Astra Sharma 1R interview

  • def. Priscilla Hon 7-5 4-6-6-1

Q. First time in the main press centre?
ASTRA SHARMA: Yes.

Q. How do you feel today here?
ASTRA SHARMA: It feels pretty big time. Yeah, no, such a big honour to be here. Very grateful.

Q. Would you consider that match today a first-round match or a fourth-round match, considering that – is this just part of the whole Australian Open bigger picture?
ASTRA SHARMA: No, definitely would have said just I knew going in that it was my first main draw match, and obviously had a lot on the line there. So I really respected that and, like, took that separately. I mean, qualifying was extremely tough, but that's the whole reason you play, to get on that sort of stage.

Q. Does it redeem the disappointment of losing the wildcard playoff and not being given a normal wildcard?
ASTRA SHARMA: Yeah. I mean, 100 per cent. I didn't really think too much about the wildcards. I mean, girls from other countries, they're not going to get wildcards. It's always just a bonus if you get it.

I was happy that my ranking or from doing well this year could get me into qualies, and I was very excited for the qualifying opportunity here.

Q. Physically, how are you feeling with all of those games?
ASTRA SHARMA: Pretty good. Today was obviously really hot, but been doing my recovery, and I feel ready for the next round already. I think just the adrenaline (smiling).

But, yeah, it was really hot today and I think we both kind of struggled in that heat, yeah.

Q. In the third set, it looked like her hand was cramping up. Could you see all that from your...
ASTRA SHARMA: Yeah.

Q. Did you know what was going on?
ASTRA SHARMA: Yeah, I did. I was actually cramping a little bit in my leg. Yeah, I knew it was going to happen, because we were both sweating so much. Like my shirt was absolutely drenched. I could see her starting to cramp up, as well. I was just hoping that I could outlast her a bit, yeah.

Q. Can I ask you about your background? I read about the American college stuff. Hasn't been the normal route here, I guess. Could you tell us about how all that played out over the years?
ASTRA SHARMA: Well, yeah, I just decided to go to college after I broke my ankle in a pro tour match. Just while I was recovering and everything I wasn't doing too well in the pro circuit and ended up going to Vandy and definitely the coaches there took me under their wing and developed me for a good four, five years. I came out and absolutely wouldn't be the player I am today if I didn't go.

Q. What actually worked for you today in your game, do you think, and what do you need to improve on in the next round?
ASTRA SHARMA: I thought I served really well and used my forehand well to open up the court. I think probably in the next round to keep being aggressive and still using my spin, because Pri(scilla) plays pretty flat. So sometimes I would get caught in that sort of flat rally which isn't necessarily like my strength.

Q. Could I ask about the serve? It's obviously a big weapon, I think 190Ks, you hit it a few times there. As the years go on, it's going to be a big asset for you, isn't it?
ASTRA SHARMA: Yeah, definitely. It didn't always used to be, so it was nice developing that and getting free points and building my game around it. Yeah.

Q. Just on with the serve, as you're saying, you're banging them down 180, you touched 190K a couple of times. Yet Priscilla was returning with interest on some of that. Did that sort of say, Hey, what do I have to do here? She's returning quite big serves so well?
ASTRA SHARMA: Yeah, I mean, definitely she was short-hopping them and getting them back deep. I think that just speaks to how good a player Pri is. I definitely was a bit taken aback at times because I thought I hit a really good serve and she'd do something special with it. I just knew that if I kept hitting my spots and kept mixing it up, it's tough to do that all the time. So, yeah.

Q. The emotion, match point, that's obviously a big moment in your life. What was that actual moment like?
ASTRA SHARMA: Yeah, it was unreal. This is obviously the best I have ever done, to just, yeah, the match point – she hit a really good return, and I just kind of dug it out.

That was mostly just relief that I got that, because I respect her a lot, and I knew if I didn't put her out soon, it could just turn around.

Q. A bit of an Australian showdown. What's that like knowing you kind of both want to get to the next stage, what's it like having to win against a friend?
ASTRA SHARMA: Yeah. I mean, in one way it's good, because one person's definitely getting through. On the other hand, yeah, you don't really want to play your friends first round of a slam, but I think we both just put that aside. We are very friendly off-court, but on-court, I think, yeah, we're both just business, right? Yeah.

Q. The American college thing, when you went there, was that like for tennis? Was that part of it?
ASTRA SHARMA: Yeah, it was mainly for tennis. I mean, I heard such good things about Geoff, the coach, and he just seemed to know his stuff, like we e-mailed a lot, and I asked him about what he'd do for me development-wise.

He came back with just this incredible plan, so I was really impressed and was, like, 100 per cent on go, yeah.

Q. Next round, Ostapenko, former French Open champion, or Maria Sakkari. Any thoughts on those two?
ASTRA SHARMA: Just really excited to play either one. Obviously such high calibre opponents. It would just mean the world to get out there in that sort of stage with them and compete.

Q. It will probably be moved up in the schedule to probably somewhere, you know, a bigger court. How are you going to feel stepping on to something like Margaret Court Arena or something like that, a Western Australian namesake? What will that feel like to you, playing on a court named after a Western Australian?
ASTRA SHARMA: It would be pretty unreal. That would obviously be the biggest arena I played on ever. But it would mean so much just to be part of something so big, my home slam, my first slam. So, yeah, it would be great.