Tennis: Singapore-born Astra Sharma settles for mixed doubles runners-up finish at Australian Open

Astra Sharma and John-Patrick Smith in action during the mixed doubles final at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan 26, 2019.
Astra Sharma and John-Patrick Smith in action during the mixed doubles final at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan 26, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - Singapore-born Australian Astra Sharma and compatriot John-Patrick Smith settled for a runners-up finish at the Australian Open on Saturday (Jan 26) after falling 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 to Czech Barbora Krejcikova and American Rajeev Ram in the mixed doubles final.

Wildcard pair Sharma and Smith, who stunned US Open champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray and upset the second-seeded Nicole Melichar and Bruno Soares en route to the final, were broken to start the match.

Two winners from 23-year-old Sharma in the sixth game gave the Australian pair break point and a chance to equalise, which they took after an unforced error from Ram.

The third-seeded Ram and Krejcikova, who won the women's doubles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2018, were steadier in the tie-break, and surged to a 3-0 lead in the second set.

Steady serving from Sharma set Smith up to finish the points at the net, allowing them to win their first and only game of the second set.

They then saved a match point after Ram sent a volley into the net, but a Krejcikova backhand winner sealed the victory for their opponents.

Said Sharma during the victory ceremony: "It's been a fantastic experience for my first Slam and I can't wait to be back next year."

Ram, who won the Olympic mixed doubles silver in 2016 with Venus Williams, told Sharma: "I think it took me about 65 Grand Slams to reach my first final and 75 to reach my second, which is today. So for you to do it in your first, it's quite impressive - (you're) going to be a big star in Australian tennis."

Said Sharma's former coach Poh Tian Chin, who watched the match at a wedding dinner on his phone: "Before the (semi-final) match, I sent a text to her parents that I believed she would go to the final. I am so proud of her, I was very impressed with how she played.

"(Before the final) I texted her mum saying, 'Please tell Astra don't hold back and (to) enjoy the match and play like how she did in the semi-final',"added the 59-year-old, who coached Sharma and her brother Ashwin in the 1990s when they lived in Singapore.

"In the first set, she played very, very well, I'm proud of her. Even though she lost, maybe because this is her first Grand Slam.

"But I think she didn't hold back at all, she played very well in the first set. I'm so proud that she got into the final."