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Swiatek, Svitolina win Wimbledon epics as curfew halts Djokovic

Iga Swiatek saved two match points while Elina Svitolina triumphed in a stormy, politically-charged duel with Victoria Azarenka to set up a Wimbledon quarter-final showdown on Sunday as Novak Djokovic was defeated by a night-time curfew.

World number one Swiatek beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 on Centre 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 11pm 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 semi-finals.

Defending champion Djokovic is chasing a record-equalling 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 quarter-finals for the first time.

Four-time major winner Swiatek, 22, said she felt 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?” said Azarenka.

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

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

‘Second happiest moment’

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

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.

But she held her nerve to break Potapova in the 11th game before securing victory when her opponent buried an overhead into the net.

Andreeva arrived at Wimbledon having made a run to the third round at the French Open, also out of qualifying, and will shoot up the rankings after Wimbledon, her first grass-court event on the main tour.

Rublev held his nerve to beat Russian-born Kazakh 23rd seed Alexander Bublik 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-7 (5/7), 6-4.

The seventh seed has now completed the full set of quarter-finals at the majors.

He did not drop serve against Bublik, who had defeated him in the Halle grass-court final on the eve of Wimbledon.

Rublev fired 21 aces to Bublik’s 39 but could have wrapped up the tie when he had two match points in the fourth set.

‘Full power’

“Every set I had chances, on match point he served full power. I kept thinking just keep playing, don’t start to explode before the match is over. In the end I was able to make it,” he said.

Fellow Russian and world number 92 Roman Safiullin reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final by seeing off Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.

Safiullin said his sudden success will not prompt a switch to a plusher hotel.

“Why should I change it? Of course it’s not like five stars, but I like the bed. Everything for me fits,” he said.

Safiullin will next face Jannik Sinner, the Italian eighth seed, who defeated Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 6-3.

Sinner had to work for his win with Galan saving 17 of the 20 break points he faced.

Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko was knocked out, losing 6-1, 6-3 to world number four Jessica Pegula.

Pegula will next take on Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open runner-up, who defeated fellow Czech Marie Bouzkova.

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