Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
FILIPINO tennis ace Alex Eala failed to move past the first round of the Miami Open qualifiers, bowing to Slovakian Viktória Kužmová (6-4, 4-6, 2-6) in Florida, this early Tuesday morning (Manila time).
Ms. Eala, 15, who earned a wild card entry to the prestigious ATP 1000 event, started the match strong against her older opponent, but could not sustain it throughout the contest en route to the defeat.
The Rafa Nadal Academy scholar Eala, who is also a Globe ambassador, found herself in a 0-2 hole early in the opening set but charged back to first level the score at 4-4 then bagged the next two games to go a set up.
Ms. Kužmová, 22, regrouped in the second set, racing to a 4-1 lead and never looked back from there.
In the deciding set, the Slovak, ranked 104 in the World Tennis Association (WTA), built on the momentum she got in the previous set to push 737th-ranked Eala on the brink, 5-2.
Ms. Eala still tried to claw her way back, but Ms. Kužmová would have none of it and went for the closeout to advance to the next round of the qualifiers where she will face Mexico’s Renata Zarazúa.
Despite the loss, Ms. Eala remained positive, seeing the setback as part of the “journey” of making the transition from a junior player to a professional.
In a post by the WTA, the teen tennis sensation shared that she recognizes that as she progresses in the sport it will be littered with “ups and downs,” something she expressed readiness for.
She went on to thank her family and supporters for backing her up just as she is counting on them to be by her side moving forward.
The stint in the Miami Open qualifiers was the latest achievement for Ms. Eala this year.
Ms. Eala opened 2021 by winning her very first professional championship in the W15 Manacor back in January. She then followed it up with three straight quarterfinal finishes in the succeeding legs of the tournament.