MELBOURNE: Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka came through their first uncomfortable moments and Andy Murray was also tested before reaching the Australian Open’s last 16 on Saturday.
Williams, eyeing a calendar-year Grand Slam, was broken for the first time in the tournament by Japanese number one Ayumi Morita, before recovering from 0-3 down in the second set to win 6-1, 6-3.
Defending champion Azarenka screamed at herself and thrashed her racquet before overcoming an unexpectedly stiff challenge by America’s Jamie Hampton, who bravely played through severe back pain.
Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro, seeded six, became the tournament’s biggest casualty when the 2009 US Open champion slumped to a five-set defeat to unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet also went through, and with Gilles Simon playing Gael Monfils later France was assured of having four men in the fourth round, equalling their best performance at the tournament.
In the most competitive day so far, Murray extended his Grand Slam winning streak to 10 matches but not before a thorough workout from hitting partner Berankis, and he let his frustrations show during the 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 win.
The world number three trailed by a break of serve in the second set and appeared agitated at various stages, hitting his racquet on the court and yelling at his courtside box.
Murray served for the match at 5-4 in the third set but Berankis, the world number 110, broke back. But the 22-year-old dropped his next service game and Murray made no mistake in his second attempt at closing the victory.
The Olympic and US Open champion will next face the winner of the all-French affair between Monfils and Simon.