Gutsy Queenslander Kimberly Birrell has hung tough to turn up the heat on veteran Kaia Kanepi, sending the part-time ice road trucker packing in the first round of the Australian Open.

The Estonian No.31 seed served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Birrell fought back before powering through the third set to win 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 in two and half hours as the temperature soared past 35 degrees at Melbourne Park.

The 24-year-old became one of just two Australian women to advance to the second round at their home slam this year, joining Olivia Gadecki, who beat Russian Polina Kudermetova on Monday.

Kanepi, 37, drives trucks in her native country in her spare time and for much of the deciding set on Tuesday she looked like she’d rather be back there — or anywhere else really — rather than slugging it out with Birrell under the blazing sun at Kia Arena.

Birrell’s only two previous victories at grand slam level came during her run to the third round of the 2019 Australian Open.

Tuesday’s triumph was even more satisfying as she has battled a series of serious injuries in recent years.

“I would say that even without this win today it was all worthwhile,” Birrell said.

I’m doing what I absolutely love … living the dream.”

Birrell took full advantage of her late wildcard into the 2023 tournament, which only became available when former world No.1 Venus Williams handed it back after suffering a leg injury at the warm-up event in Auckland.

Kanepi has reached the quarter-finals seven times at the majors, most recently last year at Melbourne Park.

It seemed likely that all of that big-match experience would be telling late in the second set on Tuesday, only for Birrell to turn the tide and break back for 5-5 before holding her nerve in the tiebreaker to force a decider.

“To be honest, I was trying not to think about it,” said Birrell.

I knew she was a quality player and I know how deep she has gone in slams.

“Congrats to her for all the success she’s had, but I’m just so happy that I won today and get to play here again.”

Birrell’s second-round opponent will be Czech Linda Fruhvirtova, who beat fellow Australian wildcard Jaimee Fourlis 6-0 6-4 on Tuesday.

Countrywomen Storm Hunter and Talia Gibson were both eliminated on day one.

Australia’s highest-ranked female player Ajla Tomljanovic was forced to withdraw with a knee injury two days before the tournament began.