World No. 3 Dominic Thiem acknowledged that Mikhail Kukushkin is a very experienced player and that there was no way he would take the former world No. 39 for granted. On Monday, third-seeded Thiem made a positive start to his Australian Open campaign as he defeated world No.
90 Kukushkin 7-6 (2) 6-2 6-3. Kukushkin had a great chance to win the opener but he failed to convert a set point on his serve in the 12th game as Thiem broke back and stole the first set in the tie-break. In the second set, Kukushkin was up by 2-0 before Thiem stormed back and claimed three consecutive breaks to win the set and take a comfortable two-set lead.
Thiem then earned two breaks in the third set to wrap up a straight-set win. “He’s very experienced, he played fourth round here (in 2012), and I think he likes the conditions, it’s way faster,” Thiem said on court after the win, per the Australian Open website.
“First set was super-challenging, I was a break down, it was a bit of a key point. In general I’m very happy to be back and to have a successful first round”.
Thiem admitted to feeling nerves
"Definitely I felt nerves because it was a long time until the slam, more than three weeks from when we arrived to Adelaide.
It was not easy. It was amazing that we could practice, but three weeks is a long time, and if you're unlucky or especially me, if I practice somehow too many days in a row, I start to play worse again instead of better.
So I really had to find the right balance," Thiem said in his press conference. "I also faced an opponent today who is tough to play, especially in these conditions. I'm happy how I did it and how I came through." Thiem, who finished runner-up at the Australian last year, plays next against Dominik Koepfer.