By Pritha Sarkar

LONDON (Reuters) -Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek survived a huge scare before reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time and was joined by Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina who also came through an epic fourth-round scrap on Sunday.

Poland’s Swiatek looked in big trouble against Switzerland’s Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and saved two match points in the second set before clawing out a 6-7(4) 7-6(2) 6-3 victory.

Wildcard Svitolina was then roared to a 2-6 6-4 7-6(9) win against Belarusian Victoria Azarenka on Court One, recovering from 7-4 down in the champions tiebreak, sealing it with an ace.

In the men’s draw, Andrey Rublev reached his eighth Grand Slam quarter-final after surviving a fightback by enigmatic Kazakh Alexander Bublik to win in five sets.

But he will have to wait until Monday to discover the identity of his next opponent after defending champion Novak Djokovic withstood an onslaught of aces as he edged into 7-6(6) 7-6(6) lead against Hubert Hurkacz before play was suspended.

Hurkacz — the man who ended eight-time champion Roger Federer’s Wimbledon career in 2021 — hurled down 23 aces. One effort was clocked at 141mph, the fastest serve of the tournament so far.

Jannik Sinner made the last eight for the second year in succession as he overcame Colombia’s Daniel Galan.

Swiatek lived to fight another day but it was a mighty close shave for the 22-year-old who has never quite mastered grass despite becoming the dominant force in women’s tennis.

Bencic, the 14th seed, proved a frustrating obstacle for Swiatek with the four-time Grand Slam champion struggling to master her opponent for the majority of an intriguing tussle.

As the evening gloom set in, Swiatek eventually got a handle on her opponent’s game, moving clear in the final set before wrapping up victory after more than three hours.

Bencic will look back at the two match points she had at 5-6 in the second set, the first saved with a powerful Swiatek forehand and the second with a backhand winner.

“I don’t know if I even came back from match point down in my career,” Swiatek said in her on court interview. “I feel I needed the win to believe in myself on this surface.”

Next up for Swiatek will be former semi-finalist Svitolina who has enjoyed a remarkable comeback from becoming a mother last year, reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open.

Svitolina had never beaten fellow-mum Azarenka before but showed great resilience to recover from a bad start and eventually get over the finishing line.

She collapsed on her back after sealing victory and there was no handshake with Svitolina sticking to her stance of not shaking hands with players from either Belarus or Russia because of the invasion of her country last year.

Bizarrely, the crowd booed Azarenka as she left the court as they did not understand why the Belarusian failed to offer the obligatory post match handshake.

“She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision. What should I have done? Stayed and waited?” snapped Azarenka.

“I thought it was a great tennis match. If people are going to be focusing only on handshakes or crowd, quite drunk crowd, booing in the end, that’s a shame.”

American fourth seed Jessica Pegula reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time as she thrashed another Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko 6-1 6-3.

She is only the fifth American woman in the last 25 years to reach the last eight at all four majors.

Pegula will face former French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova after she beat Marie Bouzkova 2-6 6-4 6-3.

Seventh seed Rublev was on course for a straight sets win over Bublik but ended up being reeled in by the unpredictable Kazakh who produced his usual mix of weird and wonderful tennis strokes.

Eventually, thanks to one of the shots of the tournament to earn a match point, Rublev won 7-5 6-3 6-7(6) 6-7(5) 6-4.

Sinner’s 7-6(4) 6-4 6-3 victory earned him what looks like a great opportunity to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final — a clash with unseeded Russian Roman Safiullin who beat injured Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6 6-3 6-1 6-3.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Christian Radnedge)

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