Nadal wins 30th straight at French Open

Updated: May 27, 2009, 9:09 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PARIS -- Rafael Nadal's French Open winning streak reached a record 30 consecutive matches Wednesday.

No. 31 could present more of a challenge.

Trying to become the first player with five championships in a row at Roland Garros, Nadal moved into the third round by beating 72nd-ranked Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

Hot streaks

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal broke the French Open record for consecutive wins with his 30th, making his streak at Roland Garros one of the longest ever at a Grand Slam.

Longest winning streaks at a
Grand Slam, all-time
Slam Player Streak
'76-81 Wimbledon B. Borg 41
'03-08 Wimbledon R. Federer 40
'04-08 U.S. Open R. Federer 34
'97-01 Wimbledon P. Sampras 31
'05-09 French Open R. Nadal 31
'78-81 French Open B. Borg 28
'85-88 U.S. Open I. Lendl 27

Nadal had already bettered Bjorn Borg's men's mark of 28 straight victories at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament; now the Spaniard has topped Chris Evert's overall record of 29, too.

"Very happy for that," Nadal said, but he also noted that his biggest concern is to "try to be there the second Sunday" -- when the men's final is played.

Up next in that quest: Lleyton Hewitt, a man who won titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and used to be ranked where Nadal is now -- at No. 1.

"He's the man to beat here, and he has been for the last four or five years now. I'll go out there and play my game, and hopefully I can have one of my best matches," Hewitt said. "My game can match up well against him sometimes, if I'm executing the way I want to."

After overcoming his opponent's 55 aces over five sets in the first round, Hewitt had a much easier time of things Wednesday, when he beat 88th-ranked Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

Hewitt and Nadal have split their eight career meetings. But as the Australian pointed out, he's 0-3 against Nadal on clay, including a straight-set loss in the fourth round of the 2007 French Open.

"Always, it's a very tough match to play against Lleyton," Nadal said. "I have to play well to have chances to win."

He's dropped a total of only seven sets during his 30-0 career at the French Open. Against Gabashvili, Nadal was forced to save three break points in the first game of the match -- and then only one more the rest of the way.

But Gabashvili is 3-8 at major tournaments, never having gone past the second round. Hewitt brings much more success and much more experience into his encounter with Nadal.

A hip injury forced Hewitt to miss some time from the tour, and his ranking slid from the top 100 for the first time in a decade. He's currently 48th.

"This is what you do all the hard work for. This is why I'm still playing the game -- to put myself in positions like this, to have a crack at the big guys in the biggest tournaments we've got," Hewitt said. "It's something I thrive on."

Andy Murray reached the third round by beating Potito Starace of Italy 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.

The third-seeded Murray was trailing 5-2 in the third set but broke Starace three straight times to win it.

"On clay, there's always time for you to get sort of back into the match and find your game, even if you're struggling," Murray said.

Murray also reached the third round at Roland Garros last year but lost to Nicolas Almagro in four sets. In his only other appearance at the French Open in 2006, he lost in the first round.

Marat Safin was eliminated from his last French Open, losing to wild-card entry Josselin Ouanna of France 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 3-6, 10-8 in the second round.

The 20th-seeded Safin, who saved three match points, reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2002, but he lost in the second round the last two years.

[+] EnlargeMarat Safin
Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty ImagesMarat Safin, who says he will retire after this season, was eliminated in the second round.

"[I had a] terrible first serve. And of course, backhand didn't do anything," the 29-year-old said. "Basically nothing today ... Especially playing down the line ... and I couldn't find any angles to catch his backhand. Terrible approaches, and of course not covering the net the way I should.

"That's why I'm sitting here, and not feeling well," he said.

The two-time Grand Slam champion from Russia says he will retire from professional tennis after this season.

"Well, as you can see, I didn't draw the heart, and I didn't lay down and I didn't cry and I didn't all those things ... it's not me," he said referring to Gustavo Kuerten tracing a huge heart in the clay and flopping down in the middle of it after winning his third French Open in 2001. "[It's] a terrible way to finish with the French Open but anyway ... it's OK. It's not so sad. [It] doesn't get me emotional."

Asked what his best memory from the clay-court Grand Slam would be, Safin replied: "Well, hopefully I can forget this match, for sure."

"My best memory was too far away in history. Nothing really great to write about for the last five years," he said.

No. 7 Gilles Simon of France, No. 8 Fernando Verdasco of Spain, No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, No. 13 Marin Cilic of Croatia, No. 30 Victor Hanescu of Romania and No. 31 Almagro also advanced, but French veteran Fabrice Santoro played his last match at Roland Garros.

Santoro, who has made a record 67 Grand Slam appearances, lost in the first round of this year's French Open -- his record-tying 20th -- to Christophe Rochus of Belgium 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.

"Twenty years. That counts for something in a lifetime," Santoro said. "It has been a long road, a fantastic career. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot."

Santoro and Rochus started their match Tuesday, but it was suspended by darkness with the Belgian leading 5-3 in the fourth set. The pair came back out onto the court after Dinara Safina's win and played only eight minutes.

"I'm saying to myself that the story is over, that a page is being turned," Santoro said. "I will no longer be on court next year. But I think that it is time to go."

No. 21 Dmitry Tursunov of Russia and No. 28 Feliciano Lopez of Spain also lost.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.