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Wimbledon: Iga Swiatek survives two match points to edge out Belinda Bencic in a thriller

World No 1 Iga Swiatek saves two match points to come through a marathon match with Belinda Bencic while Belarusian Victoria Azarenka left Court No 1 to a chorus of boos after losing a dramatic fourth-round contest to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina

Iga Swiatek and Elina Svitolina at Wimbledon
Image: Iga Swiatek and Elina Svitolina won a couple of epic matches to set up a quarter-final date at Wimbledon

World No 1 Iga Swiatek survived two match points before coming through a marathon match with Belinda Bencic to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time.

Swiatek looked down and out when 15-40 down at 6-5 in the second set, but she produced her best tennis with two sumptuous winners to turn the tie around.

The four-time Grand Slam champion continued to be pushed all the way by Olympic gold medallist Bencic in a tense third set before she eventually prevailed 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 after a three-hour epic on Centre Court.

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It sent Swiatek through to the last-eight at the All England Club for the first time and having won the junior title at SW19 previously, she will march on with renewed belief this could be her year on her least favoured surface.

Top seed Swiatek had reached the fourth-round without dropping a set but experienced trouble early on against Bencic, being forced to take a medical time-out after only three games due to a blister.

It did not seem to affect the three-time French Open winner and she remained largely in control until Bencic turned the tables in the tie-break.

Bencic saved two set points in the 10th game before clinching the first set after 66 minutes.

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Completed the Slam

Iga Swiatek is the youngest player to reach the women's singles quarter-finals in all four Grand Slam events since Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Swiatek left the court and returned determined to avoid another exit before the second week in England, with a sweet forehand return earning a break after a nine-minute opening game.

There remained a steel about Tokyo 2020 champion Bencic, who broke back to make it 3-3 and then had victory within her grasp when 15-40 up at 6-5.

Faced with losing at Wimbledon in the fourth round again, Swiatek came out swinging, producing equally brilliant forehand and backhand winners before repeating the trick to take the second tie-break.

If Swiatek thought she had worn down Bencic's armour, she initially appeared to be wrong with the Swiss right-hander able to force another break point chance early in the third.

However after Swiatek dug deep to hold again, the resistance was finally broken with back-to-back double faults by the 14th seed.

More drama was to follow with Swiatek going 0-30 down when serving for the match, but she responded in style with two passing forehand winners sealing her spot in the last-eight.

Swiatek, who played two tie-breaks in the same match for the first time, said in her on-court interview: "Well, it wasn't easy obviously.

"She had match point right? So, I don't know if that has ever happened in my career, being back from match point down, but I am really happy.

"I feel I needed that win to believe in myself a little more on this surface.

"Every day my love (for the grass court) is getting bigger so hopefully I am going to have as many days as possible to play on this court."

Elina Svitolina reacts during her match against Victoria Azarenka (not pictured) on day seven of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon. Picture date: Sunday July 9, 2023.
Image: Svitolina only returned to the tour in April following the birth of daughter Skai in October

Swiatek will play Elina Svitolina next after the Ukrainian wildcard won the mother of all battles, recovering from a set down to claim a thrilling 2-6 6-4 7-6 (11-9) win over two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in their fourth-round clash.

Azarenka left Court No 1 to a chorus of boos after the crowd had been overwhelmingly behind Svitolina throughout and produced a deafening roar when she clinched a stunning 2-6 6-4 7-6 (11-9) victory.

Commendable Svitolina

Since 2015, the year Elina Svitolina reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final, the Ukrainian is one of the four players to appear in 10+ quarter-finals in such events along with Serena Williams (16), Simona Halep (13) and Karolina Pliskova (11).

Svitolina had been booed at the French Open for refusing to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents but here it was Azarenka, who put her hand up to acknowledge Svitolina before leaving the court, that received loud jeers.

It was the first clash between a Russian or Belarusian player and a Ukrainian at Wimbledon since the lifting of last year's ban on competitors from the aggressor nations.

It was unclear whether the fans thought it was she who had snubbed her opponent and Azarenka gave a long, lingering stare before banging her fists together as she walked off.

"I can't control the crowd," she said. "I'm not sure that a lot of people were understanding what's happening. It's probably been a lot of Pimm's throughout the day. It wasn't fair. What can I do?

"I feel like it's been pretty consistent for the last 18, 19 months. I haven't done anything wrong but I keep getting different treatment sometimes.

"She doesn't want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision. What should I have done? Stayed and waited? There's no thing that I could do that would have been right, so I just did what I thought was respectful towards her decision."

Azarenka banged her fists together as she walked off court
Image: Azarenka banged her fists together as she walked off court

Svitolina only returned to the tour in April following the birth of daughter Skai in October, and she beamed as she said in her on-court interview: "After giving birth to our daughter, this is the second fabulous moment in my life.

"It was a really tough match. When I was 0-2 down in the second set I heard you guys cheering for me and I almost wanted to cry. I was really struggling and I really wanted to win today. You guys gave me so much strength today."

Svitolina also drew strength from thinking of the plight of her stricken homeland, saying: "I was thinking back home there are lots of people that are watching and cheering for me, I know how much it means for them.

"Any moments that they can share of happiness. I was thinking there is tough times in Ukraine and I'm here playing in front of you guys. I cannot complain, I just have to fight. And here I am, I won the match."

She had lost all five of her previous matches against Azarenka and, although most of the games were close, it was the Belarusian largely coming out on top.

Svitolina appeared to be staring at a swift defeat when she trailed 2-0 in the second set but she levelled things up before forcing a decider.

Svitolina, a semi-finalist here back in 2019, moved 3-0 up in the deciding set, and the Ukrainian looked to be on her way to victory but back came Azarenka.

Svitolina then fought back from 4-7 in a tense deciding tie-break, finally clinching it 11-9 on her second match point and dropping to the turf in delight.

On a lighter note, the 28-year-old revealed ahead of the match that her Wimbledon run meant she had to give away tickets to the Harry Styles concert she had planned to attend.

"I hope Harry is watching," she said. "I'm a big fan of his."

Earlier, fourth seed Jessica Pegula progressed into the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the first time with a straight-sets win over Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko.

Pegula raced into a 4-0 lead inside quarter of an hour and wrapped up the first set 6-1.

Tsurenko had come through the longest tie-break in women's Grand Slam history on Friday to make the fourth round, but struggled to handle this occasion.

Pegula sealed victory with a superb backhand winner - only awarded after she challenged the out call - and made the last-eight of a Grand Slam for the fifth time from her last seven appearances with a 6-1 6-3 win.

"I'm glad I challenged it," Pegula said on-court. "I was just glad I was able to keep up the momentum."

Jessica Pegula reacts during her match against Lesia Tsurenko (not pictured) on day seven of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon. Picture date: Sunday July 9, 2023.
Image: Jessica Pegula will take on Marketa Vondrousova in the quarter-finals

Next up for Pegula is a quarter-final clash with Marketa Vondrousova, who dug deep to win the all-Czech encounter with Marie Bouzkova in three sets.

World No 42 Vondrousova had only made it past the fourth round at a major once before, when she won the French Open in 2019, but reached the last-eight with a gusty 2-6 6-4 6-3 victory.

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