It was the first round of qualifying at Melbourne Park two weeks ago when Astra Sharma made a statement on the biggest stage of a Major. The 23-year-old college tennis star at Vanderbilt University made her Grand Slam debut by pummeling former World No. 2 and 2010 Wimbledon and U.S. Open Finalist, Vera Zvonareva in straight sets to advance further into the qualifiers.
The Australian with Indian origin, Sharma has been grabbing headlines for her gritty strides in her fledgling career as she goes further to make the Final of the Mixed Doubles in the season’s first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open.
Living her dream, Singapore born Astra who is presently ranked 232nd on the WTA has barely let the elite stage of a Major overwhelm her. Wading her way through a tough draw in the qualifiers, Sharma bulldozed her way into the singles by qualifying into the main draw of a Major for the very first time. Coming off three tough qualifying matches, Sharma took on the first round with finesse. Knocking out, compatriot, World No 136 Priscilla Hon in three sets in the opening round, Sharma was brimming with confidence and very deservingly so.Sharma has made noise on one of the biggest stages of tennis.
The supreme athleticism and a ferocious forehand has been signature of the Tennis West National Academy product and is what has been assisting her to go deep into the tournament.
Sharma stumbled in the second round of the singles, losing to World No 43, Maria Sakkari in straight sets but that has not stopped the Australian from treading ahead. Playing a higher ranked opponent is always a learning experience and Astra knows the lessons that she has been gaining.
Ever since making her debut on the WTA back in 2012, in a short span of almost 6 years, Sharma is here making noise on one of the biggest stages of the sport. Pairing up with fellow countrywoman Isabelle Wallace, Sharma played the first round of the Women’s doubles. It was not to be against the American pair of Jennifer Brady (who is ranked 73 in the doubles) and Alison Riske who got the better of the Australians in three sets. Bundled out from the doubles in the very first round, Astra was in no mood to give up.
Going deep into the Mixed Doubles
Having earned a wildcard into the Mixed doubles, it has indeed been a fairytale debut for Sharma who played all three events at the season’s first Major. A second round in the singles, first round finish in doubles and the dream run continues as Astra has reached deep into the tournament by making it to the Final of the Mixed doubles. The final showdown will see Sharma and her partner John Patrick Smith facing the American with Indian origin, a seasoned veteran, former top 10 and currently ranked 22nd in doubles, Rajeev Ram with his Czech partner Barbora Krejcikova.
Magic happened when, Sharma lived up to her wildcard status, pulling off an upset, beating 2nd seeds Nicole Melichar and Bruno Soares 6-4 7-6(5) in the semi-final.https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1088401076498378753
Astra with Patrick Smith had also registered a scintillating upset earlier in the quarter-final toppling Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray 6-2 7-6(5) in a thrilling hour and 16 minutes. It will remain to see if Sharma carries this fine form to lift her maiden Major title and etch her name alongside the sport’s elites.
A memorable outing for Astra Sharma, one she is not going to forget anytime soon. (Photo: Tennis Australia)
What is commendable of the Australian No 10, Astra, is how she has managed to scale the rankings in the past two years. A massive jump of almost 700 spots from 974 in 2016 to reach her career high of 225 last year is a testimony to the fact that she is famished for more.
Battling an ankle injury in 2015, Astra came back full throttle. She won two ITF titles in 2017 although her breakthrough year has been 2018 when she won three $25K singles and one $25K doubles title and touched career-high ranking of 225.
Sharma, is very well aware that she has yet to build upon consistency and firepower that can help her ignite sparks on the big stages. But with a booming serve and a stylish forehand, the Australian with a touch of Indianness is surely a spectacle to watch out for in the coming days.
As the home favorite pairing of Astra and Smith get ready for their final showdown at Melbourne Arena, we can sit back and marvel at the 23-year-old who will take on the veteran of Rajeev Ram and his partner in the Mixed doubles summit clash.