(photo credit: Associated Press)
Noam Okun moved within one victory of his third career appearance at the main draw in Wimbledon Tuesday with a straight sets win over France's Olivier Patience.
The Israeli No. 2's 6-4, 7-5 win put him into the third and final qualifying round at the grass-court Grand Slam, which begins next week. Okun, ranked 220 in the world, will face No. 6 seed Frank Dancevic (122) of Canada for the lucrative main draw slot.
Okun reached the main draw last year before losing to rising French star Gael Monfils in four sets. He also played in the main draw in 2002, losing to American Jeff Morrison in straight sets. Dancevic has never qualified at a Grand Slam.
The match, tentatively set for Thursday, will be the fifth between the two, with Okun winning the first two and Dancevic the last two. Okun scored the only win in a match played on grass 6-4, 7-5 at the Surbiton Challenger last year.
Okun is the only remaining Israeli player in the singles qualifying rounds after Tzipi Obziler (149) lost her firstround match in the women's event. Obziler went out 6-4, 6-4 to Shikha Uberoi (179).
Dudi Sela (165) and Amir Hadad (279) were each eliminated on Monday.
Obziler will try to qualify for the doubles along with Italian partner Romina Oprandi. They face the American duo of Lilia Osterloh and Ashe Rolle in the first round on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich started the their title defense at the Red Letter Days Open in Nottingham, England, on the right foot, defeating local wildcards Jamie Delgado and Martin Lee 7-6(1), 6-1.
The top seeded Israelis will next face Richard Gasquet, who is the defending singles champ, and Nicolas Mahut, both of France, in the quarterfinals.
Also in doubles action Wednesday will be Shahar Pe'er, who'll join forces with Marion Bartoli of France at Eastbourne. They take on Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Italy's Francesca Schiavone.
Mary Pierce out of Wimbledon; joins Davenport, Serena Williams on sidelines
Mary Pierce pulled out of Wimbledon with a foot injury Tuesday, joining Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport as former Grand Slam winners out of the tournament that begins Monday.
The 31-year-old Pierce, who has been struggling with tendinitis in her right foot since February, also missed this year's French Open, a tournament she won in 2000.
Pierce's best performance at Wimbledon in 10 appearances has been two quarterfinals, including last year.
Davenport withdrew Monday due to a back injury which has troubled her since last year's final at the All England Club. Williams pulled out last month with ongoing knee problems.