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Alex Eala, Turkish partner upset 4th seeds in ITF Slovenia

MANILA, Philippines, February 29 ------ Last November, Alex Eala and Turkey’s top player Zeynep Sonmez surprised fourth seeds Katarina Kozarov of Serbia and Anita Wagner of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a straight-set victory in the ITF Luxembourg quarterfinals. Eala and Sonmez did an encore of that feat over another fourth-seeded duo.

The unseeded pair pulled the rug from under Liang En Shuo of Chinese Taipei and Tang Qianhui of China in a massive upset, 6-2, 6-4, in the women’s doubles opening round of the ITF 1st Empire Women’s Indoor 2024 in Trnava, Slovenia.

Though Eala now holds a career-high 293 in the WTA doubles world ranking, Sonmez only ranks 891 since she mostly plays  singles events. Her last doubles competition, in fact, was with Eala in November when they reached the semis in Luxembourg.

Liang, on the other hand, ranked 147th in the world in doubles last December and won the doubles silver in the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games. Tang is 138th and has won three WTA doubles titles. But their impressive credentials hardly mattered to Eala and Sonmez, who stamped their class right in the opening set. After an exchange of service breaks that tied the count at 2-2, Eala and Sonmez broke serve twice and swept the next four games to breeze through the first set, 6-2.

The Filipina and Turkish pair got off to a strong start in the second set when they broke serve anew to go up, 1-0, before Liang and Tang managed to draw even the next game and kept the score tied until the sixth.  Eala and Sonmez then made their move by pocketing the next two games to go up, 5-3, and create some distance from their foes. It was over after just an hour and 14 minutes when Eala and Sonmez closed out in the 10th game.

The Eala-Sonmez tandem will advance to the quarterfinals against the winner of the encounter between the Portuguese pair of Francisca Jorge and Bosnia’s Wagner, and Romania’s Ilona Ghioroaie and Czech Republic’s Aneta Kucmova.

Eala will be back in action at the TC Empire Trnava Tennis Complex, the largest and most  modern tennis facility in Slovakia, in the singles event on Wednesday.  Now also sporting a career-high singles ranking of 180, the Filipina teen star drew a tough opening-round matchup against second seed Anna Bondar of Hungary.  Eala fell to Bondar in three sets, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-1, on Friday, February 23, in the quarterfinals of the ITF W75 Porto in Portugal. 

Bondar won both the singles and doubles titles of the W75 Porto and will be seeking her third straight triumph over Eala. The 26-year-old Hungarian dealt Eala the worst loss of her pro career, a 6-0, 6-0 shutout, in the WTA Madrid qualifiers in 2022. 



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