Eala is an inspiration for Asian tennis, says former world No. 9


Alex Eala at the WTA Thailand Open in Hua Hin. Photo courtesy of the 2023 Thailand Open.

HUA HIN, Thailand – Ahead of their Thailand Open first-round clash with Wimbledon 2022 semifinalist Tatjana Maria of Germany, Alexandra “Alex” Eala of the Philippines has already garnered the attention of onlookers, including Thai tennis icon Paradorn. srichaphan.

The former ATP World No.9 is co-director of the WTA 250 event, and caught a glimpse of the 17-year-old’s qualifying matches over the weekend as she made the rounds at True Arena Hua Hin Sports Club.

“I saw Alex play a couple of months before. And he’s a great young talent, you know, especially coming from Southeast Asia, and winning the US Open Juniors is really an inspiration for our Asian tennis,” Srichaphan told ABS-CBN News. .

In addition to the 2022 US Open Juniors singles title, Eala took the women’s junior doubles crowns at the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 Roland Garros.

On the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour, she won the W15 Manacor 2021 and Chiang Rai 2022 singles championships.

In Thailand, Eala entered the WTA main draw via qualifying for the first time by ousting World No.898 Xinyun Han of China, 6-1, 7-6(6), and No.234 Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus, 6-2. 7-5.

Academy player Rafa Nadal, currently ranked world number 217, will challenge Maria, 35, world number 63 and the sixth seed, in the first round on Tuesday.

Asked what he would advise Eala and other Asians competing in Hua Hin on how to reach the Top 10 level, Srichaphan mentioned the importance of drawing on experience.

“Well, to mention the Top 10, it’s a long way to go. But yes, there is a process. And this is part of the process, entering tournaments like this,” he said.

“Especially from my experience, if I’m playing in Asia, I feel at home. So I always get great support. So, use that advantage to feel like the spectators are always supporting you. Feel at home and everything goes well.” . be a secret to play well”.

Srichaphan’s co-director of the tournament, Grant Carpio, agrees that the Thailand Open is crucial to the long-term development of tennis in the region.

“Local and regional tournaments allow easier access for players in terms of travel, opportunities through wild cards, and exposure through the local public and local media. For some local players, having the opportunity to play in these tournaments WTA 250 level is the only chance everyone has.” season to play in a tour-level event,” said Carpio, who is of Filipino descent.

As the main draw of the Thailand Open begins this week, Srichaphan remains optimistic about the potential for Asian representation on the world tennis scene.

During the 2010 Hong Kong Tennis Classic, the five-time ATP singles champion told this writer that Asian tennis was “getting so much better now” with Chinese superstar Li Na at the helm.

More than 13 years later, he noted that more tournaments have been held in Asia, especially China.

“Of course, that will give opportunities for Asian tennis players to join the tournaments. And not just the big tournaments. We also have the ITF 15K, 25K and 40K to go a long way, to make sure everyone gets experience from the small tournaments and gains that experience to jump into the big tournaments. So I think it’s been good.”

Srichaphan, the first Asian-born player to break into the ATP Top 10 in 2003, concluded with further hope: “I am sure that in the future, in the next 10 years, it will also be much better.”

The WTA Thailand Open will run until February 5.



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