ANALYSIS: Examining Pablo Carreno Busta claims he’s better on clay than Novak Djokovic

There is no debate from anyone, not even Novak Djokovic, that Rafael Nadal is the best player in the world on clay. But who is the second best?

Most people would say Novak Djokovic, and our analysis of active players’ win percentages on clay certainly back that up.

However, Pablo Carreno Busta does not agree. Indeed, the two-time US Open semi-finalist talked himself up on clay at Roland Garros earlier this week.

“I have a very high level, on this surface I am not inferior to anyone, perhaps Rafa,” Carreno Busta told Marca after his French Open first-round win over John Milman.

That’s a bold claim, but does it stand up to statistical scrutiny?

Well the short answer is no. Sorry Pablo.

Pablo Carreno Busta infographic

In fact, Carreno Busta didn’t make it into the top ten among currently active players in terms of career win percentage on clay. He would actually be 26th on that list, behind the likes of John Isner and Martin Klizan.

Carreno Busta can’t even lay claim to be the second best Spanish player on clay either. Nor the third or fourth.

BEST SPANISH PLAYERS ON CLAY BY CAREER WIN% (ACTIVE PLAYERS ONLY)

Rafal Nadal – 91.63%
Fernando Verdasco – 61.17%
Roberto Bautista Agut – 59.20%
Albert Ramos – 54.07%
PABLO CARRENO BUSTA – 52.60%
Pablo Andujar – 50.75%
Feliciano Lopez – 49.61%

In fairness, Carreno Busta is a player who has developed relatively late, and he has worked incredibly hard for that. It’s certainly plausible that his career win-record is not reflective of the player he is today.

Sadly, though, that theory doesn’t stack up either. You can’t really learn a great deal from the 2020 season, but in 2019 the Spaniard competed in nine clay court tournaments and was able to win just five matches – just one of them to top 10 players (Fabio Fognini).

He had a good run to the semi-finals in Hamburg and made round three of Roland Garros, but they were as good as it got.

Novak Djokovic infographic

That kind of record was enough to make him, not the second best player on clay in world, not even the 22nd best… but the 59th best.

In fairness, Carreno Bust had a very good clay season in 2017. He won his only title on the surface in Estoril that year, and scored some impressive wins over Milan Roanic, Grigor Dimitrov.

But even then, even when he had his best season on the red dirt, he was only the 12th best on the world.

So, sorry Pablo, we love your confidence and bluster, but we’re going to have to go with Novak Djokovic if that’s okay with you!

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