If there is such a thing as bragging rights after a straight-sets loss in the first round of the Australian Open, they clearly belong to Kimberly Birrell.
The young Queenslander will take plenty from her competitive 6-4 6-4 defeat at the hands of Czech No.9 seed Karolina Pliskova – the twin sister of Samantha Stosur’s shock Monday-night conqueror Kristyna Pliskova.
A week after winning her first match at WTA level at the Hobart International, Birrell looked right at home on the big stage at Melbourne Park, twice breaking Pliskova’s booming serve.
Close friends and contemporaries Maddison Inglis and Priscilla Hon also had their moments in their grand slam singles debut on Tuesday, although they only managed to claim three games apiece against much higher-ranked opposition.
The 18-year-old Inglis and 17-year-old pair Birrell and Hon have come up through the Australian junior ranks together.
Much is expected of the trio, as reflected in the decision by Tennis Australia to offer them all wildcards into their home major.
“My first trip overseas when I was with 12 was with Maddi, we’ve been travelling together pretty much our whole lives,” said Birrell, who will partner Hon in the women’s doubles at Melbourne Park.
“It’s pretty special to be able to experience this all together.
“We were all pretty excited.”
So nervous was Inglis in the build-up to her clash with No.21 seed Ekaterina Makarova from Russia – a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park in 2015 – that she had struggled to get to sleep for the past few nights.
“But it was everything I expected,” said Inglis.
“It was really cool out there.”
Inglis is keenly aware that instant success at the top level remains far from a given for the talented threesome.
“It’s really cool that all three of us are all really good friends,” she said.
“With Nick (Kyrgios) and Thanasi (Kokkinakis) they just went really, really quick.
“Maybe we won’t do that good that quick – sometimes it takes time.”
Hon lost 6-0 6-3 to German Annika Beck.
“The crowd got into it in the second to try and get me past the line but unfortunately I couldn’t get there,” she said.