STARNBERG, October 28, 2020
Mikhail Kukushkin and Alexander Bublik opened their home campaign on Wednesday at the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, the first ATP Tour tournament to be held in Kazakhstan. While Kukushkin advanced to the second round thanks to a hard-fought 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 win over Argentine Federico Delbonis, sixth seed Bublik fell to US-American Mackenzie McDonald in straight sets 6-3, 6-2.
Kukushkin withstood seven aces and broke his opponent’s serve five times to prevail after two hours and 32 minutes. “It was a struggle for me in the opening set. I made some mistakes at the crucial moments and had to pay for it by losing the first set but I did well to recover in the next two sets,” Kukushkin commented on his performance.
— Astana Open (@AstanaOpen) October 28, 2020
The World No. 91 and Davis-Cup player for Kazakhstan of Russian descent is used to playing in front of large crowds, however, the ATP 250 hard-court event at Nur-Sultan’s National Tennis Center is taking place without spectators. “I’ve always played in this stadium full of fans, but today it really felt unusual to play without fans due to the pandemic but we have to get used to these conditions now. It’s a challenge but I’m getting used to it,” Kukushkin said.
“The pandemic has affected me like the others. It has been challenging to get back to the best form, but I’m working hard to get back to the top of my fitness. Overall I have had some decent results since coming back, but I feel the Astana Open is a great opportunity for me to do well and get back to higher rankings.”
Competing on home soil at ATP Tour level is definitely something special for Kukushkin.
“I’m truly happy playing on my home courts and that it is an ATP Tour event. I have never thought we would have such a major event in our country. It’s indeed a great honor to play at home and on the courts which I have spent so much time practicing,” he said and added:
“Tennis was not popular in Kazakhstan, but I would like to mention the efforts of Kazakh Tennis Federation and its President Mr. Bulat Utemuratov, as he has developed tennis from zero and now we have a professional tennis event in our country. It’s truly a very proud moment for me to be playing an ATP event in my own country.”
Kukushkin will next take on the tournament’s top seed Benoit Paire of France.
Later in the day, Bublik, who had beaten McDonald in three sets in the recent St. Petersburg Open first round, fired 11 aces but lost his serve four times. The World No. 209 from Florida closed the match out after one hour and 12 minutes. McDonald will next play Italian wild card entry Andreas Seppi.
In the bottom half of the draw, No. 7 seed Tommy Paul from the United States, No. 4 seeded Australian John Millman, Egor Gerasimov of Belarus and US-American Frances Tiafoe booked their spot in the quarterfinals.
Mens Singles – Second Round
 Tommy Paul (USA) d Radu Albot (MDA) 6-4,6-0
 John. Millman (AUS) d Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-3,6-4
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) d Jiri Vesely (CZE) 4-6,6-3,6-4
Frances. Tiafoe (USA) d  Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 7-5,6-3