Tennis-Giantkiller Stakhovsky brings down 'the legend and his ego'
LONDON, June 27
LONDON, June 27 (Reuters) - No matter where Sergiy Stakhovsky looks when he walks around the leafy grounds of the All England Club, he cannot escape the image of a beaming Roger Federer holding aloft the pineapple-topped gold Challenge Cup.
It is on the results board, on the official Wimbledon book, on the roll of honour plaque, on official merchandise - it is basically everywhere.
On Wednesday, however, the man who hails from Kiev and is ranked outside the world's top 100, wiped the smile off Federer's face after evicting the Swiss from his own back yard.
Since winning the first of his record 17 grand slam titles on Centre Court in 2003, no one had managed to eject the grasscourt master from Wimbledon before the quarter-finals.
On Wednesday the world finally met a man who did.
"When you come here, on the cover of the Wimbledon book... is Roger Federer. Our sport is Roger Federer," Stakhovsky said after becoming the latest giant killer to light up Wimbledon with a 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-5 7-6(5) victory.
"He's the greatest player we had. He's the biggest name we had and we still have.
"You're playing the guy and then you're playing his legend, which is following him because he won it seven times. He's holding all possible career records here.
"When you play Roger Federer at Wimbledon, it's like you're playing two persons. First you play Roger Federer and then you play his ego.
"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?'"
Stakhovsky proved it was, even though the odds could not have been stacked more against him.
Federer's Wimbledon win-loss record stood at 67-7, Stakhovsky' 2-4.
Federer had chalked up a 257-39 win-loss record in grand slam matches, Stakhovsky's was 11-18.
Federer's grasscourt record was 122-17, Stakhovsky's 12-12.
Federer's career record was 905-205, Stakhovsky's was 107-121.
Federer's prize money amounted to $77,564,273, Stakhovsky's was $2,728,393.
Federer's world ranking was third, Stakhovsky's 116.
No matter where he looked, Stakhovsky did not belong on the same court as Federer yet after Wednesday it is unlikely the Swiss or any other sports fan will forget the Ukrainian's name.
Playing a brand of fearless and brash serve-and-volley tennis many dream of but only the brave produce, Stakhovsky caused one of the biggest upsets seen in tennis.
It left the Swiss shell-shocked, the crowd stunned and Stakhovsky blinking in disbelief as he added his name to a select band of players who have dared to bring the mighty down.
Peter Doohan conquered Boris Becker in the second round in 1987, George Bastl tamed Pete Sampras at the same stage in 2002 and Ivo Karlovic beat defending champion Lleyton Hewitt on the opening day in 2003 while Lukas Rosol ambushed Rafa Nadal in the second round a year ago.
But two days after Steve Darcis brought Spain's Nadal to his knees in a first-round shock, Stakhovsky surpassed them all.
Federer has been an omnipresent force in the second week of a grand slam for nine years, contesting 36 successive quarter-finals, and along with Nadal and Novak Djokovic, has combined to win 31 of the last 33 majors between them.
"It's my first win of the top 10. What else I can say?" the 27-year-old Stakhovsky said after finally ending a run of 19 successive defeats against top-10 opposition.
"Beating Roger here on his court, where he's a legend, is I think having definitely a special place in my career."
Despite his own pain at what seemed to be the end of an era, Federer applauded Stakhovsky.
"I was impressed," said the Swiss.
"There was a time where some players didn't believe they could beat the top guys. So maybe there's a little bit of a thing happening at the moment.
"I'm happy about that, that players believe they can beat the best on the biggest courts in the biggest matches.
"I think it's very important, that belief."
Despite pulling off the biggest win of his life, Stakhovsky was keen to keep his feet on the ground and avoid the fate suffered by many giantkillers, who quickly fade into the background after grabbing their 15 minutes of fame.
"Today was great but I didn't win the tournament," he said.
"I just won the second round. There's still another five rounds."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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