WA qualifier Astra Sharma celebrated her grand slam debut on Monday by grinding out a stirring 7-5 4-6 6-1 win over Priscilla Hon to advance to the second round of the Australian Open.
Sharma broke Hon’s serve in the second and sixth games of the third set before closing out her impressive victory with a strong service game in searing hot conditions at Melbourne Park.
The 23-year-old right-hander will likely meet 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the second round, with the Latvian world no.22 to meet Greece’s Maria Sakkari later on day one.
Sharma’s tough qualifying route proved a valuable experience for a match that lasted more than two hours.
Her fastest serve (191km/h) was 7km/h faster than Hon’s as one of her main weapons came to the fore.
She fired down 12 aces to seven and landed 68 per cent of first serves to Hon’s 57 per cent, winning 74 per cent of points played on her first serve.
In the opening set, Sharma survived four early break points and pounced on her first opportunity to take a game off Hon’s serve to take a 5-3 lead.
Sharma was broken to love in the ninth game when serving for the set, but recovered and claimed the first set in 48 minutes with her second break of serve.
Sharma’s charge hit a snag in the second set when she survived three set points and thought she had levelled it at 5-5 with a forehand winner, only for Hon’s challenge seeing the line call overturned.
Replays showed the ball was marginally out.
Sharma survived another set point before Hon closed it out to send the match to a deciding set as the temperature nudged 30C.
Hon wilted as Sharma broke early in the third set, taking a 3-0 lead before completing her victory in fine fashion.
Sharma had already eclipsed her career prize money tally of just over $72,000 simply by qualifying for the main draw, which guaranteed her $75,000.
By reaching the second round, she will now earn a minimum of $105,000 from the tournament.