ALEX M. Eala faces a tall order in her return to the Miami Open with a tough first-round duel against Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) No. 59 and home bet Madison Brengle at the Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday.
A wild card entry, the 16-year-old Filipina netter eyes to spring an upset in the lower half of the stacked 128-player field for a chance to meet WTA No. 30 Liudmila Samsonova of Russia in the next round.
Ms. Eala is at 565th of the WTA list, making her mission a giant mountain to scale opposite the 31-year-old American as her highest-ranked opponent so far in her young pro career.
It will be Ms. Eala’s second stint in the Miami Open after gaining a wild card qualifying berth last year. She, however, absorbed a quick first-round exit at the hands of Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova.
This time, Ms. Eala is through to the main draw of the elite tourney that also features No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka, second-seeded Iga Świątek, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Coco Gauff, Emma Raducanu, Naomi Osaka, and Filipina-Canadian Leylah Fernandez.
World No. 1 and reigning champion Ashleigh Barty is out of the picture for the meantime after her withdrawal due to her ongoing recovery from consecutive campaigns highlighted by a championship in the 2022 Australian Open.
Ms. Eala’s preparations for the Miami Open included participation in five straight events so far capped by a Round-of-16 finish in the W25 Joue les Tours in France earlier this month. — John Bryan Ulanday