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View Full Version : Who was the biggest servers of the past?


christos_liaskos
03-02-2007, 02:51 PM
At what point did the serve become the weapon it is? I heard and interview with Agassi where he said Ivanisevic was the first who could serve 20-30 aces a match. Was he the first 'big server'? Becker was known for his serve but was it really a big weapon? Even further back, the only guy I know of who was known for his big serve was Roscoe Tanner.

Also, at what point where speed guns introduced into the game?

I wat to make it clear that I am talking about players who have serves which get them lots of aces and unreturnables, like ivanisevic, karlovic, roddick, etc. Not somene like Macenroe who had a good serve but used it to set uo the point, he didnt directly win the point with the serve. Was Tanner the first to do this, or wasnt he at that level?

ckthegreek
03-02-2007, 02:58 PM
Becker was the first player to back up his power serve with a decent all round game.

In the 85 Wimbledon final he served more aces that Curren who back then was considered to be one of the best servers on the tour. I think becker served around 24 aces + a number of unreturnables.

drakulie
03-02-2007, 03:04 PM
The two that come to mind (for their respective times) are Pancho Gonzalez, and Boris Becker.

christos_liaskos
03-02-2007, 03:04 PM
Becker was the first player to back up his power serve with a decent all round game.

In the 85 Wimbledon final he served more aces that Curren who back then was considered to be one of the best servers on the tour. I think becker served around 24 aces + a number of unreturnables.

Are we talking 24 a match or all tournie? Sorry if this seems like a dumb question but I'm sure there would have been a time when it would have been 24 for whole tournie. Also, i know Becker backed his game up but I mean were there any players out there with jus the serve? Like a Karlovic or someone. Or Ivanisevic, obviously he had a good game all round but his serve was worth 20-30 points a match alone.

Moose Malloy
03-02-2007, 03:09 PM
John Feaver aced Newcombe 42 times at 1976 Wimbledon.

Mac from 1979-1984 got a ton of unreturned serves(if not many aces)
many just think mac was just setting up volleys in his prime with the serve, but he actually got far more unreturned serves than actually having to hit many volleys in his prime. perfect placement- his serve was a weapon.
They were actually talking about a rule change because he took his lefty advantage in the ad court to an unreal level(& surfaces were very fast back then as well, most of the big events were indoors)

Mac said in 1985 he thought Becker had the biggest serve in history.

As far as Goran, he is the most prolific acer day in day out of any player in history. Sampras even said he wished he had Goran's 1st serve.

Lots of great servers in the 70s(& its damn hard to return serve with 65 sq inch wood racquets) like Ashe, Newcombe, Tanner, Smith. I'm amazed Borg could do what he did since the equipment didn't favor his style at all.

was just watching tanner vs borg in the 1979 w final, I can't comprehend how he could get those serves back at all. try to find footage of the tanner serve, I've never seen any player hit the the ball at the exact peak of the toss like he did. looks incredibly hard to time, there have been "quick" motions since, but i've seen nothing quite like that. too bad the rest of his game was a joke.

chaognosis
03-02-2007, 03:12 PM
Ellsworth Vines served 30 aces against Bunny Austin in the 1932 Wimbledon final, beating him 6-4, 6-2, 6-0. That's FAR fewer games than Ivanisevic needed to get the same number of aces.

Lots of older players, from Gerald Patterson and Bill Tilden to Pancho Gonzales, were renowned for their huge serves. And let's not forget Newcombe, Smith, or Tanner.

You shouldn't trust what you hear from players. With all due respect, very few of them know much about the history of the game. Which is understandable--they spend far too much time training and practicing to be able to read as much as some of us do.

Moose Malloy
03-02-2007, 03:20 PM
Are we talking 24 a match or all tournie? Sorry if this seems like a dumb question but I'm sure there would have been a time when it would have been 24 for whole tournie.

geez we're talking 1985, not 1885, off course he meant the final. there are serve stats on the atp website from 1991 on, becker served a lot of aces. he served 30+ against Sampras multiple times in the 90s.

christos_liaskos
03-02-2007, 03:21 PM
Ellsworth Vines served 30 aces against Bunny Austin in the 1932 Wimbledon final, beating him 6-4, 6-2, 6-0. That's FAR fewer games than Ivanisevic needed to get the same number of aces.

Lots of older players, from Gerald Patterson and Bill Tilden to Pancho Gonzales, were renowned for their huge serves. And let's not forget Newcombe, Smith, or Tanner.

You shouldn't trust what you hear from players. With all due respect, very few of them know much about the history of the game. Which is understandable--they spend far too much time training and practicing to be able to read as much as some of us do.

So are you saying the serve has always been a big weapon? I have to say thats news to me. Especially when like I said in my thread starter that I have seen an Agassi where he says Ivanisevic was the first player to use the serve to such effect. But you are claiming that it has been like this since the 30's? I am not saying you are wrong, just very surprising. I would be interested if anyone else can back this up.

Also guys, anyone know when the speed guns were introduced?

chaognosis
03-02-2007, 03:32 PM
Any good tennis history book will back me up.

Try Bud Collins's Total Tennis for starters.

laurie
03-02-2007, 04:05 PM
I remember watching reruns of Wimbledon official films on NBC Europe in 2003. For the 1971 final between Stan Smith and John Newcombe, the announcer in a very stern voice announced the final as "the battle of the big serve".

I suppose what constitutes a big serve is the direct one down the middle on the deuce court or a twister into the body, the fast slider down the middle on the ad court. Also the kicker to the forehand on the deuce court (here I specifically refer to players who toss the ball to the left, come over it and swing it out wide with slice and kick as opposed to a typical slider by tossing the ball to the right). That's where Sampras and Becker really stood above the others, with that ball toss, making them harder to read than many other players. A big serve is not just about speed but real action via spin and kick. For instance, Rafter's big kick serve, many opponents didn't like it.

Sampras served over 1000 aces in the 1993 season. Was Ljubic the highest last year on the old ace count?

federerfanatic
03-02-2007, 04:25 PM
John Newcombe I have seen tapes of and he had an incredable serve. So did Pancho Gonzalez.

urban
03-03-2007, 06:10 AM
Some of the biggest serves in history: Maurice McLoughlin around 1914, Australian Geoff Brown around 1946 (Newcombe called it the hardest serve he knew), Mike Sangster around 1962-4 (British player, who was called The Server), Colin Dibley around 1975 (still has imo the fastest serve ever measured, around 250 km p h.).

jackcrawford
03-03-2007, 06:47 AM
The rules were changed circa 1970 allowing for both feet to be off the ground on the serve, allowing for more speed from the slingshot effect of the body into the shot. However, prior to 1970 the serve was an even bigger weapon than now - you can serve nearly as hard with a 65 sq in frame, but returns are nearly impossible. That's why the tiebreak was introduced, because of so many 14-12 one break sets. I saw Dibley serve and he served harder than Philippousis (timed in the 140's) or Sampras; I've never seen Roddick in person. I wouldn't rely on speed guns too much - the San Jose Radar had Murray at 145 on what was a 125 serve, and the problem is multiplied when you have different brands of guns at different events. The problem is where off the strings the beam picks up the ball - the wrongly maligned Davis Cup Radar Getronics was internally consistent by way of its three beam technology picking up the ball at the same point on every serve, not producing the bizarre result of serves wide being slower than down-the-middle serves unlike the other radars.

G4t0
03-03-2007, 04:11 PM
Goran Ivanisevic :D

heycal
03-03-2007, 04:56 PM
.
They were actually talking about a rule change because he took his lefty advantage in the ad court to an unreal level(& surfaces were very fast back then as well, most of the big events were indoors)

What kind of rule change specifically?

Also, why is it considered any more of an advantage for a lefty to serve to the ad court against a right handed player than it is for a righthanded player to serve to the deuce court against a lefty? Whatever Mac could to do Borg, for example, in the ad court, Borg should have been able to do back to him in the duece court, correct?

The only rational explanation I've ever heard for the so-called lefty advantage is that lefties are used to playing against righties, whereas righties are not used to playing against lefties. Another one I sometimes hear is that some consider the ad court to be the more important court because that's where game-deciding points are played, so that helps the lefty when he's serving.

Any thoughts?

laurie
03-04-2007, 12:45 AM
What kind of rule change specifically?

Also, why is it considered any more of an advantage for a lefty to serve to the ad court against a right handed player than it is for a righthanded player to serve to the deuce court against a lefty? Whatever Mac could to do Borg, for example, in the ad court, Borg should have been able to do back to him in the duece court, correct?

The only rational explanation I've ever heard for the so-called lefty advantage is that lefties are used to playing against righties, whereas righties are not used to playing against lefties. Another one I sometimes hear is that some consider the ad court to be the more important court because that's where game-deciding points are played, so that helps the lefty when he's serving.

Any thoughts?

Yes, you are right. When a lefty serves in the decision making court (ad) then they have the opportunity to serve the most natural serve for a lefty - the swinger out wide, so that's naturally a nice advantage for them.

Only a few right handed men have perfected that swing on the ad side and made it a weapon by closing out games and saving loads of break points. Sampras, Becker and from what I saw Yannick Noah had a wicked swinger too. Not too many pros today stand close to the centre line now and swing it down the centre, probably because net play is no longer a priority.

AndrewD
03-04-2007, 12:29 PM
christos,

Instead of relying on what we say, why don't you look up those names mentioned - Tilden (the first cannon-ball server), Vines, Gonzales, Hoad, Brown, Bob Falkenberg (won Wimbledon on the strength of his serve), Arthur Ashe etc, etc.

Just one tip. When someone claims that you can serve as fast with a wooden racquet as with a modern graphite one, they're only partially correct. While you can generate, roughly, the same speeds, the average player (even the average pro) will get more pace, more easily, with graphite (Roddick, Phillippoussis, Ivanisevic aren't the average pro - they would serve 'big' with a broomstick). The main difference is that you can't generate as much spin with a wooden racquet because there is less hitting area. So, while the players of yesterday could, theoretically, serve as fast as todays players they chose not to because of the limitations imposed on the second serve. Better to get the first in at 75% than miss it and have to rely on a second serve. Today's player can gamble more because the modern equipment allows the second serve to be as much of a weapon as the first serve.

chaognosis
03-04-2007, 12:42 PM
McLoughlin and Patterson had cannonball serves even before Tilden. :-)

Of course, there are other kinds of serves that can be just as effective. For example, Tilden was in awe of Brookes's very unorthodox serve, saying that it had an uncanny way of cramping his play ... and Brookes was already in his late '40s when they played!

I think it's safe to say the serve was not so big a weapon before World War I. The earliest Wimbledon reports don't speak much about serves in and of themselves, but are rather more concerned with which players volley more and which play the ball off the ground. (If you ever hear someone tell you that Jack Kramer invented the serve and volley game, don't believe them ... S&V has been a part of tennis since the very first Wimbledon, when Spencer Gore used it to win the title.)

laurie
03-04-2007, 12:43 PM
Andrew D, do any of the top players play with titanium racquets? Or is graphite still the main choice?

federerfanatic
03-04-2007, 12:54 PM
I have seen some tapes of Ellsworth Vines and he had an unbelievable serve considering it was the early 30s. On his final serve vs one of the great french muskateers, I think it was Cochet, in the U.S Open final one year his final serve on match point was so blistering Cochet looked like he didnt even see the ball. He just looked around but the match was over.

Deuce
03-04-2007, 10:24 PM
Steve Denton from the early 80s.

Slobodan Zivojinovic from the late 80s.

galain
03-04-2007, 10:39 PM
Two others from the 80's known more for their serves than anything else were Chip Hooper and Paul Annacone.

Fedfan4life
03-18-2007, 10:32 PM
Anyone thought of the incarcerated Roscoe "Tin can" Tanner.

vive le beau jeu !
03-19-2007, 12:34 PM
goran ! :D

more than 1600 aces in one year... ;)
http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=882040&highlight=1600#post882040

sandy mayer
03-19-2007, 03:36 PM
I watched the 1981 Wimbledon final recently between Borg and Mac and it'sstriking how rare breaks were. Their serves were really really effective. I think the advantage graphite racket gave an even bigger advantage to the server in the 80s but that doesn't detract from the effectiveness of pro serves in the wooden racket era.

BounceHitBounceHit
03-23-2007, 06:12 PM
Let's not forget "Bobo" Zivojenovic (?sp) ;) CC

Deuce
03-23-2007, 11:55 PM
Let's not forget "Bobo" Zivojenovic (?sp) ;) CC
See post #21.

BounceHitBounceHit
03-24-2007, 07:43 AM
See post #21.

Yes!! Sorry about that Deuce. ;) Didn't see you had already mentioned the big man.

Someone else also said Chip Hooper, who had a CANNON on his arm. He was the first person I saw play LIVE who really impressed me with his serve, although Jimbo broke him in his first service game (this was back at the old Cincy ATP tournament many, many years ago).

Best,

CC

kanjii
03-24-2007, 08:32 AM
The Ostrava Ghost...hope I spelled that right :rolleyes:

Trinity TC
03-25-2007, 11:18 AM
John Alexander of Australia usually had the most aces per set in the early 70s before Roscoe Tanner hit the scene.

haerdalis
03-25-2007, 01:44 PM
I seem to remember Ashe hitting 45 aces in one match at wimbledon. His opponent (cant remember who) hit something like 30 aces.

kiki
03-20-2011, 06:37 AM
Denton,Rusedski,Zivojinovic,Curren were all super servers, right in the 80īs and 90īs but they seem to be very underrated right now.

Dennis Ralston and Alex Olmedo, in the 60īs were also terrific servers, as was Bob Falkebourg in the 1940īs and Kramerīs doubles teammate, Jack Schroeder.

hoodjem
03-20-2011, 09:03 AM
You shouldn't trust what you hear from players. With all due respect, very few of them know much about the history of the game. Which is understandable--they spend far too much time training and practicing to be able to read as much as some of us do.This need to be written in stone somewhere on here. Or posted in 20 feet tall letters.