Australia’s Kim Birrell has claimed her first win at a grand slam in four years, stunning 31st seed Kaia Kanepi in three sets.
It’s been an incredible road back for Birrell, who lost more than a year of her career to an elbow injury, and was only given a wildcard in to the Australian Open after the legendary Venus Williams was forced to withdraw.
The Estonian took the first set easily and was ahead in the second, before the Gold Coast native came back to win a tiebreaker and then breeze to victory in the third, taking it 3-6, 7-6, 6-1 in hot conditions.
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Birrell was overcome with emotion as she spoke after the win – her last few years have been plagued with injuries, and she said that just being able to play at a grand slam was a victory.
Aussie secures shock win
“Even without this win today, it’s worthwhile – I’m doing what I absolutely love and not many people get to wake up and live their dream,” she said on court afterwards.
“I know that so many people are supporting me. Not just my family and friends who I know personally but so many people that are watching here today and back home on TV – thank you so much, I love you all.”
Kanepi was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second, but the Australian dug deep, even when she knew she was just a couple of points from elimination.
“To be honest, I was trying not to think about it. I know she’s a quality player and I know how deep she’s gone in slams.
“I’m so happy that I won today and I get to play again.”
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The 24-year-old’s career earnings sat at roughly $750,000 before the tournament began, and she’ll now take home another $158,850 even if she falls at the next hurdle.
There’ll be no all-Aussie second round clash though, with Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova beating Jaimee Fourlis in straight sets to earn the right to be Birrell’s next opponent.
“I’ve heard her name and I’ve seen her play a little bit,” Birrell said of the 17-year-old.
“I know she’s one of the next up and coming players of our generation, but look – everyone who plays in the main draw of a grand slam is really good, so I’m just facing another battle and I’m going to enjoy every second.”
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