Sport ‘Lucky loser’ Astra Sharma advances to French Open second round

‘Lucky loser’ Astra Sharma advances to French Open second round

Astra Sharma, at the 2019 Australian Open, defeated Russian Anna Blinkova on Sunday at Roland Garros. Photo: Getty
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Astra Sharma is the first Australian to advance to the second round of the French Open after cashing in on her unexpected 11th-hour call-up in Paris.

Sharma only gained entry to main draw as a “lucky loser” from the final round of qualifying.

But the 25-year-old is now at least $140,000 richer after securing the biggest pay day of her career with a dogged three-set win over Russian Anna Blinkova.

Ranked some 56 places below the world No.58, Sharma recovered from a service break down in the deciding set to prevail 6-3 2-6 7-5 after a two-hour, 45-minute battle on Sunday.

Coached by David Taylor, the long-time former mentor of Australia’s 2010 French Open runner-up and 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur, Sharma is through the second round of a grand slam for only the second time.

And the West Australian showed true grit to progress, overcoming the disappointment of blowing a 4-1 advantage in the third set, then breaking back as Blinkova served for the match at 5-4.

Her reward is a shot at another Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 27th seed who ousted fellow Australian Maddison Inglis 6-3 6-3.

Ajla Tomljanovic, the top-ranked Australian in the women’s draw in the absence of world No.1 and 2019 champion Ash Barty, was also unable to overcome a tough draw.

Like Inglis, Tomljanovic went down to a seed, in-form Greek Maria Sakkari, but not without a fight.

Enjoying the finest grand slam season of her career, after reaching the last 16 in Melbourne and New York, 25-year-old Sakkari swept through the first set in 28 minutes without dropping a game.

But the 20th seed, a winner last month over the great Serena Williams, had to battle back from 5-3 down in the second as Tomljanovic made a stand.

Ajla Tomljanovic gave Greek seed Maria Sakkari a scare in their women’s first-round match on Sunday. Photo: EPA

Three other Australians, including US Open quarter-finalist Alex de Minaur, are in action later on day one in Paris.

De Minaur, seeded 25th, plays Italy’s 2018 semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato in a challenger opener.

Jordan Thompson, fresh off his career-best grand-slam run to the fourth round at Flushing Meadow, faces Radu Albot of Moldova.

Making her long-awaited grand slam comeback after battling debilitating foot injuries for the past 18 months, Daria Gavrilova meets Dayana Yastremska, the 24th seed from Ukraine.

-AAP