The 15th edition of the Australian Open Wild Card Play-off has reached the final stage and it will be a clash between Astra Sharma and Kimberly Birrell for the title and the place in the main draw of the upcoming first Grand Slam of the season after beating the higher-ranked rivals. The 5th seed Astra Sharma is a former Vanderbilt Commodores star and she is a win away from a Grand Slam debut following a 3-6 6-4 6-3 triumph over the 4th seed Zoe Hives.
Sharma got broken in the sixth game after a return winner from Hives and it was the decisive moment of the entire set, with Zoe sealing the opener thanks to a service winner in game nine. Sharma survived a tough opening game of the second set and another one at 2-2 when she was 40-0 down, digging deep to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard in set number two and extend her chances.
Hives did just about everything right so far in the match but she lost her focus in the worst possible moment, netting an easy forehand drive-volley at 4-5 to get broken and hand the set to her opponent who was mighty relieved after being on a verge of a set and a break down earlier.
Astra had the control now and she made an early break in the decider to open a 3-0 lead, holding at love in game seven for a 5-2 lead and sealing the deal with a hold at 15 in the ninth game for a 6-3 and the place in the title match.
In the second semi-final, the 8th seed Kimberly Birrell took down the 2nd seed Ellen Perez 6-4 6-4 to join Sharma in the final, looking to enter the Australian Open draw for the second time after 2016. Birrell drew first blood in the third game and she saved a break point in the following game to extend her lead and move 3-1 up.
Perez wasted a break point in game 10 and she sprayed a backhand error to send Birrell 6-4 up, having to raise her level if she wanted to cross the finish line first. After a big rain delay, Kimberly made the crucial advantage in the seventh game and she clinched the win after a hold at love in game 10 to secure the place in the final. Semi-final results:
Astra Sharma vs Zoe Hives 3-6 6-4 6-3
Kimberly Birrell vs Ellen Perez 6-4 6-4