PARIS — If Caroline Wozniacki truly was torn up inside about her latest loss at a Grand Slam tournament, she certainly hid it well.
Wozniacki smiled and shrugged her shoulders while deflecting questions about being No. 1 in the rankings despite never having won a major title. Her wait for a breakthrough was extended Friday, when she was beaten 6-1, 6-3 by 28th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia in the third round of the French Open.
After the match, Wozniacki was consoled by her father. She said he told her: “The world still goes on, and we still have the next tournament next week. There is nothing you can do about it now, so just don’t beat yourself up too much.”
Wozniacki’s early exit came a day after No. 2 Kim Clijsters was eliminated by 114th-ranked Arantxa Rus, marking the first time that the top two seeded women failed to make the round of 16 at any Grand Slam tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968. It never had happened at the French Open since it began admitting foreign entrants in 1925.
Add that to the absences of the Williams sisters, who are sidelined by health issues, and there is a real lack of star power in Paris now.
“Kim had a tough loss yesterday; I had a tough loss today. That’s what happens,” said Wozniacki, a Dane who reached No. 1 in October and has been there every week but one since then. “Since we’re No. 1 and 2, it means that we must be doing something right. It’s just unfortunate to lose in a Grand Slam, but that’s what happens, and we just need to move forward.”
Hantuchova explained the surprises this way: “It just shows how strong women’s tennis is at the moment. It’s very open.”
As if to prove that point, another French Open title contender, 2010 runner-up and 2009 semifinalist Sam Stosur of Australia, was beaten 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 by Gisela Dulko of Argentina. But defending champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy advanced when her opponent, No. 29 Peng Shuai of China, stopped playing because she has a cold and couldn’t breathe properly.
The most anticipated matchup of the day did not begin until early evening — and did not finish Friday. Two-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, who is on a 41-match winning streak, was tied at a set apiece with 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro when play was suspended at 9:15 p.m. because of darkness.
The second-seeded Djokovic won the first set 6-3, but No. 25 del Potro took the second by the same score. Right after del Potro held serve to even the match, the chair umpire announced play would stop for the day; there are no artificial lights on the courts at Roland Garros.
Earlier, 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer saved the only break point he faced in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 29 Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.
“I’m at peace with my game right now. I’m physically fine. I think I had a good preparation, so there’s no reason to get nervous,” said Federer, who hasn’t dropped a set heading into his next match, against his 2008 Beijing Olympics doubles partner Stan Wawrinka. “I’m still in the tournament. It’s always nice to advance in the draw so well, so quickly.”
Schiavone will play No. 10 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, who beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States 6-2, 6-2. Hantuchova, meanwhile, meets No. 13 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the 2004 U.S. Open and 2009 French Open.
After defeating Rebecca Marino of Canada 6-0, 6-4, Kuznetsova was asked by a reporter to look ahead to facing Wozniacki, whose match against Hantuchova was barely under way at the time.
The assumption was that Hantuchova wouldn’t present too much of a challenge, in part because she entered the day 0-3 against Wozniacki and 0-6 against women ranked No. 1. But the 5-foot-11 Hantuchova, a semifinalist at the 2008 Australian Open and former top-five player herself, says she is a more mature player and person at 28 than she was at 20, when she famously fought tears while losing a second-round match at Wimbledon in 2003.
“I feel like the experience is starting to pay off. I mean, I have been around for quite some time. I know what to expect in the big tournaments and I think I’m much more calmer than I was before,” she said. “It’s just about putting it all together and mentally being really strong on the court.”
She needed that when Wozniacki cut a 4-1 deficit in the second set to 4-3. Instead of being shaken, Hantuchova stayed steady and took the next two games to end it.
“She played very, very well today, better than me for sure,” Wozniacki said. “She knew what she was going to go out there and do. She was just too good.”
Wozniacki’s best showing at a major tournament came at the U.S. Open in 2009, when she lost to Clijsters in the final. Still, Wozniacki isn’t the only woman to be No. 1 without owning Grand Slam title No. 1 — Dinara Safina and Jankovic share that sort of resume — and she is only 20, after all.
But with a game based primarily on avoiding errors rather than conjuring up point-ending shots — Hantuchova built a 26-8 edge in winners Friday — questions remain about when Wozniacki will collect a major trophy.
She says she doesn’t care what others think.
“When I was younger, people told me, ‘Yeah, yeah, right, you’ll never be a top player. You’re from Denmark. (You) don’t have the mentality.’ Blah, blah, blah,” Wozniacki said. “And it really doesn’t matter. For me, I know what I’m capable of. I know I’m a great player. I’m doing well, and, you know, I had a loss today. That’s what happens. I’ll be back even better.”
Howard Fendrich can be reached at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich