Birrell earns deserved Fed Cup spot
Australian Open sensation Kim Birrell disclosed several days before Christmas that her 2019 ambition was to regain the spot in the Fed Cup tennis team cruelly snatched away by injury.
Topping off a dizzying January in which she rose from No.283 in the rankings to No.157 with two wins over top 30 players, Birrell ticked off that aim by winning selection for Australia's tie against the United States.
The 20-year-old Gold Coaster, her Brisbane friend Priscilla Hon and team spearhead Ash Barty provide a strong Queensland presence in the squad to take on the Americans in an indoor tie in Asheville, North Carolina, on February 9-10.
Barty, ranked 14th, Daria Gavrilova (45), Hon (143), Birrell (157) and West Australian Astra Sharma (159) were selected, with Ajla Tomljanovic (49) and Sam Stosur (72) not figuring.
One of the five will be left out of a four-woman team to be named late next week.
A 17-year-old Birrell lost her only Fed Cup match to Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova in February 2016, but she soon had to resort to right elbow surgery which sidelined her for the rest of the year.
"That was one of my favourite weeks of my entire career,'' Birrell told The Courier-Mail.
"It's so crazy making this team. It didn't take me that long.
"Ash and Dasha (Gavrilova) are two of the best players in general, but I will do everything in my power to see if I can get picked for singles.''
Australian captain Alicia Molik rewarded wildcard Birrell for her wins over world No.10 Daria Kasatkina at the Brisbane International and then 28th ranked Donna Vekic on the way to an Australian Open third round exit.
"I asked Alicia if I could tell my parents and they were so happy for me because they know how much playing for my country means to me,'' Birrell said.
Birrell and Hon often practise together at the Queensland Tennis Centre when they are at home and Barty trained with Birrell on several days last month.
"It's awesome they were will be surrounded by Queenslanders. Prisicilla is one of my best friends and I've looked up to Ash virtually my entire career,'' Birrell said.
It will be the first world group tie for Australia since 2015.
The US, who won the 2017 Fed Cup and were runners-up last year, were to announce their team on Thursday morning (Australian time).
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