Paris Rafael Nadal broke Guillermo Vilas' mark with his 54th straight win on clay, beating Robin Soderling of Sweden, 6-2, 7-5, 6-1, at Roland Garros on Monday to begin defense of his French Open title.
"It's a lot of tournaments, a lot of matches," Nadal said. "Getting the record here adds something extra."
On-court trophy ceremonies usually are reserved for the closing weekend of a major tennis tournament. Yet after finishing off Soderling, Nadal was presented with a rectangular glass box containing the multiple layers of a clay court, and highlights from his French Open championship were shown on the video screens overhead.
Nadal improved to 8-0 at Roland Garros - he won the title in his debut - and he hasn't lost on clay since April 8, 2005, against Igor Andreev at Valencia, Spain.
There was little stunning about Monday's happenings, with seeded players going 25-3, including wins for Nadal's two immediate predecessors as French Open champion: 2003's Juan Carlos Ferrero and 2004's Gaston Gaudio.
No. 16 Jarkko Nieminen quit because of stomach cramps, and the highest-ranked woman to exit was No. 18 Elena Likhovtseva, a 2005 semifinalist. She lost, 6-1, 6-1, to Karolina Sprem.