Fresh from winning the Australian Open wildcard playoffs, Kimberly Birrell has defeated a top-ten player for the first time in her career.
The world no. 289 Birrell started well and had an early 2-0 lead after getting the first break. The world no. 10 from Russia, Kasatkina would fight back to win the first set 7-5.
Birrell who was in the tournament thanks to her wildcard playoffs win was playing above her ranking and took the match to a deciding third set after winning the second set 6-4.
Kasatkina was serving for the match at 5-3 but Birrell managed to hold her nerve and get a break back.
Birrell managed to hold serve and then break and was serving for the match at 6-5 but failed to convert. The match went into a tiebreak where it was Birrell that jumped out to an early lead. The Australian maintained the advantage and went on to close out the match 7-3 in the breaker.
The win already gives 20-year-old Birrell a nice boost in the rankings. She will jump to around no. 249.
“I’m in shock. I can’t believe it,” Birrell said on court after her breakthrough win.
“Thank you so much to everybody for coming out and supporting me – I really couldn’t have gotten through that without you. I was so close to cramping in the end. Just using your guys’ energy and you really got me through.
“It’s so important to stay positive and believe in yourself. I just left it all out there. She’s an unbelievable player – I’ve looked up to her for a really long time. I knew it was going to be a very physical match.
“To have my first top-10 win where I train every day at my home means the world, and I will never forget this moment.
“I’m so glad I get to play again.”
Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko is Birrell’s next opponent. Tsurenko had an easier time of it in her first-round clash against Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu, winning 6-0 6-2.
It was a good day for young Australian women. 18-year-old Destanee Aiava defeated former top-ten player Kristina Mladenovic to win 6-3 7-6(2). Aiava had reached the main draw after winning three qualifying matches. Aiva is set to rise 57 places to no. 193. She faces the 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka in the next round.
“I think the momentum of playing three matches in a row (in qualifying) helped me today, instead of having a break,” said Aiava.
“I felt pretty good on the court. Mentally I thought I stayed with her really well. I’m really happy to get the win today.
“I’m actually loving being out here, playing my third Brisbane (main draw). I think being tough and loving the challenge has always been in my background so that really helps a lot.”