Alexandra Eala of the Philippines celebrates with the championship trophy. PHOTO: AFP
NEW YORK (CNA) – Alexandra Eala became the Philippines’ first Grand Slam junior champion at the US Open on Saturday, using her idol Rafael Nadal for inspiration.
The 17-year-old Filipina defeated French Open girls champion Lucie Havlickova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4 in the final.
“Of course, we’ll meet many more times in the future,” 10th seeded Eala said during her victory speech, thanking her higher-ranked opponent, family, and all those who supported her throughout the competition.
Eala was born in Quezon City in 2005. She took up the sport as a youngster and began competing in tournaments before she was a teenager.
Her talent attracted scouts from the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor, Spain, where she relocated to focus on improving her game.
“My idol is obviously Rafa. He’s a very good role model, something a lot of people should idolise and try to be,” said Eala.
“The biggest thing I notice in Rafa is how he fights till the end, how his thoughts are so clear. He’s so calm, but at the same time so fired up. I think I really tried to channel that energy during this whole week.”
At 14 years old, Eala made her junior debut at the 2019 US Open. That year, she advanced to the second round of competition in Queens. She returned in 2021 and reached the quarterfinals.
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Between those years, Eala won two junior Grand Slam doubles titles. The first was at the 2020 Australian Open, and the second at the 2021 French Open.
This year’s US Open was her first junior tournament since the Orange Bowl in Florida last December.
“I would say I’m very happy with the way I handled each and every point,” she said in a post-match press conference.
“I think my behaviour throughout the whole week is something I’m very proud of.”