There is one great advantage to playing in 40-degree heat: it doesn’t half focus the mind.
The hotter the weather, the less time anyone wants to spend in it and so for those with their eyes on the title, there are fewer sloppy games and fewer carelessly dropped sets. Instead, we have an all-out dash for the air-conditioned haven of the locker room.
So it was that Tomas Berdych woke up on Wednesday morning, saw the sun in all its glory and thought ‘better not hang about today, Tommy’. And he didn’t, sprinting past Kenny de Schepper 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 and into the third round. It took an hour and 42 minutes and once it was done, the No.7 seed was delighted with his efforts.
“It’s a nice test to step on to the court in this heat,” he said as the mercury was heading for 39 degrees. “I think I handled it well through the three sets. Always the most important thing is the game and the way I played and today was really good, really solid.”
Before we discuss the nuts and bolts of the match, let us turn out attention to Mr Berdych’s outfit. (Actually, so swift and straight forward was Berdych’s victory that we really only have a couple of washers and a tin-tack to work with but enough of this tennis talk, let’s get back to the togs.)
For reasons best known to himself, Big Berd has chosen to wear what looks like an Argentina footy shirt this week and while there is nothing wrong with that – the blue and white stripes always looked fine on Maradona – it does look a little out of place on court at Hisense Arena. Especially when coupled with bright red shorts. Alas, the brilliance of the red is not really suited to a man of Berdych’s complexion (it clashes with the sunburn) while the length of the trousering is just a little on the mean side. His knickers, sensible black foundation garments, made regular appearances as the shorts rode up and the underpants stubbornly stayed put.
When it was pointed out to Berdych that his shirt was a local favourite, being the exact same colours as worn by the Kangaroos, the AFL team from north Melbourne, the big man grinned from ear to ear. He is not used to be a leader of fashion but now that he is getting some attention, he is loving it.
“It’s nice that it looks like other teams,” he said of his designer gear. “It creates emotion, it’s something different. It’s nice that people are talking about it. This shirt will stay with me for as long as I am in the draw.”
The shirt’s next outing will be on Friday when Berdych faces Damir Dzumhur, a qualifier from Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a world ranking of 188 (he hit a career high of 187 last month) and still earning his spurs on the tour, he ought not to give Berdych too much trouble, not if Wednesday’s performance is anything to go by; Berdych was clinical, efficient and far too strong for poor De Schepper. It was one way traffic from start to finish - with Berdych winning 88 percent of points on first serve, and not conceding a break point in the entire match.
And if this goes on, that striped shirt is going to be with us for quite some time.