ALEXANDRA "Alex" Eala was just three years old when she first held a tennis racket.
She started training at the early age of four, joined her first local competition two years later, then became an international contender when she was eight.
At 14, Alex has already clinched the 13th spot in the International Tennis Federation World Junior Rankings (18 years old and below), as the youngest netter among the Top 50, globally. She's also the third highest ranked from Asia, following China's Qinwen Zheng (No. 7) and Japan's Natsumi Kawaguchi (8), who are both 17 years old.
Some might say that's too young to commit oneself to a professional sport, but for a prodigy like Alex, there's no place she'd rather be than a tennis court.
"Tennis has always been our family sport," she tells SPIN Life. "I guess it really runs in the family. I got into it because of my grandfather and brother. Whenever I compete, I just try to think that this is what I want to do, what I love to do. Everyone has been working on this for so long, I just make the most out of it. I really enjoy it because you get a lot of things not just physically, but you also get strong mentally."
Six years ago, Alex made her debut in the Little Mo International Tennis Grand Slam tournament in the United States, where she aced three different events and brought home a trophy that was taller than her.
According to her dad Mike, the moment she showed interest in the sport, they had to make it part of their everyday routine.
He shares, "It has always been a step-by-step process for us... First club, then country, then region, then international. She won this Little Mo tournament in the US, and she got a six-feet tall trophy. She got motivated, so we moved further."
Alex was 13 when she received a scholarship offer from the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy in Mallorca, Spain. She's currently based there as a Grade 9 student with her brother Miko, and returned to the Philippines for a short vacation.
The elder Eala recalls how her daughter got her biggest break: "It was really when she won this French tournament (Les Petis As), the supposedly unofficial world tournament for Under-14. That's when scouts wanted to sign her up, as well as when she heard from the Academy."
Despite being far from home, Alex draws inspiration from her family here, especially her grandfather. "My father-in-law, her lolo, has always been her guide," says Mike. "He's been her life coach to get to that kind of level now."
"My kin is my biggest supporter. Everything they've done for me serves as motivation," Alex adds.