Eala, just 14, set to turn pro next year

    WHILE fellow teeners have yet to decide what they want to do with their lives, Alex Eala has already figured out what she wants to become – to become a tennis professional.

    Starting next year, Eala, 14, currently No. 13 in the world in singles rankings, said she will start competing in the pro circuit to beef up her ITF rankings.

    “Yes, I want to go pro. Obviously, it’s one of my goals so I think (starting next year) I will definitely be joining more pro tournaments,” said Eala.

    Eala, currently the country’s most promising tennis player, graced yesterday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at Amelie Hotel along with her father Mike one day before she returns to Spain.

    Eala is a scholar at the Rafael Nadal Academy, a Grade 9 student at the American International School in Mallorca.

    The elder Eala confirmed his charming daughter is already eligible to turn pro.

    “The minimum age of playing for professional tennis is 14 years old, and Alex turned 14 last May,” said Mike. “The tricky part is you have to reach a minimum number of points before you can get to the main draw of (pro) tournaments.

    “So the plan for Alex, if she gets to the top 5 of the juniors, you get wildcards to play in tournaments. So this is more or less the thinking of how we can fast-tracked her rise in tournaments as a pro. But definitely next year will be a good mix of junior tournaments and pro tournaments,” the elder Eala said during the public sports program presented by San Miguel Corp., Braska Restaurant, Amelie Hotel, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

    “Junior tournaments will definitely be the four grand slams, and then sa pro, we still have to work out kung ano ‘yung mga calendar ng tournaments na sasalihan niya.”

    The Filipina ace skyrocketed in the juniors ranking, starting from 113 in January, when she captured the ITF juniors title in Cape Town in South Africa and then finished runner-up in ITF Osaka Mayor’s Cup in Japan.

    “Those GAs (Grade A) tournaments certainly boosted my confidence because I know that I can compete in high level meets,” she said.

    Those tournaments were classified Grade A, which are next level to the grand slams. Eala also barged into the second round of the US Open juniors competitions last September.

    Her tourney in Japan coincided with the tryouts for the Southeast Asian Games, but Eala said she will be open to representing the Philippines in future international meets.

    “In the tournaments that I play usually I am the only Filipina, so I guess I represent the Philippines as well,” added the niece of former PBA commissioner Noli Eala.