Zvonareva, an Australian Open semi-finalist in 2009 and 2011, last played in the Australian Open main draw in 2015 before stepping back from the sport for two years. This is the second year in succession the 34-year-old has fallen in the first round of qualifying at Melbourne Park.
For Sharma, victory in her first Grand Slam singles qualifying match was both a watershed and a moment of vindication for her decision to shelve plans to study medicine until she had focused all her efforts on tennis.
The Vanderbilt All-American, who has plans to follow a career in orthopaedic surgery, made the decision to go pro in 2018. And while she may not be the finished article just yet, her super-charged display of attacking, spin-heavy tennis and savvy net game will mark her as one to watch going forward.
“It feels really good,” added Sharma, who next faces Varvara Flink after she defeated Italy’s Anastasia Grymalska 6-3 6-1.
“These last few months have been incredible; the growth I’ve seen in myself.
“I’ve always said it’s not about results, it’s about getting better every day, and I think today was validation that I have gotten better from where I was a couple of years ago, so I’m really pumped.”