It’s been a year of firsts for Astra Sharma. First year playing professionally. First time playing in a Grand Slam, and subsequently, first time reaching the finalsof a Grand Slam (in mixed doubles with partner John-Patrick Smith). First WTA title. First time cracking the WTA Top 100. So, why not add “first time playing World TeamTennis” to the list?
When the idea of WTT came up, “It was a big draw for me,” says Sharma, a Vanderbilt alumna. “I loved playing college tennis and that special intensity that only a team could bring, so that was a really big thing for me signing up [for WTT].” The Singapore-born Australian citizen had distinct reasons for choosing the U.S. for her college career. “The draw of college tennis was the coaching and environment,” she says. “I felt like I could get a ton better in a place that had world-class facilities, world-class coaches, and nine other girls to train [and] hit with, and to push me. For me, it was such a perfect training setup and the best way to get better. Matches every weekend, coaching every day, access to physios, recovery, gyms…I was so grateful for all of it. The biggest adjustment [on the pro tour] is having no team. It was really nice knowing everyday you’d be training with friends, bonding over the same experiences, celebrating the same triumphs. It’s definitely more singular on the tour but you adapt and take the lessons college taught, and it’s been going well!”
If her success in the college team environment in is any indicator of what Aviators fans can expect from Sharma, this is going to be a fantastic season. The 2017 SEC Player of the Year and 2017 All-American in singles and doubles racked up honors throughout her college career, a momentum that has carried into her first year on the pro circuit. In addition to her WTA successes to date, she’s also nabbed two more ITF titles this year, one each in singles and doubles.
“It’s beyond crazy and I am very proud of all I have done and appreciate the difficulty of playing at this level,” says Sharma. “The next step is to maintain, but again, I don’t take it for granted, seeing as it was a ton of hard work and close matches to get those results.”
Now sitting at a career-high World No. 88 and climbing, Sharma maintains perspective on what lies ahead. “I try and keep my goals process-oriented,” she says. “Results are really nice but at the end of the day I’m trying to master an extremely difficult sport against amazing athletes. I love competing and fighting on court and I try and keep that attitude consistent each match. I hope to keep that up for the rest of the season.” Though she says her tennis “idol” is always changing, right now, it’s Pete Sampras, whose serve-and-volley game is especially inspiring as she charges into the grass season.
When it’s time to shift to the hard court of World TeamTennis and join her fellow Aviators, Sharma is ready. “I have not had much contact with my teammates, being relatively new to the professional scene, but I’m really excited to meet everyone and get to know them. It seems like such a fun, supportive atmosphere — I can’t wait to be a part of it!” Of course, that means she gets to come play in sunny San Diego, too. “I am so pumped because I love California,” she says. “In a lot of ways, it’s very similar to Australia. Very excited to hit the beach, but I’ve heard SeaWorld and some of the museums and nature trails are a must. [I] would love suggestions if any San Diego natives have some!”
So, Aviators fans, if you have any must-see recommendations for Astra Sharma, she’s listening! @astrasharma