September 18 ------ Alex Eala of the Philippines prevailed over Elizabeth Mandlik of the United States in the Guangzhou Open qualifiers in China, 7-5, 7-6(3), to progress into the main draw of the WTA 250 event against third seed Tatjana Maria of Germany. It was the third time that the 18-year-old Filipino qualified for a WTA main draw, following her opening-round finishes at the Thailand Open in January and Japan Women’s Open in Osaka this week. Eala, currently with a career-best ranking of 195th in the world, was the No. 10 seed in the qualifying draw.
WTA World No. 167 Mandlik, the daughter of four-time grand slam champion Hana Mandlikova, was the qualifying sixth seed. The 22-year-old American, who peaked at 97th in June, led at 3-1 and 4-2 by holding serve at deuce. Eala equalized at 4-4 with a break at deuce, and broke back to level at 5-5 as Mandlik was serving for the set. At 6-5, Eala broke again at deuce on her second set point to gain the upper hand, 7-5.
The competitors went on to exchange breaks to tie the score at 4-4 in the second set. Eala leveled at 5-5 by breaking Mandlik as she was serving for the set, then saved a break point to hold for 6-5. Mandlik secured a love hold to bring up a tiebreak, which Eala dominated with a 4-1 edge. Eala proceeded to gain three match points at 6-3, and she immediately converted the next mini-break to emerge victorious after two hours and four minutes of play, 7-6(3).
In the opening round of qualifiers on Saturday, Eala overcame World No. 278 En-Shuo Liang of Chinese Taipei in a tough battle, 5-7, 6-1, 7-5. The Filipino enjoyed a 3-0 lead, which she extended to 5-3 until the 22-year-old Liang caught up, saved two break points to hold, and broke to take the opening set, 7-5. Eala then cruised through the second set, 6-1, by breaking for 3-0, holding at deuce to be at 5-1, and breaking once more on her first of two set points as Liang was serving to stay in the set.
Both players leveled up in the deciding set as there were no service breaks until the 12th and final game. At 6-5, the Filipino broke for the seventh time in the match to triumph after two hours and 10 minutes, 7-5. The Galaxy Holding Group Guangzhou Open, which offers USD 259,303 in prize money, is being held on the outdoor hard courts of the Guangzhou Nansha International Tennis Center.
The WTA tournament is bannered by World No. 24 Magda Linette of Poland, 35th-ranked Lin Zhu of China, and No. 48 Maria, who has beaten Eala twice this year in the opening round of the Thailand Open and Madrid Open.