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Swiatek, Svitolina book epic victories

IGA Swiatek edges Belinda Bencic 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon.  | Daniel LEAL/agence france-presse

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Iga Swiatek saved two match points while Elina Svitolina triumphed in a stormy, politically-charged duel with Victoria Azarenka to set up a Wimbledon quarterfinal showdown on Sunday as Novak Djokovic was defeated by a night-time curfew.

World No. 1 Swiatek beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 on Center Court.

Over on Court One, Ukraine’s Svitolina came from a set and break down to defeat Belarusian rival Azarenka 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11/9).

Djokovic took a two sets lead over Hubert Hurkacz in their Last 16 clash when play was halted ahead of a locally agreed 11 p.m. night-time curfew.

Djokovic, playing his 100th match at the tournament, was 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (8/6) ahead against the Pole.

The pair will resume on Monday with the winner to face Andrey Rublev for a place in the semifinals.

Defending champion Djokovic is chasing a record-tying eighth title at the All England Club and 24th career Grand Slam crown.

Swiatek, the reigning US Open and French Open champion, saved two match points in the 12th game of the second set before going on to book a place in the quarterfinals for the first time.

Four-time major winner Swiatek, 22, said she felt she was able to play without fear when facing a shock exit.

“It’s actually a little bit easier because on the other hand you feel like she’s leading anyway so you play those shots more fearlessly because you know you have nothing to lose.”

Svitolina refused to shake the hand of Azarenka in protest at the Belarus government’s support of Russia over the war in Ukraine.

It has become a common feature but that didn’t prevent fans from this time booing Azarenka.

“It wasn’t fair. It is what it is. What can I do?” Azarenka said.

“I haven’t done anything wrong, but I can’t control the crowd. I’m not sure that a lot of people understand what’s happening.”

Svitolina believes the booing could be stopped if tennis authorities issue a statement explaining the position of Ukraine players.

“It was like this for me in Paris at the French Open. It was also unfair,” Svitolina said.

Despite the controversy, Svitolina described victory as one of her greatest moments.

“I think after giving birth to our daughter this is the second-happiest moment in my life,” said Svitolina, who is married to French tennis star Gael Monfils.

Meanwhile, Mirra Andreeva’s fairytale season continued as the 16-year-old Russian reached the fourth round, defeating 22nd-seeded compatriot Anastasia Potapova 6-2, 7-5.

“Even if I wanted to show my emotions I couldn’t because I was out of breath on every point,” said Andreeva, who came through qualifying and is making her tournament debut.

The teenager had to battle hard in the second set, coming back from 1-4 down before squandering seven break points in the ninth game.

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