Slow start

Kremlin Cup by Bank of Moscow, Russia

[CR74] Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) got off to an extremely slow start in his match against [CR27] Mikhail Youzhny (RUS).   Maybe it was uncertainty about the degree of discomfort or limitation he would experience in his injured right arm, but his game was not  as sharp as it was in his recent match against [CR1] Novak Djokovic (SRB), where he lost in three highly competitive sets.

Today, Kukushkin offered very little resistance in the first five games of the match because there was no pace or rhythm on his shots; thus, he made it very easy for Youzhny to win the first set. In the second set, Kukushkin found his rhythm, controlled his errors and took the lead, but an unexplained slew of errors allowed Youzhny to even the set; however, Kukushkin was not discouraged and he won the set in a hard-fought tie-break.

The third set was perplexing as Youzhny suddenly lost his focus.  There were extended rallies where neither player was comfortable hitting the ball with pace, then Youzhny started making a lot more errors and Kukushkin did not falter this time, he quickly won that set and the match 1-6, 7-6(5 ), 6-0. This pattern of behavior from Youzhny is not surprising, he is a talented enigma whose focus can swing between extremes. In the first set, Youzhny demonstrated the game he is capable of producing when he is focused and the third set was a dismal display of his lack of concentration/interest.  This unfathomable decline in his game during matches may explain his erratic career statistics given his talent.


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