US Open champion Dominic Thiem blamed his stuttering start to the Australian Open on the speed of the courts after coming through a tough opening test Monday.
The third-seeded Austrian, a narrow loser to Novak Djokovic in last year's Melbourne final, finally got over the line 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-3 against Kazakh veteran Mikhail Kukushkin.
"I just needed some time to adjust," said Thiem, who is bidding for his maiden Australian Open title.
"I mean, I like to have time, so the fast court takes it away a little bit for me, so that's not perfect.
"But I have to get used to it anyway. I have the feeling that it's one of the faster tournaments I've played in recent years, but it's like that, that's tennis."
Kukushkin, 33, had lost his opening-round match at Melbourne on 11 of his previous 12 appearances.
After saving a set point in the tie-breaker, Thiem dialled up the aggression in the second set as Kukushkin began to misfire. When Thiem broke through for a 3-2 lead there was no way back for the 89th ranked Kazak.
"Definitely I felt nerves because it was a long time until the Slam, more than three weeks from when we arrived to Adelaide," Thiem said.
"It was not easy. Also it was interesting because I never faced him, which is not happening that often anymore, as I've almost faced everybody on tour already."
Thiem will next play either German Dominik Keopfer or Bolivia's Hugo Dellien, with Australia's Nick Kyrgios looming as a potential third-round opponent.
Now 27, the baseliner finally cracked the big time when he produced a historic comeback to beat Alexander Zverev in the US Open final last year.
He is in Melbourne without his coach Nicolas Massu, who tested positive for the coronavirus, and is instead working under his father, Wolfgang.