In a game of giants, statuesque 195cm Czech Tomas Berdych does not stand out.
To most, Novak, Roger, Rafa and Andy are head and shoulders above the rest, but if ‘Big Berd’ has his way he will soon stand among them.
Berdych was a 6-2 6-2 6-4 winner over world No.92 Frenchman Guillaume Rufin on Wednesday. It’s the fifth seed’s second straight-sets win of the week, and the Czech right-hander was barely headed in the 120-minute match on Rod Laver Arena.
“I was very solid … I felt very good since the beginning, I was very confident,” says Berdych in his calm and measured way.
The win means Berdych will face 26th seed Jurgen Melzer in the third round, a player he has played four times and beaten twice.
Should Berdych’s run of form continue, it’s likely he will play world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals – the same point of the tournament the 27-year-old has reached here for the past two years. Last year it was Nadal who knocked him out; the year before that it was Djokovic.
And with Nadal out this year, does that open up a space for Berdych to slot into? According to the Czech, no.
“It just looks on the paper that it is a bit easier with Rafa not here, but in the end it’s not easier at all,” he says.
In 2012, Berdych was 2-9 against the world’s top four. It’s a ratio that must be reversed if he’s to force his way into that group.
“These four guys are really, really strong and really tough. It’s a daily work, it’s really to go to live with the fact that you are playing the tennis, do everything 100 per cent.
“In the end that’s the way how to slowly getting to them and maybe one day to be really a part of those four guys.”
As Berdych strives to catch the leaders in men’s tennis, he is forging ahead in another area, fashion.
A recent deal with H&M will see Berdych become an on- and off-court ambassador for the fashion retailer.
“It’s something what has never been in tennis,” explains Berdych.
“This is something what I’m really excited about,” he says, not that you can tell from his expression – he still looks serious.
It’s hard to imagine Tomas tucked away somewhere in the Czech Republic surrounded by fabric swatches and intensely sketching a new season’s range of attire for the tennis player with a nose for style as well as forehands.
“I will have the chance to talk about it, to say my ideas … I’m happy to have that opportunity, to speak what I like,” he says.
Perhaps Ester Satorova, Berdych’s glamorous model girlfriend, could lend some expert advice?
“This is the thing of really enjoying my free time … I like the fashion on court, off court and if I can get this opportunity, it’s great.”
For the time being, Berdych is all about tennis, and winning his first Grand Slam title, not setting trends.
“I will try to be really patient, working hard,” he says.
“My career is still not over, I hope that I have many more years to do so [win a major] and that’s definitely the goal.”
And if he can get that breakthrough big win, Berdych may just tower over them all.