Eala in Melbourne for 2023 Australian Open qualifier

ALEX Eala wasted no time hitting the ground running in the Land Down Under in preparation for a historic qualifying stint in the 2023 Australian Open.

Hours after landing in Melbourne, the Filipina teen sensation tested her swings right away with hopes of perfecting her game for her debut in the women’s Grand Slam singles albeit in a qualifying draw first.

“Arrived in Melbourne last night and got my first practice this morning. Good to be back after three years,” said the 17-year-old ace after gaining a much-awaited women’s ticket in the Australian Open.

A seasoned campaigner in the junior Grand Slam tournaments, Ms. Eala marks her return in the Australian Open since 2020, when she ruled the girls’ doubles event with Indonesian pal Priska Madelyn Nugroho for her first junior Slam.

Ms. Eala would win another doubles title in the 2021 French Open with Russian partner Oksana Selekhmeteva before topping it off last year with a breakthrough girls’ singles Slam in the US Open.

Now, the stage is set for Ms. Eala to strut her stuff in the women’s pro level against the world’s best players in the Australian Open slated Jan. 9-12.

Ms. Eala, a scholar of the Rafael Nadal Academy in Spain, was already in Australia as early as last week to test the waters in the W60 Canberra qualifying draw.

She passed her first match with a 6-3, 7-6 win over Mexico’s Marcela Zacarias but faltered against Ms. Selekhmeteva in the finals of the qualifiers, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, to miss out on a main draw berth.

Ms. Eala is currently ranked No. 215 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and No. 37 in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior rankings. — John Bryan Ulanday