New York Daily News


Net-rushing Ukrainian KO’S Federer on day Of shocks at Wimbledon


WIMBLEDON — Two days before this tournament began, Roger Federer bemoaned the notion that the courts today on tour — including the one embedded inside Centre Court — had become too slow to encourage or indulge serve-andvolley tennis.

Then on Wednesday, Federer was proved dead wrong by Sergiy Stakhovsky, a skinny, 6-4, 27-year-old Ukrainian ranked 116th in the world, who has lost more matches in his career than he’s won. On a day when both the men’s and women’s draws at Wimbledon swiveled on their heads with upsets and injuries, Stakhovsky pulled off the biggest surprise of all by employing a classic serve-and-volley style that befuddled Federer, who had deemed all this impossible.

Stakhovsky beat the defending champion and seven-time Wimbledon titlist in a secondroun­d match, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5), halting once and for all Federer’s incredible streak of 36 successive quarterfin­al appearance­s i n Grand Slam events. Stakhovsky just kept coming forward and just kept nailing the angled volleys. On a cool day, on his favorite surface, Federer at age 31 was vulnerable and particular­ly erratic on the forehand side.

“Nicer to leave the court early instead of going through the trophy ceremony,” Federer joked, about losing early. “He was uncomforta­ble to play against, served and volleyed really well. It was difficult to get into rhythm. I don’t mind playing this kind of opponent, to be honest. I didn’t get nervous or worried about it, but I was missing opportunit­ies. I was put in a tough spot. Maybe I shouldn’t even be down two sets to one, but I was.”

All around the courts on Wednesday, the results proved shocking — though not quite as stunning as the last one on Centre Court. Victoria Azarenka, seeded second, withdrew with an injury, and Maria Sharapova, No. 3, fell in straight sets. On the men’s side, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 6, retired at the start of the fourth set, and the American John Isner, No. 18, retired with a kneecap problem after just 15 minutes — which means he now has played the longest and second-shortest matches i n Wimbledon history. Steve Darcis, Rafael Nadal’s conqueror, withdrew with a sore shoulder suffered during a fall in his first-round match.

It was twilight before Federer finally bowed out and changed the narrative arc of the whole day, which had revolved around the slippery surface and the barrage of injuries. While Stakhovsky served and charged the net 96 times with delightful recklessne­ss, Federer’s touch and forehand passes too often deserted him.

In the final tiebreaker, Stakhovsky’s nerveless backhand smack down the line gave him a minibreak at 3-1. He then launched a series of amazing angled volleys. Federer got back the minibreak on match point, to 5-6, with a forehand pass. But on the second match point, on Federer’s own serve, his backhand sprayed wide left after a lengthy rally.

While Stakhovsky waved to the crowd, and to his wife, Anfisa, in the player’s box, Federer packed up and walked off to a standing ovation without waiting to accompany his opponent.

“I’ll be OK,” Federer said. “I think (36) is a great number I can be proud of. I still have plans to play for many more years to come.”

St a k hovsk y remained on court for several minutes, signing as many autographs as possible. He is an introspect­ive, witty fellow, remindful of Goran Ivanisevic in style and mindset, if not quite yet in substance.

“I’m still in kind of disbelief,” Stakhovsky said, after finally walking off the court. “I was playing the best tennis and still it was almost not good enough against Roger. When you play Roger, it’s like you’re playing two people. Roger, and his ego at Wimbledon. It’s almost two against one.”

Stakhovsky, by his own account, had played a nearly perfect match, with 72 winners and 17 unforced errors.

“Ma g ic,” St a k hov sk y said. “I couldn’t play any better today. Every important point I needed to play I played.”

It was the sort of match that seemed long overdue for Federer, against an early round opponent, with an unorthodox style, playing out of his mind. It had happened before to the likes of Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and it happened to a lot of players Wednesday at Wimbledon. The injuries and upsets grew so great in scope that the All-England Club issued a statement defending their grass blades.

“Many players have compliment­ed us on the very good condition,” said Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All-England Club. “The courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be, and we expect them to continue to play to their usual high quality.”

Federer had no complaints about the court.

“I didn’t slip once, and he slipped only once or twice,” Federer said. “It is grass, after all.”

Perfect, this day, for some classic serve and volley.

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 ?? Photo by Adrian Dennis/afp/getty ?? Roger Federer (l.) begins long walk to Centre Court net after losing to Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky (below), who celebrates historic second-round upset of defending and seventime champion.
Photo by Adrian Dennis/afp/getty Roger Federer (l.) begins long walk to Centre Court net after losing to Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky (below), who celebrates historic second-round upset of defending and seventime champion.

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