No. 1 Iga Swiatek avoids upset in fourth round at Wimbledon

Iga Swiatek gets set to hit a backhand return against Belinda Bencic on Sunday at Wimbledon.
(Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press)
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Twice, Iga Swiatek was a point from exiting Wimbledon on Sunday, a point from the sort of confounding defeat at the place that gives her so much more trouble than any of the other Grand Slam tournaments.

Down a set and 6-5 in the second against Belinda Bencic, the No. 1-ranked Swiatek steeled herself and dispensed with two match points. She erased the first with a booming forehand, the second with a forceful backhand, and soon enough, Swiatek was not just back in the contest, she was controlling it.

Frustrated in the late afternoon sunshine at Centre Court, so close to defeat in the early-evening shadows, Swiatek managed to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time by coming back for a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory over the 14th-seeded Bencic.


Swiatek, who will face wild-card entry Elina Svitolina of Ukraine for a semifinal berth, extended her unbeaten run to 14 matches, which includes claiming her fourth major title at the French Open last month.

Swiatek has won three championships at Roland Garros, and one at the U.S. 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 ended 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 grass used at the year’s third Grand Slam tournament.

So how does she feel about the green surface nowadays?

“Every day, my love is getting bigger, so hopefully I’m going to have as many days as possible to stay here and play on this court,” Swiatek said. “For sure, this is my best year on grass, so I feel really kind of motivated, because I know that even when you’re not playing 100%, the hard work is paying off.”

Svitolina, a 2019 semifinalist at Wimbledon who had a baby last October and returned to the tour this April, advanced Sunday by edging two-time major champion Victoria Azarenka 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11-9).

“After giving birth to our daughter, this is the second-happiest moment in my life,” Svitolina said.


The other quarterfinal on the top half of the women’s bracket will be No. 4 Jessica Pegula versus 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova.

The men’s quarterfinals established Sunday were No. 7 Andrey Rublev against Novak Djokovic or No. 17 Hubert Hurkacz, and No. 8 Jannik Sinner against Roman Safiullin. Djokovic’s match against Hurkacz was suspended because it was getting too late to continue to play. The match, which Djokovic led 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), will continue Monday.

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon for the second straight year by defeating No. 25 Nicolas Jarry in four sets Saturday.

July 8, 2023

The big-hitting Bencic unfurled a right upper arm heavily wrapped in beige and white tape from her shoulder to above her elbow to deliver powerful shot after powerful shot. It was the kind of display that carried her to two medals for Switzerland — a gold in singles, a silver in doubles — at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and a semifinal appearance at the 2019 U.S. Open.

And Swiatek frequently displayed signs of dismay.

She slapped her right thigh after ceding one point. After another, she looked up at her coach. Swiatek then walked behind the baseline and stared at the wall behind the Royal Box. During a changeover, she blocked out everything by draping a towel over her head.

Swiatek certainly had her chances to move in front far earlier than she did.

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