Tennis: Astra's parents proud of her for overcoming adversity to win maiden WTA title

Australia's Astra Sharma hits a return against Japan's Nao Hibino during the Australian Open in Melbourne, on Feb 8, 2021.
Australia's Astra Sharma hits a return against Japan's Nao Hibino during the Australian Open in Melbourne, on Feb 8, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Just two months ago, Devdutt Sharma was at Melbourne Park to support his daughter Astra Sharma at the Australian Open, where he witnessed her come agonisingly close to beating Japan's world No. 76 Nao Hibino in the first round of the women's singles.

That encounter was one of numerous times when the 60-year-old and his wife Susan Tan - who are both Singaporean - saw their middle child go through the heartbreak of defeat just as a breakthrough win seemed within reach.

On Sunday (April 18), world No. 165 Astra finally delivered on court as she beat world No. 27 Ons Jabeur to claim her first WTA title at Charleston, South Carolina.

It was also the first time in three attempts that the Singapore-born Australian had beaten a top-30 player.

While they were not able to witness her win in person, Devdutt and Tan, who are currently in Singapore, told The Straits Times that they were proud of their daughter's career-best singles achievement.

Devdutt, 60, said: "She's had a lot of heartbreaking matches against top-50 players where she's had them on the ropes and failed to convert and gone on to lose, which has been very demoralising for her.

"But we had no doubt, we kept telling her that if she was getting into those positions where she could threaten very good players, she just had to keep going, it would come her way one day."

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has made it hard for Astra's parents to support her at tournaments, they still follow her games on television and Tan watched the 25-year-old capture her maiden WTA title at 2am Singapore time.

Astra's siblings Ashwin and Tara also tuned in from Melbourne, where they are based.

Tan said: "We actually had a phone chat after she won, we were very happy for her because we knew she could play like this, but she could never turn a lot of matches around so it was good to see her being able to do what she's capable of doing."

Astra, who finished runners-up in the Australian Open mixed doubles with compatriot John-Patrick Smith in 2019, has travelled to Mexico and Columbia to compete in recent months.

Devdutt admitted that they are concerned for her health and safety given the Covid-19 situation. He said: "We've been very worried but I guess that we have to trust the science. They wear double masks, take precautions. I guess you just have to take a risk and hope that she's young and healthy, even if she does get Covid, it wouldn't be as bad as everybody makes it out to be."