It was a fable made famous by football -- now Japan's rising tennis star Kei Nishikori is doing his best to dismiss the long-held sporting notion that size does matter.
Of the sports' top 15 players, only two are shorter than 6'0" -- Nishikori, who stands at 5'10 and Spain's current world No. 5 David Ferrer who is an inch shorter than the Japanese star. The world's top four players - Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal - are all over 6'0, while six of the top 15 are 6'5" or taller.
Height is particularly important in tennis as it makes a player's service harder to return because of the power, height and bounce that can be generated by the server. So the tallest player of all time Ivo Karlovic is capable of sending down a serve as high as 251km/hr.
The 22-year-old Nishikori relies on a vast array of ground strokes and blistering speed to counteract the power he often faces in opponents that sometimes tower nearly a foot over him.
And he is slowly proving this supposed disadvantage can be his primary weapon, as his finest year to date unfolds.
In 2012 he became the first Japanese man to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 80 years and the first Japanese player to win his home nation's most prestigious tournament in its 40-year history.
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His 7-6 3-6 6-0 win over the 6'4" Milos Raonic earlier in October was also the first time Nishikori had won a trophy since Delray Beach in 2008.
With the help of veteran Nick Bollettieri -- the coach he calls the greatest in the history of the game -- and Dante Bottini, Nishikori currently sits proudly as the 15th best player in the world.
"I am not the tallest guy on tour so I have to have good legs and good speed and that's my weapon," Japan's rising son told CNN's Open Court show, as reflected on the task of taking on the giant, fast-serving titans of the modern game..
"It's not easy to play with big servers because, for me, it's hard to hold my serve. It is getting better but still, not easy. Not as easy as tall guys.
"I think I have a good return. I still struggle. I have good speed; I have to cover with my legs. I can do different things than those tall guys. Its not easy but I have to mix the shots."
Technique wins out
The 'size matters' myth has been ground to dust in other sports in recent years.
It was a theory that held steadfast in soccer until countries like world champions Spain, and Germany, moved away from height and physical strength as a cornerstone of their philosophy, turning to a new generation of more diminutive, technically gifted players.
The most dominant European club side of recent years has been Spanish giants Barcelona, whose players make up the nucleus of an all-conquering Spain team. Among their ranks is Argentina striker Lionel Messi, considered by many to be one of the finest footballers in history, who stands just 5'6" tall.
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As for Bollettieri, who has honed the talents of players like Andre Agassi and Serena Williams at his famous Florida academy, he is in no doubt Nishikori's nimbleness around the court is his main weapon in his battle against more lofty opponents.
"Kei is a shot maker," Bollettieri told CNN. "And when he's on, he can beat anybody in the world. Now remember, Kei is not a big guy. So he has to be very careful to take advantage of the opportunities when he gets them.
"If you're small, it's more difficult, no matter what anybody says. If you look at today, probably the height of the guys is 6'2", 6'3", the ladies up at 5'9", 5'10", Sharapova 6'3", Venus 6'2".
"So you take that as fact and you don't throw in the white towel and say 'I can't do it'. What Kei has, he has mobility, he creates, has unbelievable hands and feet that you can't purchase.
"So he has to keep adding, keep working on any defensive balls, come to the net a little bit more, and this is what Dante is working on. If he stays status quo, he'll win a lot of matches.
"But to be among the big boys and to break that top 10, which we all feel he will do, he probably will have to add a little bit more transition to his game."
Nishikori's dramatic progress this season has mirrored that of Formula One driver Komui Kobayashi; both men hoping to act as a catalyst for burgeoning interest in their respective sports.