Roger Federer was digesting an epic loss against a rank outsider after the seven-time champion was beaten 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) by Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky on Wednesday to end a glorious span of personal history on the grass.

The third seed who had been bidding for a record eighth title at the All England Club was stunned in three hours of drama on Centre Court, his “home” since his first grand slam title a decade ago.

The loss ends Federer’s run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final or better appearances starting at 2004 Wimbledon.

“It’s always disappointing in losing any match, but particularly here,” said Federer, who said that he plans to be back next year and is set to make a new start for the summer hardcourt season.

“This is a setback, a disappointment, I’ve had some great moments here, and some really tough ones. It was a tough loss today and I appreciated the standing ovation I got when I left the court.

“I wish my streak would not have ended but I don’t think I’ll mourn it. I’m moving on from here.” The win by the unfancied number 116 marked Stakhovsky’s first-ever victory over a top 10 player in 21 meetings and was Federer’s earliest defeat at Wimbledon since losing in the first round in 2002.

The Swiss last lost in 2002 to a player ranked outside the top 100 when he went down on clay to number 101 Richard Gasquet in the Monte Carlo quarter-finals. It was the earliest defeat for a Wimbledon defending champion since 2002 winner Lleyton Hewitt lost to Ivo Karlovic in the 2003 first round.

“I don’t know my reaction,” said the stunned Stakhovsky. “I’m in disbelief.

“I was playing my best tennis and even that was almost not enough to beat Roger. I’m just incredibly happy.

“Playing Roger Federer at Wimbledon is like playing two people — him and his ego. He’s historical here. It was like two against one.

“My plan was not to let him get too far ahead of me, I was working for the tiebreaks,” said the serve-and-volley journeyman. “I was just hanging in.

“In the fourth set when I was up a break I got a bit tight (Federer got it back for 3-all). It was hard to pull out this win, I’m happy I was able to save that fourth set and win.

“I couldn’t have played any better today: I hit everything I needed and I wanted. I was serving out every important point.” Federer said he had no suspicion that his day would end like this.

“I didn’t feel different today, it was a normal day and a normal match.

“What do you do after something like this? The first thing is don’t panic, go back to work and come back stronger. It’s simple but hard to do.

“I usually do turnaround pretty well, I’m hoping for a good summer and a good end of season. This what not what I was hoping for and I’m looking forward to next year. I still have many more years to come.

“It was a tricky match but credit to him for closing it out under enormous pressure.”

(This article was published on June 27, 2013)
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