Launceston TAS, Australia, 7 February 2017 | David Packman

Wildcard Kimberly Birrell has opened her campaign at the Neville Smith Forest Products Launceston International with a convincing victory over Frenchwoman Alize Lim.

“It feels great, especially after having not played for so long,” Birrell said after the 6-3-6-2 win. “I’m just really happy to be back on court competing and doing what I love.

“It gives me a lot of confidence because she is a really experienced player.”

After being sidelined with an elbow complaint early in 2016, Birrell has had to watch from the sidelines as she went through a process which eventually led to surgery and rehabilitation.

While she played doubles at Australian Open with Priscilla Hon “just to get back into things”, her return to the professional ranks began in earnest last week in Burnie – her first Australian Pro Tour since the injury – losing in the last round of qualifying.

“I missed it a lot and realised this is exactly what I want to do,” Birrell said. “I know how to look after my body now and I am not going to take anything for granted anymore.

“I feel as fit as I have ever been and I am just grateful to be here, knowing I am going to give one hundred percent every point.

“I have a new perspective on what it takes.”

Watching the rise of young compatriots Destanee Aiava, Jaimee Fourlis and Lizette Cabrera has also been a key driver for the 18-year-old Queenslander. “I was cheering them on (at the Australian Open) but wishing I was in their position. It was amazing to see them all coming through.

“I hope they continue to do well and hopefully I will be alongside them.”

Birrell next faces the winner of American second seed Taylor Townsend and Czech Barbora Krejcikova.

Townsend also finds Fourlis and Cabrera, the No.7 seed, in her section of the draw, with the pair playing China’s Zhang Yuxuan and Brit Katy Dunne respectively in their opening rounds.

Top seed Han Xinyun enjoyed a first-up win on Tuesday and now awaits the winner of Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis and French qualifier Tessah Andrianjafitrimo.

Olivia Rogowska will also open her account against third seed Lu Jing-Jing of China.

In other results on Monday, Victorian wildcard Sally Peers fell to Romanian Irina Maria Bara 6-4 6-3.

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