Filipina tennis prodigy Alex Eala has a story worth sharing that can inspire the youth to take up sports and become the next representative of the Philippines in the international sports scene.
Standing at 5-foot-9, Alex dominated the women’s division and helped put the Philippines back on the map of the tennis world
Born on May 23, 2005, Alexandra Maniego Eala, or Alex Eala, has been hitting tennis balls since she was a little kid (at the age of four). Her love for sports runs in their blood – her mother, Rosemarie Maniego-Eala, was a national swimmer who gave the country a bronze medal in the 100-meter backstroke women’s event at the 1985 Southeast Asia Games in Bangkok, Thailand. Her older brother, Michael, on the other hand, is also en route to being a great tennis player.
But of course, Filipinos would not have witnessed Alex’s journey to greatness if her maternal grandfather, the late Roberto “Bobby” Maniego, supported her love for tennis.
Here is the timeline of her journey to becoming a professional tennis player and witnessing the ups and downs of Alex Eala.
Alex Eala, to most, her age was eight years old when she began joining tournaments. In April, she bested Hong Kong’s Chul Kei-Leun, where she topped the under-10 category in the Ruflex championship series in Cebu.
Eight months later, Eala flew to Stateside, where she nabbed the girls’ 8-and-under category championship of the Little Mo international tournament. This could be considered her first grand slam.
When she turned 15, Alex won the Dubrovnik Dud Bowl Championship of the 11-and-under in the girls’ category.
Alex Eala had a ranking of #1 in 2017, becoming the best in the Asian Tennis Federation. Tennis Europe later awarded her as one of the Doubles Player of the Year together with Indonesia’s Priska Madelyn Nugroho.
This was the year that Eala went on from competition to competition as a wild card. A ‘wild card’ is a player that has been included in the draw of a tennis event at the discretion of the organizing committee or the tournament’s organization.
As a wild card in the Les Petit As-Le Mondial Lacoste, she shocked everyone by grabbing the first wild card champion after she defeated the representative of the Czech Republic, Linda Nosková, in the finals.
Her underdog win impressed the French Tennis Federation, and she got another wild card ticket, this time to the 2018 Roland Garros Junior French Open. However, she got eliminated in the second round, suffering a defeat at the hands of USA’s Peyton Stearns.
Regardless, it did not break the spirit of the young warrior because, in July, she became another wild card at the ITF Jakarta U18 tournament. She placed second behind her co-Doubles Player of the Year recipient, Priska Nugroho.
However, it did not take her long to bag her first U18 title when she competed in Alicante, Spain, in October. She smashed her way through her ITF G5 tournament opponents, even defeating the home favorite Jessica Bouzas Maneiro.
In November, she returned to the Philippines for the G4 tournament in Makati, where she routed Canada’s Dasha Plekhanova. Unfortunately, she bowed down to Indonesia’s Janice Tjen.
Eala wasn’t done as she joined two Tennis Europe tournaments. The young ace also partook in a Duren tournament in Germany and a Hasselt tournament in Belgium.
She was later recognized as the 2018 Overseas Player of the Year by Tennis Europe, not to mention that she became a scholar at the Rafa Nadal Academy institution for tennis.
After countless wins and losses, Eala gave the Philippines a pair of historic firsts.
Alex snapped the 26-year curse of the Philippines and made it to the quarterfinals of the Asia/Oceania qualifiers by defeating Hong Kong, 2-0, in Kuala Lumpur.
She then went on to join the US Open Junior tournament, becoming the first Filipino to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament, and it took the country two decades since Jeson Patrombon. Unfortunately, she got stopped by Mai Napatt Nirundorn in the second round.
Though she made an early exit in the US Open, she was far from done that month as she went to South Africa for an ITF Junior Grade 2 tournament and a Grade A tournament. She won the singles division of the latter and reached the doubles semifinals with her Rafa Nadal Academy colleague Elvina Kalieva.
She headed to Osaka for another Grade A tourney but suffered defeat when she met Dianne Parry of France. Regardless, she ended 2019 with a bang as she and Evialina Laskevic conquered the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships doubles competition.
It was a good year already for the now-fourteen-year-old because she is in the top 10 of the ITF World Juniors rankings, while the World Tennis Federation put her at #9, becoming the highest-ranked player in Southeast Asia.
Eala then proved she deserved the ranking by grabbing her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open Juniors championship. She and longtime partner Priska Madelyn Nugroho sliced and diced their opponents, even besting Ziva Falkner and Matilda Mutavdizic with a 6-1,6-2 score in the finals.
By winning the tournament, she became the first Filipino since Francis Casey Alcantara to have won a Juniors Grand Slam title. With a Grand Slam title under her name, her rankings that year bumped up to no. 4.
Her performance in the French Open Juniors was enough for her to take the world juniors rank No. 2.
She began the year by winning the $15k Manacor event in Spain, making her leap to the 1000 of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) ranking.
Eala went to the Miami Open as a wildcard but exited early after suffering a loss to Viktória Kužmová in a three-set battle.
Eala celebrated Independence Day by slaying on the clay court in Paris, where she grabbed her second Grand Slam title with the help of Russian partner Oksana Selekhemeteva in the French Open girls’ doubles.
Alex made history by becoming the first Filipino to win a junior Grand singles title. She also stapled her name in the history books by becoming the first Filipino to have multiple junior Grand Slam titles after defeating Lucie Havlickova in the US Open.
The name Alex Eala reached world No. 191 in 2023 on September 18 and now represents the Philippines in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
You see, Alex is a living testament that Filipinos have the potential to reach new heights in sports like tennis. The Filipino community should also focus on other sports besides basketball or volleyball because it can also drive traction, not to mention a hub for online sports betting.
Alex can help inspire others to play sports, and she should be set as an example. For instance, when she dominated the 2022 US Open, she explained her speech, which should serve as a wake-up call for the country’s sports commission. Here’s what she said:
“It’s important to me because I don’t see a lot of Filipinos on the worldwide tennis stage. I think we’re very patriotic, and we love our culture, and that’s how I grew up, too – being proud of our traditions and whatnot. So I’m just carrying that part of my personality onto the court and into my career.”