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Sergiy Stakhovsky still feeling the Federer effect

Sergiy Stakhovsky celebrates victory over Roger Federer
by Michael Beattie
Monday 23 June 2014

You don’t have to lift a trophy to become part of Wimbledon folklore – just ask John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. From first day to last, the fortnight produces moments that live long in the memories. Two players whose names will forever be tied to The Championships 2013 were among the early starters on day one – but only one will return for the second round.

From the moment the draw was made, the omens were good for Sergiy Stakhovsky. The Ukrainian, who stunned seven-time champion Roger Federer in the second round last year, has never lost to Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq, a man returning to Wimbledon in search of his first singles win at the seventh attempt. The wait goes on for the world No.43, whose struggles on grass continued out on Court 10 as Stakhovsky became the first man to reach the second round with a routine 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win.

“I knew how I was going to play him,” said Stakovhsky, who faces No.12 seed Ernests Gulbis in the second round. “I’ve played him on hard courts and on clay this year, winning both times. But you can never relax. Jimmy Connors lost to Vitas Gerulaitis – you never know when it’s going to come.”

The crowd was slightly larger and the support a little louder for this year’s first-round victory, something Stakhovsky believes is a direct consequence of posting the standout result on the first Wednesday in 2013, a day littered with shocks and upsets.

“There’s more attention, more people recognising me, more people cheering for me – it’s nice,” he admits. But while fatherhood had a far greater impact on his life in the 12 months that followed, Stakhovsky concedes that, for now, he is destined to be remembered for beating Federer at Wimbledon.

“I’ve won four ATP titles – not many current players have that many titles, so it would be nice to be remembered for that,” he said. “But you cannot make people know you the way you want them to know you. If that Federer match is the only thing, at the moment, that keeps them there, then good – it’s better than nothing.

“I’ll try to perform my best here – maybe this year will be a little bit better, and they will recognise me for something else.”

Fernando Verdasco, who gave eventual champion Andy Murray a stern examination in the quarter-finals a year ago, knew he faced a far tougher first-round assignment against Marinko Matosevic. The Australian had won their last meeting in Monte Carlo and arrived at the All England Club in fine form, breaking his four-year Grand Slam duck at Roland Garros before runs to the final of the Aegon Trophy in Nottingham and the quarter-finals at the Aegon Championship.

With nine matches on grass to his name, compared to Verdasco’s three in 's-Hertogenbosch, it came as no surprise to see Matosevic quickly find his range on Court 8. The world No.58 broke as early as the third game and although Verdasco responded immediately, the Spaniard gave up the first set 6-4.

When Verdasco clinched the third set with a solitary break in the final game Matosevic was in danger of allowing the No.18 seed to shift the momentum of the match in his favour. But the Australian rallied, taking time away from Verdasco with regular forays to the net as he captured the third set and moved a break up in the fourth.

After that Verdasco wilted, failing to make an impact on Matosevic’s serve as the 28-year-old broke once more to seal a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory – his first win at the Championships, and the first upset of the gentlemen’s singles draw.

“Tennis is like this,” said Verdasco. “I tried to play my best; I didn't. That's it. I cannot really say anything else.”

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