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Friday, July 23, 2021

Eala advances in doubles action but loses in singles of 2021 French Open juniors

Filipina tennis star and Globe ambassador Alex Eala had a roller coaster of a day at the Stade Roland-Garros as she and partner, Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia, moved on to the next round of the 2021 French Open girls’ doubles competition after beating Evialina Laskevich of Belarus and Alina Shcherbinina of Russia, 6-4, 6-4, on Monday night in Paris, France.

The victory salvaged the day for the young Filipina who earlier in the day saw her bid for the French Open girls’ singles title come to an unexpected end as she suffered a 4-6, 7-6, 1-6 defeat to Matilda Mutavdzic of Great Britain in the first round.

With just a short amount of rest, Eala later teamed up with Selekhmeteva and showed their resiliency, overcoming an early 1-3 deficit and breaking their opponent’s serve to take a 5-4 lead. They would then hold their serve to take the first set, 6-4.

With momentum on their side, Eala and Selekhmeteva kept on rolling and forged a 3-0 lead in the second set before Laskevich and Shcherbinina got on the board by breaking the former’s serve. Eala and Selekhmeteva continued to lead, 5-3, but Eala’s double fault gave their opponents a sliver of hope as they closed the gap to 4-5.

Fortunately, Eala and Selekhmeteva—who reached the doubles finals in the W25 Platja D’Aro last month—got their bearings and took the next game to clinch the set, 6-4, and the game. The duo’s next opponent will be the tandem of Sofia Costoulas from Belgium and Laura Hietaranta of Finland in the round of 16 which will be held on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Eala actually held a 4-3 lead after she broke her opponent’s serve in the seventh game. However, Mutavdzic did not blink and swept the next three games to nab the first set, 6-4.

Eager to get back into the thick of things, the 16-year old got off to a roaring start in the second set and established a 4-0 lead. However, Mutavdzic showed her mettle and fought back to tie the set at 6-6 and force a tiebreak. The British netter looked like she was going to come away with a straight sets win as she led, 4-1, in the tiebreak. However, Eala found her second wind and won the next six points to win the second and send the match to a deciding third.

Eala won the first set of the third but that proved to be her last hurrah as Mutadzic rattled off six straight games to take the third, 6-1, and end the match in two hours and 33 minutes.

The result was a heartbreaker for Eala, who was looking to improve on her semifinal finish in the last French Open juniors competition. She had also prepared well, competing in nine professional tournaments and even winning a title—the W15 Manacor back in January.

Mutadzic, however, was simply the better player on this day as she avenged her loss to Eala back in 2019.

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