The remarkable Australian Open run of Indian-origin Astra Sharma

Astra Sharma and Australian compatriot John-Patrick Smith went all the way into the mixed doubles final of the Australian Open after pulling off a series of stunning upsets.

Astra Sharma jumped from just inside the top 1,000 in the WTA singles rankings to inside the top 250, winning three ITF titles in 2018.   -  Getty Images

Who is Astra Sharma, the 23-year-old Australian who qualified for the singles at her home Grand Slam and was granted wild card entries to both doubles events, making her debut in a Major in all three disciplines?

Born in Singapore to Dev and Susan, Sharma put her medical education in the US on hold to try her hand at a professional tennis two years ago – and has jumped from just inside the top 1,000 in the WTA singles rankings to inside the top 250, winning three ITF titles in 2018.

At the 2019 Australian Open, Sharma defeated Vera Zvonareva, a former World No. 2 who was the runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010. In the opening round, she beat compatriot Priscilla Hon for her first singles win on the WTA Tour, before bowing out to Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

In the women’s doubles, Sharma and fellow Australian Isabelle Wallace lost their opening round match to the American pair of Jennifer Brady and Alison Riske.

But the mixed doubles has been a different affair.

With stunning win after stunning win, the wild card team of Sharma and John-Patrick Smith – who had no notable Grand Slams performances to speak of till his run to the men’s doubles quarters at the 2017 US Open – made the finals in Melbourne Park.

Australia's Astra Sharma and compatriot John-Patrick Smith celebrate during the mixed doubles final against Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and United States' Rajeev Ram at the Australian Open on Saturday.   -  AP

 

The Australian duo defeated 2014 French Open men’s doubles champion Édouard Roger-Vasselin and his partner Andreja Klepac in the round of 16; six-time Grand Slam titlist Jamie Murray and eight-time champion Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the quarterfinals (both former world No. 1s in doubles); and five-time Major winner Bruno Soares and one-time winner Nicole Melichar, the No. 2 seeds in Melbourne, in the semis.

That’s a remarkable run for a player who’s won six singles and three doubles on the ITF circuit – considered the second rung of women’s tennis below the WTA Tour – but has been unheard of till the first week of the year’s first Grand Slam.

“Can't really believe the situation we’re in. 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,” Sharma said after reaching the final.

Sharma and Smith lost to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Rajeev Ram in the mixed doubles final on Saturday.