Roger Federer was eliminated in the second round at Wimbledon by Sergiy Stakhovsky, the earliest defeat since 2002 for the seven-time champion at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.
Stakhovsky of Ukraine used classic serve-and-volley tennis to beat the defending champion 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) on Centre Court at London’s All England Club.
“I’m still in disbelief,” Stakhovsky said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. “I was playing my best tennis ever and it was almost not enough to beat Federer.”
The match came on a day when two other former champions -- Maria Sharapova and Lleyton Hewitt -- were upset, and injuries caused seven players, including men’s sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and women’s No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka to drop out.
Stakhovsky is ranked 116th on the ATP World Tour, making this Federer’s worst defeat by ranking in any event since he lost to No. 154 Mario Ancic in the first round at Wimbledon in 2002, according to the International Tennis Federation.
It’s also the earliest defeat for a defending Wimbledon champion since Ivo Karlovic beat Lleyton Hewitt in the first round in 2003.
“When you play Roger Federer at Wimbledon, it’s like playing two people,” Stakhovsky said. “You play him the player and him the ego. It’s like playing two against one. I was hoping that he wouldn’t get too far ahead of me and I hung in there.”
Federer, the No. 3 seed from Switzerland, hadn’t lost at Wimbledon before the quarterfinals since he was beaten in 2002 by Ancic of Croatia. The 31-year-old right-hander has since won a men’s record seven singles titles, including a record-extending 17th major championship last year by beating Britain’s Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final.
The loss also ended Federer’s record run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances, which started at Wimbledon nine years ago. Federer said he didn’t see the loss as the end of an era and that he wouldn’t dwell on the defeat.
“I still have plans to play for many more years to come,” Federer said. “It’s normal that after all of a sudden losing early after being in the quarters 36 times, people feel it’s different.
“You don’t panic at this point, that’s clear,” he said. “Just go back to work and come back stronger really.”
Earliest Since 2003
Federer’s defeat, his earliest in a major since the 2003 French Open, comes two days after two-time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain lost in the first round to Belgium’s Steve Darcis, ranked 135th on the men’s ATP World Tour.
Federer and the fifth-seeded Nadal had been on schedule to play each other in the quarterfinals, with the winner of that match due to play Murray in the semifinals.
Stakhovsky took a two-set lead as he served 14 aces and kept rushing to the net. In the fourth set, Stakhovsky broke serve early and Federer broke back for 3-3 for the first time in the match after 2 1/2 hours of play. Federer evened for 4-4 with a 96 mile-per-hour (154 kph) passing shot that forced his opponent to duck at the net.
“Magic,” Stakhovsky said. “I couldn’t play any better today. Every important point I needed to serve out, I did.”
Stakhovsky produced 72 winners, including 17 aces, while Federer had 57 winners, including 16 aces. Federer made 13 unforced errors, four less than his opponent. Stakhovsky won 162 points in total, one more than Federer. The Ukrainian went to the net 96 times, compared with 54 for Federer.
Federer had entered Wimbledon having ended a 10-month championship drought in Halle, Germany, last week. With 13 grass-court titles -- seven at Wimbledon and six in Halle -- he has the best winning record of all time on the surface at 122-18.
The other big upset involved Russia’s Sharapova, who lost to Michelle Larcher de Brito, a qualifier ranked 128 places below her. The Portuguese player beat the 2004 champion 6-3, 6-4 on Court 2. It was the earliest loss at the tournament for Sharapova since 2009. Larcher de Brito, ranked 131st on the women’s WTA tour, had never before reached the third round.
“It’s probably the best win of my career,” Larcher de Brito said in a televised interview. “I just tried to stay calm.”
Seven players withdrew from the tournament today because of illness or injury, which the ITF said probably is a single-day record in the professional era. Ten players have left since the start of the tournament.
No. 10 Marin Cilic withdrew along with Azarenka, the Australian Open champion, Darcis and Yarovlava Shvedova. Tsonga of France, American John Isner and Radek Stepanek retired during matches because of injuries. Darcis said he hurt his shoulder during his opening-round victory over Nadal.
Azarenka pulled out with a right-knee injury shortly before her match against Italy’s Flavia Pennetta. The 23-year-old from Belarus was hurt when she slipped on the grass two days ago in a win over Portugal’s Maria Joao Koehler.
Azarenka said the court was “slippery” during that match and that her opponent had fallen twice. Others also fell afterward, she said.
“I don’t know if it’s the court or the weather,” she said at a news conference today. “I can’t figure it out. Would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the court just would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn’t happen. Because there is nothing I’ve done wrong that cost me to just withdraw from Wimbledon.”
Richard Lewis, chief executive officer of the All England Club, said in an e-mail there have been no changes in the preparation of the courts.
Hewitt was beaten Germany’s Dustin Brown in four sets, while Britain’s Murray defeated Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu and Spain’s Nicolas Almagro defeated Guillaume Rufin of France. Petra Cetkovska, a qualifier from the Czech Republic, beat Caroline Wozniacki, the ninth seed from Denmark, 6-2, 6-2, while Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard topped No. 12 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 6-3, 6-3.
Sloane Stephens, the No. 17 seed from the U.S. who reached the Australian Open semifinals this season, beat Germany’s Andrea Petkovic in three sets.
To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Rossingh at Wimbledon through the London sports desk at email@example.com.