Watching Rafa Nadal play and practice has influenced the way Alexandra Eala played tennis during her campaign in the 2020 French Open’s Roland Garros Junior Tennis Championships girls singles.
She didn’t have to talk to the world no. 2 ranked men’s professional netter whenever he practiced over the last two months, but studying Nadal’s actions while he trains on the clay courts of the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain is more than enough.
“I’ve been watching. You can already get a lot of tips from that. But, I have not been personally talking to him,” said Eala, who had to observe Nadal from afar due to social distancing measures that have been imposed since Spain is the second country that has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The 15-year-old Eala does see much action on clay court surfaces. But her participation in the French Open gave her a chance to improve her game on a different surface.
Because of this, the quality of her game has changed since Eala started playing in international meets three years ago.
The contrast can be seen in how she fought her way into the 2020 French Open’s Roland Garros Junior Tennis Championships girls’ singles semifinals.
“There’s a big difference (in play) and fitness-wise. And it comforts that in a span of three years, I was able to keep going,” said Eala.
The young Eala talked about the improvements in her game during a webcast of the weekly show, “Power and Play,” of her uncle Noli Eala.
The fourth seeded Eala bowed to third seeded and hometown favorite Elsa Jacquemot of France, 3-6, 2-6, in a 64-minute contest a few hours before the show.
Jacquemot reached the finals against giant-killing Russian Alina Charaeva, who ousted fellow Russian, no. 4 Polina Kudermetova, 6-7(5-7), 6-2, 7-5).
The 17-year-old Jacquemot won the title because of her age and experience, staging an impressive fightback to overcome Charaeva of Russia, 6-3, 6-2 to seal the girls’ title.
Seventh seed Swiss Dominic Stricker took the boys crown with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Leandro Riedl.
Jacquemot trailed by a set and down 4-2 in the second, but a steadfast refusal to lose saw her turn the tide in her favor.
Because of this, Jacquemot became the first French girl to be crowned a Junior Grand Slam champion since Kristina Mladenovic did it in 2009.
Despite her loss, Eala has already set a milestone since she has never gotten this far in a Grand Slam tournament.
And, its been a long way for her since Eala made her first finals appearance in a junior netfest in Indonesia. She lost the crown to Priska Nugroho, 2-6, 6-4, 1-6.
With organizers practicing social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic, there were no spectators around when Eala faced Jacquemot.
“I do miss the fans. I do love to have to have the fans to watch me play. But not every tournament that I will play will be as grand as the Roland Garros event,” said Eala.
During their encounter, the 18-year-old Jacquemot scored 16 points on 26 first serves, and knocked in three aces as well.
But Eala showed her intensity in that game, and held on until the fourth game of the final set, 2-all.
And then, things turned when one of Jacquemot’s aces found its mark in the fifth game.
That was when the French netter began stepping up, and hit long forehand drives to Eala’s left.
Jacquemot’s service winner and volley from the net allowed her grab a 3-2 edge.
In the fifth game, Jacquemot pounced on Eala’s second serves to race to a 40-0 lead, a game break and a decisive 4-2 spread.
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