In his book The Promised Land, former US President Barack Obama wrote, “The truth is, I‘ve never been a big believer in destiny. I worry that it encourages resignation in the down-and-out and complacency among the powerful.”
This is such a curious notion from a man, whose rise to power, eventually occupying the most influential position in the world, has been nothing short of a fulfilment of a purposeful fate.
Obama’s journey began with an improbable thesis, that a black man can be President of the United States. Beleaguered by all sorts of reason that say otherwise, Obama and his team marched on with a common belief that it can be done. The uncompromising line, “Yes we can,” resonates till today.
Although these words seem to point only to politics, beset with this kind of choice we all are. Do we live our lives resigned to a pre-ordained future or do our tomorrows solely rest on us? Regardless of who we are or what we do, we go on our daily lives guided by whatever belief we have.
ALEXANDRA “ALEX” EALA
Women’s tennis is dominated by players from the United States, Czech Republic and Russia. Watching the rise of 15-year-old protégé, Alex Eala uncovers the question about destiny. This young lass is positioned to be the first Filipina tennis player to be truly competitive in the world stage. One cannot help but marvel at her tenacity. In a sport where Asian women are still struggling, Eala must feel alone.
Alex, as she is commonly called, reportedly began playing at an early age of 4. Circumstances continued to present themselves and eventually these series of opportunities formed a desire in her to continue raising the bar. When asked when she decided to take the sport seriously, she shares, “There was no specific moment, I have always loved the sport, and because tennis was such a big part of my life, being a professional player has been my dream longer than I can remember.”
Her reply is no different from any other young tennis hopeful from around the world. Any champion will point to a moment where they began to “love” the sport more than others. But we must remember that there are more of these youngsters, who never enter the world of international tennis.
DREAMS AND AMBITIONS
Everybody begins with a dream. A personal expectation that destiny awaits.
So what separates the champions from the wannabes? Are there those who are truly intended for greatness and are the others, despite similar beginnings, headed for obscurity?
Eala, much like the other youth players listed in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) top ten list, began with ambition.
“I am a very ambitious and hardworking girl surrounded by amazing people,” Eala describes herself.
BUSTING OUT AND KICKING DOORS DOWN
“I have only ever trained full time in two places. From when I started playing until the age of 13, I would train with my grandfather and brother in a country club in Pasig (Valle Verde Country Club). I have been training here in the Rafa Nadal Academy in Spain ever since September 2018.”
Countries with a bustling tennis community have the luxury of constantly churning out players that compete in international play. They have training systems which include a robust financial base, an active sports environment and a fan base in their country who understands, appreciates and supports the game.
The Philippines, sadly does not provide any of that.
Team Eala had to break out if they were to break through. Someone once said that total commitment invites the right occasions and eventually divine intervention follows. Armed with a belief in her skills and willingness to learn, Eala moved closer to where the action was.
“Moving away from the Philippines, I was definitely confident in my abilities, however I was also sure that I had so much to learn and that I was far from being the best. I would give myself a 7 because I was very eager to learn and work hard. I wouldn’t say I rated myself based on skill. I believe that you can never reach 10/10 because there will always be something you can improve no matter how good you are.”
Eala’s commitment level rose when she took the step of faith out of her comfort zone. She made the Rafa Nadal training Academy her second home.
Last year, Eala was ranked #2 women’s junior player in the world by the ITF. Although she moved down a notch to third spot early in 2021, she is now ranked 763 overall by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). This is her highest ranking thus far. Making this list is by itself an extraordinary feat given the limited exposure and training she has had. At 15 years old, she is in a very good position.
When asked if she expected to garner these worldwide rankings, Eala responded, “I think I knew for a while that I had the potential, but I didn’t expect to exceed my goals so quickly. I think it’s important that you believe in yourself and trust that if you work hard enough, you will reach your goals with time.”
LETTING GO OF NORMALCY
Like all great men and women who early in their lives have chosen a specific path, some things will have to be sacrificed. Living a life with a single minded purpose, require choices.
It is not a surprise that a huge part of the “normal” has to be forgone. Alex’s daily schedule is surely not normal but the gain she says outweighs the sacrifices.
“One of the biggest struggles I’ve had is maintaining a balanced social life. Growing up I never had time to spend with my friends, I was a very shy kid and still am. I would feel very left out at times because of my tennis. Another obvious sacrifice is being away from my family. Ever since I moved to Spain I haven’t been with my family as much as other kids have, but with all my sacrifices, I understand that this is what I had to give up if I am looking to be serious about tennis. Three things I think I gained are discipline, maturity and patience. I don’t think I would make it very far without these traits.”
DISCIPLINE. MATURITY. PATIENCE.
If there is nothing else to gain from this experience, these are enough. Clearly Alex is prepared for the long haul. It is the point of no return some would say, her path carved out, the destination in sight.
Alex further intimates, “I want to be a successful woman who has achieved everything I have wanted to achieve, not just on the court but off the court as well.”
At 15, Eala understands the symbolism of what she is doing now. “I want to thank each and every one of you for following my matches in my career,” she quips, “it means so much to me to my family and friends and to all the fans you really help motivate me to be the best version of myself that I can be. I hope that I am able to somewhat serve as an inspiration to others.”
No one can truly determine what will become of Alex’s tennis dream. Only time will tell. It is not wrong to expect great things from her; on the contrary our support must be anchored on anticipating success.
Eala’s destiny belongs only to her. Wherever this all leads depend on how she advances from here on.
“ ….. the best we can do is to try to align ourselves with what we feel is right and construct some meaning out of our confusion, and with grace and nerve play at each moment the hand that we’re dealt”
President Barack Obama
The Promised Land
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Mike Ochosa is an avid sportsman. He has written for various broadsheets and on line publication providing his thoughts and insights on various sports. He is a freelance TV boxing analyst having sat ringside in 14 of Pacquiao’s fights and for various international sports networks as well. He was President of Punchout Boxing Club and is currently President and Program Director of Philippine Habagat Baseball.
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