Alexandra Eala of the Philippines said she made a “last-minute decision” to contest the 2022 US Open Junior Championships here in New York. That seems appropriate, since it was a chance meeting that has made New York such a special place for her and her family.




Four decades ago, Eala’s grandparents, Frankie and Melinda, met and fell in love here in the Big Apple. Melinda was studying at Marymount Manhattan College, while Frankie was attending Louisiana State University.



As explained by Alex’s Dad, Michael, on Sunday after Alex’s smooth first-round victory, Frankie came to New York to visit a friend and met Melinda, and the two fell in love. They returned to the Philippines to get married before moving back to New York and living here for 15 years before moving back to Manila.




“This city means a lot to my family, and we do have a lot of family here,” Alex said after her 6-3 6-0 win over Canada’s Annabelle Xu. “But I was pretty surprised today how many Filipinos were out here cheering for me. It was so great.”






Eala is the No. 10 seed in the girls’ tournament, and has already had quite a bit of Grand Slam success; she won the 2021 Australian Open and 2021 Roland Garros doubles titles.

The 17-year-old has mostly focused on pro tournaments in 2022, reaching her current high of No. 297 in the WTA rankings. She has trained for the past four years at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain.

“She’s played very well and has been very open-minded about being coached,” said one of Eala’s two coaches, Adrien Alexis Vaseux. “The experience she’s had with pro tournaments has helped her so much.”

Eala, playing her first Junior Grand Slam of the year, has played the U.S. Open twice before, but said the atmosphere is “still just as exciting, and still takes some getting used to.”

And even though she trains in Spain now, she beamed when talking about helping put Filipino tennis on the map.

“I’m very proud to represent my country, and be someone young girls can look up to,” added Eala, who received Grand Slam Player Grants, financed through the Grand Slam Player Development Programme, in 2021 and 2022.

Most of the top seeds on the girls’ side had little trouble winning on Sunday, but one exception was the upset pulled by American Clervie Ngounoue. The 16-year-old from Washington, D.C. missed six months of the season with what she called “foot issues” but played superbly in defeating No. 6 seed Nikola Daubnerova of Slovakia, 3-6 6-3 6-1.

“I’m managing the pain for now, and it felt really good today,” said Ngounoue, who reached the second round of women’s doubles last week with partner Reese Brantmeier. “I just wanted to fight my heart out. I don’t really have expectations for this tournament. It’s my first Grand Slam since Australia and I’m just really glad I could pull it out of the bag today.”

Other girls’ seeds had an easier time, with No. 1 seed and Australian Open finalist, Belgian Sofia Costoulas, dropping only two games in her victory and No. 4 Celine Naef of Switzerland cruising to a 6-4 6-1 win.

Elsewhere, No. 2 seed Lucie Havlickova of Czech Republic beat American qualifier Alanis Hamilton, 6-3 6-4.

In the boys’ draw, No. 7 seed Gonzalo Bueno of Peru faced a stiff challenge from American wild card Jelani Sarr, but Bueno did well to prevail 7-5 6-4.

“I didn’t know him before but he’s a good player, so that was a tough first round,” Bueno said. “I’m super-happy just to get through; the first round is sometimes the hardest.”

The boys’ No. 1 seed, Daniel Vallejo, an Australian Open semifinalist, rolled to a 6-2 6-2 win over Kaylan Bigun of the United States, while No. 2 seed Gilles Arnaud Bailly of Belgium, No. 3 seed Kilian Feldbausch of Switzerland and No. 6 Lautaro Midon of Argentina all advanced with straight-set victories.

The first round of both draws continues today.


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