Australia’s Astra Sharma faced 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani in the quarterfinals in Bogota. Errani has struggled with her serve this week and has been serving underarm just to get into points.
For Sharma, this was the biggest match of her WTA career. Coming into this week she had only won one match beyond the ITF tour. That came at the 2019 Australian Open.
With Errani just not able to get serves into play she again had to employ an underarm serve. Sharma crushed the Italian in the first set, winning 6-1. Errani served at 38% to 61%. Sharma was, on the other hand, serving well, sending down five Aces.
Despite Errani’s woeful serving, when she got the ball in play she was hitting with great power. Sharma broke in the second game to lead 2-1. The concern for the Australian was the number of errors she was making.
Errani was able to break Sharma for the first time in the match in the fourth game. Now she was in the battle.
In the fifth game, Errani was using underarm serves and Sharma was struggling. Errani won the game after Sharma hit into the net off a weak underarm serve.
In the next game, Sharma found herself down 0-30 before hitting three straight winners to get things back on track. Errani had another look at a break point when she got Ad. Sharma would hold for 3-3.
Sharma was struggling against underarm serves, often overplaying a shot. Errani was holding serve until the ninth game. Astra got the break to have the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4. The break coming from a brilliant volley.
The Australian won the first point of the tenth game but then Errani fired back a good return that Sharma hit long. Sharma was almost there as she moved to 30-15 but then a badly missed backhand gave Errani some hope as it was 30-30.
An Errani drop shot got Sharma into the net and the Italian then hit a winner to have a break point. A big forehand helped Sharma save the first, but a shot into the net from Sharma presented another opportunity.
Sharma stepped around a forehand but hit wide to keep Errani alive in the match.
With Errani now exclusively serving underarm, she won the first point. Sharma jumped all over the next serve to go to 15-15, then a double fault had Sharma edge ahead. The Australian was not getting accustomed to the underarm serves and was finding her range on the returns to pressure Errani.
Now with a second opportunity to serve for the match and advance to her first WTA level semifinal Sharma started well by landing two big first serves and jumping out to 30-0. Another first serve in play and then a lucky net cord for Sharma gave her three match points.
It took just one, this time off the second serve that kicked and took Errani wide. A short return was gratefully accepted and Sharma hit a short ball into the open court for the winner. She raised her arms in victory taking the match 6-1, 7-5
When you look at the stats Errani did well to push Sharma as she did.
Sharma hit 32 winners to four from Errani. It was 7-0 in the Aces column and Sharma converted five from seven break points to two from nine for Errani.
What kept Errani in the match was 35 unforced errors from Sharma, to 15 from the Italian. Sharma will need to reduce her unforced errors if she is to make it into the final. Her next match should be more conventional.
After starting the year at no. 231, Sharma is closing in on the top-100. Her quarterfinal win pushes her up to no. 113 on the live rankings. Another win and she will sit at no. 101.
Sharma will play world no. 106 from Spain Lara Arruabarrena. The Spaniard had earlier defeated world no. 67 from Slovenia Tamara Zidansek 6-4, 6-2. Arruabarrena was champion in Bogota back in February 2012 and was runner-up in 2017 and last year.
Sharma has also reached the doubles semifinal with fellow Australian Zoe Hives.