Australian Open: Astra Sharma scripts fairytale journey to Grand Slam debut

In 2017, Geoff McDonald, the coach of the Vanderbilt College Tennis team where Indian-born Astra Sharma plays said in an interview to a blog, ” I think Astra is good enough to become a top 50 player and become someone who plays in Grand Slams. I think she can do it. It’s a hard journey, but she loves the game, she has the work ethic, she has good feet and she also has a really big heart. She’s got pretty much what you need.” A little more than a year later, Astra has made her Grand Slam debut and defeated a former World No 2 and has clinched a berth in the Australian Open Main Draw.

The 23-year old is currently ranked 230 in the world. A full-American status which enabled her to pursue Vanderbilt on a Tennis scholarship has seen this Australian born star of Indian descent catch quite a few eyeballs. In her first qualifying game, she beat former world No 2 Vera Zvonareva off the court 6-3 6-2 in her opening qualifying match. Zvonareva, a former finalist at both Wimbledon and the US Open, was the top seeded player in the Women’s Qualifying draw.

And yesterday, she battled 2 hours and 46 minutes to beat Russia’s Irina Khromacheva in three sets (5-7 7-6 7-6)

She has never played a Grand Slam before before the final tiebreak of the last qualifying round match saw Sharma win it 12-10 to secure her place. Interestingly, it has been her athleticism that first caught the eye of her College coaches where Sharma has spent the majority of her young tennis career. “Astra was a bit raw, but her athleticism was off the charts,” he Vanderbilt coach was quoted as saying last year.

Astra Sharma made her WTA debut in 2012. She won three ITF titles in 2018 which is arguably her best year and ended the year with a ranking of 232. She had earlier obtained a Wild Card for the 2018 Australian Open as well.