Today we saw  Steve Johnson (USA) lose a match to  Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) in straight sets after losing the first set 6-0. Despite taking the lead in the second set, Johnson was distracted mentally and could not maintain his focus to consolidate his lead. Kukushkin, is a decent player, but to defeat a player of Johnson’s caliber in such a manner is indicative that it was more than Kukushkin playing well. Johnson contributed to his own demise by going for ill advised shots in an attempt to hit through his lack of form; unfortunately, when you are off your game it is better to go back to the basics and concentrate on keeping the ball in play until you find your rhythm.
When it’s a lower ranked player losing a set 6-0 against a top ranked player, it’s not astonishing, it’s almost expected. The surprise is when it’s a top ranked player losing a set 6-0. What happened? There are many reasons for such a loss: the player woke up not feeling well; they lack interest in the match for no apparent reason; they are physically exhausted; and/or mentally fatigued. Illness is a variable that’s unpredictable; however, lack of interest, poor physical and mental conditioning are variables that top ranked players are expected to overcome. The effect of the mind on the body is well documented. As we saw at the 2015 Australian Open, it is often difficult to overcome the effects of mental fatigue and when coupled with physical exhaustion, it is impossible to combat the damage. Rafael Nadal as great as he is, was unable to do so against a player that he had dominated; Stan Wawrinka could not mount the offense in the 5th set against Novak Djokovic; and Simona Halep’s second set 6-0 loss to Ekaterina Makarova was totally unexpected.