Tennis

Published: Tuesday June 24, 2014 MYT 1:52:03 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 24, 2014 MYT 1:52:53 AM

Ukrainian Stakhovsky keeps Wimbledon in perspective

LONDON (Reuters) - Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky was the toast of Wimbledon when he knocked out Roger Federer last year, but 12 months on he finds himself torn between tennis and keeping an eye on the political situation in his home country.

That triumph over Federer now seems a distant memory for the world No.90, but after the Wimbledon gates were flung open on Monday morning a sizeable crowd gathered around No.10 court to catch this year's first glimpse of the man who despatched the seven-time champion last year.

"The past 12 months were not that bad; they were not that great," Stakhovsky told reporters after easing to a 6-3 6-3 6-3 first-round victory over Argentine Carlos Berlocq on Monday.

"It (beating Federer) didn’t change my life entirely. It is one win; what can change? Nothing. Tennis is like this."

While his life on the court may not have changed over the past year, his life off it certainly has.

With the crisis in Ukraine rumbling on following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Stakhovsky admitted that focussing on his game is not always easy.

"It was kind of distracting until I got used to it actually happening," said the Ukrainian who began playing tennis in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium at the age of six.

"In February and March it was very hard because that’s when it all started to happen. I started to not read everything because once you start, you are reading non-stop and your focus is completely gone."

FAMILY FEARS

Stakhovsky was in Kiev, where his family continue to live, shortly before deadly clashes between riot police and protesters in the capital's Independence Square.

"I call them (his family) daily, or try to call them daily,"the 28-year-old said. "Before the shootings in February I was actually in Kiev; two weeks prior to that we played (at home) in the Davis Cup."

Now he must put the situation in Ukraine at the back of his mind, at least temporarily, as he prepares to take on the enigmatic Ernests Gulbis in the second round.

With a rematch against Federer not possible until the final,the Swiss said on Saturday that after last year’s result the draw had been kind to him.

Stakhovsky is also happy to avoid an early match-up with the former champion.

"As long as Roger says we meet in the final, I don’t mind this happening,” he joked.

(Editing by David Goodman)

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