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Djokovic wins at French Open, stays perfect

PARIS -- Shhhhhh! Don't say a word. Novak Djokovic is perfect so far in 2011, and superstition demands silence, lest he be jinxed.

Djokovic himself insists he isn't keeping tabs on his unbeaten run, which reached 38-0 this season -- and 40 consecutive victories dating to December -- thanks to a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 win over Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands in the first round of the French Open yesterday.

"I'm not counting," the second-seeded Djokovic said with a smile. "I'm not trying to think about the streak that I have, even though it's definitely something that makes me proud."

Others certainly are thinking about it. Indeed, it's the talk of the year's second Grand Slam tournament. Straight-set victories at Roland Garros by Roger Federer, top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki and defending champion Francesca Schiavone -- and even 2010 semifinalist Tomas Berdych's five-set loss to a French qualifier -- didn't merit as much attention as Djokovic did.

The Serb, who won his second Australian Open title in January, is closing in on the Open era record for best start to a tennis season by a man, John McEnroe's 42-0 in 1984. He's also only the sixth man in the Open era to win 40 matches in a row; Guillermo Vilas set the high of 46 in 1977.

But Djokovic's pals on tour aren't exactly making a big deal about it at the moment.

"In the beginning -- I know him very well -- I'd kind of joke, 'Hey, let someone else win.' . . . Now you almost stay away. It's almost like a pitcher going for a no-hitter," said the highest-seeded American, No. 10 Mardy Fish, who beat Ricardo Mello of Brazil, 6-2, 6-7 (11), 6-2, 6-4.

Djokovic attributes his success to a number of factors, including a gluten-free diet, which he has declined to discuss in any detail -- "I can't talk about it," Djokovic said "because it's private" -- but credits it with helping him overcome problems with allergies and playing in extreme heat.

If form holds, Djokovic would meet Federer in the semifinals. "Roger can beat anybody if he plays good," was the assessment offered by Feliciano Lopez, who lost to Federer, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

The man who upset Federer at Wimbledon en route to last year's final, the sixth-seeded Berdych, blew a two-set-to-none lead and wasted a match point in a 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 9-7 loss to 140th-ranked Stephane Robert.

Two other seeded men lost: No. 22 Michael Llodra of France and No. 26 Milos Raonic of Canada.

Llodra left on an ugly note, likening the atmosphere at his court to an Arab marketplace after receiving a warning from Moroccan chair umpire Mohamed El Jennati for throwing a ball at a female security guard in the stands.

TV footage showed Llodra telling El Jennati: "We are not in a souk. We are not selling carpets in a market."

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