Astra Sharma can’t recall being part of a match or in front of a crowd that quite compares.
In the final qualifying showdown to finish on Friday, the last-standing Australian woman threw her hands over her face in disbelief as a packed Court 8 crowd stood to remind her what she had just achieved.
After two hours and 46 minutes, she had saved three match points to withstand a cramping Irina Khromacheva and book her Grand Slam main draw debut.
“No nothing like that [before],” Sharma laughed. “It was an electric atmosphere. I knew obviously she was cramping.
“There was a lot on the line. Just to have that crowd support was really just pushing me through a heap.”
While a promising junior, the 23-year-old had turned to college tennis in the US to hone her progress.
Initial hopes of becoming a surgeon were soon set aside, and only a month ago Sharma had sounded notice she was on the rise with a surprise run to the Australian Open 2019 Wildcard Playoff final.
Now she will contest her first tour-level match at her home Grand Slam against a fellow Australian, Priscilla Hon.
“To be honest, no expectations now,” she said. “Just really happy to get that win.
“My parents, they were up in the stands, far tucked up in the back, but they were there the whole way.”
The left-handed Khromacheva had let slip three match points in the second-set tie-break and by the deciding match tie-break, was fighting back tears as she desperately shook her hands and right thigh, trying to ward off cramps.
“I think I changed a little bit how I was playing because I didn’t want to give any cheap errors and then she just started going for it which really changed the tone of the match,” Sharma said. “I mean once I got that [second set] I was really confident. I felt really good in the third because I wasn’t tired or anything.”
Source: Dan Imhoff