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.
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.
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."