How are we to react to the news that, with the tournament barely under way, Andy Murray’s principal opponent on his side of the draw is now seeded 15?
It is simply unprecedented.
All around the All England Club the natural order is tumbling.
Sergiy Stakhovsky, the barrack room lawyer of the men’s circuit, the union rep who led the demands for increased prize money across the game, earned his crust out on Centre Court on Wednesday night as he dethroned the champion, winning 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.
Not just any champion either, but the greatest player of his and many other generations, someone who had not been dispatched this early from Wimbledon since 2002.
And the extraordinary thing is, this was no fluke.
Stakhovsky’s work ethic throughout was astonishing.
He flung himself around the court in pursuit of everything; for him no cause was lost, no pursuit forlorn.
But unlike many a challenger, he kept on doing it.
He was not simply fuelled by adrenalin, running out of effort after a set or two.
He drove on, fearless of the lofty reputation opposite him.
After losing the first set on a tie-break he showed no inclination to be cowed.
He seized the second set also on a tie-break.
After two long hours, he was the first to break service, taking down Federer in the third set.
And then he triumphed in the fourth, again on a tie-break, and with it the match and the headlines.
Throughout it all, his defence at the net was unbreachable.
The statistics tell the story: he scorched 72 winners to the champion’s 57.
That is what you call dominance. “I’m still in disbelief that that happened,” he said.
“I was playing the best tennis I have ever played, I am incredibly happy. When you play Roger Federer it’s like your playing two players. You play him the player and him the ego. I couldn’t play any better today.”
Good as Stakhovsky was, from the other side of the court, however, there were hints that this might be his day from the start.
Federer, that smoothest of operators, a man so preternaturally unflustered sweat has never been an issue in his laundry, kept making unforced errors.
A ballooned backhand, a gasp-inducing misdirected forehand, an attempted return of service which pinged off the frame of his racket and shot into the 10th row of the stand: this was not the control we were used to from the champion.
More alarmingly, even when he opened up Stakhovsky he failed to apply the finishing touch, missing forehand winners that he would normally have fired off in his sleep.
Was this just an off day?
Or did it signal a wider malaise?
In this season’s slams, Federer has lost in a quarter-final and a semi.
Were that the England football team, it would be enough to signal a run on the souvenir T-shirts.
But this is Roger Federer and those are not good results.
Now to see him stuttering and staggering here in the second round was a new phenomenon.
And one which clearly perplexed those who had come to engage in their standard act of worship in centre court.
Between games a buzz of chatter filled the stands, a nervy fear among the red-clad Feddites that what they were witnessing here was the harbinger of the end.
As Federer struggled to find his usual imperious rhythm, even among the neutrals there was no impassioned adoption of the underdog, the cries of “c’mon Sergiy” took their time to arrive.
Had this been Serena Williams struggling out there, a wave of excitement would have immediately swelled behind her opponent.
But not many here wanted Stakhovsky to roll the Swiss.
Federer is loved at Wimbledon because they see in him an embodiment of the place: smooth, unflappable, elegant and enduring.
Now here he was showing undeniable signs of decline.
And it was at times painful to watch.
Mind, decline is a relative thing.
A slip by Federer from his Olympian normality merely brings him down to the level of the mortal.
But it was enough for Stakhovsky.
And at times his game was sublime.
In the fourth set tie-break he produced the shot of the tournament so far.
A fantastic pass – controlled, beautifully flighted down the line – that had the Ukrainian celebrating as if he had just scored the winner for Dynamo Kiev.
He stood on the baseline pumping his fist, savouring his chance.
Tactically, it may have been thought he was tempting fate.
But Federer kept spurning opportunities to show him who is boss.
In one game he had Stakhovsky twice vulnerable with break points and twice missed the chance to put him away.
At one point Stakhovsky was winning 70 per cent of his second serves, while Federer was averaging no more than 57.
Mighty second serve as it may have been, regularly measured at over 110 mph, that did not speak of a man any longer fully equipped for the physical demands of the game.
Ultimately, however, we should be talking about the victor, not the vanquished.
And how the Ukrainian deserved the ovation that filled the court at the end in honour of his effort.
How appropriate it was to see him stop and address the autograph hunters on his way to the locker room, taking the opportunity to sign something other than a letter of complaint directed at officialdom.
Those oversized fluffy balls have sudden value: they are signed by the man who slayed the king.
Federer's defeat ...
Was his earliest at Wimbledon since losing in first round in 2002.
His earliest at a Slam since losing in the French Open 1st round in 2003.
Ended his run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final appearances.
His worst at any event since losing to world No 154 Mario Ancic at Wimbledon in 2002.
His first by a player ourtside the top 10 since losing to No 101 Richard Gasquet in 2005 in the Monte Carlo quarter-finals.
The earliest for a defending Wimbledon champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.
His first second-round exit at a grand slam, having won all 49 previous matches at this stage.
Will drop him to No 5 in the world rankings, his lowest since June 23, 2003.
Source: The Telegraph