Melbourne VIC, Australia, 24 January 2014 | Rob Sheeley
For Kimberly Birrell, her week probably ended one day earlier than she would have liked it to. Today she went down in the Australian Open girls’ singles semifinal 6-0 6-4 to Croatian Jana Fett. But today was just the culmination of a superb week for Birrell, who at just 15 has achieved great things.
“It has been a great week, it’s been amazing, I still don’t want it to end. I’ve learnt so much about myself.” Birrell said after the match.
“I’ve had some real positives come out of this week so I have to concentrate on those and not hang on to the disappointment too long.
“I’ve just got to get back on the practice court and keep going, it’s only the beginning.”
The initiation into any Grand Slam semifinal is tough and today was no different for Birrell when she met a red-hot Fett who oozed power from the very first game. However she says that, if and when this opportunity arises again, she now has a wealth of knowledge she can call on.
“I was a little bit more nervous heading into this one, it was a semifinal, I’ve never been in this situation before, I think it’s going to help a lot next year.
“I wish I could go out and play that match again; I’d like to have had a better start.
“If I’m ever in this situation again it’s an experience I’ll be able to call on.”
For a fleeting moment during the second set, it looked as though Birrell was about to stage one of the comebacks she has made a trademark of hers this week.
“I just wanted to finish the week the way I started it, I wanted to fight for every point.
“I think I tried my hardest but she was just better on the day.”
One of the biggest positives for Birrell is how much improvement she knows that she is capable of. It could be scary to ponder just how good she will be this time next year and beyond.
“I think I have so many things that I can still improve on.
“The strength and physical side of my game is something I’ll always be able to improve on, I’ve been working very hard in the past six months and definitely want to keep improving on that.
“I’ve had an ab (abdominal) injury in the last few weeks and I’ve just got over that and I haven’t been able to practice my serve as much, so hopefully I can keep working on that.”
While Birrell’s run of success at Melbourne Park this week is largely due to her stellar form, she says the support of those closest to her as well as the parochial Aussie crowds was a massive fillip for her confidence.
“Being here at home, having the home crowd, the support I have had has been crazy, incredible, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
“Having my family here and my amazing coach and team, I really owe everything to them.”
Unfortunately for the Gold Coast 15-year-old, she will be back to reality with a thud in the coming weeks as she returns to the grind of “normal” life.
“I’m going to head home; I’m starting year 11 so back to school,” she said with a wry smile that may well of veiled some lament.
One thing is for certain, if things go to plan for Kimberly Birrell, next year, things may well end a day later and with a trophy.