From medicine to tennis: Astra Sharma's fascinating journey2 min read . Updated: 25 Jan 2019, 01:34 PM IST
- At the end of 2016, she was ranked 974 in WTA singles rankings
- In just over two years, she has broken into the top 250 women tennis players in the world
On Thursday, Australian wild card mixed doubles pair of Astra Sharma and John-Patrick Smith upset the second-seeded pairing of American Nicole Melichar and Brazilian Bruno Soares 6-4 7-6 (5) to reach the finals of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the calendar year. They will face the pair of Czech Barbora Krejcikova and American Rajeev Ram on Saturday in their maiden Grand Slam final.
It has been a wonderful couple of seasons for Sharma, the 23-year-old from Perth. At the end of 2016, she was ranked 974 in WTA singles rankings. In just over two years, she has broken into the top 250 women tennis players in the world. She made it to the main draw this year after some scintillating performances in the qualifying, including a win over former world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva. Sharma was sent packing from the second round of the women’s singles, but her dream run continues with a chance to win the mixed doubles title come Saturday.
Sharma, ranked No.10 in Australia, started playing tennis at the age of five. At 18, after a couple of injuries to her wrist and ankle, she moved to the US for college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She majored in Medicine and Health and Society and graduated last year. All the while honing her skills on the tennis courts at college.
She started playing ITF events more regularly in the second half of 2017, after her college tennis season was over, and kept chipping away at the WTA ranking points.
She won three ITF singles titles last year and broke into the top 250 in October. Sharma’s 5-ft, 10-inch frame helps her all-court game. She generates the same power on her forehands and backhands, can make a quick transition from the baseline to the net and possesses a strong serve.
“…Playing with Astra – it’s her first Slam, so she’s doing fantastic. And I’m just glad I got the opportunity to play with her," Smith said about Sharma in the post match interview on Thursday. “I think Astra’s fearless out there; she goes for her shots, goes for her serve, not afraid to take over the net and it’s just pretty easy out there when someone plays with so much confidence."
Sharma, who is playing in front of the biggest crowd in her life, is still trying to take it all in.
“Just speechless really. Can’t really believe the situation we’re in," she said in the post match interview. “Just to keep beating such high-quality opponents, I mean, coming into this I had zero expectations and now I’m just absolutely over the moon."
One day, she might go to medical school and become a surgeon. For now, Sharma’s life goals are more clearly defined and her fairy tale on the verge of a dream ending.