Jan 19 2013
It may not have been pretty but Andy Murray's Australian Open challenge remained on track with victory over Ricardas Berankis.
The US Open champion, hoping to become the first man in the Open era to follow up his maiden grand slam tournament victory by winning the next major as well, looked woefully out of sorts for much of the encounter.
But he improved as the match went on to progress through to the fourth round 6-3 6-4 7-5 in two hours and 12 minutes. He will next meet the winner of the all-French clash between Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils.
Lithuanian qualifier Berankis displayed the kind of shot-making ability which should stand him in good stead as he seeks a way back into the top 100 following a serious groin injury. Murray said: "We know each other's games pretty well, we practise a lot together. He hits the ball very flat and these courts were playing quick.
"I was struggling. He was making me feel pretty uncomfortable on the court with his style. I need to strike the ball better. My timing was off and I was leaving a lot of balls very short and allowing him to dictate some of the points. But hopefully it'll get better in the next round."
Berankis made a sloppy start, four consecutive forehand errors gifting Murray an early break which he converted into a 3-1 lead. Murray then had to fight off four break points as Berankis finally found his range - working the angles beautifully. But he could not capitalise with his best chance coming at 15-40, missing a routine forehand into the open court.
Three other chances came and went before Murray, who was repeatedly feeling his right shoulder early on, got out of trouble. The Scot then broke again for 5-1 but could not serve out the set as a wayward forehand handed Berankis a break back. He finally did clinch the set, although only after staving off two more break points.
Murray continued to look out of sorts at the start of the second. He was still holding firm on serve but that changed at 2-3 when a weak forehand on break point gifted Berankis a two-game lead only for him to promptly throw it away with an error-strewn game. Murray threatened again at 4-4 and with Berankis wobbling, he broke at the fourth opportunity.
As in the first set he struggled to serve it out, having to come back from 0-30 down, but a wide forehand from the 22-year-old from Vilnius handed Murray his fourth successive game and a two-set lead.
The Olympic champion was slowly starting to look like one of the title contenders and he kept his foot on the gas by breaking for 2-1 in the third. But, serving for the match, Murray again had problems as at 15-40 he dumped a weak forehand into the net. He showed his fighting spirit to break back straight away. And there was no mistake at 6-5 as he got the job done.