main draw which will be headlined by 2019 Thailand Open champion and former world number 21 Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada.

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