Eala takes US Open junior crown and makes history for Philippines

No. 10-seeded Alexandra Eala claimed her first Grand Slam junior singles title with a 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 2-seeded Lucie Havlickova in the US Open girls’ final. She became the first Filipino player to win a Grand Slam junior singles cup.

Eala had already won two Grand Slam junior doubles crowns, winning the 2020 Australian Open with Priska Nugroho and the 2021 Roland Garros with Oksana Selekhmeteva. However, Eala’s best junior singles performance to date was a semi-final run at Roland Garros 2020, where she fell to eventual champion Elsa Jacquemot.

Eala, 17, had not competed at the junior level since last December’s Orange Bowl tournament. Her return paid off after she stormed through all six matches without dropping a set. Only Taylah Preston and Victoria Mboko managed to lead them to the tiebreak in the third round and semifinals respectively.

In the final, Eala faced 17-year-old Roland Garros girls’ champion Havlickova. The Czech aimed to become the first player to win two Grand Slam junior singles trophies in one season, as both Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh accomplished the feat in 2013.

However, Havlickova’s attempt to impose first strike power on her opponent didn’t pay off. She held the game’s first break point in game four, but Eala saved it with a forehand winner down the line, and in the rest of the set Havlickova buried herself in 21 unforced errors.

Eala also broke early in the second set, holding three points to solidify them – but three double faults loaded Havlickova back into what would be a tightly contested match from then on. In a quality second set, Havlickova combined her power with more accuracy, but it was left-hander Eala who continued to show more variety and control.

Eala engineered the best point of the game to hold 2-2, a dropshot lob forehand combo, and her ability to smoothly change direction with her left-handed forehand allowed her to have the upper hand on extended rallies. At 4-4, she also showed an impressive scoreboard nous. Standing well inside the baseline on the return to induce a Havlickova double fault, Eala upped her intensity from the baseline. Eala scored the crucial break and served the win on 15 out.

Both Eala and Havlickova have already started making their way among the pros. Eala, ranked 297, became the first Filipina to both compete in a WTA peloton and win a match at this level when she defeated Paula Ormaechea in the first round of Cluj-Napoca last August. This year, her 33-15 pro record includes her first ITF W25 title in Chiang Rai and her first ITF W60 final in Madrid. The career high of No. 280 she reached in July also made Eala the highest-ranked Filipina of all time, a record previously set by former No. 284 Maricris Gentz ​​in 1999.

New wave of Czech teenagers makes its presence felt in Prague

Meanwhile, Havlickova scored her first WTA peloton win on home soil in Prague this July, defeating fellow Czech teenager Barbora Palicova 6-2, 7-6 (5). She is currently ranked 577.

Eala, 16, scores comeback win over Ormaechea in WTA debut: Cluj-Napoca highlights

2021 Cluj-Napoca

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