“Being able to feel and notice that I am now better than I was last month, let’s say, keeps me excited and gives me the will to work more.”
Knowing when to peak and when to take a step back is the driving philosophy behind Alex Eala’s playing style.
By learning the difference, the tennis prodigy is able to take charge of her trajectory at all times: whether that’s on the court, or in the real world with its much more complicated mechanics.
“I am so excited for my upcoming calendar that I have been planning on together with my team, and am ready to give everything I have,” Eala tells Lifestyle Asia.
According to her father, Mike, the plan is for her to play “anywhere from 22 to 27 tournaments” this year, including the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in May.
The 16-year-old’s mind is set, unshaken by recent setbacks that include contracting COVID-19 off-season.
“My preseason training in Florida was an overall great experience. I was able to train alongside many professional players and observe their intensity and level of tennis,” Eala recalls from her last few moments in 2021.
“Unfortunately, my preseason was cut short, because I got COVID a few days before Christmas,” she says.
Not one to be a Grinch, Eala turned the yuletide in her favor despite a fever.
“I still really enjoyed my holidays, because I was still together with my family despite being in quarantine.”
As soon as she recovered, the tennis star set off for Spain, where she is a scholar at the Rafa Nadal Academy (RNA) in Mallorca.
Eala is now ready to start her season with a $25,000 tournament in Manacor. This comes as she chose to forego her title defense at the Australian Open Junior Championships, the first Junior Grand Slam of the year where she won the Girls’ Doubles in 2020.
All part of the plan, of course, as Eala and her coaches have opted to prioritize the senior tournaments. She is currently ranked No. 526 in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
Her participation in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Women’s World Tennis Tour through the W25 Manacor tournament hopes to inspire confidence. Set at RNA, the same venue where she bagged her first women’s pro title at the W15 Manacor, it’s a full-circle moment waiting to happen.
“My biggest motivation would be my improvement and progression. Being able to feel and notice that I am now better than I was last month, let’s say, keeps me excited and gives me the will to work more,” the athlete observes.
“Of course, there are times when I feel discouraged, but I am so thankful to have an amazing team to help me keep my head up and feet moving.”
The SEA Games, in particular, is an opportunity she’s “very much looking forward to.”
“It is always an honor to represent my country, especially in team events, because it creates such a great atmosphere… I see this tournament as a huge learning opportunity, and the support from the Filipinos to the whole team has been one of the things that makes this event so special to me,” she said.
It just so happens that the closure of the games will coincide with her 17th birthday as well. Knowing this, Eala regards the tournament as an “unforgettable way to celebrate” her special day.
She’s already begun preparing, aware that many players with a “very good level” are joining, too.
Eala said she is able to invest everything into her passion since her loved ones are safe and sound.
“I am reassured by the fact that my family, friends, and people around me are healthy. I am very fortunate to be able to be together with my family quite often, and to be surrounded by people who have such a positive outlook on the situation,” she says.
Thanks to them, as well as the teenager’s own resolve, she learned how to adapt to different circumstances and to avoid thinking of the pandemic as something that could slow down her career.
“One of the things I am most proud of this year is being able to successfully and patiently recover from a foot injury. I had an accident last August and was out for around two months. During that time, I was able to learn a lot about myself and my body, and it turned out to be more beneficial for me than I thought,” Eala shares, crediting the people at RNA for their crucial support.
Pushing 17, she’s becoming aware of how fast she’s growing up.
“Along with the fact that I have gained a platform to be a role model to younger girls, there are times as an athlete where I really have to be mature. That being said, this makes me feel closer to being an adult,” she realizes.
Eala recalls moving away quite young, which demanded her to “be a bit more mature than other kids my age.”
It’s on the court and during downtime with friends and coaches that she does feel like just another 16-year-old kid.
Moreover, she has her parents, whom she regards as her biggest supporters and inspiration.
“They guide me not only in tennis but also on how to be a good sportsperson, a good student, and most importantly a good person. They never fail to help me see the positive in every situation,” Eala said.
It’s this mentality that she wishes to bring to the world, to see her through each and every training or tournament.
“I am going into 2022 with a positive mindset and the same will to work hard and persevere,” the Filipina sensation opens, making her serve.
Photos by TROI SANTOS
Special thanks to MIKE EALA, MIAX EISENBUD, and CARTER LIN