Harriet Dart, the British No 3, has reached the final round of Australian Open qualifying at Melbourne Park, and is just one win away from making the main singles draw next week.
She found herself trailing in the 3rd set before winning 5 successive games to beat Alycia Parks, an American ranked 218, and advance as she looks to reach the main event for the 3rd time in her career,.
Dart responded impressively to dropping the first set to come out a 3-6 6-2 6-2 winner and set up a main draw decider against Australian wild-card Kimberly Birrell on Thursday, who easily dispatched Ekaterine Gorgodze from Georgia, 6-2 6-1.
The British No 3 lost to America’s Grace Min in the first round of qualifying last year, having reached the second round of the main tournament in 2020, when she was eventually knocked out by Simona Halep.
Katie Swan, the only other Brit still in contention on Wednesday, however, lost to Viktoriya Tomova, the 5th seed ranked 119 from Bulgaria, 6-0 7-5, in her second round qualifying match.
The Brit responded to being bagelled in the first set by breaking her opponent for a 2-0 lead early on in the second, before Tomova broke in the final game to secure her place in the 3rd round.
Elsewhere, 8th seed Kamilla Rakhimova from Russia saved 2 match points to deny AO 2020 girls’ singles champion, 16-year old Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva from Andorra, 6-7(5) 7-6(8) 6-4, after 3 hours and 20 minutes for a final-round qualifying clash against former World No 38 Rebecca Marino, a veteran from Canada.
In an intriguing contest, Rakhimova, a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Summer Set 2 last week, eventually saw off the youngest player in the Top 350, having lost the first set from triple set point up at 5-4, and needing to save 2 match points in the second-set tiebreak.
Jimenez Kasintseva, now ranked 202, was the runner-up at last week’s Bendigo ITF W60, and largely impressed with her court-craft, particularly her left-handed forehand, but it was that then let the Andorran down on both her match points.
While Rakhimova failed to close out the first set and struggled to finish the second, the 20-year-old’s own forehand proved key to efficiently serve out the longest match of the event so far.
Her next opponent, Marino, the 24th seed, came through a battle of former Top 50 players, out-serving Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-3 6-4.
American World No 168 Hailey Batiste landed the biggest upset of the day when she saw off 4th-seeded Serbian Nina Stojanovic, 6-3 6-4, in 1 hour and 14 minutes.
The World No 168’s rise had been stalled last year after she suffered a knee injury in Berlin in June and, following her return in August, Baptiste lost 9 of her last 12 matches of 2021.
Her hand skills and variety, however, were both on display in an efficient win over Stojanovic in which the American found 21 winners to get past the Serb, and also finished with 100% records in both converting break points, 2 of 2, and saving all break points against her, 3 of 3.
The 20-year-old will meet in-form Yuan Yue for a main draw berth after the 23-year-old Chinese, who won the ITF title in Traralgon at the weekend, won for the 17th time in her past 18 matches in a 7-6(1) 6-4 victory over American Caty McNally.
The 23-year old captured her first ITF W60 title in Traralgon last week, and extended her winning streak to 7 with her upset of the 21st seed in 2 hours and 2 minutes.
The World No.162 has now won 17 of her last 18 matches, which is a confidence-boosting run that was reflected in her ability to rise to the occasion against McNally.
Yuan fended off a set point in the first set serving at 5-6 with a beautiful forehand volley, and firmly quelled a McNally come-back in the second after losing an early break lead.
The 20-year-old American had trailed 2-0 but won a mini-epic to level at 2-2, saving 6 break points and holding after 10 deuces.
It seemed this could prove a turning point, but Yuan responded with her best serving spell of the day, dropping only 2 more points behind her delivery, and breaking McNally for the match.
The wildest roller-coaster win of the day belonged to 252-ranked Indy De Vroome when the 25-year-old Dutchwoman overcame 18 double-faults to upset 12th-seeded Dalma Galfi from Hungary, 6-4 6-7(9) 7-6, in 2 hours 59 minutes.
In a clash of former Top 10 juniors, who have yet to break through to the Top 100, Galfi led 5-0 in the second set and held triple set point at 5-1 following 3 consecutive De Vroome double-faults, but the Hungarian lost control of her forehand and ceded 6 straight games, eventually converting her 8th set point after saving a match point in the ensuing tiebreak.
Despite missing that lifeline and then failing to serve out the match at 5-4 in the decider, De Vroome proved more resilient in the 3rd set breaker, and took her 5th match point on another Galfi forehand error.
No 212-ranked Jang Su Jeong, of South Korea, took an impressive step towards a potential Grand Slam main draw debut by double bagelling Aussie wild-card Taylah Preston, 6-0 6-0, in only 48 minutes.
The result puts Jang, 26, into the final qualifying round of a major for the 3rd time following Roland Garros and the US Open 2017.
Preston, the youngest player in the second round here at 16 years old, and competing in just her 3rd pro tournament, has pulled off eye-catching upsets of Sara Errani and Kurumi Nara in 2022 already, but Jang allowed the teenager to reach game point in only 2 games, and dropped just 19 points in total.
Elsewhere, there was a seeded win for No 18 Irina Bara, who overcame Romanian compatriot Alexandra Cadantu-Ignatik, 5-7 6-1 6-4, in exactly 3 hours, and she now takes on 5th seed Tomova, who dismissed Swan in an hour and 33 minutes. Bara and Tomova will now square off for a main-draw berth.
Meanwhile, No 26 seed Lucia Bronzetti continued to impress with a 6-2 6-2 win over former World No 99 Valeria Savinykh from Russia.
The 23-year-old Italian reached the quarter-finals of her first 3 WTA main draws in Lausanne, Palermo and Portoroz last year, and is bidding to make her debut in a Grand Slam main draw.