By Randy Walker
What are the odds that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would lose at Wimbledon before third round to players ranked No. 116, No. 135 respectively?
One of the craziest days in the 127-year history of Wimbledon – where seven former No. 1 ranked players were defeated – was capped with Roger Federer’s stunning 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) second-round upset loss by the hands of No. 116-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine on Centre Court.
“This is the stunner of all stunners” said Patrick McEnroe on ESPN of the Federer loss.
The loss ends one of the greatest streaks in professional sports – Federer’s run of 36 major tournaments where he reached at least the quarterfinals that started at Wimbledon in 2004.
The loss was also the seven-time Wimbledon champion’s earliest at the All England Club since his first-round loss to Mario Ancic in 2002 and was his earliest exit at a major since he lost to Luis Horna in the first round of the French Open in 2003. It also marked the earliest exit for a defending Wimbledon champion since Lleyton Hewitt lost in the first round to Ivo Karlovic at Wimbledon in 2003, the year Federer first won at the All England Club.
The shocking loss for Federer came just two days after his fellow tennis legend No. 5 seed Rafael Nadal, with whom he was hyped as his potential quarterfinal opponent, lost in the opening round to No. 135-ranked Steve Darcis of Belgium.
A solemn but accepting Federer met with the press following the loss and said, “It’s always a disappointing losing a match, particularly here.”
“It was a tough loss today,” the 31-year-old Federer continued. “I just have to get over this one…I am very disappointed that I could not find a way… It’s very frustrating and disappointing. I am going to accept it and move on and look forward to the next challenge.”
What makes the upset even more remarkable is that Stakhovsky entered the match with a 0-20 career record against top 10 players – and Roger Federer, the seven-time Wimbledon champion playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon, is not your average top 10 player.
Stakhovsky called the victory “magic” to the BBC shortly after the match, saying breathlessly “I am still in disbelief” over his historic victory.
Stakhovsky served and volleyed to near perfection, approaching the net 96 times in the four-set match, reminding astute tennis observers of the days of Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter and Pat Cash. Darren Cahill, who called the match for ESPN, remarked during the match that Stakhovsky seem to the enjoying the battle, having a great attitude and playing inspired tennis “He is playing out of his mind” he said late in the match and, when the upset was complete “He played like a man possessed.”
Federer held a set point at 5-6 in the fourth set to extend the match into a fifth set, but Stakhovsky came up with a clutch volleying performance, including a backhand stab volley winner on that set point, to hold and force the fourth-set tiebreaker. Federer fought off one match point with Stakhovsky serving at 6-4, but serving at 6-5, after a drawn out 12-groundstroke baseline rally, tentatively hit a backhand wide as the Ukrainian felt to his knees in victory.
When asked how he felt about his streak of 36 straight major quarterfinal showings ending, Federer smirked and said “I’ll be OK” before adding “It’s a great number. I wish it wasn’t going to end here today…”
Many observers, fans, critics and commentators immediately spoke of an end of an era with the result. Brad Gilbert reported on ESPN that his ranking will drop to at least No. 5 following Wimbledon. However, Federer said in his post-match press conference that he was looking forward to new challenges.
“I’m looking forward to next year,” he said. “I hope I can do better next year..I have plans to play for many more years to come.”