Australian Open tennis 2021 - Dominic Thiem beats plucky Mikhail Kukushkin in straight sets
Dominic Thiem is into the second round of the Australian Open. The 2021 Australian Open is live on Eurosport. Watch every match live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and eurosport.co.uk. You can download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now. The opening Grand Slam of the season in Melbourne runs from February 8 until February 21.
Austria's Dominic Thiem (R) celebrates after winning against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin during their men's singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne
Dominic Thiem is into the second round of the Australian Open after a 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Mikhail Kukushkin on Rod Laver Arena.
The 2020 Australian Open finalist was made to work hard. That showed in the first set in the first ever meeting between the two as he was broken twice and had to fight off a set point at 6-5, but the Austrian finally took it 7-2 in the tie-break.
Kukushkin responded well at the beginning of the second, racing into a 2-0 lead, but then Thiem really got going.
The 2020 US Open winner strung together six games in a row to win the second set. In the third he went a break up - when the two were locked at 1-1 - off his fifth break point of the game as Kukushkin crashed a forehand into the net.
Kukushkin struggled to build on his early momentum and Thiem's game proved superior as he marched on through to the second round, converting the first of his three match points on Kukushkin's serve.
He will face either Dominik Koepfer or Hugo Dellien in the second round.
'Very, very special' - Watch Thiem win spectacular point against Kukushkin
Thiem: Super challenging
"It was very interesting because it was our first meeting," he said post-match.
"There are not many guys left who I haven't faced on tour so that was really interesting. He is really experienced having played the fourth round here.
"I think he likes the conditions it's way faster and the first set was super challenging. A break down I think I saved some set points. In general I am very happy to be back and have a successful first round.
"The ATP Cup was tough because out of nowhere you're facing another top ten guy. It's best of three so there is no time to adjust. Courts are pretty quick this year that didn't help me too much last week.
I really like the grand slams you get more time to adjust to the conditions and your opponent and get used to your own game. I'm happy I made it in three sets today and I'm glad I'm into the next round.