It’s virtually impossible to force a 196cm man – that’s six foot five inches in the old scale – to stretch on a tennis court.
Austrian Jurgen Melzer discovered that the hard way as he was dismantled by fifth seed Tomas Berdych in straight sets on Hisense Arena on Friday night.
Playing in his 10th consecutive Australian Open, Berdych blasted his way into the fourth round with a 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory.
At times, Melzer, the world No. 29 appeared to have his opponent on the run, but the wingspan of Berdych is such that he not only reached the ball, he regularly returned it with added interest.
It was a performance that could best be described in one word – crushing.
“I felt I was moving pretty well ... I like the courts, it brings me good memories. My game was really solid all the way through the match,” Berdych said afterwards.
Always looking to push forward in the court, he struck for an early break in the opening set and, with a 4-1 buffer, even had time to share a light-hearted conversation with the chair umpire at the change of ends.
Down 5-3, Melzer managed to defend two set points, but the left hander’s plan to target the Berdych backhand with his cross-court forehand came to naught as the Czech flattened out a double-handed winner down the line to take the set.
The winner-count continued to soar for Berdych, who sent a smash into the stands for a double break in the second set.
Melzer’s body language began to deteriorate, with his hand gestures essentially asking the question ‘what else I supposed to do?’.
And, after netting a backhand and conceding a break in the first game of the third, his emotions finally boiled over as he threw his racquet to the ground.
By contrast, Berdych’s focus was undisrupted, and after earning a double break, served out the match.
In a battle of the giants, the big Czech will next meet fellow big hitter Kevin Anderson, who is seven centimetres taller. The South African beat Fernando Verdasco in five sets on Friday afternoon.
“I heard already someone say that it's like me playing against myself,” Berdych said.
“Let's see how I can deal with that. There aren’t many matches where you face an opponent that plays such a similar game. I saw him play today and he was really impressive.
“I know him quite well, we've played a couple of times and they were all pretty close.”