Swiatek saves 2 match points, reaches quarters

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WIMBLEDON, England — Top-seeded Iga Swiatek saved two match points Sunday and reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time with a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory over Belinda Bencic at Centre Court.

Swiatek extended her unbeaten run to 14 matches, which includes claiming her fourth Grand Slam title at the French Open last month.

Swiatek has won three championships at Roland Garros, and one at the US Open, but she never before had been past the fourth round at the All England Club. Last year, she had a 37-match winning streak snapped during a third-round Wimbledon loss.

So comfortable on the red clay of Paris, so capable on the hard courts in New York — and at the Australian Open, where she has made it to the semifinals — Swiatek is just not quite the same player yet on the green grass used at the year’s third Grand Slam tournament.

Against the big-hitting Bencic, the singles gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Swiatek certainly had her chances to take control far earlier than she did.

Six times in the first set, she held a break point but failed to cash in. Two came when she was a point away from owning the first set while ahead 5-4, but after Swiatek did not convert either, Bencic got into a tiebreaker and raced to a 6-1 lead before sealing it.

Swiatek headed to the locker room after that set and seemed to be back to her best immediately, finally breaking and eventually going up 3-1. But she let that advantage slip away, dropped the next three games, and suddenly needed to erase that pair of match points while behind 6-5.

Once past that key stretch, Swiatek straightened things out in that tiebreaker. From 2-all, she reeled off five consecutive points, the last of which was a double-fault by Bencic, to send the contest to a third set.

Bencic screamed after missing a forehand to hand over a break point, then double-faulted for the 10th time to gift-wrap another 3-1 lead for Swiatek in the deciding set. Swiatek protected that margin this time, and 23 minutes later — about an hour after being a point from losing — she was punching the air after delivering a cross-court forehand winner to end it.

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