Queensland teenager Kimberly Birrell has made the most of her wildcard entry to the Hobart International with a victory she hopes will pay dividends at the upcoming Australian Open.
The 17-year-old on Monday racked up a convincing 6-4 6-3 win in her first WTA main draw match against world No.57 Danka Kovinic from Montenegro.
“It’s my first major win … it’s hard to put into words but I’m really happy and really ecstatic,” Birrell said.
The Australian settled her nerves with a break of serve early in the first set and never looked back.
With two wildcards still to be allocated for the Melbourne Park grand slam, Birrell’s win makes her a strong contender.
“I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t (crossed my mind) but I’m trying not to think about it too much,” she said of the prospect of direct entry to the Open.
“I think there’s still a couple of wildcards up for grabs but all I can do is just play tennis and concentrate on my game, try my best … I’m definitely going to be playing qualifiers.”
Birrell finished Year 12 in November and is making her third trip to Hobart where she has failed on two previous occasions to make the main draw from qualifying.
“My dad is a tennis coach and my mum has played tennis all her life so I’ve grown up around tennis courts following my dad around and my mum and dad run a tennis centre,” the current world No.368 said.
Birrell faces a tough round-two opponent in world No.38 Dominika Cibulkova.
The Slovakian on Monday defeated Sydney-born Briton Johanna Konta 7-6 (8-6) 7-5.
Australian Jarmila Wolfe lost a tight three-setter 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 to Japanese qualifier Naomi Osaka.
In other day-two action at Hobart, No.5 seed Madison Brengle withdrew from her match against qualifier Kiki Bertens.
The American later cited a respiratory illness.
German Mona Barthel defeated Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-4 6-4.
Also on the schedule for Monday is former world No.5 Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who takes on veteran American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
In the evening, defending champion Heather Watson meets Teliana Pereira.