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Alex Eala wins bronze, ends Pinoys’ 17-year drought

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF LUIS VENIEGRA ALEX Eala celebrates after booking a come-from-behind win over Kyoka Okamura to secure her first Asian Games medal.

HANGZHOU, China – Alex Eala suffered a 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6 defeat to Chinese top seed Zheng Qinwen but successfully ended the country’s 17-year medal drought in tennis Thursday at the city’s Olympic Tennis Centre here.

Several inches shorter than the Chinese ace, the 5-foot-8 Eala recovered from a sluggish start with a dominant performance in the second set.

Fatigue, however, caught up with her after a double duty Wednesday when she played singles in the morning and mixed doubles later in the day.

As her singles match with an Indian rival, the mixed doubles were also tiring as Eala and first-time partner Francis Alcantara needed three sets to top-seeded pair of Yuki Bhambri and Ankita Ravinderkrishan Raina of India.

Eala stands to win another bronze if she and Alcantara beat their Thai rivals in the quarters.

For a while, Eala, 18, appeared headed to scoring a big upset over her 21-year-old rival after taking a 3-1 lead in the deciding third set in a game she capped with a sizzling return.

But Eala’s magic suddenly disappeared, limited to just four points the rest of the way.

But while Eala was looking tired and weary the Chinese bet, who is ranked No. 23 in the world, was gaining momentum as she started to bomb the Filipina princess with wicked forehand winners.

Eala was held scoreless in the 8th game and that proved the end of her as Qinwen took a 5-3 advantage.

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