PARIS // Novak Djokovic registered his 38th straight win in 2011 in emphatic fashion in the opening round of the French Open this afternoon.
The world No 2, who is now only four short of John McEnroe's record start to a season of 42 consecutive victories, thumped the Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 on the Philippe Chatrier Court.
Djokovic's run has brought him seven titles, including the Australian Open, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and wins over the world No 1 Rafael Nadal in four Masters 1000 events.
The Spaniard is still the favourite to win a sixth Roland Garros crown but Djokovic certainly did nothing to harm his chances with a brisk 92-minute victory today.
The Serb served notice of things to come by breaking his opponent, ranked 71st in the world, in the second game of the match, and he had no trouble clinching the opening set.
De Bakker lost the first five games of the second and, although he managed to avoid a "bagel", it merely delayed the inevitable. The 22-year-old made a better fist of things in the third set but Djokovic was simply a class above.
"It's my favourite grand slam, even though I haven't won it yet," said Djokovic, a semi-finalist in 2007 and 2008. "I've been playing really well on clay. I've won three [clay court] tournaments [Belgrade, Madrid and Rome] in the last few weeks, so I'm trying to build on that confidence."
Djokovic faces a possible third-round encounter with 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine, who has been recovering from a torn hip muscle sustained last year, recovered from a shaky start to beat the Croatian Ivo Karlovic 6-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
In the opening match on Court Philippe Chatrier, the defending champion Francesca Schiavone bounced back to her winning ways by beating Melanie Oudin of the US 6-2, 6-0.
Schiavone, who last year became the first Italian woman to win a grand slam singles title, won four straight games in the first set after being broken early by her 19-year-old American opponent.
The No 5 seed Schiavone, who had 25 winners to Oudin's six, then won seven straight games to reach the second round. "I'm still shaking a little bit," Schiavone said of playing on Roland Garros's Centre Court for the first time as defending champion.
"The court is perfect. Everything is going around you and it's like - you know when you go home and your mum does everything for you and you feel comfortable?"
Last week, Schiavone had her best result of the season, reaching the semi-finals at the Brussels Open. No 26 Nadia Petrova of Russia, No 28 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and No 30 Roberta Vinci of Italy also advanced.
In the men's draw, No 12 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia beat Go Soeda of Japan 7-5, 6-2, 6-4, and No 15 Viktor Troicki of Serbia defeated Julian Reister of Germany 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.