The efforts of Astra Sharma to win her first WTA Tour Title in Charleston, can hopefully inspire more of our promising Australian female players to follow in her footsteps.
One such player who is showing plenty of encouraging signs in 2021 from an Aussie perspective is the very likeable Storm Sanders, who is steadily climbing up the rankings to currently sit at 165 in the world, having started the year at World No 291. After finishing runner up with fellow Aussie Ellen Perez in the Charleston doubles, her ranking of 63, can also push higher in 2021.
She is 10-5 for the season in singles, first making some noise at the Adelaide International post the delayed Australian Open. The WA Born leftie came from qualifying to reach the quarter finals.
Like a lot of her fellow Aussies, she packed the bags to begin the longest of road trips this year, starting in Miami at the WTA 1000 where she won a round, before pushing the inform American and Australian Open quarter-finalist Jessica Pegula, it was then on to Charleston for the WTA 500 where she qualified, won a round, and then lost to two time Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova pushing her to a 2nd set tie breaker.
She backed up again in Charleston last week at the WTA 250 where once again she qualified, before succumbing to American Claire Liu in the first round.
The importance and value of stepping up to play as many WTA events as possible and progress through qualifying or take advantage of wildcards given and win some rounds can propel you pretty quickly up the rankings, and Sanders has certainly shown everyone she can bring the level.
It hasn’t been the easiest of roads for Storm overcoming injuries, with her talent identified very young and hopefully now that the body is sound, it will give her the chance to see how far she can rise.
Sanders journey on the WTA Tour began in 2013. Her first showing was at the Apia International in Sydney, where she upstaged former World Number 5 Eugenie Bouchard in the first round of qualifying.
This was the start of a successful first few months. Sanders began entering ITF level tournaments and showed great promise on the Australian Pro Tour. In that year the left-hander made the final in Ipswich and claimed the LauncestonInternational title, her first ITF title at pro level.
2014 started with promise too as Sanders made the second round of the Hobart International, losing in a tiebreak in the final set to the then world number 20, Kirsten Flipkens, which drastically increased her ranking from outside the top 700 into the top 300. In that year she almost cracked the top 200 as a 20 year old.
The period 2015-2017 didn’t see her build on her career high ranking just outside the top 200, playing mainly on the ITF Tour.
2017 on the doubles circuit brought some success with fellow Australian Monique Adamczak. The pair made four finals and won two. Their biggest win came in Nottingham, just prior to Wimbledon, but at the back end of 2017 she would play her last singles match for 2 years.
Just as Sanders was finding her feet, shoulder and back issues began to get progressively worse. 2018 saw her step on the court for just 4 tournaments in doubles before decising to step away from game.
After further investigating it was discovered she was also suffering an auto immune disease. The treatment for the condition assisted in the rehab and recovery of her shoulder and back, giving both a much needed rest
It was October 2019, when Sanders returned to the singles court, which was one of the feel good stories at the time. She reached the quarter finals in her first tournament back in Bendigo and the following week the West Australian won her second ITF singles title in Playford.
2020 like for many players at the lower levels of the rankings was a write off due to COVID-but to start 2021, Sanders made an impressive run to the mixed doubles semi-final at this year’s Australian Open with fellow Australian Marc Polmans. The pair losing to the eventual champions.
A great competitor, ball striker and capable front court player, the 26-year-old can be a real crowd pleaser in full flight.
If she can continue her forward trajectory, an opportunity to represent Australia at Billie Jean King Cup Level for the first time is a real possibility.
At 26, the best of Sanders is hopefully still to come, as she looks to continue playing mainly WTA events and guarantee herself a qualifying spot for the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.
A push towards the top 100 would be a massive achievement for Sanders in 2021, having started the year just inside the top 300.
Hopefully now that the body is sound, it will give her the chance to see how far she can rise.
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