Iga Swiatek saves two match points to reach first Wimbledon quarter-final

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World No 1 Iga Swiatek saves two match points against Belinda Bencic to reach her first Wimbledon quarter-final

Iga Swiatek showed the courage of a champion to survive two match points in a Centre Court classic that eventually took her into a first Wimbledon quarter-final.

Despite her status as top seed, world No 1 and bookies’ favourite, Swiatek has not always cut through to the general public at SW19 but this three-hour drama should change all that.

The 22-year-old Pole could scratch her head until her scalp bleeds before working out how she lost the opening set to No 14 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, having won 17 points in a row on serve at one stage and carved out six break points.

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But she fell apart in the tiebreak and then squandered an early break in the second set. At 5-6, 15-40 she was staring down the barrel and responded with a magnificent forehand and then cross-court backhand winner to survive.

She rallied to win the second tiebreak comfortably and two double faults by Bencic in the fourth game of the decider gave Swiatek the break she needed to win 6-7, 7-6, 6-3.

Iga Swiatek produced a miraculous comeback to beat Belinda Bencic 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 on Sunday

 Iga Swiatek produced a miraculous comeback to beat Belinda Bencic 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 on Sunday

It is the first time the world No 1 has made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in her career

 It is the first time the world No 1 has made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in her career

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Swiatek said: ‘It’s amazing. I feel like I needed that win to believe in myself a little bit more on grass.

‘Sometimes it is easier match point down because you have nothing to lose. You know you need to change something and there is more pressure on the player who is close to winning, so you can hit shots more fearlessly.

‘I guessed it worked. For sure, this is my best year on grass. My love for the surface is getting bigger every day!’

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Bencic’s biggest achievement is winning gold at the last Olympics rather than anything done in Grand Slams, where her best run came at the 2019 US Open as she reached the semi-finals. Her arrival with the top of her arm and right shoulder heavily strapped did not augur well for a close contest.

While Swiatek had never been past the fourth round of Wimbledon, she is already a four-time Slam champion and had not dropped a set in her first three matches of this tournament.

Instead, we were served up a treat. Swiatek dominated the first set but couldn’t put her gutsy opponent away. And when it came to the tiebreak, the favourite suddenly collapsed.

She put a forehand long to start and then tightened up to go 6-1 down to a Bencic ace in the blink of an eye. Though she rallied briefly, Bencic sealed the deal with the fourth of her five set points.

Swiatek was livid and when she missed the first of two break points in the opening game of the second set, she slapped her leg so violently you thought it wold leave a bruise. The self-motivation clearly worked, because with the next point she clubbed a winner down the line to take an early advantage.

No 19 seed Bencic was a tough opponent and fought all the way before succumbing to defeat

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No 19 seed Bencic was a tough opponent and fought all the way before succumbing to defeat

But if she was hoping for a Bencic collapse, she was to be disappointed. The Swiss hung in grimly and when she got her first break point trailing 3-2 she took it, forcing Swiatek to hit a backhand wide. The pair then swapped service games until the tiebreak.

The first five points were all lost by the server but it was Swiatek who gathered her composure first and a whipped forehand gave her set point, before a Bencic double fault made the match all square.

Whether Bencic’s shoulder was giving her grief, she double-faulted twice including on game point to allow Swiatek the chance to take a 3-1 lead she did not surrender.

Swiatek faces Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals tomorrow and it will be fascinating to see which of them is less drained by their respective fourth-round epics.

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