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Stakhovsky's magic comes to end

LONDON -- Even 24 hours before he faced Jurgen Melzer in the third round, Sergiy Stakhovsky knew.

"You give so much energy into the match, you fight so hard," he told the BBC on Thursday. "It's hard to come back and play again with those emotions after that."

A day earlier, the 27-year-old from Ukraine played the match of his life at the All England Club, beating seven-time champion Roger Federer in four sets. After achieving your greatest victory, how do you reel in those racing emotions, the rampant euphoria? Set aside the fawning attention from an entire country, the flood of congratulations and international media requests? Gather yourself to win the next one, which will almost certainly be anticlimactic?

"Playing Roger Federer on Centre Court is playing Roger Federer on the Centre Court," said the No. 116-ranked Stakhovsky, who admitted he was terribly nervous going into the match. "Playing anyone else will be … different."

Anyone else, in this case, was the wily Austrian Jurgen Melzer, who sent Stakhovsky on his way Friday, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. Melzer, who is ranked No. 37, earned seven break points against a very tired-looking Stakhovsky -- and won six of them.

"Yeah, it was quite hard for me because yesterday was a busy day," he said afterward. "Everybody wanted to chat. Everybody wanted a piece. I mean, not that I'm denying a lot, but it just takes some time and energy off."

Facing his first match point, Stakhovsky served and -- after coming to net 96 times against Federer -- took a few half-hearted steps inside the baseline and watched as Melzer's forehand cross-court shot ducked past him.

Last year, No. 100-ranked Lukas Rosol stunned French Open champion Rafael Nadal in the second round, the blow that sent Nadal into a seven-month injury sabbatical. In the third, Rosol lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in a match that required 101 fewer minutes.

Michelle Larcher De Brito, a 20-year-old from Portugal, is the No. 131-ranked player in the world. On Bloody Wednesday, she defeated the No. 3-ranked player, Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion here. But De Brito took her eye off the ball Friday and lost to Italy's Karin Knapp.

"Stakhovsky is a classic example of how difficult it is to come down and recalibrate after a huge match," Tennis Channel analyst Justin Gimelstob said. "The emotional issues, the physical -- people have no idea there are so many moving parts."

Fifteen years ago, Gimelstob was in his first full year on the ATP World Tour playing the event in Los Angeles. He was a UCLA kid, playing in front of his boys at home, and somehow he managed to take down former No. 1-ranked Andre Agassi, 7-5, 6-2.

"We, uh, savored the victory," Gimelstob said. "You wouldn't believe the phone calls you're fielding, the excitement. You're doing all of the press -- this is your five minutes [of fame]. You want people to know who you are. With all of that adrenaline, it's tough to sleep."

Predictably, Gimelstob went out and lost in the second round to Byron Black. He was up 4-1 and two breaks in the second set, then lost seven of eight points in the tiebreaker.

On Day 1 of this tournament, No. 135-ranked Steve Darcis gave Nadal his second straight shocking exit here, beating him in straight sets. It replaced the Rosol match as Nadal's worst defeat in a Grand Slam, and it was the first time in 35 major appearances that he lost in the first round.

"Just the second guy in the top 10 that I beat," an ecstatic Darcis said afterward. "So, of course, it's one of the greatest wins that I have.

"I had many messages. I had a lot of press to do. Many, many people were greeting me. So I have to thank everybody for all the texts and all the Facebook, all the Twitter that I received. It was amazing."

And that was the last time he set foot on the grass here. Darcis withdrew after injuring his right shoulder in the first set against Nadal. The pain, he said, kept him awake all night.

"No chance I can play," Darcis said. "I mean, I cannot serve. Even on the forehand side, I cannot hit a ball. Make no sense to go on the court to withdraw after two games.

"I was playing maybe the best tennis in my life here. Yeah, not to go on the court today, it's maybe the biggest disappointing thing I have to do."

At least Stakhovsky got on the court. It was impressive enough that he even took a set off Melzer.

After authoring one of the greatest upsets in Wimbledon history, Stakhovsky was asked what the Swiss champion had told him as they shook hands at net.

"Honestly, I don't really remember what I was saying, because I was kind of somewhere else. Sorry," he said.

This is precisely why it's so difficult to negotiate the next match after springing the upset of a career.

Stakhovsky, who is extremely articulate in English, shared some of his internal dialogue from the match's waning moments.

"You're saying, 'Am I about to beat him? Is it possible?' " he said Wednesday.

Later Stakhovsky added: "I hope I can still look forward for some matches. Right now, I can definitely tell my grandkids, I kicked the butt of Roger Federer."

On Friday, he said: "Nobody is going to take it away from me. If someone would ask me, 'Would you rather beat Roger and lose in [the] next round,' I would always take it, obviously. I'm just a little disappointed that I got so blinded by the game I produced with Roger. If I would be just a bit more smarter on that court, I could have been a winner today, I think."

Twenty years from now, over a few glasses of red wine in Ukraine, that is the match -- not the loss to Melzer -- they'll be talking about. A little temporary insanity is completely understandable.