Astra Sharma seems happy to be back playing on clay, returning to her best on the surface and powering into the quarter-finals of the Palermo Ladies Open in Sicily.
Sharma hasn’t really shown her best since her breakthrough triumph on the unusual green clay of Charleston in April when she defeated Ons Jabeur and took her maiden WTA title.
But the rangy, athletic world No.121 from Perth, who reckons she thrives on the physical nature of clay-court battle, looked back at home on Thursday as she beat Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-4 7-5 to make it into the last-eight of a tournament for the first time since that Charleston win.
The 25-year-old was helped by the Russian’s woeful serving problems as the world No.180 sent down 11 double faults during the match, including six in a tighter second stanza which proved crucial.
There had even been the prospect of a last-eight duel for Sharma with her Perth colleague Maddison Inglis, but the 23-year-old was comprehensively beaten 6-4 6-1 by American Danielle Collins in an hour and 20 minutes in her last-16 match.
Sharma will next meet the No.1 seed Collins, who’s ranked 44 in the world. The pair have never played before.