May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Novak Djokovic beat Juan Martin del Potro at the French Open to extend his unbeaten run since the start of the season to 40 consecutive matches.
Djokovic prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a matchup of Grand Slam champions that took two days to complete. The third-round match was suspended last night at one set all because of darkness in Paris.
“I managed to control my game a little bit better today than I did yesterday,” Djokovic told a news conference. “That resulted with the win.”
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal and former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova won easily while No. 4 Andy Murray overcame an ankle injury to move to the fourth round. Tenth-seeded Mardy Fish lost, marking the first time since tennis turned professional in 1968 that no man or woman from the U.S. has reached the fourth round at Roland Garros.
The second-ranked Djokovic of Serbia can tie John McEnroe’s 27-year-old record of 42 straight wins at the start of a season if he reaches the semifinals. Djokovic will take the No. 1 ranking on the ATP World Tour away from five-time French Open champion Nadal should the Serb make the final.
Nadal lost just four games in beating Croatian qualifier Antonio Veic 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. The Spaniard is trying to join Sweden’s Bjorn Borg as the only man to win six trophies at Roland Garros.
“I did a few things much better than in the previous days,” Nadal told reporters. “Happy for that. I have to continue this way”
Nadal played his first five-set match at the French Open in the opening round against John Isner of the U.S. He also struggled in the second round against fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar, saying afterwards he had yet to find the form that had helped him win previously in Paris.
Fish, the top American man at Roland Garros, was beaten by No. 18 Gilles Simon of France 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. It is only the second time in the Open era that there aren’t any American players in the last sixteen of a major. The only other time was at the 1973 Australian Open, when no Americans played.
“Simon played really well; I tried a lot of things but he’s pretty confident out there,” Fish told a news conference. “Being the highest-ranked American, it’s a different feeling. You want to perform, you want to play well,” said Fish, who has never got past the third round at Roland Garros in six visits.
Earlier in the day, fellow American Vania King lost to Wimbledon semifinalist Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-2, leaving no U.S. woman in the singles draw.
Venus and Serena Williams, the American sisters who have won 20 major singles titles between them, are both absent from Roland Garros because of injuries.
“Went in there a bit nervous,” the 115th-ranked King told reporters. “I was expecting a big game, but she was playing really fast. And sometimes when you’re nervous, the ball comes faster than you think it will.”
Murray had a tougher time than Nadal against Michael Berrer of Germany. The Scot screamed in pain as he rolled his right ankle while chasing a drop shot early in the second set. After receiving treatment from the trainer he went on to win the match 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.
“I don’t know if I’ll be playing the next match,” Murray said in a news conference. “I don’t know if I’ll be 100 percent fit. Maybe I will be. You never know with these things. They can go away quickly. There are things you can do to recover faster. That’s what I’ll do.”
Murray will have a scan on his ankle tomorrow.
Soderling Moves On
Two-time finalist Robin Soderling, the fifth seed from Sweden, beat Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia ousted Spain’s No. 16 seed Fernando Verdasco, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4. He’ll play Nadal next.
Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova of Russia defeated Yung-Jan Chan of Taipei, 6-2, 6-3. The French Open is the only major that has eluded the Russian, who won Rome the week before Roland Garros.
Li Na, the No. 7 seed who was the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, defeated Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-2. The Netherland’s Arantxa Rus, who upset Kim Clijsters earlier in the tournament, lost to Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, 6-1, 6-1.
Victoria Azarenka, the No. 4 seed from Belarus who is seeking her first major title, eased past Italy’s Roberta Vinci, 6-3, 6-2.
“I don’t think it was the best match, the best performance,” Azarenka told a news conference. “I can improve, and I have been improving from match to match, which is important.”
Viktor Troicki, the 15th seed from Serbia and Murray’s next opponent, advanced in four sets over No. 21 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine, as did Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina, who beat Lukas Rosos of the Czech Republic.
Agnieszka Radwanska, the No.12 seed from Poland, beat Belgium’s No. 21 seed Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets. No. 15 Andrea Petkovic of Germany also won while the 16th seeded Kaia Kanepi of Finland lost.
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