Filipino Alex Eala, who reached a career-best WTA ranking of World’s No. 195 last week, advanced to the main draw of the W100 Tokyo in Japan after posting two straight-sets victories.
The 18-year-old qualifying top seed defeated No. 9 seed Anastasia Kulikova of Finland, 6-2, 6-3, in the final round of qualifiers at the Ariake Tennis Park indoor hard court on Monday, September 4.
As Eala cruised to a 3-1 lead, she broke serve for the second time by converting her fourth break point opportunity in the fifth game.
The 328th-ranked Kulikova successfully served to remain in the set at 40-0 to trail at 2-5, and she brought the next game to deuce while Eala was serving for the set.
On her second set point, the Rafa Nadal Academy player from the Philippines claimed the opening set, 6-2.
The players became firm with their service holds in the following set, until Eala notched a break to be at 4-3.
The 2022 US Open Juniors singles winner held serve for 5-3, and fought back from 0-40 in the next game to earn two match points.
Eala broke serve for the victory, 6-3, after Kulikova committed her seventh double fault.
In the first round of qualifying held outdoors on Sunday, September 3, Eala eliminated World’s No. 1111 Kanako Morisaki of Japan, 6-4, 6-2.
The Filipino leveled at 4-4 with a break point conversion after three deuces, then held serve at 40-30 to regain the lead at 5-4.
A Morisaki double fault awarded three set points to Eala, who broke once more for 6-4 after the home bet netted a backhand.
Eala breezed through the second set, 4-0, but was broken when she was serving for the match at 5-1.
She replied with her eighth service break to end the duel on her first match point, 6-2, after her Japanese opponent netted a forehand shot.
In the main draw, Eala will first clash with Japanese wild card recipient Natsumi Kawaguchi, who is her partner in the doubles event.
Eala and Kawaguchi were drawn to play in their opener against the Thai tandem of Luksika Kumkhum and Peangtarn Plipuech.
The $100,000 tournament, also called the Ando Securities Open Tokyo 2023, is Eala’s fourth W100 event on the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour.
In July, she reached the Vitoria-Gasteiz semifinals in Spain, while in 2022, she finished with second-round results at the Grodzisk Mazowiecki main draw in Poland and Shrewsbury qualifiers in Great Britain.
The teenage sensation is aiming to add to her list of four professional singles titles from the W25 Roehampton in Great Britain last month, W25 Yecla in the Spanish region of Murcia in June, 2022 W25 Chiang Rai in Thailand, and 2021 W15 Manacor in Spain.
The junior doubles grand slam titlist at the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 Roland Garros has yet to win a pro doubles championship. (ABS-CBN News)