LONDON, 27 JUNE: Sergiy Stakhovsky speaks five languages and reads classic Russian literature for fun but on Wednesday he mastered a greater challenge ~ puncturing the Roger Federer legend.
The beanpole Ukrainian’s stunning 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) second round win over the seven-time Wimbledon champion was one of the greatest shocks in the history of the sport.
It was Federer’s worst Grand Slam loss since a first round exit at the 2003 French Open and the defending champion’s earliest Wimbledon defeat since a second round loss in 2002.
The Wimbledon third seed had made 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances, having not gone out of a major before the last eight since the 2004 French Open.
For world number 116 Stakhovsky, it was a first win over a top 10 opponent in 21 attempts.
Such was the enormity of the challenge that he even resorted to the dying art of serve and volley.
"When you come here, on the cover of the Wimbledon book is Roger Federer," said Stakhovsky, the 27-year-old son of Kiev academics.
"You’re playing the guy and then you’re playing his legend, which is following him because he won it seven times. "You’re playing two of them. When you’re beating one, you still have the other one who is pressing you. You’re saying, Am I about to beat him? Is it possible?"
Stakhovksy, who became an Internet hit last month for whipping out his mobile phone to take a photo of a controversial line call on the clay of the French Open, has four tour titles to his name. He was also 31 in the world three years ago.
He counts the likes of Pete Sampras and Pat Rafter for the serve-and-volley blueprint he mastered so well on Centre Court on Wednesday.
"Well, you can’t really keep up with Roger on grass on baseline rallies. It’s just impossible, I would say, especially here," explained Stakhovksy.
"He feels the grass. He feels the slice. He can do whatever he wants with the ball. "The only tactics I have is press as hard as I can on my serve and come in as much as I can. The shorter it is, the less rhythm he got.
‘I’m not finished’
Roger Federer insisted he will play on for many more years to come despite crashing out of Wimbledon in a shock defeat that brought his extraordinary Grand Slam run to a juddering halt.
Though downbeat, the Swiss legend said he would not go into panic mode after being knocked out by unfancied Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round on Wednesday.
The world number three said there was perhaps a sea change happening in tennis where lower-ranked players now had the belief to mix it with the sport’s best, like himself, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.
Federer’s shock 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) loss to world number 116 Stakhovsky on his Centre Court stomping ground brought the curtain down on his run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final appearances, which started at Wimbledon 2004.
At 31 years old, some are questioning whether Federer’s all-conquering powers are now openly in decline. But the man himself insisted he had plenty left in the tank.