By REY C. LACHICA
HANGZHOU, China – Opportunities abound for Alex Eala to further her game and enhance her image as one of Asia’s rising stars.
But for her to be recognized as one of them, Eala, 18, needs to play as hard as she can, and hopefully the lady luck will smile on her when she goes up against a bevy of world-class rivals in her in her maiden Asian Games stint in this ultra-modern city.
Though she suffered an early exit in the Guangzhou event, Eala, in her social media post, said she’s redirecting her focus to serving country as the only rose in the PH team – the others are Ruben Gonzales and Francis Casey Alcantara.
Among her fancied rivals are world No. 26 Elena Rybakina and Yulia Putintseva, who is rated No. 47.
Not to be left out is India’s Ankita Raina, the bronze medal winner of the 2018 edition held in Jakarta and Palembang in Indonesia.
And host China?
Well, they have an army of standouts but none bigger than Zheng Qinwen who is determined to dazzle in front of home fans following an impressive showing in the US Open.
Zheng, turning 21 on Oct., made quite an impression in New York when she toppled last year’s Ons Jabeur of Tunisia to reach the quarters.
Tennis competitions are to start on Sunday, Sept 24, with Eala, Gonzales and Alcantara carrying a mission of ending the country’s medal drought in the quadrennial event.
The last time a PH team made it to the podium was during the 2006 Doha edition where Fil-Ams Cecil Mamiit and Eric Taino accounted for two of the country’s 9 bronze medals with Mamiit finishing third in the singles event.
Mamiit then teamed up with Taino for the doubles bronze.
In that edition, Team PH also won 4 golds and 6 silvers.