By Daniel Hughes
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Third seed David Ferrer wore down Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in blistering heat to reach the fourth round at a 15th consecutive grand slam with a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory at the Australian Open on Friday.
Even the super-fit Spaniard, whose brick-wall playing style should suit the conditions, was troubled by the hot weather as he prowled the baseline for 132 minutes in temperatures higher than 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) on Rod Laver Arena.
"I won in three sets, so it's good," said the 31-year-old, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park for two of the last three years.
"I know today maybe was the last day with this heat, with these conditions, and it's good for your body, because is very difficult to play with these conditions.
"Maybe it was my best match this week."
Ferrer was not able to entirely keep his cool for the whole match and took his frustrations out on his racket after losing his only service game of the match to give Chardy a 5-3 lead in the second set.
After recovering to stave off two set points and move 2-0 ahead following a tiebreaker, Ferrer rattled through the third set in convincing fashion.
"I was angry in this moment, and I was a little bit nervous," he said of the racket-smashing.
"The key was sure in the second set. In the important moments I got lucky and not him, no? It was a miracle I won the second set."
Ranked third in the world after Andy Murray missed the back end of last season, Ferrer is probably the least fancied third seed at Melbourne Park since Nikolay Davydenko in 2007 and a 66-1 outsider with the bookmakers.
Ferrer's relatively easy draw, though, means he could easily go deep into the second week at Melbourne Park despite his next opponent Florian Mayer defeating the Spaniard at last year's Shanghai Masters.
One thing for certain is that if and when he loses, Ferrer will not go down without a fight.
"I am a fitness player I need to run every point," he said. "I am a fighter, no? I try to fight every point."
(Editing by John O'Brien)