Roger Federer was confronting the collapse of his tennis world on Thursday, desperate to avoid the Wimbledon fate suffered by his hero Pete Sampras, whose All England Club career ended in a punch-drunk haze.
Federer's bid to become the first man to win the title eight times was ended by Russian literature fan Sergiy Stakhovsky, the world number 116, whose 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) second-round win has possibly ended one of the sport's greatest stories.
His earliest exit from a major since a second-round loss at the 2003 French Open and his worst defeat at the All England Club in 11 years came on the 10th anniversary of his first Wimbledon title.
The defeat also ended his astonishing run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final appearances, a streak stretching back nine years.
Federer, the winner of a record 17 majors, is adamant that he will be back next year when he will be six weeks short of his 33rd birthday.
However, his failure to defend his title already means he will fall to number five in the world rankings after the tournament -- his lowest place since June 2003.
If he were to win a record eighth Wimbledon in 2014, he would become the oldest man to clinch the title, surpassing Arthur Ashe who was six days away from his 32nd birthday when he triumphed in 1975.
Sampras won the last of his Wimbledon titles as a 28-year-old in 2000 while Agassi was aged 32 and 11 months when he captured his seventh and last Grand Slam in Australia in 2003.
Sampras's last Wimbledon in 2002 saw him defeated in the second round by Switzerland's George Bastl, the world number 145, out on the old Graveyard of the Champions.
Agassi's life in the majors ended in the third round of the US Open in 2003 with German world number 132 Benjamin Becker applying the executioner's blow.
Federer insists he can be a champion again and that retirement is not on the agenda.
He is aware that despite Sampras' 2002 misery in London, the American still finished his career on a high by winning the US Open two months later.
"I still have plans to play for many more years to come," said Federer, who has racked up 77 titles and over $77 million (59 million euros, Â£50 million) on the court in his career.
"It's normal that after all of a sudden losing early after being in the quarters 36 times, people feel it's different. I wish it wasn't going to end here. But I don't think that's something fans are going to mourn.
"It's a great number. I can be proud of it. But I'm moving on."
Federer, who was playing his 15th Wimbledon, has faced down the critics before.
In the French Open final in 2008, his great rival Rafael Nadal allowed him just four games in his worst Grand Slam humbling.
But he recovered from what could have been a shattering loss to win the 2008 US Open, 2009 French Open, 2009 Wimbledon, the Australian Open in 2010 and Wimbledon again last year.
Although it will be of little comfort for the great Swiss, he wasn't the only former world number one to crash out on black Wednesday.
Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki and Lleyton Hewitt all waved goodbye on a day which turned the championships upside down.