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Thursday, May 5, 2011
Novak Djokovic 29-0 to start 2011

Associated Press

MADRID -- Novak Djokovic extended his season-opening winning streak to 29 matches Thursday at the Madrid Open, equaling the best start in men's tennis in 25 years.

The Australian Open champion won all 21 of his first service points to defeat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-1, 6-2 and advance to the quarterfinals. He was joined by fellow third-round winner Roger Federer and top-ranked Rafael Nadal, who advanced after opponent Juan Martin del Potro withdrew with a hip injury.

Djokovic, who is 31-0 since last year's Davis Cup final, is tied for third with Ivan Lendl for the best season start since 1980. John McEnroe won 42 straight to start the 1984 season, and Bjorn Borg won 33 in a row at the beginning of the 1980 season.

"I know I'm playing great now but there is always something you can improve on -- you can never be perfect," the Serbian player said. "I'm winning service games comfortably. That's something I'm happy about today and an encouraging fact for upcoming matches, especially on clay."

Djokovic will surpass Lendl's mark if he wins the quarterfinal Friday against David Ferrer or Sergiy Stakhovsky. Nadal will play Michael Llodra, who defeated Daniel Gimeno-Traver 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Federer recovered from Wednesday's struggle against Feliciano Lopez to get past Xavier Malisse of Belgium 6-4, 6-3. Fourth-ranked Andy Murray was bounced from the clay court tournament 6-4, 6-2 by hard-hitting Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci.

Federer was in total control after being pushed to the limit one night earlier, when the third-ranked Swiss player was forced to save a match point.

"Mentally I had to shift a bit. I just wanted to put in a good performance, which is what I did," Federer said. "It was a quick turnaround. I just had to get past this match today to have the quarters in sight."

Federer will play Robin Soderling on Friday after the Swedish player edged Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (8), 7-5.

Del Potro pulled out after feeling discomfort in his left hip. With his participation at the French Open at stake, Del Potro preferred not to risk another injury after wrist surgery sidelined him for most of last year.

"It's not nice to have to withdraw from this tournament and this game, which would have been nice to play but I'm not in shape," said the 32nd-ranked Argentine, who dropped to No. 481 in January before winning in Delray Beach and Estoril. "I tried but I'm not in shape to play."

Meanwhile, Murray was visibly frustrated by Bellucci's play as the Brazilian used four aces to help save all three of Murray's break points.

Bellucci will play seventh-seeded Czech player Tomas Berdych, who beat Juan Monaco of Argentina 7-5, 6-3.