‘You have to dream big’: Birrell primed for Kerber showdown

She grew up idolising Samantha Stosur and now starry-eyed wildcard Kimberly Birrell dreams of matching the former US Open champion's career-best run at Melbourne Park.

Birrell will square off with world No.2 and reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber in the third round of the Australian Open on Friday believing "anything's possible" in a giant-killing summer.

Australia’s Kimberly Birrell has had a stunning start to the Australian Open.Credit:AAP

"I remember that really clearly. There was a big group of us at Queens Park, at the tennis centre there," the 20-year-old recalled.

"We were all sitting on the couch and we had it up on the big screen.

"I've really looked up to her.

"She's an awesome person on and off the court. She's had an incredible career.

"I'm very lucky to have someone like her almost like a mentor."

Birrell's parents, John and Ros, have actually been running the courts for the past 11 years.

"I have such fond memories of Sam coming and spending Christmas and stuff, whenever she came back to the Gold Coast because her parents still lived there," a beaming Birrell said.

"She would always jump on court with me, the last five minutes of her practice. I would watch her.

"Now to be rubbing shoulders with her all the time, she's such an awesome person. I'm so lucky."

World No.2 Angelique Kerber.Credit:AAP

The world No.240 is already assured of a surge into the top 160 after her Open charge.

Another boilover win over Kerber would not only accelerate Birrell's rocket rise up the rankings, but also thrust her into the second week of the Open – something Stosur has managed just twice in 17 attempts.

Birrell or Kerber will play either French 19th seed Caroline Garcia or unseeded American Danielle Collins for a place in the quarter-finals.

How Birrell and Kerber match up

ANGELIQUE KERBER
Age: 30
Ranking: 2
Plays: left-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US27,178,501 ($37.71 million)
Career titles: 12
Grand slam titles: 3 (Australian Open 2016; Wimbledon 2018; US Open 2016)
Australian Open win-loss record: 28-10
Best Australian Open result: champion 2016

KIMBERLY BIRRELL
Age: 20
Ranking: 240
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US147,405 ($A205,674)
Career titles: 0
Grand slam titles: 0
Australian Open win-loss record: 2-1
Best Australian Open result: third round 2019

AAP

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