Astra Sharma will take the court at approximately 8 PM CT to face Maria Sakkari of Greece in the second round of the Australian Open in what promises to be a riveting match between 2 power players. ESPN2 will have coverage, but ESPN+ may be the best bet to watch Astra’s match in its entirety. The match will be played on Show Court 3 in Melbourne.
I caught up with Vanderbilt Women’s Tennis Coach Geoff McDonald and we discussed Astra’s journey to reach this penultimate point in her tennis career so far. Geoff also previewed tonight’s match with Sakkari, the 43rd ranked player in the world. Sakarri is 23, has been on the tour since 2015, and is a powerfully built player. She is a powerlifter. But Astra has strong strokes too and looks to be a more consistent player with her ground strokes. So this should be a classic.
Here’s my interview with Geoff.
DW: Tell me how Astra got to this point.
GM: Astra came into the summer ranked 230 in the world and is now 96. In the first round of qualifying she drew the No.1` seed, Vera Zdonereva of Russia. Vera is 34 and is making a comeback. She made the Wimbledon final at one point in her career. Astra defeated her 6-3, 6-2. Then Astra played another good Russian, Vavara Fink, and defeated her 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. In the final round she faced another Russian and won 5-7, 7-6 (11-9) and 7-6 (12-10). Astra was down 0-1, 1-2, 2-3 and 5-6 in the match and kept fighting back. It was an unbelievable effort.
DW: Astra’s victory over Priscilla Hon in the first round was quite exciting as well. (She won in 3 sets)
GM: Hon is a really good player. Astra was down break point 13 times and won 10 of them. It was an awesome effort.
DW: Tell me about Sakkari, tonight’s opponent?
GM: She is powerful. She could play outside linebacker for the Dores. She’s a power lifter. She hits the cover off the ball. If Astra can mix it up well with her she’s got a shot.
DW: What does this say about Astra and her abilities?
GM: She is such a hard worker and such a charismatic young lady. She just oozes charisma. She’ll have a lot of Australians cheering for her tonight (Astra is a Perth, Australia native). This is huge for her family and for her and the Vanderbilt tennis community. Top players are looking at Astra and see this as a place where they can develop their games and take it to the next level. It’s just awesome stuff for Astra, her family and the Vanderbilt tennis community.
Astra on court 3 tonight around 8 PM. It’ll be sensational watching our dedicated player home in on advancing against a top flight opponent. Here’s Astra’s press conference from Monday after her victory over Priscilla Won.