Defending champion Roger Federer crashed out of Wimbledon on Wednesday when he lost to Ukraine’s world number 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky in his worst Grand Slam defeat for a decade.
The shock 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) loss in a thrilling, three-hour duel on Centre Court brought the curtain down on seven-time Wimbledon champion Federer’s extraordinary record in the sport’s four majors.
The Swiss legend had made 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final appearances, having not gone out of a major before the last eight since the 2004 French Open.
It was his earliest Wimbledon defeat since he was knocked out in the first round in 2002 by Mario Ancic.
The following year he lost in the first round of the French Open to Luis Horna.
“I’m still in disbelief that it actually happened,” said Stakhovsky, who does not even have a coach.
“I played my best tennis and still it almost wasn’t enough. I’m incredibly happy.”
It was the first time that he had ever beaten a top 10 player in 21 attempts.
When you play Roger at Wimbledon it's like you play two people. First you play his ego then as well on Centre Court where he is historic. It is like two against one
“When you play Roger at Wimbledon it’s like you play two people. First you play his ego then as well on Centre Court where he is historic. It is like two against one,” the 27-year-old said.
“I was just hoping he wouldn’t get too far ahead at the beginning of the match and that seemed to work out. It kept me in touch.
“I was a little tight when I was up a break in the fourth. It was hard to pull out so I’m really glad I finished it off in the tie-break.
“I don’t know how to describe it. Magic. I couldn’t play any better.
“Everything I needed went right. I volleyed incredibly well. It was a fantastic day.”
Federer’s defeat leaves the bottom half of the draw wide open for Britain’s second seed Andy Murray, with two-time champion Rafael Nadal already out and sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrawing through injury.
Spain’s 15th seed Nicolas Almagro is the highest-ranked player remaining in the bottom half, followed by Russian 20th seed Mikhail Youzhny.
Federer took the first set on the tie-break and it looked at that point as though the 31-year-old would cruise his way into the third round.
But Stakhovsky had other ideas and pushed Federer all the way to a tie-break in the second set, and won it.
When the Ukrainian won the third set the buzz went around Wimbledon that one of the sport’s greats was on his way out from the place he has made his stomping ground over the past decade.
At 4-4 in the fourth set, the frustration finally got to the ice-man Federer, who blasted a ball that had been called out straight towards his opponent, who was forced to duck. The Swiss apologised.
Federer had set point in the fourth – the sort of turning point where the Swiss star’s cool experience has got him out of trouble in the past.
However, Stakhovsky took it to a third tie-break and earned himself two match points.
Federer pulled off a stunning shot to stave off the first but shot wide on the next one and his title defence was over.
To a huge ovation, Stakhovsky made out like he was tipping his hat to the crowd as he celebrated his win, still stunned that it had happened at all.
The polyglot son of a urology professor and a retired university economics teacher, Stakhovsky spends his time off reading Russian classics and playing billiards, among other pursuits.
He is the first Ukrainian man to reach the Wimbledon third round since Andrei Medvedev in 1997. He faces Austria’s unseeded Jurgen Melzer for a place in the last 16.
|Sharapova: Down and out at Wimbledon [AFP]|
Third seed and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova crashed out of Wimbledon on Wednesday, losing 6-3, 6-4 in the second round to Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher De Brito, the world number 131.
Sharapova’s defeat came just hours after second seed Victoria Azarenka withdrew from the tournament with a knee injury.
But it was a controversial exit for Sharapova who twice slipped and fell on Court Two.
She needed a medical timeout to treat her left hip after the eighth game of the second set and complained to the umpire that the surface was dangerous.
Larcher De Brito had hit the headlines in 2009 when, as a precocious 16-year-old, she was widely-criticised for her on-court grunting which some rivals condemned as unsporting.
The controversy did her career little good as she virtually disappeared off the radar and her ranking slumped.
But honing the skills and screams she perfected at the same Bollettieri academy home of Sharapova, she capitalised on her famous rival’s obvious discomfort at having to play on Court Two.
The Russian pleaded that the conditions were too treacherous but the match continued.
“I saw how she fell pretty hard and I know these grass courts can be really slippery and can be quite dangerous,” said Larcher De Brito, who took victory on a fifth match point.
“There’s a lot of grass that’s been cut that didn’t get swept off so there’s a lot of dead grass on the top and it made it quite slippery.”
Larcher De Brito goes on to face Karin Knapp of Italy for a place in the last 16.