Eala meets Sweden’s Peterson in the first round of qualifiers

Eala meets Sweden’s Peterson in the first round of qualifiers

ALEX EALA is all set for a much-awaited return in the Australian Open.

Arriving in Melbourne from her side stint in Canberra, Ms. Eala has been drawn to Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the first round of the qualifying draw starting today at the Rod Laver Arena.

“Hello Melbourne,” said Ms. Eala ahead of her first test in a bid to barge into the main competition and avenge her early exit last year.

The unranked Ms. Eala will be up against 18th seed Ms. Peterson, who is also No. 128 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings. Ms. Peterson, 28, boasts 14 titles in a seasoned career so far.

The 18-year-old wunderkind, for her part, has four titles in her pocket and has just reached No. 185 for a career-high placing in her budding women’s pro circuit career.

The Filipina tennis sensation is coming off a semifinal stint in the Workday Canberra International doubles tilt with Brazilian partner Laura Pigossi this week. In the same tourney, she participated in the singles but bowed early against Switzerland’s Celine Naef.

In the Australian Open, Ms. Eala needs to net three straight wins just to make the main draw featuring a stacked cast led by world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, world No. 2 and reigning champion Aryna Sabalenka, Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber among the few.

Only 16 tickets to the main draw will be up for grabs in the 128-woman qualifying draw.

A former junior doubles Grand Slam winner in the Australian Open, Ms. Eala debuted in the women’s level last year albeit she absorbed a first-round loss against Japan’s Misaki Doi.

She’s hoping for a different result this time around. — John Bryan Ulanday