At French Open, Djokovic gets 41st win in row
Paris: Even if Novak Djokovic is tennis' man of the moment, there's a long, long way to go before he'd approach most of Roger Federer's many accomplishments.
So far to go, really, that it's not worth discussing.
Still, there is one area in which, as of Wednesday, the two men are equal: Djokovic was credited with his 41st consecutive victory — matching the best streak of Federer's career — when second-round opponent Victor Hanescu of Romania quit at the French Open because of a left leg injury.
"I'm not thinking about when this streak — this amazing streak — will end. So I guess that's the right mental approach," said the second-seeded Djokovic, who was serving at 6-4, 6-1, 2-3, 30-love when Hanescu decided to stop playing at Court Philippe Chatrier.
It was a far quieter and less theatrical ending than what transpired a few hours later on Court 1. Sabine Lisicki of Germany was bothered by dizziness and muscle cramps and was carried off on a stretcher, sobbing, after wasting a match point and a 5-2 lead in the third set of a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 loss to two-time Grand Slam finalist Vera Zvonareva of Russia. Lisicki was treated by a trainer — including a blood-pressure check — during changeovers.
"I hope she feels OK," the No. 3-seeded Zvonareva said. "No matter what, I had to keep doing my job."
Also reaching the third round: No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, past champions Francesca Schiavone of Italy and Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, 2010 runner-up Sam Stosur of Australia, and unseeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States.
Men's winners included No. 3 Federer, No. 7 David Ferrer of Spain, and three Frenchmen: No. 9 Gael Monfils, No. 13 Richard Gasquet and No. 17 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Federer improved his career second-round mark at Grand Slam tournaments to 42-0 by beating French wild-card entry Maxime Teixeira 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. Teixeira is ranked 181st and never had played a tour-level match until winning in the first round Sunday.
Federer, who counts the 2009 French Open among his record 16 Grand Slam titles, knows what it's like to be the inexperienced kid across the net from one of the game's greats. Back on Oct. 6, 1998, Federer played his sixth career match against Andre Agassi at Basel, Switzerland, and lost 6-3, 6-2.
"You know, on the one hand, that you can't win," said Federer, who went on a 41-match unbeaten run from August 2006 to March 2007. "And if you win, it's like a miracle."
Against Teixeira, Federer won 13 games in a row in one stretch.
"That's when I started panicking," Teixeira said.
Federer's record of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals ended with a loss in the French Open quarterfinals a year ago. If he makes it to the semifinals this time, he could meet Djokovic.
"He has had a lot of streaks and a lot of records that he's broken. I mean, look, he has won the most Grand Slams. He's the most successful tennis player ever. There is not much to say about that," said Djokovic, who beat Federer in the semifinals at the last two major tournaments. "I mean, it's just amazing what he has done throughout his career."
Asked what he needs to do to continue his current run, which began with two Davis Cup victories in December and includes a 39-0 start to 2011, Djokovic replied: "Stay focused, dedicated, motivated. I am still only 24. I have many more years to come. It's been the best five, six months of my career. And I'm very happy with the way I'm playing."
As well he should be.
Only three men in the Open era won more matches in a row, topped by Guillermo Vilas' 46 in 1977. And only one started a season better: John McEnroe began 42-0 in 1984.
Next, though, comes a sterner test than that put forth by the 60th-ranked Hanescu, who has a sub-.500 record this season and for his career. In the third round Friday, Djokovic faces 25th-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, who won the 2009 U.S. Open and nearly beat Federer in the French Open semifinals that year.
"Knowing that Djokovic is the best player this season, that he's trying to beat a record, is one thing," said the 6-foot-6, big-hitting del Potro, who lost all three past meetings with Djokovic, "but I need to stop thinking about it to avoid any additional pressure."
Djokovic, who won the Australian Open in 2008 and this January, and del Potro are the only men other than Federer (12) and Rafael Nadal (nine) to collect any of the most recent 24 Grand Slam titles.
Del Potro missed most of last season after having surgery on his right wrist and more recently has been bothered by a bad hip. But when he's in form, as he was during a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia on Wednesday, del Potro can present problems for any opponent.
"It's going to be a big challenge for both of us," Djokovic said. "Obviously, a great match for people to see."
The two are buddies, and were prompted at their news conferences to discuss the idea of making things more interesting by putting a friendly wager on the line.
Del Potro's response, delivered with a wink: "Of course not. He's much richer than I am."
Djokovic laughed when told about that.
"I will accept any bet. Why not? We can have fun," Djokovic said. "If the bet is a dinner, I will do my best to earn the dinner."