June 26 -- Seven-time champion Roger Federer was eliminated from Wimbledon in the second round by Sergiy Stakhovksy, his earliest defeat on the London grass courts since 2002.
Stakhovsky of Ukraine used classic serve-and-volley tennis to beat the defending champion from Switzerland, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) on Centre Court at the All England Club in southwest London.
“I’m still in disbelief that it happened,” 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.”
Stakovsky 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-rated 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, 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 final.
The loss also ended Federer’s record run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances, which started at Wimbledon nine years ago.
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 passing shot that forced his opponent to duck at the net.
Serving to stay in the fourth set at 5-6, Stakhovsky fell as he chased down a shot in his forehand corner. A return aimed straight at his feet set up a set point for Federer, which the Ukrainian saved with a backhand volley. He forced another tie- break with an ace and a serve-and-volley combination.
Stakhovsky got a 3-1 lead in the final tiebreak with a backhand passing shot. Federer saved one match point with a forehand passing shot, before handing Stakhovsky the match with a backhand that sailed wide.
“Magic,” Stakhovsky said. “I couldn’t play any better today. Every important point, I needed to serve out, I did.”
Stakhovksy 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 before. With 13 grass-court titles -- seven at Wimbledon and six in Halle -- he has the best grass-court winning record of all time, with 122-18.
Federer, who lost to France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the quarterfinals of the French Open, said the win in Halle had boosted his confidence for the grass-court season.