BEIJING — Novak Djokovic matched Jimmy Connors for the second-longest unbeaten record at an ATP Tour event by beating Chinese wild card Zhang Ze 6-2, 6-1 on Thursday to improve to 26-0 at the China Open.
Djokovic has won five titles at the China Open in the past six years, excluding 2011, when he didn't play the tournament.
Djokovic matched Connors' 26-0 record at the ATP event in Birmingham, Alabama, from 1974-1980, and now only trails Rafael Nadal's 31-0 start at the French Open from 2005-2009.
The top-ranked Serbian player said the conditions in Beijing simply suited his game well.
"I feel very pleasant playing on the center court," he said. "I guess as I keep coming back each year with that positive record, obviously gives me more confidence knowing that I played so well in the past on this court."
On the women's side, the two U.S. Open finalists from Italy — Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci — both lost in the third round.
Pennetta, the U.S. Open champion, lost to Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, while Vinci was beaten by American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 3-6, 6-2
Following her triumph in New York, Pennetta announced that she would retire at the end of the season — a decision she reaffirmed on Thursday. She has one more tournament scheduled next week in Tianjin, China, and could still qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore, though her loss to Pavlyuchenkova dented her chances.
"There is nothing going to change if I go to Singapore or not. My career is going to be over anyway," she said. "Of course, is going to be nice to go to Singapore. If I make it, it's OK. If I don't, I go on vacation."
Pennetta left the door open a crack ever so slightly for a possible return next year to play at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"At the moment I don't have any idea to change my mind," she said. "I cannot tell you how I'm going to feel in February, January. If I feel want to play, if I want to play, I play. I don't have to keep just one decision because I said something."
Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza of Spain clinched her spot at the WTA finals with a 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
In other men's matches, Fabio Fognini, Pennetta's fiance, rallied to beat seventh-seeded David Goffin of Belgium 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, and Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay edged Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7).