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Eala launches Aussie Open bid

Alex Eala’s road to glory starts in the 2023 Australian Open women’s qualifying draw starting Sunday at Melbourne Park.

Eala, who won her first Grand Slam title here in 2020 in the junior girls’ doubles edition with Priska Nugroho of Indonesia, faces Misaki Doi of Japan in her first qualifying match at 7 a.m. (Manila time).

The 17-year-old Filipino netter will have to win three qualifying matches to get into the main draw of the tournament.

Eala’s first opponent in the first Grand Slam of the year won’t be easy as Doi, 31, is ranked No. 172 in the latest Women’s Tennis Association rankings.

The three-time junior Grand Slam titlist currently ranks No. 215 in the WTA list.

Doi also won the WTA 250 Luxembourg Open in 2015 for her only singles title in her career.

Eala, however, has more professional titles than her Japanese foe with wins in the W15 Manacor in Spain in 2021 and the W25 Chang Rai in Thailand last year.

“Of course, I have fond memories of Melbourne and the Australian Open as this is where I won my first Junior Grand Slam title — in the girls’ doubles alongside Priska Nugroho of Indonesia in 2020. But coming here as a professional is not the same as coming here as a junior,” Eala said in her blog on the International Tennis Federation website.

“I am just as excited, but this is a new journey for me. Unlike juniors, I am not one of the top-seeded players anymore and if I am going to feature in the main draw, I will have to fight.”

Eala joined the W60 Canberra International women’s singles event where she lost to former doubles partner Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, in the second round of the qualifying round last week.

“I have already played my first tournament this season, at W60 Canberra, where I reached the second round of qualifying. I expected the level to be high given we are building toward the Australian Open and I felt I played two good matches,” Eala said.

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