Birrell feels at home on big stage
YOUNG Gold Coast talent Kim Birrell knows more than ever that she belongs on the professional tennis circuit, despite exiting the Brisbane International on Tuesday night.
The 20-year-old, who claimed her biggest career win on Monday against world No.10 Daria Kasatkina, was unable to continue her home campaign following a second-round loss to Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko on Wednesday.
But given her incredible rise over the past two years - fighting back from elbow surgery and a ranking of No.1136 - Birrell knows she is on the right path to success.
While she does not know yet whether she will play in Sydney or Hobart next week, the Australian Open wildcard said this week in Brisbane has shown her she is meant to be a tennis player.
"Coming out of (Monday's) match, I definitely proved to myself that this is the level where I belong," she said. "I'm going to use that as motivation for the rest of the year.
"It's huge just to know you belong and you don't have anything to prove. I love it. I know this is what I want to be doing with my life and that's a pretty amazing feeling."
Birrell said it was an exciting time to be a female tennis player given the depth of talent coming through the ranks, especially in Australia.
The Queenslander was not the only young Australian woman to impress in the opening days in Brisbane, with teenager Destanee Aiava also advancing to the second round.
While the 18-year-old could not overcome second seed and reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka, she certainly left an impact on her opponent.
Osaka, 21, said afterwards Aiava reminded her of herself when she was 18 and believes the Victorian has the potential for a big future.
"This was sort of why I feel old a little bit because it was kind of like a younger me in a way," Osaka said. "When I was playing her she sort of matched my power, which was really surprising to me, because there are not that many people that can do that.
"I'm really interested to see how she does in the future ... I've been watching her for a while.
"It's pretty obvious the potential that she has."