LONDON – It was already one of the most tumultuous days in Grand Slam tennis history, with seven players forced out by injuries, two of the top three seeded women eliminated and six former No. 1-ranked players leaving early.
So what else could happen to make this a day like no other at Wimbledon?
Here’s what: the world’s greatest grass-court player losing on his favorite Centre Court — the most famous stage in tennis — to a 116th-ranked qualifier who had never beaten a top-10 player.
Roger Federer, a seven-time champion, was stunned Wednesday by Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round at the All England Club, his earliest loss in a Grand Slam tournament in 10 years.
The 27-year-old Ukrainian outplayed Federer, serving and volleying his way to a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) victory that stands out as one of the sport’s biggest upsets.
“Magic,” Stakhovsky said. “I couldn’t play any better today.”
Federer’s loss ended his record streak of reaching at least the quarterfinals at 36 straight Grand Slam tournaments, a run that began at Wimbledon in 2004 shortly after a third-round exit at that year’s French Open.
“It’s always a disappointment losing any match around the world, and particularly here,” Federer said. “I’ve had some great moments here but also some tougher ones. Can’t have ‘em all. It was a tough loss today.”
The result capped a chaotic day of injuries, walkovers, retirements and shocking results.
Third-seeded Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion, fell to a 131st-ranked qualifier. No. 2 Victoria Azerenka was among the seven injury withdrawals, believed to be a Grand Slam single-day record in the Open era. Federer became the seventh former No. 1 player to exit on this one day.
Only two days ago, two-time champion Rafael Nadal lost in the first round to 135th-ranked Steve Darcis.
After only three days, five of the top 10 seeded women and four of the top 10 men are already out of the draw.
The owner of a record 17 major titles and the defending champion, Federer hadn’t been beaten in the second round or earlier at a Slam since a first-round defeat at the 2003 French Open.
Federer, 31, said he won’t “panic” and will work to come back stronger.
“I’m looking forward to what’s to come,” he said. “Looking forward to next year, that I can do better.”
Federer said the loss doesn’t represent the end of an era.
“I still have plans to play for many more years to come,” he said. “It’s normal that after all of a sudden losing early after being in the quarters 36 times, people feel it’s different. “
Federer’s defeat was his earliest at the All England Club since a first-round loss in 2002 to 154th-ranked Mario Ancic.
Most shocking: Wednesday’s defeat came on the same grass court Federer has made his own for nearly a decade.
It ended with Stakhovsky converting on his second match point, a 13-stroke rally that finished with Federer hitting a backhand wide.
Stakhovsky fell onto his back in celebration. He later bowed to the crowd as Federer walked off with a quick wave.
Federer converted only one of eight break points against Stakhovsky, who broke the Swiss star twice. The Ukrainian piled up 72 winners against 17 unforced errors, while Federer had 56 winners and 13 errors.
While few play serve-and-volley these days, Stakhovsky used the tactic with great success to keep Federer off balance. He won 61 of 96 points at the net.
“I’m still in disbelief,” Stakhovsky said. “When you play Roger Federer at Wimbledon it’s like you are playing two persons. First you play Roger Federer, then you play his ego, and on the Centre Court of Wimbledon, where he is historical. So that’s like playing two against one.”
Federer’s defeat was the biggest shock on a day full of shocks.
Earlier, the third-seeded Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, was stunned 6-3, 6-4 by 131st-ranked Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal in the second round.
Sharapova fell several times on the grass on Court 2 and received medical treatment in the second set.
It wasn’t enough to force Sharapova to quit, as so many others did by walkover or mid-match retirements.
Among the players to drop out: Azarenka (walkover, right knee), men’s No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (retirement, left knee), John Isner (retirement, left knee) and Darcis (walkover, right shoulder).
Also out: 10th-seeded Marin Cilic (walkover, left knee); 2006 quarterfinalist Radek Stepanek (retirement, left hamstring); and Yaroslava Shvedova (walkover, right arm).
The International Tennis Federation said the seven players forced out is believed to be the most in one day at any Grand Slam event in the 45 years of the Open era.
“Very black day,” Cilic said about the spate of injury withdrawals. “The other days, other weeks, there were no pullouts. Everything just happened today.”
If that wasn’t enough, the tournament lost all those former No. 1 players: Sharapova, Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic among the women, and Federer and Lleyton Hewitt among the men.
There were a few moments of normality. Second-seeded Andy Murray advanced easily to the third round with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan on Court 1.