Novak Djokovic equaled Ivan Lendl’s 1986 record of a 29-0 winning start to a season on Thursday, when he reached the Madrid Masters quarter-finals.
The Serb second seed cruised to a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez that took less than an hour to extend his overall winning streak to 31, stretching back to the two Davis Cup final singles he won in December last year.
The record for a winning start to a season remains 42 matches, set by John McEnroe in 1984, with Bjorn Borg, who had 33 straight wins in 1980, in second spot.
“I was winning my service games really comfortably and that’s something that I’m happy about, it’s a very encouraging fact for my upcoming matches,” Djokovic said. “It’s important for me to see that I raised the level of performance today for the quarter-finals.”
Top-seeded holder Rafael Nadal went through to the last eight without lifting a racquet as opponent Juan Martin del Potro retired before their third-round match with hip pain.
Unseeded Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, who is making a recovery this season after missing more than eight months of play last year after suffering a wrist surgery, had been bothered by the problem since reaching the Estoril semi-finals at the weekend.
“I have experience with injuries, and I decided not to play,” Del Potro said as he prepared to fly home to Buenos Aires for medical checks.
The Argentine will not play the Rome Masters starting tomorrow and could well be in doubt with the French Open starting on May 22.
“The pain was very strong,” the Argentine said.
Third seed Roger Federer got past Belgian Xavier Malisse 6-4, 6-3 after a late-night struggle on Wednesday against Feliciano Lopez that went three hours.
“It was a quick turnaround,” the two-time champion said. “Mentally, it was tough, I had to be ready to play a different kind of match [from the night before]. I didn’t have high expectations, I just wanted to play a good match. I was able to do that.”
Thomaz Bellucci profited from his first meeting with Scot fourth seed Andy Murray, securing a 6-4, 6-2 win in 90 minutes. Murray’s temper boiled over with the seed warned for audible obscenities from early on in the proceedings as Bellucci won the last four games to advance to the last eight.
However, the British player wasn’t too downhearted with his form.
“I’ve got to look more at the week as a whole, I was coming back from an injury that wasn’t serious, but an elbow injury isn’t easy for tennis players,” Murray said. “You need to be quite cautious and not do too much too soon because then you take a step back, but I think I’ve judged it pretty well.”
Fifth seed Robin Soderling, twice a Roland Garros finalist, defeated slumping Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (10/8), 7-5.
In the women’s event, world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki lost to Germany’s Julia Goerges for the second time in little more than a week, while French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and Roland Garros runner-up Samantha Stosur also went out.
Goerges, who saw off Wozniacki in the Stuttgart final last week, enjoyed a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 win and next plays Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who upset Stosur 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
The US’ Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated third seed Schiavone 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, but there were no problems for fourth seed Victoria Azarenka, who overcame Spain’s Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-0, 6-3.
Sixth seed Li Na of China, the Australian Open finalist, moved into the last eight thanks to a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Italian Roberta Vinci, who won in Barcelona last week.
“The first set was good for her, then I started thinking about hitting it more to her slice backhand,” Li said. “After Melbourne, I wasn’t winning any matches, so it’s exciting I’ve now won three matches on clay. Things are going fantastic. Since my new coach joined my team, I’m happier. I have more good energy now.”