AAP Tennis

Sharma’s Astra-nomical Open breakthrough

By AAP Newswire

An overjoyed Astra Sharma has more than doubled her career earnings after denying cramping compatriot Priscilla Hon in a dramatic first-round Australian Open encounter at Melbourne Park.

Sharma guaranteed herself at least an $85,000 pay day after outlasting Hon 7-5 4-6 6-1 in just over two hours on Monday.

"It's unreal. This is obviously the best I've ever done," the grand slam debutante said.

But the 23-year-old confessed to mixed emotions about taking out her distressed friend and rival who required medical treatment during the match.

"In one way it's good (playing another Australian) because one person is definitely getting through," Sharma said.

"But on the other hand, you don't really want to play your friends the first round of a grand slam. We both just put that aside."

Hon sought help early in the third set, telling an official she "threw up a little bit" in the searing heat.

The Queenslander's temperature and blood pressure were checked before a doctor was called.

"I was cramping on serve, my legs, my abs, my hand. I was literally trying to make goals and go for winners whenever I could because I couldn't play more than like two shots," the deflated 20-year-old told AAP.

"I never cramp. I literally never cramp and I cramped today."

Similarly, Sharma also began cramping, blaming it on the heat.

"I knew it was going to happen as we were both sweating so much like my shirt was absolutely drenched," she said.

"I could see her starting to cramp up as well and I was just hoping that I could outlast her a bit."

It was Sharma's fourth win in less than a week, after successfully qualifying with victories over three higher-ranked Russians including former Wimbledon and US Open finalist Vera Zvonareva.

By making it to the second round, Sharma will pocket at least $85,000, having only earned $72,880 during her pro career to date.

Hon said her $50,000 pay cheque for making it to the first round would hold her in good stead for the rest of the year.

"Knowing that I've got it, that I can keep playing and paying my coach and not being under financial stress, that is massive," she said.

Sharma faces Maria Sakkari next on Wednesday after the Greek upset 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, the 22nd seed, 6-1 3-6 6-2.