Alex Eala on being the best player on and off the court

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For seventeen-year-old, Alex Eala the goal is to be the best player on and off court . ‘You need to have the right attitude, discipline and determination. It is about being the best player you can possibly be.’

Seventeen-year-old Filipina, Alex Eala has just completed her first step towards her goal. To play pro in the women’s division in a grand slam. First stop, the Australian Open.

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She trains at the Rafa Nadal A.cademy

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The Australian Open in Melbourne has always had a special place in Eala’s career.

“Melbourne is so amazing. Last time I was here, I came here as a junior and now I feel I am ready for the next step.”

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In 2020 she won the girl’s doubles title with teammate Priska Madelyn Nugroho defeating Živa Falkner and Matilda Mutavdzic in the final, 6–1, 6–2.

“This has been one of my goals for a really long time, I know it’s going to be a great learning experience.”

It was a tiring day for the teenager. Despite the long hours of training under the Melbourne heat, you could see how she lit up when she talks about tennis.

Life away from the comforts of home

For the past four years, Alex has been training at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Spain. At fifteen, she won her first professional title and reached world number two in the junior rankings in 2020.

“I am very fortunate that I’m able to see my family more often now (compared to during the pandemic). I try and make the most out of it.”

The young Filipina is very much aware that not all athletes get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I don’t have as much spare time as other teenagers, because I train a lot, but you give, and you take, and I have accepted that. I know that I have to work hard to achieve what I want,” Eala shares.

However, Alex clarifies that tennis isn’t everything but a huge part of her life.

“It’s a huge part of my life and my heart, but I don’t like it to be something that defines me. I need to remind myself that there are other parts of my life that I need to improve and not just get caught up in the tennis world and try to find some time to relax,” she adds.

As a senior high school student, online classes have allowed Eala the flexibility to complete her academic requirements while maintaining the rigours of training.

While Alex is set on becoming the best tennis player she can be, she is also aware that, as an athlete, her body can only go so far.

Like everyone else, there is an end to her playing career, “I know that as an athlete, the body can only go so far. I also prioritise my studies because it will help me a lot in the future. For now, my goal is my tennis career, but I am also preparing for what is next, but prioritising my tennis at the moment,” explains the young athlete.

‘He is a good role model not just by what he tells me directly but also through his actions on and off court.’ – Alex Eala Credit: Alex Eala

Training with the Nadals

Alex trains under the close supervision of Toni Nadal, Rafa’s mentor and uncle. However, Rafa’s constant presence around the academy has taught her a lot.

“He is a good role model not just by what he tells me directly but also through his actions on and off court.”

Tennis has taught her a lot about everyday life. “I think it’s the discipline, managing your time and that you won’t get what you want if you don’t work on the everyday little things. It makes a difference.”

Family is everything

“They play a huge role, my parents. Not just in my career but in my life, who I am. The amount of guidance they provided for me makes me the person I am today.”

Alex also shares the secret to her success, “A huge part of tennis is also your personality, how you behave. That reflects on court, and how they raised me. I know that not all parents can be supportive of this kind of career choice. I would say it’s not a typical road, and I am so lucky to have them.”

Sports, however, isn’t new to her family, her mother, Riza Maniego-Eala was a bronze medallist in 100 m backstroke at the 1985 Southeast Asian Games. Her older brother, Miko also graduated from the Rafa Nadal Academy in 2020 and is currently playing for the Penn State in the United States for NCAA Division 1.

“I think being part of a very athletic family has played a role in their understanding and support, but I think no matter what path or career I choose if they see that I was hardworking and passionate about it they will always be supportive.”

“But then again, tennis has always been a part of our family for such a long time. It was my lolo (grandfather) who started coaching me at the age of four. It integrated and has found a way to bring my family together.”

“I still have a lot of things I want to do with my life, especially in tennis and my career. I want to win grand slams, and I want to be world number 1, but I want to gauge my limits. I want to see how I’m doing and what I’ll be doing in the next couple of years; but of course, I want to be able to say I did all I could at the end of my career.”

To aspiring athletes, the Filipina teen, Alex shares, “I know it can be very daunting, taking up a sport. Don’t feel pressured to do anything you are not ready to do. If you like it, go ahead, but it’s also okay if you realize you don’t like it. In anything you do, do it with love and with passion.”

Alex with dad, Mike after training last Friday, January 6 in Melbourne for the Australian Open 2023.

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