Novak Djokovic wins in Rome to maintain unbeaten run
Novak Djokovic stayed on course to become world number one with a 6-0 6-3 victory over Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot at the Rome Masters.
The Serb, who beat Rafael Nadal to win in Madrid last Sunday, was largely untroubled by Kubot as he picked up his 33rd straight win this season.
Djokovic, 23, will replace Nadal as number one if he wins the title and the Spaniard is beaten before the semis.
Nadal struggled to a 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-0 win over 148th-ranked Paolo Lorenzi.
It was the third consecutive match that the Spaniard, whose two-year winning streak on clay came to an end in the Madrid Masters final, has dropped a set.
A wayward overhead smash from Nadal handed his rival the tie-break before the world number one levelled matters after Lorenzi was broken in the ninth game of the second set.
The Italian's form deserted him in the decider which Nadal won at a canter.
Nadal will now face either countryman Feliciano Lopez or Germany's Phlipp Kohlschreiber.
Earlier, Djokovic took just 67 minutes to complete his victory and said his intention was to quickly move through the early rounds.
"I want to be on the court as short a time as possible in the opening rounds after the run I've had during the last three to four months," the Serb commented.
"My confidence is there. At the moment I'm trying to concentrate on one match at a time. I'm not thinking about losing."
His team have had the record of his winning run, which is 35 stretching back to last season, printed on T-shirts which they were wearing in Rome.
Djokovic added: "I'm proud to have had this run, but it was my team's idea to have the T-shirts printed."
The Serb will now face Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round after he beat Italy's Filippo Volandri 6-1 3-6 6-2.
John McEnroe currently holds the record of most wins since the start of the season with 42 in 1984. The next record is Guillermo Vilas's 46 straight wins achieved during 1977.
Meanwhile, Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela joined Djokovic in the third round following a 6-4 6-2 win over Frenchman Giles Simon.
Roger Federer was also safely through to the next round after he defeated Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 6-2.
"It was easier than I expected. I always expect a tough match from Jo," said Federer after his victory.
"But I was able to play a clean match from start to finish and I'm really pleased."
Andy Murray also learned his third-round opponent. The British number one will face Potito Starace after the Italian beat Viktor Troicki 6-4 6-4.
In the women's event, world number one Caroline Wozniacki bounced back from last week's disappointing defeat to Julia Goerges in Madrid with a crushing 6-2 6-0 victory over Australia's Anastasia Rodionova.
Wozniacki's clay-court form may have been patchy at times this season but she was on top form to dispose of the world number 80 in 71 minutes, converting five of the seven break points she fashioned on the Rodionova serve.
Wozniacki will next face Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, who scored an impressive upset victory over 13th seed and former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, winning 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-3.
Elsewhere two-time champion Jelena Jankovic dispatched Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-0 6-3 while third seed Victoria Azarenka rolled past Sara Errani of Italy 6-1 6-2 and fourth seed Li Na of China dispatched Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain 6-4 6-2.
French Open finalist Sam Stosur also advanced, but three seeds lost: number eight Agnieszka Radwanska, Andrea Petkovic (12) and Ivanovic (13).