Birrell: “Now that I’ve had a little bit of a taste, I really want more”
After breaking into the world's top 100, Kimberly Birrell is determined to keep climbing the WTA Tour singles rankings.
Kimberly Birrell achieved a long-held goal this month, breaking into the world’s top 100 in singles.
Yet the 25-year-old from the Gold Coast described the major career milestone as “a little bit anticlimactic”.
“When I thought about cracking the top 100 in the past, I thought it was going to be some big moment where I won a really close match and ended up going really far into the top 100,” Birrell told tennis.com.au.
“In reality, I was just on holiday with my family.
“(But) I actually think it was kind of perfect that I got to spend it with them. They’ve made so many sacrifices for me over the years.”
Birrell had joined her family on a New Zealand getaway to unwind after spending six months competing abroad.
Highlights of that trip, which was the longest of Birrell’s career, included making main-draw debuts at Roland Garros and the US Open, as well as winning an ITF title in Portugal.
After advancing to the semifinals at an ITF 100 tournament in Tokyo, Birrell flew to Queenstown to join her family on holidays. This included a brief stopover in Brisbane.
“Landing in Brisbane was just the weirdest feeling, I wanted to go home so badly,” she said.
Birrell learned of her impending top-100 debut through friends while in New Zealand, but did not immediately share the news with her family.
Her mother, Ros, discovered the news by checking the live rankings late on a Sunday night, hours before the official WTA Tour rankings were released.
“(My mum) actually called me from the next room at 11.30pm, which was super unusual. I thought something was wrong. I called her back and was like ‘are you okay?’,” Birrell related.
“She was like ‘you’re going to be in the top 100!’
“When I said I had found out that morning, she was actually kind of annoyed at me that I didn’t say anything. But I guess I didn’t fully grasp what an achievement it was.”
Birrell opted not to return home after Wimbledon, instead staying on the road hoping to earn enough ranking points to crack the world’s top 100 and receive direct entry into the US Open.
“When it came time to decide to come home after Wimbledon or not, that goal was really at the top of my mind,” she explained.
“I also looked at the price of flights and there were so many other things that also contributed to that decision. I was really fortunate to be travelling with my coach and some family members, so I kind of felt like I could keep going without burning myself out, so I just tacked on a few more tournaments.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t end up getting into the US Open main draw on my ranking. But that’s the way tennis goes. I did win a couple of matches in qualifying though, then ended up getting a lucky loser spot. So it’s funny how things work out.”
Birrell is now back on the Gold Coast for a training block before heading to tournaments in Asia.
“I was really keen to come home and see my dog, that was the main thing,” she said.
“Also to get a coffee from my favourite café and see all my friends and family who I hadn’t seen for six months.”
Birrell also made time this week to inspire the next generation of stars at the inaugural Tennis Australia Talent Combine in Brisbane, where she admits it felt strange to be introduced as Australia’s top-ranked woman.
“It’s an interesting feeling,” she said. “I feel like Ajla (Tomljanovic) and Dasha (Saville) are ahead of me still, it’s just because of the injury struggles they’ve had over the last 12 months, so it doesn’t really feel like I’m the No.1.
“But I guess I’m just trying to take it in my stride and really enjoy it, because I know it’s really cool. As a kid it was something I grew up dreaming about.
“I’m really glad that Ajla and Dasha are back playing and hopefully we’re all nearing our career-high rankings super soon.”
Birrell is determined to continue building on her own career-best season, targeting new ranking highs in the coming weeks.
“I have a lot more goals I’d like to achieve, but I feel like I’m really on my way,” she said.
“I’m feeling really positive about the year that I’ve had … but now that I’ve had a little bit of a taste, I really want more. I’m hoping to really launch myself into the top 100 by the end of the year.”
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