MANILA, Philippines—Alex Eala is trying to get a feel for the competition and the weather in the region ahead of the Southeast Asian Games next month. And the Philippines’ brightest prospect is pulling through, so far.
Eala, 16, broke into the W25 Chiang Rai final in Thailand against older and more experienced local bettor Luksika Kumkhum on Sunday.
This should be a preview of the SEA Games singles competitions, as KumKhum will likely represent his country at the Hanoi Games. The 28-year-old Thai, ranked 66th in the world, won the women’s singles at the 2017 edition in Kuala Lumpur.
Eala is taking part in the biennial competition for the first time and his time playing a major role in his training schedule at the Rafael Nadal Academy.
Taking a detour from her European and American tour, Eala won the main draw of the tournament on hard courts by beating China’s Ma Ye-Xin, 6-3, 6-4, in the semi-finals on Saturday.
She also beat Japan’s Momoko Kobori (6-3, 6-3) in the quarterfinals and Thailand’s Patcharin Cheapchandej (6-3, 6-4) in the second round. Her toughest match to date was her 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Serbian Katarina Kozarov in the first round.
But it will be a different level against KumKhum who has been playing in Grand Slams since 2013 and completed his career best third round at the 2018 Australian Open.
KumKhum, the Asian Games gold medalist in women’s doubles, advanced to the final after a 6-4, 6-4 win over Japan’s Erika Sema in the other semis.
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