WIMBLEDON, England — The 116th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky stunned defending champion and seven-time winner Roger Federer 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) in the second round, capping a wild day at Wimbledon.
Federer’s record streak of Grand Slam quarterfinals ended at 36 on Wednesday and he lost in the second round of a major for the first time (50-1). The Swiss suffered his earliest exit at a Slam since a first-round loss to Luis Horna at the 2003 French Open, just weeks before Federer won Wimbledon for the first of his 17 major titles.
“Well, what do you do after something like this? What do you do?” Federer said. “Do you do the 24‑hour rule? You don’t panic at this point, that’s clear. Just go back to work and come back stronger. Somewhat simple. Hard to do sometimes. But usually I do turnarounds pretty good.”
Stakhovsky — perhaps best known for using his cell phone to take a picture of a disputed ball mark at the French Open — scored his first victory over a top-10 player in 21 attempts. Last week, the 27-year-old Ukrainian lost in qualifying to James Blake in a grass-court event in Eastbourne, England.
“When you come here, on the cover of the Wimbledon book is Roger Federer,” Stakhovsky said. “You’re playing the guy and then you’re playing his legend, which is following him because he won it seven times. … You’re playing two of them. When you’re beating one, you still have the other one who is pressing you. You’re saying, ‘Am I about to beat him? Is it possible?’
“Right now, I can definitely tell my grandkids [that] I kicked the butt of Roger Federer.”
No one saw this upset coming, especially after Federer barely broke a sweat in his 69-minute, first-round victory over Victor Hanescu. In fact, most of the talk before Wednesday’s match centered on Wimbledon’s asking Federer to switch shoes because the orange-soled Nikes he wore in the first round had violated the club’s “predominantly white” policy.
But this was a match that featured trademark grass-court tennis from Stakhovsky, with serving-and-volleying that is so rare at a time when racket and string technology and court speed homogenization have pushed the tour toward grinding baseline tennis. Stakhovsky used that aggressive tactic — “At least somebody can play that still,” he said — along with his one-handed backhand to keep Federer off balance throughout the match.
Stakhovsky matched Federer at every turn. Federer hit 16 aces? Stakhovsky hit 17. Federer hit 57 winners? Stakhovsky hit 72. On match point, Federer sent a backhand wide. That point proved the difference in more ways than one. Final point total: Stakhovsky 162, Federer 161.
“I’m still in disbelief,” Stakhovsky told the BBC. “I played my best tennis and it still almost wasn’t enough.”
Asked how he pulled it off, Stakhovsky said, “Magic.”
Federer’s loss punctuated an eventful day at the All England Club. He became the seventh former No. 1 player to exit Wednesday, a list that included Maria Sharapova, who, like Federer, fell to a player ranked outside the top 100 (Michelle Larcher de Brito). In addition, seven players retired or withdrew because of injuries, including No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Steve Darcis, who upset Rafael Nadal in the first round Monday.
Many had been anticipating a quarterfinal between Federer and Nadal. And much was made before the tournament about how the bottom half of the draw was loaded with Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray, plus two-time semifinalist Tsonga. But only Murray remains, having advanced Wednesday with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 win over Rendy Lu. The next-highest seed still alive in Murray’s half is No. 15 Nicolas Almagro.
Wednesday’s result will fuel more talk about Federer’s future. A year ago, Federer won Wimbledon and regained the No. 1 ranking as part of a busy Olympic year. This season, the 31-year-old Federer decided to play a reduced schedule, and the results have been largely disappointing by his standards. He made the semifinals of the Australian Open, lost in the quarterfinals of the French Open and now tumbles out of Wimbledon in the second round. He is set to drop out of the top four for the first time since June 2003.
When asked if he could understand how some fans might view Wednesday’s loss as an end of an era, Federer said: “No, because I still have plans to play for many more years to come. It’s normal that after all of a sudden losing early after being in the quarters 36 times, people feel it’s different. You guys hyped it up so much, me playing Rafa [in the quarterfinals], and we’re both out. So there’s a letdown clearly. Maybe it’s also somewhat a bit disrespectful to the other opponents who are in the draw still. I think it sends a message to you guys as well that maybe you shouldn’t do that so often next time around.”
• Federer’s streak of 36 Grand Slam quarterfinals started at Wimbledon in 2004.
• Federer lost to a player outside the top 100 for the first time since No. 101 Richard Gasquet beat him in the 2005 Monte Carlo quarterfinals.
• Federer’s second-round loss marked the earliest defeat for a defending Wimbledon champion since Lleyton Hewitt lost to Ivo Karlovic in the first round in 2003.
• Stakhovsky improved to 1-20 against top-10 players.
• Stakhovsky, ranked No. 116, peaked at No. 31 in 2010.
• Stakhovsky lost in the first round of the Australian Open and French Open this year.
• Stakhovsky entered the tournament with one career victory in four appearances at Wimbledon, a first-round win over Daniel Cox in 2011.
• Federer was asked to assess his game over the last six to eight months. “Right now, this is a setback, a disappointment, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “But then overall I think I played great eight months ago at the World Tour Finals, I played great at the Australian Open. If things would have gone my way, maybe I could have done a bit more.
“I didn’t play so much as of late. At the same time, that gives me more flexibility with my schedule moving forward and next year as well. Particularly an early loss like this gives me extra days to rest. I have more options now than I did have one year ago when I was running around trying to chase down every possible tournament and every point to get back to world No. 1.
“Maybe that also, with the Olympics last year, took its toll. I don’t know. But overall I think I’ve been playing actually not so bad, like some have portrayed it. Season’s not over here. Only just in the middle. Still have a lot of tennis left. That’s what I try to use for a good end to the season.”
• How would Stakhovsky put his victory in perspective? “I still have no feelings what I accomplished,” he said. “I’m still somewhere lost. I’m sorry. I cannot really explain. It’s hard for me. I don’t feel nothing actually, I would say, because I don’t really feel it yet. Maybe tomorrow is going to be better.”
We are 3 games away from the biggest upset in Grand Slam History!! However 3 loooooong games…..—
Mahesh Bhupathi (@Maheshbhupathi) June 26, 2013
This is easily the craziest day of tennis I have ever seen. And i have been doing this for 60 years—
Nick Bollettieri (@NickBollettieri) June 26, 2013
Finally the grass seems fast and im not there. Shiiii..—
ivo karlovic (@ivokarlovic) June 26, 2013
Federer lost. Wimbledon has been cancelled.—
Kristie Ahn (@kristieahn) June 26, 2013
Of course :)—
(@andyroddick) June 26, 2013
Not a good day to be a former #1. Or Wimbledon.—
Bobby Chintapalli (@bobbychin) June 26, 2013
It sounds like a funeral on ESPN right now. Goodness. They are so somber.—
Ataraxis (@Ataraxis00) June 26, 2013