HANGZHOU, China – Alex Eala dropped a 1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6 decision to Chinese top seed Zheng Qinwen, but successfully ended the country’s 17-year medal drought in tennis Thursday at the city’s Olympic Tennis Centre here.
Several inches shorter than the world no. 23 Chinese ace, the 5-foot-8 Eala, who is ranked no. 190, recovered from a sluggish start with a dominant performance in the second set.
Fatigue, however, caught up with her after a double duty Wednesday when she played singles in the morning and mixed doubles later in the day.
Like her singles’ match with an Indian rival, the mixed doubles was also also tiring as Eala and first-time partner Francis Alcantara needed three sets to top-seeded pair of Yuki Bhambri and Ankita Ravinderkrishan Raina of India.
Eala was assured of another bronze as she and partner Alcantara earned a semifinal seat after whipping the Thai pair of Luksika Kumkhum and Maximus Parapol Jones, 6-4, 6-4, later in the day.
For a while, Eala, 18, appeared headed to scoring a big upset over her 21-year-old rival after taking a 3-1 lead in the deciding third set in a game she capped with a sizzling return.
But Eala’s magic suddenly disappeared, as she was limited to just four points the rest of they way.
But while Eala was looking tired and weary the Chinese bet, who is ranked No. 23 in the world, was gaining momentum as she started to bomb the Filipina princess with wicked forehand winners.
Eala was held scoreless in the 8th game and that proved the end of her as Qinwen took an 5-3 advantage.
The loss, however, still rewarded Eala with a bronze, the Philippines’ first since Cecil Mamiit and Eric Taino’s medal in the 2006 Asiad in Doha, Qatar.