Astra Sharma doesn’t like to get ahead of herself, so she had no idea she may play her friend – who also happens to be the world No.1 – in the third round of the French Open.
“Honestly, I didn’t know about Ash – didn’t even look that far ahead in the draw,” laughs the only other Australian to have won a WTA Tour title this year apart from Barty.
“I’ve only checked my first-round opponent Irina Bara and she’s a really good player, had a really good result in Florida (in a recent ITF event) and got through qualifying. She’s match tough and ready to go.”
So, Sharma is delighted to say, is she.
“Fit as a fiddle, raring to go,” the 25-year-old told AAP.
The Perth player has taken some time off to “reflect and relax” after her maiden triumph in Charleston in April, a chance for her body to recuperate after some small injury flare-ups.
But that victory on the green clay showcased a rangy, powerful player who has the ability, and real athleticism, to cause some damage this fortnight.
“I didn’t see it coming at all, it was pretty unexpected,” says the Singapore-born Sharma of her victory.
“In terms of whether it was a breakthrough for me, I don’t know about that. I’d been playing at such a good quality level for a while, it just happened to turn my way that week.
“Of course, it was a huge deal for me that I have that win in Charleston forever on my shelf.
“I can always go back and look at it and be really proud of myself. – but those things can’t influence what happens next.
“But it definitely makes you, as a player, believe that you can compete at the highest levels.”
She will have to this week, having flown in to France from her US base in Nashville only a week ago.
For if she can beat the tough Romanian Bara, the likelihood is a second-round meeting with Ons Jabeur, her Charleston final victim, with Barty, who also opens up on Tuesday against American Bernarda Pera, potentially looming in the last 32.
“Ash is an exceptional role model. She always does everything right. She’s really talented, exceptionally so, and it’s always an honour to talk to her, chat to her, get her feedback on things,” Sharma says.
“You have the world No.1 as one of your fellow countrywomen. That’s a great inspiration and benchmark for everyone.”
Sharma is not one for making great predictions. “Crack the top-100, crack the top-80, that kind of thing,” the world No.124 shrugs, when asked for her ambitions in 2021.
“In terms of winning titles, I’m not so sure because the level is really good every week.
“I’m just happy that if I play well, good things will happen.”