Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia and Yuan Yue of China both kept up their strong starts to 2022 to advance to the final qualifying round of the Australian Open with contrasting wins.
One of Day 3's most intriguing encounters saw Rakhimova, a quarterfinalist at Melbourne Summer Set 2 last week, take on 2020 junior champion Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, the youngest player in the Top 350 at 16 years old. It lived up to expectations: No.8 seed Rakhimova eventually fought through 6-7(5), 7-6(8), 6-4 after 3 hours and 17 minutes.
Rakhimova lost the first set from triple set point up at 5-4, and needed to save two match points in the second-set tiebreak. No.202-ranked Jimenez Kasintseva, runner-up at last week's Bendigo ITF W60, largely impressed with her courtcraft and left-handed forehand, but it was the latter stroke that let the Andorran down on both match points.
By contrast, while Rakhimova had failed to close out the first set and struggled to finish the second, the 20-year-old's own forehand proved key to efficiently serving out the longest match of the event so far.
Yuan, 23, captured her first ITF W60 title in Traralgon last week, and extended her winning streak to seven by upsetting No.21 seed Caty McNally 7-6(1), 6-4 in 2 hours and 2 minutes. The 23-year-old World No.162 has now won 17 of her last 18 matches - a confidence-boosting run that was reflected in her ability to rise to the occasiona against McNally.
Yuan fended off one set point in the first set serving at 5-6 with a beautiful forehand volley, and firmly quelled a putative McNally comeback 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 six break points and holding after 10 deuces. It seemed as though it could be a turning point - but Yuan responded with her best serving spell of the day, dropping only two more points behind her delivery and breaking McNally for the match.
Baptiste, De Vroome pull off upsets
Another 20-year-old American, Hailey Baptiste, ousted the highest seed in action on Day 3, defeating No.4 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; following her return in August, Baptiste lost nine of her last 12 matches of 2021.
However, her hand skills and variety were both on display in an efficient win over Stojanovic. Baptiste found 21 winners to get past the Serb, and also finished with 100% records in both converting break points (two out of two) and saving break points against her (three out of three). She will take on Yuan in the final qualifying round.
The wildest rollercoaster win of the day belonged to No.252-ranked Indy De Vroome. The 25-year-old Dutchwoman overcame 18 double faults to upset No.12 seed Dalma Galfi 6-4, 6-7(9), 7-6 in 2 hours and 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 three consecutive De Vroome double faults. But the Hungarian lost control of her forehand and ceded six straight games, eventually converting her eighth 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 super-tiebreak, and took her fifth match point on another Galfi forehand error.
Jang whitewashes Preston, Bara triumphs in all-Romanian derby
No.212-ranked Jang Su Jeong, of South Korea, took an impressive step towards a potential Grand Slam main draw debut by double bagelling wildcard 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 third 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 third professional 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 two games, and dropped just 19 points in total.
Elsewhere, there were seeded wins for No.18 Irina Bara, who overcame Romanian compatriot Alexandra Cadantu-Ignatik 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in exactly three hours, and No.5 seed Viktoriya Tomova, who dismissed Katie Swan 6-0, 7-5 in 1 hour and 33 minutes. Bara and Tomova will now square off for a main-draw berth.
A battle of former Top 50 players saw No.24 seed Rebecca Marino out-serve Kateryna Bondarenko 6-3, 6-4 to set a third-round showdown against Rakhimova; while in a clash of former junior major champions, 2016 Roland Garros girls' titlist Rebeka Masarova upset 2019 Wimbledon winner and No.31 seed Daria Snigur 6-3, 6-1 and will next face Jang.
Meanwhile, No.26 seed Lucia Bronzetti continued to impress with a 6-2, 6-2 win over former World No.99 Valeria Savinykh. The 23-year-old Italian reached the quarterfinals of her first three WTA main draws in Lausanne, Palermo and Portoroz last year, and is bidding to make her debut in a Grand Slam main draw.