End of amazing run for King Federer

LONDON -- Even a seven-time champion is not immune from the starched, staid traditions of the All England Club.

When Roger Federer took Centre Court for his second-round match against Sergiy Stakhovsky, he was without his orange-soled Nike shoes that carried him to victory in the first round. The Nike wardrobe folks had dressed him in an outfit with an orange headband and shirt with a matching swoosh.

The club asked Federer to change footwear because it did not adhere to its all-white policy, which was instituted 50 years ago, and he complied with a toned-down, all-white sole.

His soul, as it turned out, was another matter.

For in the grand scheme of things, accessories were a minor issue for Federer. On perhaps the most grisly day in Wimbledon history, he somehow lost to the No. 116-ranked man in the world, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Thus, Federer's astonishing streak of reaching 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals is over.

"I've had some great moments here," Federer said afterward, "also some tougher ones. Tough one today.

"It's very frustrating and disappointing that I couldn't do it. I struggled on the big points sometimes like I have this season."

Yes, the king -- and many in his court -- are dead.

For 400 years, they executed enemies of the crown at the Tower of London. They were beheaded, burned alive, drawn and quartered or hanged. That was kind of how it went at the All England Club on Bloody Wednesday.

All told, three top-10 players on both the men's and women's sides left the tournament in a single, charged day. Not to mention six former No. 1 players.

Federer (the No. 3 seed) lost outright to the 27-year-old from Ukraine, No. 6 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired with a knee injury and No. 10 Marin Cilic (also a knee injury) never made it to the court. The women lost No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka (who withdrew with a knee injury), No. 3 Maria Sharapova (outright loss) and No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki (loss). Throw in No. 18 John Isner's retirement (knee) and No. 12 Ana Ivanovic's loss, and you have a disaster for the tournament and everyone interested in it.

And, if you can remember as far back as Monday, two-time champion Rafael Nadal was escorted off the grounds by No. 135-ranked Steve Darcis. It was weirdly appropriate, then, that Darcis withdrew from his second-round match Wednesday with a shoulder injury sustained while beating Nadal.

The end for Federer, who turns 32 in August, was fittingly dramatic.

Stakhovsky needed to save a set point in the fourth -- with a serve and volley -- to force a fourth-set tiebreaker. He got off to a 5-2 lead but saw Federer hold serve twice. The Swiss champion saved a match point with a whistling forehand pass to make it 5-6, but Stakhovsky never yielded.

A nasty slice led to an errant backhand, wide, by Federer, sending Stakhosky, prone, to the lawn.

Federer was asked whether he was thinking about the end of his quarterfinal streak.

"I guess it's a great number," Federer said. "I wish it wasn't going to end here today. I don't think fans are going to mourn it, or myself. I've just got to move on from here."

What was Stakhovsky's reaction?

"I can't really tell it," he said in his immediate off-court interview. "I'm still in disbelief that it happened. I was playing my best tennis, but it almost wasn't enough to beat Roger Federer.

"When you play Roger Federer on Centre Court at Wimbledon, it's like two against one. You play Roger Federer the person and Roger Federer the champion here where he is historical.

"I couldn't play any better today. Every point I needed, I won."

A fearless Stakhovsky never stopped charging; he rushed the net no fewer than 96 times and hit 27 volley winners. Grass is his best surface. Stakhovsky is 108-121 overall but 13-12 on the green stuff.

Federer, the defending champion, looked his age at times and was noticeably tighter on the big points than he was in his glorious prime. His defeat was stunning, but because it was the last rippling explosion on a thunderous day, it was difficult to process.

The loss was his:

• Earliest defeat at Wimbledon since losing in the first round in 2002.

• Earliest defeat at a Slam since losing in the first round at Roland Garros in 2003.

• Worst defeat at any event since losing to No. 154 Mario Ancic in the first round at Wimbledon in 2002.

• First defeat by a player ranked outside the top 100 since losing to No. 101 Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals at Monte Carlo in 2005.

"What do you do after something [like] this?" Federer said. "The 24-hour rule. You don't panic. Go back to work. Usually I do turnarounds pretty good. I hope I can play a good summer.

"Looking forward to next year. Hoping I can do better next year. I still have plans to play for many more years to come."

And now, the bottom half of the men's draw that was so congested with talent looks like something you'd find in New Haven, which happens to be one of the four titles Stakhovsky has won.

Asked to sum up his day, Stakhovsky said, "Magic."

It was more than that, really. There was a strange, dark magic at work here at Wimbledon.

When was the last time Federer and Nadal showed up at the same Grand Slam and failed to make the second week?