Tennis - 23-year-old Astra Sharma says she did not expect to be playing in the main draw at Wimbledon at the start of the year. Speaking before the third Slam of the season, Sharma says, "It's been unreal. I did not expect this at the start of the year, so everything is kind of a bonus.
Walking around the grounds, seeing all the names and the pictures behind the whole tournament, it's been an amazing experience. I had my coach explain to me some of the players like (1939 champion) Alice Marble and how she was the pioneer in women's tennis and everything.
And just seeing, like, Bjorn Borg, the number of times he's won and then Federer and the Williams sisters between them. When you see (the honour rolls) there right in front of you year after year, it's kind of mind-blowing how they sustained that amazing elite consistent performance for so long."
Sharma was ranked outside the Top 200 in the world rankings at the start of the season but has climbed to a career-best ranking of No. 85 in the world after qualifying and reaching the second round of the Australian Open, winning an ITF title in Mexico and reaching the final of the WTA event in Bogota.
She plays the 27th seeded American Sofia Kenin in the first round at Wimbledon on Monday. Kenin recently upset Serena Williams at the French Open, losing to eventual champion Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round and is looking in good form.
She also won the WTA Mallorca Open on grass. Speaking about her opponent, Sharma says, "I'm really excited. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for her. She had a really good claycourt season and also has been doing very well on the grass.
I know she's going to be dangerous but, at the same time, I'm feeling really good on the practice court and can't wait to get out there and try to compete against her. I know I'm going to have to play really well to beat her and I think the same goes for her; she's going to have to play pretty well to beat me.
At this level, from the first round to the semi-finals, the level's so high that sometimes it's just such small margins that determine a match." In her three grass courts events leading up to Wimbledon, Sharma reached the last 16 at the Nottingham Open, lost in the final round of qualifying at the Birmingham Classic, and in the first round of qualifying at the Eastbourne International.