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Japanese sends Eala packing

Alex Eala’s first ever stint in the women’s division of a Grand Slam event ended in a disaster as Misaki Doi of Japan dealt her with a 6-3, 6-7, 3-6 loss in the first match of the qualifying round of the 2023 Australian Open Monday morning at Court 8 of Melbourne Park.

Despite a strong start, the 17-year-old Filipina netter suffered a massive meltdown, allowing the 31-year-old Japanese from amishirasato to storm back and wrap up the match in two hours and 37 minutes.

Eala, who already has junior Grand Slam titles under her belt, broke Doi in the second set to secure a commanding 5-2 lead and move very close from advancing to the second round.

But the Japanese, who ranks No. 308 in the Women’s Tennis Association ranking and advanced to the second round of the US Open and Tokyo Olympics in 2021, displayed her wealth of experience to clinch the next four games en route to advancing to the second round.

Doi will face 14th seed and world No. 113 Lauri Pigossi of Brazil to inch closer to the main draw of this prestigious grand slam event.

Prior to her pro Grand Slam debut, Eala stressed that she and her team did everything to prepare.

“My team and I did everything we planned to, executing everything really well. I was so happy with how my team constructed those five weeks,” the two-time junior girls’ doubles grand slam champion of the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 Roland Garros wrote in her blog in the International Tennis Federation website.

“There was a significant focus upon my fitness during this period and I did a lot of aerobic exercises, while towards the end we concentrated more on specific training, points and technique. I feel in good shape.”

But the 2023 season hasn’t been good to her as she made an early exit in the W60 Canberra International following a 6-3, 4-6, 4-6 loss to former doubles partner Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia in the second round of the qualifying round last week.

She said she still has a lot to work on if she wants to make it big in the professional ranks.

“In terms of this season, in conjunction with featuring on the ITF World Tennis Tour, my goal is to integrate myself more onto the WTA Tour and try to follow their calendar a little bit more,” Eala said.

“After Melbourne, I am planning to join the WTA 250 Thailand Open in Hua Hin, although it is quite difficult to nail down an exact schedule currently and much depends on how the next few weeks shape up.”

The WTA 250 Thailand Open is set from 30 January to 5 February in Hua Hin, Thailand.

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