He gritted, he groaned and he grumbled. But Andy Murray was also gutsy, and late Saturday afternoon he managed to score a third round victory over Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis.
Murray’s 6-3 6-4 7-5 win sends him into the fourth round of Australian Open 2013 after he saw off the challenge of Berankis, a talented 22-year-old qualifier on the comeback from injury and rapidly rising back up the ATP rankings.
"It was a tough match. He takes the ball very early, hits the ball very flat compared to most players on the tour. And when the ball is between his hips and his shoulder, he hits the ball extremely well. He's got very good timing," Murray reflected.
"He made it tough."
Berankis said following his second round win over Florian Mayer that he had not once played on a centre court at a Grand Slam event. When he took to Rod Laver Arena against Murray, it showed.
A bundle of errors, the Lithuanian was down 3-0 in the blink of an eye, but thankfully got on the board at 1-3 with a winning forehand-overhead combination.
With the Scot clutching at his shoulder in the fifth game, and Berankis bringing up four break points, it seemed that the tide was turning. But wasteful errors from the qualifier snuffed out that opportunity. As Murray continued to execute perfectly and Berankis frequently erred, it was soon 5-1.
Yet Berankis began to find his own range. A few big forehands saw him accrue more break points, and this time he capitalised, tripping Murray up as the Scot served for the set. A hold in the eighth game and more break points in the ninth followed, but the third seed’s serve came to the rescue.
Down a set, Berankis soon began to display the game that made him a world No.1 junior and former world No.73. Although Murray is noted for his creativity and panache, the Lithuanian showed some variety of his own, mixing some off-paced slices, drop shots and artful volleys into his increasingly rock-solid baseline game.
Murray was labouring, and soon the trademark ranting at his support camp began. While that was happening after almost every lost point, Berankis had forged ahead 4-2, breaking in the sixth game after a cold return winner two points earlier.
A champion’s response was required, and Murray – who can now call himself one following his 2012 US Open victory – produced just that, lobbing truly on his way to scoring the immediate break back. Soon the errors had returned to Berankis’s game, and he surrendered his serve in the ninth game.
Murray made no mistake of serving out the second set.
The Scot gained a vice-like grip over the match early in the third set. He raced to 0-40 in the third game before playing a low angled slice that forced the volley error from his opponent, helping him secure another service break.
Yet Berankis wasn’t finished. Banging a backhand winner down the line for 0-30 as Murray served for the match, he smiled, clearly relishing the moment. A few points later, Murray erred, drawing big cheers from the crowd and an air-punch from the Lithuanian, who had levelled at 5-5.
It was an extremely short-lived comeback. Running hard, Murray chased down Berankis’s big shots and forced the errors, breaking to 15 and earning another crack at serving for the match.
He made no mistake of it this time, celebrating his straight-sets win after two hours and 12 minutes.
He will next face the winner of Saturday night’s match between Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils.
"Gael and Gilles are both tough players. They do extremely consistent. Gael is probably the best - in my opinion - athlete that ever played the game. When he's injury free, he's a very tough guy to beat. And Gilles the same. He's caused guys lots of problems before. He pushed Roger to a very tough five set match here a few years ago. He's getting closer to the top 10 in the world," Murray said.
"Both (are) tough matches, and I'll need to play better than I did today."