ALEX Eala banked on a dominant clincher to shrug off home bet Dalayna Hewitt, 6-1, 2-6, 6-0, and progress to the second round of the elite W80 Rancho Santa Fe yesterday in California.

The Filipina wunderkind needed two hours and 25 minutes to best her American counterpart, whom she forced to 19 errors especially in a 6-0 blanking in the third set that spelled the difference in the tough opening-round win.

Ms. Eala, the WTA No. 281, has Canada’s Katherine Sebov next in a crucial tiff today, needing a big win to barge into the quarterfinals of her first $80,000 tournament in a promising career.

The 17-year-old ace previously ruled the qualifying draw with a sweep of Latvia’s Deniza Marcinkeva, 6-1, 6-3, and American Alana Smith, 6-0, 6-0, to make it to the main competition featuring some of the Top-200 players.

Winner of the US Open junior championships in New York last month, Ms. Eala is out in California to capture her third pro title in her return to the women’s circuit.

She won her first two titles in the 2021 W15 Manacor in Spain and 2022 W25 Chiang Rai in Thailand. — John Bryan Ulanday