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Djokovic’s new streak; Yawn tennis for Diana Ross

- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND (AP) - Novak Djokovic ended his "losing streak."

The second-seeded Serb beat Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 Tuesday at Wimbledon, Djokovic's first time on court since his 43-match winning streak ended in the French Open semifinals 2 1/2 weeks ago.

"When this streak ended in Paris, it was kind of a relief as well, because it's been a very, very successful five, six months for me, but very long as well and exhausting," Djokovic said. "I've played so many matches. So I needed some time to relax."

Djokovic didn't play any grass-court tuneup tournaments after Roland Garros, but he didn't show any sign of rust against the 54th-ranked Chardy.

Djokovic dropped just two points on serve in the first set and 11 in the entire match. He saved the only break point he faced.

Now he's 42-1 in 2011, heading into the second round against Kevin Anderson or Illya Marchenko, whose match was suspended because of darkness Tuesday.

Djokovic is a two-time Australian Open champion and a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist. He said Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal _ winners of the past eight Wimbledon titles _ are the favorites at the All England Club this year, but considers himself a contender.

"It's true there is a different approach to this year's Wimbledon from my side because I'm playing, I think, best tennis of my life in the last six months," Djokovic said. "That's why confidence-wise, I believe in myself much more on the court and I know I can perform well, equally well, on this surface as I do on the other ones."

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NEARLY NILAND: Forget Centre Court, the most sought-after ticket at Wimbledon on Tuesday was for Court 17.

With a raucous Irish contingent behind him, Conor Niland came ever-so-close to being the first Irishman to win a men's singles match at Wimbledon in the Open era.

By the time the fifth set came around against Adrian Mannarino of France, Niland's supporters were climbing onto adjacent walls and standing on tiptoes to try to see over the barriers and catch a glimpse of the 29-year-old Limerick resident.

Every point Niland won was greeted by a huge roar that could be heard over on Court 1. One group of fans wore green Team Niland T-shirts. Another spectator was wrapped in an Ireland flag. Two more were _ bizarrely _ dressed like the Where's Waldo character.

Niland, who came through qualifying to become the first Irishman to play at Wimbledon in 27 years, led 4-1 in the final set but lost 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-4.

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NOT QUITTING: James Blake isn't ready for retirement just yet.

At 31, Blake is on the comeback trail after knee, shoulder and elbow injuries have taken their toll on his body the past year.

Once ranked as high as No. 4, Blake understands he's in the twilight of his career. Nevertheless, even a 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 4-6, 6-4 first-round loss to Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus on Tuesday didn't leave Blake thinking it's time to leave tennis behind.

"That's going to be a decision that's going to take longer than one match, and I wouldn't want to make it within an hour, two hours, or even a day of a loss, especially because your head isn't where it's supposed to be at that time," said Blake, who is 4-14 in five-set matches.

"I've lost over the years, probably, about a couple of hundred matches, and I'd say out of 200, about 198 of them I probably thought I should retire right after those losses," said Blake, who actually is 338-220. "But I'd come back the next day ready to play and ready to get better. I'm thinking this one will be the same."

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RUSSIAN REASONING: Even after spending most of her life in the United States, Maria Sharapova is decidedly Russian.

The fifth-seeded Sharapova spoke about her Russian roots Tuesday after beating former Fed Cup teammate Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 6-1 in the first round at Wimbledon.

"I'm really proud of it, of my Siberian roots, moving to Sochi," the 2004 Wimbledon champion said. "Apart from my parents, all my family lives there. It's all about Russian culture. ... I speak to my parents in Russian, eat Russian food, all of that."

The 24-year-old Sharapova moved to the United States when she was 9 to start training in Florida.

"There was a point in my career where I got a lot of questions living in the United States for such a long time, leaving when I was young from my country, why I never chose to change citizenships," Sharapova said. "One of the reasons is because deep down inside of me, I know where I'm born."

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AP freelance writer Sandra Harwitt contributed to this report.

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