Andy Murray eases into third round in straight sets

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By Julian Linden

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Andy Murray breezed into the third round of the Australian Open with a comfortable 6-1 6-4 6-3 victory over France's Marc Gicquel on Wednesday.

It was the second straight-sets win in a row for the in-form Briton, who is looming as a genuine contender to win the first grand slam of the year, though he conceded he needed to improve.

The result seemed a foregone conclusion after the fifth seed made a brilliant start, winning the opening five games with a series of crisp winners, but he lost his way somewhat in the second and third sets.

At times he was brilliant, unfurling a string of spectacular winners from all parts of the court, but on other occasions he made some sloppy errors that he blamed on the swirling wind in the uncovered Margaret Court Arena.

"It was quite a good atmosphere, quite a lot of noise, a lot of flags, people moving around and stuff. I think I did well to keep my concentration from that," the Scotsman said.

"But the wind was the trickiest part because it's kind of like a bowl, the court kind of gets trapped in there and swirls around.

"Sometimes you think the ball is going one direction, and the wind is going one direction, and then in the middle of the point it can change pretty quickly.

"That was tough. But I was happy with the way I played."

Frenchman Gicquel, ranked 57th in the world, threatened to fight his way back into the match but each time Murray was able to regain control and wrap up a comfortable victory.

"The first set was good and then it was tough after that," Murray said. "It was a good performance, solid match, under difficult conditions, so I was happy. This is the highest level of the sport. That's going to happen."

The 22-year-old next plays Florent Serra after the Frenchman scraped past Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 3-6 6-4 5-7 7-6 7-5.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)