Greatest Serves of All Time

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by NonP, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. Cesare

    Cesare Semi-Pro

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    Mark Philippoussis and Wayne Arthurs?
     
  2. Otherside

    Otherside Semi-Pro

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    just epic:)
     
  3. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    No John Alexander? No Bob Falkenburg? No Yvon Petra?
     
  4. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Yes, I agree. I don't think Bobo has much of an edge in speed, either, if we're comparing him to youthful Becker (I'm guessing Becker probably had slightly higher top-end speeds than Sampras).

    And obviously 1st-serve %'s are important. It'd be interesting to see what Bobo averaged over an entire year.

    Well, Limpin, again you're trying to determine who was the best servER, which, as I explained in my previous post, isn't exactly what I'm trying to do here. Since hoodjem has been compiling his own rankings seemingly based on your criteria, maybe he can describe them explicitly as such, so there won't be any more confusion over this matter?

    Anyway, so how would you rate Froehling's serve as a pure, stand-alone shot? Do note that Frank wasn't a nobody--was ranked No. 6 one year, according to Wiki--and made the US Davis Cup team three different years, so it's not like he was just another one-hit wonder. And after all we don't say Karlovic doesn't belong here just because he never reached the top 10.

    Was Smith's 2nd serve as good as Newk's? I don't think I've ever seen Smith ranked as high as the Aussie, so maybe it's because his 2nd serve wasn't as big a weapon? Would be nice to hear others' input on this.

    We (well, me and pc1) had ruled Dibley out because his serve was too inconsistent, as we've done with many other worthy candidates that have been named so far. Do you think Alexander had the same problem, or was it a matter of his overall tennis credentials? (FYI Alexander did make 2 AO SFs.)

    Here I agree. While I'm really not one to judge any old-timers based on just a couple short videos, from what I've seen Ashe does seem closer to Fed/Lendl in the GSOAT ladder than to, say, Becker/Mac.

    I'm sure I don't need to remind anyone in this particular forum, but for the record, Mac is just about the last "authority" you should listen to in matters like this! He's a highly emotive guy and tends to say whatever's on his mind without much thought.

    That said, any further info (and preferably videos) on Froehiling and Graebner would be appreciated.

    Also I do agree that Ivan deserves to be on the list. What do others think? How far (or low) should he be placed?

    That certainly is impressive, but then Moose has provided these other stats:

    Quite good, but not exactly great. So our current consensus re: Bobo seems about right: big server, nearly on par with Becker, but just a slight notch below.

    Of course others are free to dispute this with more stats.

    That was a poor phrasing on my part. I wasn't talking about 1st-serve % per se, but rather the serve's reliability in general, particularly in the clutch. If you recall, Fed in fact didn't make an especially high % of 1st serves in his two wins over Nadal on clay (52% at '07 Hamburg, which is subpar by his standards, and 61% at '09 Madrid, which was about average), which reminds us once again why we shouldn't look at the numbers only.

    Also, while it might seem unfair at first glance, there's actually a reason why we focus on those and other matches against the likes of Nadal or in-form Delpo. That's because it's one thing to serve well against a Roddick or a Ferrer, who has little to hurt you with, and quite another to do the same, especially in big matches, against a Nadal or a Delpo, who boasts more big weapons. Case in point: the '07 WTF, where Fed served over 70% on average, sometimes even above 80% (twice, in fact, against Roddick and Nadal, who has always struggled indoors).

    Much of that has to do with the player's (Fed's in this case) mentality, which is yet another reason why we shouldn't look at the stats alone. You naturally build up more confidence as you beat your opponents like a drum, which then allows you to get more into rhythm on your serve, and since you can afford it, you might also decide to take a few more mph off your 1st serves, which gives you higher %'s. Sampras also had a similar serving streak in '97, where he regularly served over 60%, sometimes over 70%, until it was halted by Korda at the USO. And here Pete's opposition was also somewhat lacking compared to in his previous years, which no doubt helped.

    But I take your point. Heck, I remember even Sampras struggling to buy himself a 1st serve in his loss to Rafter at the '98 USO (and that was before he injured himself later in the match). I was just trying to say, compared to the likes of Pete and Becker, Fed probably falls just short in the clutch department. I can think of a few instances where his serve bailed him out--'07 Wimby final, ditto '08 (well, almost), and most recently in his big upset of Djoko in this year's FO SF--but I don't think, for the most part, he's been very clutch against Nadal, even on his serves.
     
  5. chrischris

    chrischris Hall of Fame

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    Scott Carnahan , Colin Dibley , Steve Denton , Victor Amaya , Hank Pfister, Dick Stockton , Fritz Buening,Kevin Curren and Roscoe Tanner were all awesome servers back in the 70´s and 80's
     
  6. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Tanner is in there at no. 7. The others I will have to add.
     
  7. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Even that 40% rate is pretty good, if not as spectacular as the 57.6% whopper against Connors.

    But if other stats of his are along the same lines, they do suggest that he was very up and down even as a server. Some people might ask why, then, someone like Curren or Tanner is on the list while a Dibley, Alexander or Dent is not. There are two main reasons. One, and I've covered this earlier on this thread, because Curren and Tanner actually had fairly long stints among the top 10-20, so their careers and, in turn, their serves were in fact consistent over the long term. And two, because Curren and Tanner's serves, when on, were probably just as devastating as anybody's, and most likely better than all but the very best serves on this list.

    ssa, first of all, again thanks a million for these stats. I don't know how you guys find the time to do all this, but trust me, your effort is very much appreciated.

    A surprising finding (or two) has been Karlovic's and Isner's %'s, which are not as high as one might expect. Granted this is still a small sample, but at the very least, these numbers do make you rethink the conventional wisdom re: the two monster servers.

    Perhaps an even bigger surprise is how well Roddick seems to return their bombs. :twisted:

    Goran and Krajicek's %'s are just about what you expect. Roddick's also, if you think, as I (and a few others) do, he's a slight notch below these two.

    I'll quote this last part of your post for the less experienced fans:

    I have already explained in detail my current ranking of the top 4-5, but not all in one post. Maybe I'll do that, once I have enough time to waste. :)

    I'm really not a fan of ranking old-timers based almost entirely on anecdotes, which is bound to be unreliable. I mean, how can you judge a stroke you have barely seen? We hardly even have enough stats we could use, too.

    Not to toot my own horn, but I think my approach is fair: honorable mentions to the historically acknowledged great serves, but no specific rankings compared to their more recent counterparts.

    Also, I don't even remember now why I decided not to give Fraser an honorary mention (probably due to lack of data/firsthand accounts). If anyone's got something relevant to share, feel free.

    Ditto if you feel like creating a separate list for the women.
     
  8. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Fraser was said to have perhaps the best serve by players like Rod Laver in his book and I believe John Alexander in an instructional tennis book that discussed some of the best serves in the game.

    I agree your method is fair but it's also hard on the players that played before statistics were kept.

    I've read about a player named John Doeg, who was apparently a great left handed server who won the US Championship they said mainly on his serve. Apparently he had a wicked lefty serve on his serve. Don Budge in his book said you never broke Doeg's serve, you outlasted it.

    That account stuck with me and I've read a number of stories about this guy's incredible serve but he's little known despite winning a major. Aside from the serve the rest of his game had a lot to be desired.

    http://www.tennisfame.com/hall-of-famers/john-doeg
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  9. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Not at all. As I have explained many times in all of Hood's "greatest" [pick your shot] threads, the greatness of a shot has to be measured in light of that players ability to use it to win major championships.

    I'm somewhat familiar with Froehling's game having seen him play a few team tennis doubles matches. His serve and Western forehand were huge. He was a very competitive championship level player. But, to my knowledge he played all of his majors as an amature, and he didn't play on the pro tour. Perhaps he didn't want the lifestyle. It didn't pay that well in his day compared to today.

    IMO, both of Smith's serves were as good or better than Newks. Certainly more powerful. Newk had the better forehand, better speed and athleticism, and better touch. And, I would say that Newk was overall just plain more competitive than Smith.

    Alexander was a better player than Dibley. He was a serious championship prospect. But, like many such prospects, his competitiveness didn't match the level of his physical gifts and his shotmaking ability. Alexander's serve may have been slightly bigger than Froehlings. But, I would put Froehling above Alexander as a player overall for his competitiveness.

    I have no idea what you mean by that. Ashe was a great champion, but, IMO, all 4 of them are higher on the GOAT latter than Ashe. IMO, Ashe was a one dimentional power player with no plan "B" in his Amature days of winning the USO in 68' and getting to the Wimbledon SF in 69'. His dismantling of Connors in the 75' W final by dinking and lobbing was a big surprise to many. Clearly, he learned from Newcombe's win over Connors in the 74' AO. He employed a similar approach in beating Borg in the WTC Final in Dallas also in 75". Perhaps his shoulder injury gave him no choice but to try a different approach.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  10. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Let's cut to the chase:

    1. Ivanisevic
    2. Karlovic
    3. Sampras
    4. Gonzales
    5. Krajicek
    6. Roddick
    7. Arthurs
    8. Newcombe
    9. McEnroe
    10. Tanner
    11. Becker
    12. Isner
    13. Stich
    14. Noah
    15. Curren
    16. Rusedski

    Honorary mentions:

    McLoughlin, Maurice - perhaps the first distinguished cannonball serve in tennis history
    Tilden - yet another storied cannonball serve, which he bolstered with spin and accuracy
    Vines - by all accounts, the best and fastest serve of the pre-WWII era
    Kramer - in addition to a formidable 1st serve, perhaps the best 2nd serve before Newcombe and Sampras
    Denton - his unusual service motion notwithstanding, could bring enormous heat
    Edberg - for his legendary kicker, arguably the best serve ever for S&V
    Johansson, Joachim - Denton of the 2000s

    The list remains the same, except that Isner now stands at #12, largely due to his relative lack of longevity among the top and also due to his slightly underwhelming # of freebies (% of unreturned serves).

    And do note that Arthurs, Tanner and Curren have already been ranked, and Denton and J. "Pim-Pim" Johansson given honorary mentions. The problem with Pim-Pim, again, is that he didn't last on the tour for long, which means a limited # of matches against top players. That in turn makes it hard to compare him with a Goran or a Karlovic, who obviously has played more relevant matches that we can look at. That said, what stats we do have from Pim-Pim are impressive, very comparable to Goran/Ivo's own eye-popping numbers, hence the honorary mention. Denton is a special case because of his unusual (and now illegal) service motion.

    Here are a few more contenders:

    Gerald Patterson
    Geoff Brown
    Bob Falkenburg
    Mike Sangster
    John Alexander
    John Feaver
    Chip Hooper

    From this list, Olmedo, Ralston, Annacone and Zivojinovic have been omitted since the last update. Here you can see why and also more info on these candidates:

    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=5549832#post5549832

    Let us know if you disagree with any of the omissions, or have any further relevant input.

    These names also have been mentioned since my last update (listed as usual by order of birth--from now on I'll include their year of birth in parentheses so you can see which era they belonged to):

    Yvon Petra (1916)
    Frank Froehling (1942)
    Colin Dibley (1944)
    Dick Stockton (1951)
    Hank Pfister (1953)
    Scott Carnahan (1953)
    Victor Amaya (1954)
    Fritz Buehning (1960)

    Again, Dibley was ruled out due to his inconsistency. I eliminated Pfister and Amaya last time because they were active more in doubles than in singles, and it looks like the same applies to Buehning. I'll postpone my decision on Froehling until Limpin responds to my earlier question about his serve.

    That leaves us with Petra, Stockton and Carnahan. I have nothing to share re: Petra's serve. I do know Bud Collins recently named Stockton's overhead as the best of the Open era, but I don't remember his serve ever being spoken of in such exalted terms. And this is all I could dig up about Carnahan:

    http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/TinaCheung.shtml

    Now we come to the last round, so to speak. Some of these names will no doubt be added to the list:

    Ashe
    Smith
    Eric Korita
    Forget
    Rosset
    Philippoussis
    Ljubicic

    With the sole exception of Korita, all these guys were/are (relatively) elite players, and have been discussed one time or another. As Limpin and I agreed upthread, Ashe is probably a slight notch below the likes of Becker, Noah and Curren. And here's Limpin's last post on Smith:

    So does anyone else agree? Is Smith's serve really better than Mac's and as good as Newk's, both all-time great serves?

    As for Korita, his serve was feared by none other than Noah, who once described it as "one of the toughest I've ever faced." But then he only managed to win all of one doubles title and zero in singles, and he was never ranked higher than No. 30 on either tour. That pales in comparison to the career records of even Karlovic, Arthurs or Isner, the weakest players on our list. So Korita is probably out. (As always, shout if you disagree.)

    Forget and Rosset are borderline cases. Both had been eliminated earlier, but their names were brought up still. Anybody else wanna stick up for them?

    Flipper and Ljubicic I feel should be on the list. The question is, where?

    You know the drill by now. Let us know what you think. And stats are always welcome. :)
     
  11. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    pc1, just so you know I'm not trying to be hard on the old-timers. You know I greatly respect the all-time greats, no matter what the era. I'm just saying, I don't think you can accurately judge any shot you haven't seen and when you don't have sufficient stats. But I still gave honorary mentions to the likes of Tilden, Vines and Kramer, so they wouldn't be neglected.

    Is Doeg one of those guys you mentioned upthread? I don't quite remember. Also do you think Fraser deserves an honorary mention alongside Vines and Kramer? For the record I own and have read Laver's autobio (the recent edition, not the old one), and I don't remember Laver describing Fraser's serve as the best, at least not explicitly.

    I find this logic flawed, I must say. By that standard Karlovic's or Arthurs' serve wouldn't even be in the conversation, which I think most people would disagree with.

    If that's true, then it's probably impossible to rank him.

    Quite a bold claim there. :) You may well be right. Let's see if there are any consenting/dissenting voices.

    How about whether they belong on the list at all? Do you agree with pc1 that Dibley was too inconsistent to be considered an all-time great server? And Alexander?

    Limpin, I said GSOAT, as in greatest SERVERS of all time. :) Cheers.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  12. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    This contradicts your prior comment accusing me of ranking shots in isolation, which was a false premsie ab initio. IMO, a primary factor in measuring the greatness of a shot is its usefulness in winning championships? How is that logic flawed?

    Why is that? Wouldn't his match record and the players he beat make it possible to rank him?

    Not really! I saw them both play. Smith's serve was definitely bigger and, IMO, the more effective serve overall.

    Not really. I only saw Dibley play doubles. I can't say it was inconsistent. His serve was huge. But, what did he do with it? The rest of his game wasn't up to the level of his serve. The same thing applies to Alexander. Monster serve, better player than Dibley or Karlovic. But, if he belongs on the list at all, it would be near the bottom, IMO, because he didn't do that much with it compared to other great servers.

    Ashe had an excellent serve. Before his shoulder problems, it was a great serve. But, over his career, I wouldn't put it in the top 20 of all time. It wasn't better than Nastase's serve, IMO.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  13. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  14. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Huh? I never accused you of such a thing. I just said that your approach is different from my "ranking shots in isolation" (as you put it).

    I find the logic flawed because a Karlovic or an Arthurs would never win a major no matter how good their serve was. Similarly, a club-level player would have no chance at a championship even if he had Sampras' or Roddick's serve. No doubt results matter, but they aren't everything.

    Well, as you know, amateurs and pros, then and now, are on different levels. In fact Emerson is the only amateur I can think of who probably could hold his own against Laver, Rosewall and other top pros at the time. Kinda hard to rank Froehling's serve if he never got to play those guys.

    I'm not doubting you. Just want to get more opinions before I assign him a proper ranking.

    Again there's the rub. You're right, Dibley's overall game wasn't on the same level as his serve. But does that mean his serve itself wasn't up to par with Newk's or Tanner's? No, not necessarily. Their respective records just mean that the latter two were better players overall.

    So do you think Nastase is among the best servers ever? Though these guys are a little before my time, from what I've seen I personally don't feel Nastase's serve was better than Ashe's at all, or Borg's for that matter, and neither guy is on my list (though hoodjem is free to add him to his own).

    Cool find, thanks. The guy was a stick!

    I also remember watching this short clip where Lacoste hits a reverse FH once. But then maybe my eyes were deceiving me. As we all know, Sampras invented the running reverse FH. :)
     
  15. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    - Winning a major, getting to a final, even a few semifinals, or winning a big pro event, would be a big help in ranking the greatness of a shot.

    - As you now know from my last post, Froehling beat Emerson at the U.S. Nationals. In any event, the top amatures of the 60's were the future pros of the 60's and 70's. The level was virtually the same, wiht the top amatures being quite able to get wins over any of the pros. A win over an all time great in the mens' division amature or pro is an important gauge. Ashe was an amature when he won the very first U.S.O. and when he lost to Laver in the 1969 W SF. Stan Smith was an amature when he won the 71' U.S.O. and the 72' W Championships. They were both in the Army at the time.

    - I'm saying, how can you rank Dibley's serve against one who employed the greatness of his serve to be a champion. It's a different list I suppose.

    - Nastase had one of the best serves of his day. All time top 20, probably not.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  16. droliver

    droliver Semi-Pro

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    That's confusing issues between overall excellence and excellence of one shot. The serve, in particular, lends itself to more of a sabermetric approach as you can isolate it in a way that you can't with ground strokes, returns, footwork , defense, and the like. Aces, service winners, and service % are pretty democratic stats that can be used to segregate the good from the great. By the "results in majors" rule, we'd be excluding Karlovic, Arthurs, and Isner who are inarguably 3 of the top tier servers of all time (Ivo's the top in my book).
     
  17. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Talk about coincidences, just this week I was reading about Doeg and getting a few stats for the match where he defeated Tilden.

    He served 13 love games, and won possibly as many as 23 straight points on serve. I've looked over dozens of boxscores from the time period, and this is the first time I've seen numbers like that -- including in many great matches involving big servers like Tilden, Vines, Hoad.

    Doeg had 28 aces in 29 service games and was broken only twice. The NY Times said he had "one of the most feared services in the game." According to the Hartford Courant "Doeg’s mighty service was an overpowering weapon, outdoing the famous cannon balls of Tilden himself."
     
  18. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Have you ever seen any rate higher than this?

    Here's one I have.

    vs Kohlschreiber, '08 AO, 82 of 182 (41 aces) = 45.1%
     
  19. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    You're putting words in my mouth. The "results in majors rule" is your creation, not mine. I just said that a player's ability to use his greatest weapons to win championships should be a primary factor in the measure of that weapon. Goran Ivanisovic had great results at Wimbledon on the strength of his serve. So did Stan Smith to a lesser degree of disparity between his serve and the rest of his game. If they can't bring it when it really counts, how great of a shot can it be? Based on the same criteria, Karlovic, Arthurs and Isner very much should have a difficult time finding their way on the list of greatest serves of all time.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  20. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    He's not known because he wasn't the player that some great servers like Gonzalez and Kramer were. Kramer doesn't mention him in his list of great server from his book but I've read a number of accounts of how great this guy was as a server.

    NonP,

    I agree with you. This is a list of the greatest servers ever and you can be a great server without winning a major.

    I'm fairly certain John Doeg was a better server than most of the all time greats but he won just one major I believe.
     
  21. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I didn't argue to that winning a championship was a requirement. But, if you're not a champion, in some respect, be it majors or high level pro events, how great can your serve really be? How do you assign greatness to a shot that hasn't been employed to win a championship of some kind, or at least attain great results against other champions?
     
  22. CANTGETENOUGHTENNIS!

    CANTGETENOUGHTENNIS! Rookie

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    I think its impossible to classify best servers of all time because in the era of laver it was against the rules to pick up your feet of the ground when you were serving. i think its best to classify based on 10 year periods IMO.
     
  23. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    In this case I do disagree with you.

    Serving, while perhaps the most important part of tennis is just that, a PART of tennis.

    For example Karlovic has often led the ATP in percentage of service games won but because of his lack of other skills he doesn't win much. Isner does well in holding serve but he doesn't break serve well.

    Guys like Federer and Nadal win far more than Karlovic because their skills and mobility are far superior but for serving alone, Karlovic may very well be better. I would venture to say that if Federer or Nadal had Karlovic's serve they would win even more than they do now.

    There are some guys who are great in serving but also have other skills. Sampras for example usually led the ATP in percentage of holding serve but he could also break serve, not at the level of Agassi or Chang but he did well enough.

    Isner for example is next to the bottom in breaking serve and Karlovic is last.

    http://www.atpworldtour.com/Rankings/MatchFacts.aspx
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2011
  24. droliver

    droliver Semi-Pro

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    I think the list you'd like to make is the "greatest players with the greatest serve" which is a different question then the serve itself. All other parts of the game bleed into confound variables that just aren't so tidy and have a lot of subjective judgments on (ie. best return, best movement, etc...) Unlike all other parts of tennis, we do have objective metrics that you can directly correlate to the serve itself.

    Maybe we need a stat akin to WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) used in baseball to evaluate pitchers in isolation of their team's defense. How about WASP (winners + aces per service point)? :)
     
  25. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    On the first point you make I agree 100%. No one would dispute that Federer's non-service game is better than Roddick's, and if Roddick is nevertheless holding serve more often it must be due to his serve.

    But I think besides the quality of the serve as a shot in itself, the author has in mind how well the shot was used on the biggest stages, ie, Slam finals. That's how I understand it when he notes that Federer's serve has been a key to his dominating "most of the last decade."

    That's how I see the lists, with nods to technically great serves (like Barbara Potter), and other nods to great servERS (as NonP put it). You can even go by the title of the piece: "Geoff Macdonald rates the top servers in history" (my emphasis).

    I just think the inclusion of Federer is a recognition that he has a great serve and he's deployed it well repeatedly, not just day in and day out, but also in the biggest matches.

    (In other words I don't think the author is merely picking the better player, in this case Federer, and assuming that his serve, taken by itself, is better than Roddick's.)

    The more I think about this dichotomy between great serves and great servers, the less I believe that they can be separated. Even NonP in this thread has spoken about that key word, "clutch" -- and if you talk about clutch under pressure then significant weight has to be given to the greatest champions for facing the pressure of the biggest matches (the Slam finals) more often than everybody else.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  26. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    To the part I bolded above: if I understand this correctly, Federer's numbers are less impressive when facing lesser opponents. You are taking into account the concept of "clutch", and the pressure of the greatest stages, against the greatest opponents.

    But if so, doesn't the same follow for the numbers produced by many of these lesser champions with great serves, like Karlovic or Arthurs? After all they never produced their numbers under the pressure of Slam finals. Wouldn't it follow that their numbers, too, should be seen as less impressive?

    My question to you would be, isn't it more impressive to serve at 70% in the USO final than to serve at 70% in the second round of Cincinnatti when relatively few people are watching and relatively little is at stake? (Presuming the returner is the same in each match, and all other things being equal.)
     
  27. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Isn't a primary factor in the greatness of a shot the ability to use it to win important matches and championships against other great players?
     
  28. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I would think so. I mean, sure, a large part of the reason that Federer is getting to so many Slam finals is his overall game. He has a ton of game apart from the serve. But once he's in the final, the fact is that he will then be serving under a pressure that is not known in the second or third round, or in a lesser event.

    There's a similar, more extreme distinction, between practice and real matches. Vitas Gerulaitis was known to beat Borg often in practice, and in a few exos. But when it mattered ....
     
  29. droliver

    droliver Semi-Pro

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    No, because you're not measuring the quality of one stroke/shot anymore if you're looking at W-L, but you're suddenly looking at dozens of factors that determine that. It's pretty clear that you can have no so great players with extraordinary serves, and we've got ways to segregate that (ie. something like that WASP stat). That metric may not be the end all for ranking servers as people like Edberg, Rafter, and Fed use the serve to set up position and shots, but I guess like in baseball when we talk about power hitters we care more about the home run then then triple. Like I suggested, you're trying to add intangibles to the context of the serve which while not invalid, but is more of a slippery slope for our own biases
     
  30. slice serve ace

    slice serve ace Rookie

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    25 of 75, 33 %, 13 aces

    no
     
  31. slice serve ace

    slice serve ace Rookie

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    not so far
     
  32. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    very poor argument. we are talking about just the serve on this thread. it has nothing to do with how well/poor the rest of a player's game is.

    IMO, karlovic and isner are #1 and #2 all time (followed by sampras and ivanisevic). their serves are unbelievable but the rest of their game is mediocre. that's why you can't look at their overall results when determining who has the best serve.

    it's for this reason that you can't look at # of service games won b/c there is a lot more to holding serve than just the serve.

    the way i look at it is would player A hold serve more often with player B's serve than with his own. for example, some clown on here was making the "argument" that federer (who shouldn't be in the top 25) has a better serve than karlovic. that's beyond foolish. nobody in their right mind would argue the fact that federer would hold serve easier with karlovic's serve than with his own.
     
  33. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    So, according to your view, the best serve of all time could potentially be someone out of the top 200 or even 300 in the World!
     
  34. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    yes b/c we're only talking about the serve. i'm not sure why that is hard to understand.

    hypothetically, there could be a player who hit aces on every other serve. but if you were able to get the serve back then the rest of the player's game was that of a beginner. this guy would never win a match but it doesn't change the fact that he would still have the best serve of all time.
     
  35. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Since we discussing whether you have to be an all time great to have a great serve (which I don't believe incidentally) let's have some fun and see which all time greats had the best serves. I don't include Goran, Karlovic and Isner as all time greats for example.

    Some possible choices
    Pancho Gonzalez
    Pete Sampras
    Jack Kramer
    Bill Tilden
    John Newcombe
    Arthur Ashe
    John McEnroe
    Edberg
    Boris Becker
    Lew Hoad
    Roger Federer
    Ivan Lendl
    Bjorn Borg

    Incidentally it occurs to me while I was thinking of top players that Lendl's serve hasn't been mentioned here. It may not be as explosive as Boris Becker's serve but top players like Brad Gilbert thought he had a great serve, not just because of his power but also because of his variety on serve.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2011
  36. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    that's odd. sampras wins in straight sets, but roddick got a higher % of unreturnables

    do you have winner counts for this match?

    have you stats on any isner matches?


    thanks
     
  37. chrischris

    chrischris Hall of Fame

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    Slobodan Zimjinovic had a big serve too..
     
  38. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    It's easy to understand! It demonstrates a poor understanding of the game! Like all sport, greatness is measure by winning. If you don't win, how great can your shots be. I'm not sure why that is hard to understand.
     
  39. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I'm not discussing that! I'm just saying that you have to have demonstrated some ability to use your weapon to win with when it counts. If you haven't done that, then how great of a weapon can it be. I think Goran belongs because he's a champion. Isner and Karlovic don't belong because they're not.

    PS: On that list, I would put Stan Smith's serve above Kramer, Newcombe, Ashe, McEnroe, Edberg, Lendl and Borg.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2011
  40. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    b/c we are only talking about a single stroke on this thread. and you can't win matches consistently with only one stroke.
     
  41. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    That begs the question that you haven't yet answered.
     
  42. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Here are Federer's rates of unreturned serves, from Moose and myself.

    2001 Wimbledon vs. Sampras, 89 of 181 serves unreturned (25 aces), 49.2%
    2007 TMC vs. Nadal, 21 of 48 (10 aces), 43.8%
    2005 USO vs. Agassi, 44 of 107 (19 aces), 41.1%
    2007 Wimbledon vs. Nadal, 58 of 156 (25 aces), 37.2%
    2006 TMC vs. Blake, 31 of 86 (11 aces), 36%
    2008 AO vs. Djokovic, 33 of 109 (10 aces), 30.3%
    2008 USO vs. Murray, 22 of 81 (3 aces), 27.2%
    2006 TMC vs. Nadal, 16 of 60 (7 aces), 26.7%
    2004 USO vs. Hewitt, 23 of 89 (10 aces), 25.8%
    2006 RG vs. Nadal, 24 of 119 (8 aces), 20.2%
    2006 Rome vs. Nadal, 31 of 180 (9 aces), 17.2%

    And from Slice Serve Ace:

    2003 Wimbledon vs. Flipper, 21 aces, 43 unr, 46.2%
    2009 Wimbledon vs. Roddick, 50 aces, 88 unr, 44.7%
     
  43. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    well IMO becker's clutchness is a bit over-rated in comparison to federer. I'd put federer above all but Sampras in terms of clutch serving. I wouldn't say he's been very clutch vs Nadal at all times, but he's done fairly well as far as clutch serving is concerned vs him.

    As far as the 2009 matches are concerned, AO 2009 final, he was playing very well from the ground . The serving problem really had almost nothing to do with Nadal

    USO 2009 final, even when federer was toying around with delpo in the first set and half , his serve was pretty bad. His crappy serving didn't have much to with delpo IMO. In fact his best serving in the match ( relative of course) came in the 3rd set after delpo had snatched the 2nd set.

    The 2007 WTF was an anomaly IMO. Don't think he's served at that percentage vs roddick/Nadal or anyone else in an imp match. He just happened to hit very good serving rhythm in those 2 matches. He demolished ferrer in the final as well, but didn't have that high a serving %
     
  44. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    This got me thinking about whether there were many all time greats who did not have a great serve.

    Two that come immediately to my mind are Connors and Wilander, although Connors had great placement with his serve, and the lefty advantage. Maybe Agassi?

    Others?
     
  45. okdude1992

    okdude1992 Hall of Fame

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    you're wasting your time. despite your argument making complete sense to any rational person, this limpinhitter guy won't listen.

    fact of the matter is, karlovic and isner have 2 of the best serves ever in the game of tennis. do you think that because they aren't great "champions" their serves are any less good? no they aren't the best because they are one-trick ponies.

    take federer or nadal for instance. do all their achievements mean they have the best serves? (obviously roger's is much better than rafa's) if either posessed a serve of the calibre of karlovic or isner, they would never lose a match. as it stands, they are two of the greatest tennis players of all time because of their all around skills and mental fortitude. NOT because they are serving machines.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2011
  46. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

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    Of course. I saw Henman play some guy in the first round of queens once, he served 140mph+ on every serve. Couldn't do anything else. No forehand, backhand, nothing. Saw him again 3 weeks later in Wimbledon and I have never seen him since.
     
  47. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    if you don't win then your serve can still be great if the rest of your game is garbage. if that's your question then that is your answer.
     
  48. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Smith's serve was pretty awesome in his day but Newcombe's was generally considered a bit better than Smith's at that time. I think John Alexander and Arthur Ashe mentioned that. But of course it's debatable when you look at serves of this great level. I could see Smith's serve in his day being ranked above the others with the exception of Kramer. Kramer's serve is considered by many to be as great a serve as you could have when you include his second serve.
     
  49. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Then I can't agree with either Alexander or Ashe, and I don't think that opinion was widely held, either. I remember how Smith's serve was generally regarded - as the best in the game. It was talked about as a major weapon from the time he started at UCLA. IMO, Smith's serve was the best serve in the game during his 2 year run at the top. Newk had a great serve, but, his serve didn't win championships. Smith's serve did.
     
  50. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Sam Querrey holds the record for serving 10 straight aces.

    Was there any players remotely come close to this number in the old days? Doubt it.
     

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