Seven-time champion Roger Federer crashes out in one of the greatest Wimbledon upsets
Ranked 116 in the world, Sergiy Stakhovsky reaches third round for first time in his career
Switzerland’s Roger Federer leaves the court following his surprise defeat to the Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky.
A tournament carefully constructed on seeding so that the world’s top players nudge through the two weeks past lower-ranked opponents and towards the finals crumbled into the grass on day three.
The best laid plans ended with Roger Federer in a late evening soap opera where Sergiy Stakhovsky dared to challenge the defending champion and in the evening light sent him home just as the unheralded Steve Darcis did to Rafa Nadal on the first day of the competition.
The third, fifth, sixth and 10th seeds in the men’s draw have now departed, Stakhovsky’s 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) win one of the greatest upsets in the history of the competition.
Andy Murray had just demonstrated on another court how to plough through the early sessions with a straight set win and how he will now smile as his half of the draw clears of imposing characters.
But Federer, who had not lost before the quarter-final in a Grand Slam since the French open in 2004, never took full control of the match and flirted with trouble from the moment he let the third set slip.
Undeterred, the 27-year-old Ukrainian, ranked 116 in the world and hoping to reach the third round for the first time in his career, held up a tough service game against the seven-time Wimbledon champion and never once blinked, in the end forcing Federer to find the shots and make the plays. So often it is the Swiss player who pulled the strings. Not this time.
“I’m incredibly happy, said Stakhovsky. “It’s unbelievable. When you play Roger Federer at Wimbledon it’s like playing two persons. You play his ego because of the history and you play him. It was magic. I couldn’t play any better. I played everything I needed, everything I wanted. Everything went in.”
As summaries, Stakhovsky’s was perfect and although Federer has been in holes before he has almost always found a way out, always steered the match his way and usually emerged stronger for it. He was calmly positive afterwards.
“Clearly I was hoping to win the match today,” he said. “It’s clearly disappointing. What you do after something like this is the 24-hour rule. You don’t panic. Simple. But hard to do sometimes. I usually do turn around well and hopefully I have a good summer. I still have plans to play for many more years to come.”
Still adjusting to the grass and uncharacteristically missing some traditional precision, he was forced to fight every point against a bravely stubborn opponent. The third seed took the first set on a tie break and looked liked mirroring Murray. But Stakhovsky took the second on a tie break to provide some doubt lest the Swiss champion thought the match would be his normal procession.
Fined €1,500 at the French Open, when in a fit of pique following a poor call he took out his phone, photographed the ball mark and tweeted it that evening, Stakhovsky was pumped and confident.
One game point
In the third set he converted his sixth break point of the match for 6-5 and served for the set, keeping Federer to just one game point for a 2-1 lead and a guaranteed a long night.
In the fourth set, so often a turning point in apparent mismatches, Stakhovsky earned his service break in the third game, a brilliant return prefacing passing the defending champion at the net. At that stage Federer was still struggling to damage the fortress his opponent had built around his consistent serve.
But being a 17-time Grand Slam champion brings its own freight and purpose and in a mid-set streak Federer won 12 out of a 15 points, taking Stakhovsky’s serve on the way for parity. Inevitably the fourth set fell to a tie break.
Because the 31-year-old had been here so often before, the shootout offered hope. But the 27-year-old, fond of classic novels, had his own nerveless narrative and for Federer it was Kafkaesque. The Ukrainian went 3-1 ahead, then served for 5-2, Federer hauling one point back for 5-4.
The champion then clipped the net on Stakhovsky’s serve and it was 6-4, a chasm at that stage of the night. Two match points. Federer saved the first passing his opponent at the net but a backhand that wafted wide of the tramlines finally ended his staggering solo run and after 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals his unbreakable rule had finally run its course. It was Federer’s earliest defeat at Wimbledon in 11 years.
“It was a tough loss to day. I guess it’s a great number for me to have. I’m very happy about it. I wish it didn’t end here today. It’s a great number I can be proud of.”