In her third Miami Open appearance, wildcard Alexandra “Alex” Eala of the Philippines suffered a 2-6, 5-7 defeat to World No. 34 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in the first round of the WTA 1000 event, Tuesday in Florida.
Eala, the 17-year-old US Open Juniors reigning singles champion and WTA World No. 219, almost forced a decider after earning five set points on serve.
But this did not deter the 32-year-old Begu as she rallied to win in straight sets to arrange a second-round clash with Zheng Qinwen of China.
The Eala-Begu match was scheduled first on the Butch Buchholz Court at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Shortly after the Filipino teen took a 2-0 lead, the Romanian equalized with an ace then broke serve courtesy of an Eala double fault, which totaled six throughout the match.
Begu went on to take the first set, 6-2, after her backhand down-the-line shot proved to be too strong for Eala.
The second set began with a 2-0 edge for Eala, and she advanced to 5-1 after Begu committed more errors.
As Eala served for the set in the seventh game, she gained one set point and faced two break points before handing over the service break to Begu, 2-5, via a double fault.
Eala served for the set once more at 5-3 in the ninth game, where she earned four set points and faced five break points.
After eight deuces, Begu broke serve to inch closer at 4-5 after Eala let out a long backhand.
The Romanian veteran, who reached a career-high ranking of World No. 22 in 2016, leveled at 5-5 and broke serve in the following game on her second opportunity to serve for the match at 6-5.
A winning backhand gave Begu three match points, and a forehand service return error from Eala awarded the victory to the Romanian, 7-5.
Eala’s first-round main draw finish matched her Miami result in 2022 when she lost as a wildcard to then World No. 59 Madison Brengle of the United States 2-6, 1-6.
The Rafa Nadal Academy scholar made her debut in Miami as a qualifying wildcard in 2021, and she fell in the first round of qualifiers versus Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-4, 4-6, 2-6.
On the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour, Eala is a singles champion at the 2021 W15 Manacor in Spain and 2022 W25 Chiang Rai in Thailand
Her most recent singles result this year is a second-round finish at the W60 Trnava in Slovakia.