The South Asian Tennis Players At The Australian Open

From India's Rohan Bopanna and Sumit Nagal to Australia's Astra Sharma, brown tennis players are hitting the court.

Tennis players Rohan Bopanna, Sumit Nagal and Astra Sharma

While cricket is famously dubbed a ‘religion’ amongst South Asian communities, tennis has gradually become a fan favourite sport in the subcontinent and beyond. With the Australian Open kicking off the first Grand Slam tournament of 2024, India is hoping to ace its performance on the court. 

On Friday, Indian player Sumit Nagal defeated Slovakia’s Alex Molcan 6-4, 6-4 in the last round of the qualifiers, taking him through to the main draw of the Australian Open 2024 men’s singles.

The 26-year-old last played in the main draw of a Grand Slam in 2021, and is just one of several other South Asians in Melbourne for the Australian Open. 

Unfortunately, Indian women’s singles player Ankita Raina hasn’t made it through to the main draw, after a 6-1, 7-5 defeat to Czech Republic’s Sara Bejlek. However, the 31-year-old made headlines earlier this week after becoming the only Indian to receive direct entry into the upcoming ITF Women's Open taking place in Bengaluru, India from January 14. 

Set to play men’s doubles at the Australian Open this year includes India’s Rohan Bopanna with long-time doubles partner, Matthew Ebden of Australia, plus fellow Indian Yuki Bhambri with Robin Haase of the Netherlands.

America's Rajeev Ram is a doubles champion who's set to play with partner Joe Salisbury of the UK on January 17. The duo previously won the men's doubles at the 2020 Australian Open, while Ram also won the 2019 and 2021 Australian Open mixed doubles titles alongside Czech player, Barbora Krejčíková.

Closer to home, it’s been fantastic to see Astra Sharma representing Australia in the qualifying round at the 2024 Australian Open. While she was defeated by Russia’s Maria Timofeeva earlier this week, this isn’t the last we’ll see of the 28-year-old in the tennis world. 

Born in Singapore, Sharma moved to Australia when she was eight with her Indian father and Chinese mother. In a 2019 interview with Indian Tennis Daily, Sharma’s father spoke about the origins of his famous daughter’s name – from the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata.

“I chose the name ‘Astra’ as it was the weapon of God in the Mahabharata. It resonated with me,” Devdutt Sharma told the publication. “I told my wife that we should name her Astra and she was cool with it.” 

When it comes to those competing in the Junior Championships, 16-year-old Indian Australia Rohan Hazratwala will be hitting the court in the Boys' Singles.

The Australian Open takes place at Melbourne Park from Sunday, January 14 to Sunday, January 28. Aussies will be able to watch the action on Channel Nine, as well as 9Now and Stan Sport. Those in India can tune in via Sony Sports Network’s broadcasts in English and Hindi, as well as Tamil and Telugu language feeds that will be added from the quarterfinals onwards.