No.10 seed Alexandra Eala claimed her first Grand Slam junior singles title with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat of No.2 seed Lucie Havlickova in the US Open girls' final. In so doing, she became the first player from the Philippines to lift a Grand Slam junior singles trophy.
Eala had already captured two Grand Slam junior doubles crowns, winning the 2020 Australian Open with Priska Nugroho and Roland Garros 2021 with Oksana Selekhmeteva. However, Eala's previous best performance in junior singles had been a semifinal run at Roland Garros 2020, where she fell to eventual champion Elsa Jacquemot.
Eala, 17, had not competed at junior level since last December's Orange Bowl tournament. Her return paid off after she stormed through all six matches without dropping a set. Only Taylah Preston and Victoria Mboko managed to take her as far as a tiebreak, in the third round and semifinals respectively.
History for 🇵🇭!— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 10, 2022
Alexandra Eala becomes the first Filipino to win a junior Grand Slam singles title. pic.twitter.com/pRue22SN0j
In the final, Eala was pitted against Roland Garros girls' champion Havlickova, also 17. The Czech was seeking to become the first player to win two Grand Slam junior singles trophies in one season since both Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh pulled off the feat in 2013.
However, Havlickova's attempt to impose first-strike power on her opponent did not pay off. She held the first break point of the match in the fourth game, but Eala saved it with a forehand winner down the line, and the remainder of the set saw Havlickova proceed to bury herself in 21 unforced errors.
Eala broke at the start of the second set as well, and held three points to consolidate it - but three double faults invited Havlickova back into the match, which would be tightly contested from then on. A high-quality second set saw Havlickova combine her power with more accuracy, but it was the left-handed Eala who continued to display more variety and control.
All the emotions for Alexandra Eala.— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 10, 2022
The 🇵🇭 makes history, winning her first junior Grand slam singles 🏆 in straight sets. pic.twitter.com/j1B1NycZ5r
Eala constructed the best point of the match to hold for 2-2, a dropshot-lob-forehand combination, and her ability to change direction smoothly with her left-handed forehand enabled her to have the upper hand in extended rallies. At 4-4, she also displayed impressive scoreboard nous. Standing well inside the baseline on return to elicit a Havlickova double fault and upping her intensity levels from the baseline, Eala notched the crucial break and served out the win to 15.
Both Eala and Havlickova have already started to make an impact in the pros. No.297-ranked Eala became the first Filipina to both contest a WTA main draw and win a match at that level when she defeated Paula Ormaechea in the first round of Cluj-Napoca last August. This year, her 33-15 pro record includes her first ITF W25 title in Chiang Rai and her first ITF W60 final in Madrid. The career-high of No.280 that she hit in July also made Eala the highest-ranked Filipina ever, a record previously set by former No.284 Maricris Gentz in 1999.
A nation of over a hundred million people take pride in your accomplishment. My family and I salute you!— Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) September 11, 2022
Keep being an inspiration. Work hard and stay humble. The world has yet to see more of you and what we Filipinos are capable of. Congratulations!🏆👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/M3D1r9Xn6D
Former boxing world champion Manny Pacquaio congratulated his compatriot Eala on social media, writing:
"A nation of over a hundred million people take pride in your accomplishment. My family and I salute you! Keep being an inspiration. Work hard and stay humble. The world has yet to see more of you and what we Filipinos are capable of. Congratulations!"
New wave of Czech teenagers makes impact in Prague
Meanwhile, Havlickova scored her first WTA main-draw victory on home soil in Prague this July, defeating fellow Czech teenager Barbora Palicova 6-2, 7-6(5). She is currently ranked No.577.
Havlickova did not leave New York empty-handed. She teamed with Diana Shnaider to win the girls' doubles title, defeating the German duo Carolina Kuhl and Ella Seidel 6-3, 6-2 in the final.