Vanderbilt Tennis alum Astra Sharma wins first round match at Australian Open


Brent Szklaruk

Astra Sharma and the Vanderbilt Women’s Tennis Team faces off against Nebraska on Friday, January 26, 2018. (Hustler Multimedia/Brent Szklaruk)

Ryan Suddath

Former Vanderbilt tennis star Astra Sharma continued her remarkable run at the Australian Open on January 14 as she won her first-round singles match against fellow Aussie Priscilla Hon 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

The match was a showdown of two of Australia’s most promising young stars, with Hon being only 20 years old and Sharma 23. While the two competed against each other on the junior tennis circuit, their paths diverged as Sharma played college tennis at Vanderbilt and Hon decided to forgo college and turn pro at the age of fifteen.

Although Sharma comfortably won the deciding set, the match was an otherwise back-and-forth affair. Sharma and Hon were separated by only 12 points in total (112 versus 100), and the first two sets of the match were each decided by only a single break of serve.

Sharma’s biggest advantage over Hon was her first serve, as she made 68% of her first serves to Hon’s 57%, and she won sixteen more points than Hon on first serve.

The match represented Sharma’s inaugural appearance in the singles draw of a Grand Slam. Sharma earned a spot in the main draw through the qualifying tournament, where she topped WTA #95 and first-seeded Vera Zvonerava, along with Varvara Flink and Irina Khromacheva.

With her victory, Sharma is guaranteed $105,000 in prize money, which eclipses the entirety of her previous career earnings. As an added bonus, she became the first Vanderbilt alum to win a Grand Slam singles match in school history. She is also the first Vanderbilt alum to even compete in a Grand Slam singles match since Julie Ditty.

Sharma competed in last year’s Australian Open doubles draw with Belinda Woolcock, but lost in the first round.

Sharma faces the winner of Maria Sakkari and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the second round of the Australian Open on Jan. 15 at 6:00 PM CT.