Under-par Murray battles past qualifier Berankis
Andy Murray shrugged off any question marks over his form and fitness and declared himself satisfied to have made it through to the second week of the Australian Open.
Murray cut a frustrated figure for large parts of his third-round win over Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis today as he struggled to hit the heights he reached against Robin Haase and Joao Sousa in his first two matches in Melbourne.
But if it is a sign of a champion to win when not playing well then Murray is entitled to feel content with the 6-3 6-4 7-5 triumph achieved in two hours and 12 minutes.
"I have won my first three matches in straight sets," he said.
"Every player wants to hit the ball well every day if they can. But the reality is it isn't always going to happen.
"I'm aware I'll need to improve but you also don't necessarily want to be playing your best tennis in the first round of a grand slam or any tournament.
"You want to try to improve as the matches go on.
"I'm sitting here happy that I'm through to the fourth round having not played my best tennis today. Hopefully I'll improve for the next one."
""Every player wants to hit the ball well every day if they can. But the reality is it isn't always going to happen" - Andy Murray
Murray regularly practises with Berankis which made it a surprise he seemed to be frequently caught off guard by his opponent's shot-making.
He also seemed troubled in the early stages by a shoulder problem which he later explained wore off as the match went on.
"It was just a bit stiff for my first five or six service games and in practice yesterday," he said.
"But I felt pretty much fine after the first set."
The shoulder failed to prevent him from taking the opener although it was far from plain sailing.
Having surged into a 3-1 lead, aided by some early Berankis nerves, he started to lose rhythm, making a large number of uncharacteristic errors.
He rebuffed two break points as his opponent threatened and then looked to be back on track by breaking once more for 5-1.
But again his game deserted him as he served for the set - Berankis' pressure resulting in a wayward Murray forehand and a break.
Having held, the world number 110 again asked the question of Murray on serve but this time he came through after saving two more break points.
Murray continued to look out of sorts at the start of the second.
Gone was the crispness he displayed in rounds one and two. Instead, his game was scruffy and lacking direction.
He also appeared to be fighting himself - one shout of "come on, do something" in the fourth game an apparent attempt to inject some life into his display.
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 handed Murray his fourth successive game and a two-set lead.
The Olympic champion was slowly starting to find his range and a break to go 2-1 up in the third put him in the box seat.
Berankis' last stand was to break when Murray tried to serve it out but, once again, he failed to consolidate it and there was to be no second chance.