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 victory over Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands in the first round of the French Open on Monday.
“I’m not counting,” the second-seeded Djokovic said with a smile.
“I’m not trying to think about the streak that I have,” he added, “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 Monday at Roland Garros by other top players such as Roger Federer, top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or defending champion Francesca Schiavone — and even 2010 semifinalist Tomas Berdych’s surprising 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.
“I don’t want to be the guy that says, ‘Hey, by the way, you’re 38-0, or whatever he is. Don’t lose.’ I don’t want to be that guy, and then have him lose,” Fish said.
Back on April 1, Djokovic moved to 23-0 this season by beating Fish in the semifinals in Key Biscayne, Fla.
Djokovic then defeated No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal in the final there, part of a 7-0 mark against him and Federer in 2011. Victories over Nadal — who begins his bid for a record-tying sixth title at Roland Garros today — on clay at Madrid and Rome this month have many believing Djokovic could become the first man to win the Australian Open and French Open in the same year since Jim Courier in 1992.