ROGER Federer’s dream of winning a record eighth Wimbledon title this fortnight was shattered last night as the defending champion lost to world No 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky on Centre Court.
Having seen Rafael Nadal bow out of the tournament, Federer seemed to have an easy route to the semi-finals, but Ukrainian Stakhovsky stunned the Swiss with a 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) win in the second round.
Federer’s earliest exit at Wimbledon for 11 years comes as a huge boost for Britain’s Andy Murray, who earlier saw his potential quarter-final opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pull out through injury.
Federer insisted the result was not a tragedy, saying in his press conference: “It’s always a disappointment losing any match. Particularly here, I’ve had some great moments but some tougher ones. You can’t have it all.”
The 27-year-old Stakhovsky, who has only made the second round here once before, played a superb serve-and-volley game that ended Federer’s run of 36 consecutive grand slam quarter-final appearances.
Stakhovsky was good value for the win, with Federer having no answer to his opponent’s movement and precision. Stakhovsky said: “I am in disbelief that it happened. It was the best tennis I played and incredible. When you play Roger Federer at Wimbledon he’s historical, it’s like two against one. I couldn’t play any better. I did everything I needed, it was a fantastic day for me.”
Federer strode on to court in his typically confident manner, yet Stakhovsky seemed unfazed by the occasion.
After a tight first set, a tie-break came and Federer took first blood, playing Stakhovsky at his own game by advancing to the net to drop a forehand winner. Stakhovsky saved two set points but Federer responded with an ace to take a difficult opener after 45 minutes.
Both players’ armour looked more vulnerable in the second set. Federer earned one break point but he was unable to take it while Stakhovsky was guilty of missing another two chances to break. Another tie-break arrived, but this time it was Stakhovsky who came out on top.
The Ukrainian broke Federer at the first opportunity when the Swiss netted a simple backhand. Federer levelled the tie-break with a big return but he went 6-5 behind and Stakhovsky claimed the set after smashing at the net.
The Centre Court crowd willed the seven-time champion on and he responded by winning two break points at the start of the third set. The 31-year-old was unable to convert them though, sending two forehands beyond the base line. Stakhovsky gained confidence and held to love before earning a break point of his own in the seventh game, but Federer held strong.
Federer sent down an ace to save a break point at 5-5, but Stakhovsky had one more chance and he took it when the champion mis-hit a simple backhand. Stakhovsky again showed nerves of steel to serve out for the third set, clinching the game when Federer ploughed a shot into the net.The Ukrainian punched the air in celebration and then gathered his composure to begin the fourth. There was no letting up from Stakhovsky as he made a breakthrough in the champion’s second service game.
Stakhovsky sped around the court in a tense rally and lobbed a simple shot to Federer’s left, but the Swiss inexplicably netted to give his opponent a 2-1 lead. Federer wasted two chances to break back in the fourth game but he levelled the set in the sixth to make it 3-3.
A slip from Stakhovsky knocked him out of his stride, and he gave Federer a break point, but the underdog saved by volleying a winner from the net. Stakhovsky broke early in the tense fourth-set tie-break and Federer sent a straightforward backhand wide at 6-5 down to seal his own demise.
ROGER AND OUT
SEVEN-TIMES champion Roger Federer’s shock Wimbledon defeat by world No 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky last night was one of the sport’s great upsets and ended his run of reaching at least the quarter-finals of the last 36 grand slam tournaments.
Here are some other facts about Federer’s second-round exit:
• It was Federer’s earliest defeat at Wimbledon since he lost in the 2002 first round.
• It was his first defeat by a player ranked outside the top 100 since losing to No 101 Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals at Monte Carlo in 2005
• It was his earliest defeat at a grand slam since he lost in the first round at the 2003 French Open.
• It was Federer’s worst defeat at a grand slam (or any event) since losing to world No. 154 Mario Ancic in the first round at Wimbledon in 2002.
• It was the earliest defeat for a Wimbledon defending champion since Lleyton Hewitt lost to Ivo Karlovic in the first round in 2003
• It was Ukrainian Stakhovsky’s first-ever victory over a top-ten player in 21 matches.