Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2024

Novak Djokovic is arguably ‘the second-best clay court player of all time’ claims Roland Garros opponent

Novak Djokovic has been praised by his upcoming Roland Garros quarter-final opponent as one of the best clay court players of all time, with Casper Ruud drawing comparisons to Rafael Nadal and Bjorn Borg.

Djokovic beat Francisco Cerundolo last night in Paris, to come through his second consecutive five set match.

As a result, the world No.1 has progressed to his 18th Roland Garros quarter-final, despite there being some doubts over whether he will take to court due to a knee injury.

In this scheduled quarter-final, Djokovic will take on Ruud in a rematch of the 2023 final, and the Norwegian was asked about his opponents pedigree on clay when speaking to media.

“Yeah, well, you can definitely argue that he’s the second-best clay court player of all time,” claimed Ruud. “I mean, obviously [Bjorn] Borg has more titles here than him, but Novak was always close, he always pretty much reached the final and ended up losing to Rafa [Nadal]. And I lost to him last year in the final.”

Ruud continued, “I think that he reads the game, you know, unbelievably well. He knows how to use a drop shot well. Obviously he moves great. So it’s tough to hit winners on him. You know, physically he’s there. He’s strong. He never breaks down in a way. You feel sometimes that he will, but he never does. I think he’s shown that the last two matches playing over four hours and looking kind of down and out but coming back.

“I didn’t see much of what happened today, but I heard that he was down and even down a break in the fourth and came back from there. So he rises to the challenge whenever he needs to. I mean, he has all the shots. I mean, he doesn’t play as heavy maybe as Rafa and the extreme topspin, but he doesn’t need to. He has other qualities that are almost just as good.”

Djokovic has won three Roland Garros titles in his career, sitting only behind Rafael Nadal (14) and Bjorn Borg (6) in the Open Era.

If the expected quarter-final does go ahead, Djokovic will take on Ruud tomorrow in Paris.

Inside the baseline…

Novak Djokovic is definitely one of the best clay court players of all time, and would undoubtedly have won more Roland Garros titles had he not have been in the same era as Rafael Nadal. However, it could also be argued that the incredible clay court prowess of Nadal has helped improve Djokovic’s game on the surface. It is also key to note that Djokovic is the only player to beat Nadal multiple times at Roland Garros.

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic ‘doesn’t know’ if he can play his Roland Garros Quarter-Final

Novak Djokovic and his record on clay 

With Ruud bigging up Djokovic as one of the best clay court players of all time, we at Tennishead wanted to look back at just how good he has been on the surface over the years:

Career win-loss record on clay: 280-69 (80%)

Titles on Clay: 19

Roland Garros Titles: 3 (2016, 2021 & 2023)

Roland Garros Final Losses: 4 (Three to Rafael Nadal (2012, 2014 & 2020), One to Stan Wawrinka (2015))

Masters 1000 Titles on Clay: 11 (2x Monte Carlo Masters (2013 & 2015), 3x Madrid Open (2011, 2016 & 2019), 6x Italian Open (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2020 & 2022)

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.