ALEX Eala crashed out of contention in the 2023 Australian Open, running out of steam in a tough 6-4, 6-7, 3-6 defeat against Japanese Misaki Doi for an early boot in the Round 1 of the qualifying draw at the Melbourne Park.
Heeding the challenge of her first-ever women’s Grand Slam tourney, Ms. Eala took a rousing opening-set victory behind her crisp groundstrokes and looked headed to Round 2 with ease following a big lead in the second salvo.
But the 17-year-old Filipina eventually succumbed to the pressure of the 31-year-old Japanese veteran as she fumbled a 5-2 upperhand en route to a narrow loss in the tiebreaker to pave the way for a decider.
Ms. Doi, WTA No. 172 and with almost 300 pro matches under her belt, just stamped her class from there on by keeping the WTA No. 215 Eala at bay for a thrilling comeback win in two hours and 37 minutes.
Save for a defeat in the first set, Ms. Doi was near perfect from then on by netting five aces with only one double fault. Ms. Eala had four faults, majority of which came in the latter part of the match that she controlled until the end of the second set.
Ms. Doi thus advanced in the second round of the qualifiers and will face WTA No. 118 Laura Pigossi of Brazil, who took care of business against Belgium’s Magali Kempen with an easier 6-2, 6-2 win.
Ms. Eala, for her part, kissed goodbye to her hopes of advancing to the main draw in her women’s Grand Slam debut.
A scholar of the Rafael Nadal Academy in Spain, Ms. Eala is a winner of juniors doubles Slams (2020 Australian Open, 2021 French Open) and singles title (2022 US Open) on top of her two professional crowns in Spain and Thailand.
DJOKOVIC LOST SLEEP TO DEAL WITH HAMSTRING PROBLEMNovak Djokovic said he worked with his physiotherapist all night to fix a hamstring issue before the Serbian beat Sebastian Korda in the Adelaide International 1 final on Sunday ahead of this month’s Australian Open.
Mr. Djokovic underwent treatment on his left leg during Saturday’s semi-final victory over Daniil Medvedev after he hyper-extended his left hamstring while stretching to make a forehand.
But the 35-year-old moved freely on the court in Sunday’s final before he dug deep to save a match point and seal a 6-7(8) 7-6(3) 6-4 victory.
“I woke up all right. Went deep into the night last night with work done with the physio,” Mr. Djokovic told reporters. “Talk with the doctors, as well, of the tournament, etc.
“There was a lot of care going into today’s match about the hamstring. It was all right.
“Few times in the match I felt was tightening up the muscle, but nothing that would worry me for my performance.”
At the Jan. 16-29 Australian Open, Mr. Djokovic will be bidding for a record-extending 10th title to draw level with Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slam crowns.
“I couldn’t ask for a better preparation and lead-up to Australian Open,” Mr. Djokovic said.
“I look forward to Melbourne. Rod Laver is probably my most — not probably, it certainly is my most successful court in my career. I love playing there. I look forward to it.
“I have a week off for recovery now and working on specific things in terms of my game, my body, getting my mind in the right state for the best-of-five and two long weeks hopefully.” — John Bryan Ulanday with Reuters