"It hasn't really sunk in that I won, I'm so happy," Australia's Astra Sharma grinned after capturing her first WTA title at the MUSC Health Women's Open at Charleston, South Carolina. She won a hard, tough match over Tunisia's Ons Jabeur getting the victory in three sets: 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.
The entire tournament for Sharma has been deja vu at making it into the final, defeating Jabeur and now seeing her ranking rise high enough to perhaps qualify for more events on tour. The 2015 NCAA National Vanderbilt University champion isn't new to winning but the struggle transitioning from college tennis to the pros is now paying off.
She's seen times that coming into a tournament and biling out in the opening round was more the norm than an occasion. 'Roo' as she is nicknamed by her Vanderbilt mates is basking in the final glory of winning despite getting a near win a while back.
"Two years ago, I got so close and the nerves got the better of me, and I kind of blew that chance," Sharma explains. It was in 2019 at the Copa Colsanitas in Bogata, Colombia that she mentally crashed and lost the final to Amanda Anisimova in three tough sets and ironically the last set was 6-1 when she was defeated.
Things were different and she didn't know how to translate her zest for winning into a victory. Today things are changing. She goes on smilingly to say that "This time, I was a lot calmer and just held my nerves really well, especially with Ons playing such high-level tennis in the first set."
Sharma has experienced a lot of firsts in this tournament and it feels good.
MUSC Health Women's Open is a premier tournament formed as a warm-up for player's who had to be quarantined due to the Pandemic. It was also the first time the Australian has played Ons Jabeur, whose rank of no.
25 in the world has played quality players superior to herself. But Sharma was strong enough to prevail with her first win over a top 30 player despite her opponent's extreme gamesmanship. Sharma says about her thoughts on playing Jabeur: "Ons played amazing in the first, and I didn't really know what to do.
She was wrong-footing me, drop-shotting me and making me cover a lot of court. I couldn't...read what she was doing..." The Australian former college player now a pro has played with her leg wrapped but left that with no excuse to put her best forward to finally win.
She didn't let her first set defeat put a damper on her ability to become victorious. She barely won the 2nd set and as her strategies and momentum built, she played aggressively to win the deciding set. She summed up her feelings as best she could be saying "It means the world to me. It's rare to finally end a week on a win."