LONDON, UK - It's been a while since former World No.46 Oceane Dodin was a regular fixture on the WTA Tour, but the Frenchwoman scored a statement comeback win to move into the final round of Wimbledon qualifying, upsetting No.10 seed Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3, 1-6, 8-6 in two hours and 14 minutes.
Dodin, who was the 2016 Québec City champion and reached a career high of World No.46 the following June, played just one match - which ended in retirement - in nine months between Wimbledon 2018 and a return to the court in a Sunderland ITF W25 tournament this April. The issue, she revealed, was medical vertigo: "For one year, I would feel dizzy all the time," Dodin said. It was a problem that took some time and many different doctors to correctly diagnose, but all has been sorted, she claimed: "Now we know the problem, we know what to do, and it's better."
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Dodin's no-holds-barred power hitting certainly approached top form in overcoming Begu, who served for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set - only to face a barrage of scorching winners as the World No.509 upped the pace, drawing gasps with a phenomenal pass hit while twisting to reach a Begu lob at 6-6, 30-30. "My serve and my aggressive game won me the match," assessed Dodin. Though a combination of ITF and qualifying events garnered her just an 8-6 win-loss record since April coming into Wimbledon, the 22-year-old knows how to raise her game on the big stage. "I play better when I play big players because I know I don't have a choice," she asserted. "I give everything I have."
No.14 seed Olga Danilovic's challenges have not been health-related; indeed, the 18-year-old is sanguine about her dip in form since winning the Moscow River Cup title last July as a lucky loser in her WTA debut. The Serb's record since then is 13-21, with just one win in a WTA main draw, but she was upbeat following a rollercoaster 7-6(2), 6-7(4), 6-2 victory over Amandine Hesse.
"I had a lot of good matches that I unfortunately didn't win, I had a lot of tough draws," Danilovic said. "But it's just part of the process, as they say, that I'm experiencing now. It's just ups and downs, ups and downs, and I just need more matches to get used to it day by day."
The left-hander will get her wish - and a shot at making her Grand Slam main draw debut - after a dramatic tilt against Hesse, dominating the final set with impressive firepower after letting a break lead slip in the second. The Frenchwoman was among the most vocal of the day's players, near-continuously alternating between exhorting and berating herself, but Danilovic was unfazed. "I'm also emotional - but I just looked to myself," she smiled.
Elsewhere, 15-year-old wildcard Cori Gauff had little trouble in backing up her first-round upset of No.1 seed Aliona Bolsova, dismissing Valentyna Ivakhnenko 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and five minutes. Gauff's next match will be one of the picks of the final qualifying round: No.19 seed Greet Minnen is one of 2019's most improved players, having risen from World No.316 to World No.129 since the end of last year, and the Belgian - cheered on by girlfriend Alison Van Uytvanck - came through a quality contest of high-octane hitting over 18-year-old Liang En-Shuo 6-3, 2-6, 6-1.
Gauff's fellow American teenager Catherine McNally was also in superb form as she outmanoeuvred Priscilla Hon 6-4, 6-4: the 17-year-old captured the crucial second-set break at 4-4 by standing well inside the baseline to return the Australian's serve, following it up with a net-rush that forced Hon to send an improvised pass wide. After her first-round win, discussing her throwback gamestyle, McNally had said she had found that "a lot of girls don't like my slice", and Hon was certainly one of them: at one point, the World No.164 hit a slice so biting that Hon, after shanking her response, had muttered: "That's so depressing. What even just happened?"
Also deploying finesse to superb effect was No.20 seed Kaja Juvan, who - less than 24 hours after her marathon 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 win over Valentini Grammatikopoulou - survived another three-setter, with deft use of dropshots and angles turning her match against Basak Eraydin, the Turkish World No.211 who herself boasted a neat and rare single-handed backhand, around for a 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 win.
Former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki continued to make good use of her wildcard, notching up consecutive victories for the first time since November as she defeated Ankita Raina 6-1, 7-6(4) - a satisfying revenge for the 29-year-old over an opponent who had beaten her soundly 6-3, 6-1 just three weeks ago in the Surbiton ITF W100 final qualifying round. Meanwhile, another former Top 20 player, 2009 US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer, essayed a remarkable turnaround, saving a match point as No.16 seed Tereza Smitkova served for the match before running away with a 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-1 triumph.
Wickmayer will face the under-the-radar No.31 seed Liudmila Samsonova in the final round, after the Russian conjured up a blitz of bold winners to haul back a 1-4 tiebreak deficit and move past Kaylah McPhee 6-2, 7-6(5). Also in eyebrow-raising form were fast-rising 19-year-old No.8 seed Elena Rybakina, whose ballstriking was clean and irresistible as she took just 45 minutes to rout Richel Hogenkamp 6-3, 6-0, and Elena-Gabriela Ruse, who survived early-evening gusty conditions and a gritty Romanian compatriot Irina Bara to win a classic power-versus-defence stylistic contrast 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.
Three years after cracking the Top 200, 22-year-old Antonia Lottner has yet to debut inside the Top 100 - but the German has nonetheless gained a reputation as something of an upset artist, with three Top 20 upsets under her belt - two of which, Dominika Cibulkova at 's-Hertogenbosch 2017 and Elise Mertens at the same tournament a year later, were on grass. Lottner carried over her knack for eliminating higher-ranked players today by knocking out No.5 seed Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-4, 6-1. No.4 seed Misaki Doi was also an upset victim, falling away 6-4, 6-2 to a free-hitting Arina Rodionova.
Final qualifying round:
[WC] Cori Gauff (USA) vs.  Greet Minnen (BEL)
 Anna Blinkova (RUS) vs.  Tereza Martincova (CZE)
 Lauren Davis (USA) vs. Kristie Ahn (USA)
Arina Rodionova (AUS) vs. Danielle Lao (USA)
Antonia Lottner (GER) vs.  Anna Kalinskaya (RUS)
[6) Christina McHale (USA) vs.  Kaja Juvan (SLO)
Jana Cepelova (USA) vs. Catherine McNally (USA)
 Elena Rybakina (KAZ) vs.  Varvara Flink (RUS)
[WC] Samantha Murray (GBR) vs.  Paula Badosa (ESP)
Oceane Dodin (FRA) vs. Giulia Gatto-Monticone (ITA)
Katarzyna Kawa (POL) vs. Elena-Gabriela Ruse (ROU)
 Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) vs.  Arantxa Rus (NED)
 Marie Bouzkova (CZE) vs.  Ana Bogdan (ROU)
 Olga Danilovic (SRB) vs.  Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA)
Lesley Kerkhove (NED) vs. [WC] Sabine Lisicki (GER)
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) vs.  Liudmila Samsonova (RUS)