Tennis: Astra Sharma misses family's presence but vows to battle on

SINGAPORE – Since picking up tennis at the age of five, Astra Sharma’s parents Devdutt Sharma and Susan Tan have been her biggest supporters through the highs and lows of professional sport.

Her mother even spent a month in 2019 accompanying Astra across Asia for a series of tournaments. So there was naturally some disappointment when the 25-year-old Australian, who was born in Singapore, could not share not share one of her proudest moments with her family.

Neither parent was present last Sunday (April 18) when their daughter claimed her first WTA title by beating world No. 27 Ons Jabeur in the MUSC Health Women’s Open final in Charleston.

In a virtual media round table on Friday (April 23), Astra said: “It’s been very tough. My parents have been always very supportive of my tennis, involved in a hands-off way where it was more of a dialogue instead of them coaching me.

“They watched me growing up, so they can read my emotions, they might not know specific tennis terms for something, but they’ll be able to explain and be like, ‘you didn’t look like you’re doing this, this and this’, so it was always really nice to have some sort of really close feedback and input.

“I do miss that a lot with Covid-19 being such a big challenge.”

She last saw her Singapore-based parents in person at February’s Australian Open and keeps in touch on a regular basis by calling them after her matches.

Despite a poor start to the season – all her losses in her first six events have come after she claimed the first set before conceding the next two – the recent breakthrough has offered Astra reassurance she is on the right track.

“It was tough because I couldn’t quite get over the final hump and I was always there (within) touching distance but what it really meant for me in this tournament was to have back-to-back consolidated performances,” said Astra, whose world ranking shot up by 45 places to 120 after her maiden title.

“I was playing at a consistently high level, able close out matches and doing the right things over and over again, which gave me the confidence.”

This milestone victory also came on the back of a first-round exit at the Copa Colsanitas in Colombia due to a blunder by the chair umpire, who allegedly got the scores between Astra and her opponent Guilia Gatto-Monticone mixed up.

That experience left Astra rattled but was also a teaching moment.

Astra, who is based in Nashville where she graduated from the city’s Vanderbilt University in 2018, said: “When that happened, I had to doubt myself a little bit. The one lesson I maybe took from that was maybe being a bit more resilient after that incident happened.

“Maybe I should have done a better job resetting after that, letting that go and coming back out back even levelling it out.

“I didn’t let it really carry over to Charleston, I thought that would never happen again pretty much and it doesn’t bother me.”

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