Mendoza: Eala a different kind of star

By winning the US Open tennis junior singles crown last weekend, Alex Eala did the country proud. And more.She became the first Filipino ever to win a tennis grand slam. Definitely, a no mean feat. If it feels like she has won an Olympic gold medal, give it to her.For the record, it was Felicisimo Ampon who first put the Philippines in the world tennis map.Called “The Mighty Mite” for his exceptional skills to make up for his Lilliputian height of 4-feet-11, Ampon captivated the world in the Fifties with his dazzling speed and uncanny ability to confuse his opponents with bewildering placements only he could execute with telling consistency.In his heyday, Ampon was considered, according to Wikipedia, “the best tennis player in the world, pound for pound.”Born on Oct. 27, 1920, in Manila, Ampon died on Oct. 7, 1997, at age 76, in Highland Park, Illinois, USA.And now we have Alex Eala. Just 17, she is already on top of the world.So young and she has already left an indelible mark on a global spectrum that the country will cherish for years and years to come.She did it not only with her racquet that toppled the best in her category with grit and determination, but with her eloquence as well when she spoke at the awarding ceremonies.She made another Filipino “first” when she became the first Filipino world sports star to speak in Tagalog during her victory speech. That immediately installed her as a certified Filipino sports patriot, who knew that a true heroine worth her salt delivers terms of endearment at its best when done through the native tongue. The words just flow naturally as they come from the heart. Not once did Manny Pacquiao do that during his many moments of grandeur on the world stage, struggling always to speak in English, nay, in a fractured manner, by golly.And look how humble and grateful Alex Eala was in her victory speech. She thanked, first and foremost, her parents for “always being there for me.” Indeed, behind almost every successful athlete are our parents and family members. Then she acknowledged the help of her sponsors Nike, Globe and Babolat—and her coaching staff, too. And she said her victory was also “for my country.”I tell you this kid will go places in no time.