Astra Sharma celebrates her win over fellow Aussie Priscilla Hon. Picture: Mark Stewart
Astra Sharma celebrates her win over fellow Aussie Priscilla Hon. Picture: Mark Stewart

Demon thrives in heat for dominant win

Australia's newest tennis darling Alex de Minaur continued his hot form on Monday as he powered through to the second round of the Open.

The 19-year-old swept aside Portugal's Pedro Sousa in three sets only days after winning his maiden ATP title in Sydney on Saturday.

De Minaur was initially upset organisers scheduled him to play on Day 1, rather than benefit from an extra day's rest, but the workhorse baseliner looked fresh as he triumphed 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

 

Alex de Minaur thrashed Pedro Sousa on day one of the Australian Open. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Alex de Minaur thrashed Pedro Sousa on day one of the Australian Open. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

 

In particular, the Sydney-sider appeared to handle the sweltering 34 degree heat much better than Sousa, dispatching him in less than two hours despite the quick turnaround.

The win means the country's top-ranked men's player and No. 27 seed is on a crash course to play No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal in the third round on Friday if he can win again on Wednesday.

De Minaur, who joked about his fledgling driving skills post-match after only recently securing his license, said he was thrilled to continue his momentum.

"I'm very happy with my performance," De Minaur said.

"I thought I had to be really tough today and to back it up from Sydney I was really proud to get it done in three sets."

 

De Minaur handled the Melbourne heat in his comfortable win. Picture: Michael Klein
De Minaur handled the Melbourne heat in his comfortable win. Picture: Michael Klein

 

De Minaur spent more than three hours on court across two matches on Saturday and caught a private jet arriving into Melbourne at 3am on Sunday to maximize his recovery time.

The rising star showcased his signature running power in the first set as he made a desperate effort to chase down a precise drop shot, then follow-up with a backhand smash winner.

After the match Di Minaur paid tribute to fitness coach Tom Couch, the son of late Brownlow Medalist Paul Couch, for helping him prepare for the tournament.

"I'm very proud of the work we put in in the off-season," he said.

"Couchy took me through a very tough preseason to get me ready for this, especially the Australian summer.

 

The young Australian is on track for a round three clash with Rafael Nadal. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
The young Australian is on track for a round three clash with Rafael Nadal. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

 

"To be able to back up day after day, we did a lot of running, bike, boxing, which I'm not very good at, swimming, which I need my floaties for, but I'm glad it's paying off."

Renowned for his ability to stay in points and force errors from his opponents, Di Minaur delivered a blinding backhand winner up the line at a crucial stage in late in the second set.

The bullet put him 30-0 up at 5-5, and helped the tenacious teen clinch the second set as Sousa's game soon began to fray with a series of loose shots.

Ranked 103, Sousa never seriously threatened to win the match, in his first grand slam appearance.

In contrast, Di Minaur was tight on serve, dropping only one service game for the match.

 

SHARMA PREVAILS AFTER LENGTHY MATCH

Astra Sharma was on her way to a job operating on professional athletes when her own sporting career took off.

Sharma had dreams of becoming an orthopaedic surgeon when she joined Vanderbilt University, Nashville, in 2013.

She would play college tennis and also start the long journey towards a medicine degree.

Her game improved dramatically, winning All-American honours, and she now finds herself in the second round of her home Grand Slam.

It was her first match in a major tournament.

"It feels pretty big-time," Sharma said.

"(It's) such a big honour to be here. Today was obviously really hot, but (I've) been doing my recovery, and I feel ready for the next round already. I think just the adrenaline."

Astra Sharma celebrates her win over fellow Aussie Priscilla Hon. Picture: Mark Stewart
Astra Sharma celebrates her win over fellow Aussie Priscilla Hon. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

The 23-year-old from Perth defeated friend and fellow Aussie Priscilla Hon 7-5 4-6 6-1 at Melbourne Park on Monday, with the pair battling it out for more than two hours in searing heat.

"In one way it's good, because one person's definitely getting through," she said of the match-up.

"On the other hand, you don't really want to play your friends first round of a slam, but I think we both just put that aside.

"We are very friendly off-court, but on-court, I think we're both just business, right?"

Early in the third set Hon required medical assistance, telling an official she "threw up a little bit".

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

Sharma has fought her way into the Open.

 

 

Priscilla Hon struggled in the heat and required medical attention. Picture: Getty
Priscilla Hon struggled in the heat and required medical attention. Picture: Getty

She played three games during the wildcard playoffs but lost in the final. She won through in qualifying, playing four matches.

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

Her second-round opponent will be the winner of the match between Greece's Maria Sakkari and French Open 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko, the 22nd seed.

Meanwhile, Zoe Hives has parlayed her Australian Open wildcard entry into the biggest win of her fledgling career.

The 22-year-old Victorian defied her ranking of No.225 in the world to upstage seasoned American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1 6-2.

Hives earned a second-round crack at French 19th seed Carolina Garcia after joining Sharma as a first-time main-draw winner at the Open.