Greatest Serves of All Time

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

  1. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Limpinhitter,

    I guess it's all a matter of opinion but I prefer Newcombe's service game. But Smith's serve was superb.
     
  2. monfed

    monfed Guest

    Sampras is #1 server IMO.
     
  3. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    In my understanding, I think Limpinhitter implied that Smith had a better single serve shot while Newcombe was more complete as a S&V, and definitely better in the backcourt.
     
  4. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    came across a stat espn had on Karlovic's win over Hewitt at 2003 Wimbledon.

    59 of his 129 serves were unreturned(46%)
     
  5. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Kiki,

    When what I understand and from what I've seen, Newcombe was generally considered to have a superior first and second serve over Smith although very slightly in each area.

    I think the consensus is that Smith's first serve was faster perhaps in pure speed but Newcombe's first speed was such a heavy serve that it could knock the racquet out of your hand. That's the description that Arthur Ashe gave.

    You combine that with opinion by many that Newcombe's second serve was perhaps the best of all time and that is a great overall serve.

    On a different note, for a big match there are very few you would pick ahead of Newcombe at his peak.
     
  6. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    If you look at what Smith was able to accomplish, and look at his game to figure out what he did it with, it really comes down to his serve and his net coverage, including his great smash on both sides. He may have been the greatest overachiever of all time. His two majors were both on grass, and he won the WCT finals in Dallas on pretty fast carpet over Ashe. Other than serve and smash, Newcombe's game was better in every respect, and he was a better overall athlete. That's why Smith was so much more successful in doubles.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2012
  7. jean pierre

    jean pierre Semi-Pro

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    John Sadri is in the top 15. Great serve.
     
  8. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I agree.Newcombe was a very complete player, indeed.Smith achieved a lot ( a bit like Kodes) with relatively a limited game, which depended a lot on the % of first serves in.But I have a lot of respect for him - as I do have for Kodes- because Smith was very tough menthally, as well as a true gentleman.

    Needless to say Newcombe is one of my favourites players, though.
     
  9. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    For a few months (AO final, Phily semis beating a lot of big names, WCT finalist,USO fourth round) Sadri looked like the next big thing in the tennis world.I don´t think he had the nerve or the assets to be a top star, but he was the classical 70´s-80´s specialist that spelt trouble when tunned on...
     
  10. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    I was gonna do the bump, but it looks like somebody took care of it. :)

    Will get to everyone in the next couple of days, but for now, from what I've read so far here and on other threads, I do think Smith has yet to overtake Newk on our ladder. Sorry, limpin. :razz:
     
  11. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I'm only going by personal knowledge and observation. What do I know? :rolleyes:
     
  12. Romismak

    Romismak Rookie

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    I haven´t found this thread before, interresting to compare best servers ever.

    I can´t go to much in history, like 40s-70s hard to tell, but i think best servers ever are Goran and Ivo - hard to tell who is better who worse

    I will put it in eras

    90s - many big servers like Goran, Pete, Becker, Krajicek, Stich

    Goran was best server among those guys, he was lefty+always got most aces

    Than probably Krajicek- his 1st serve was lethal

    I think Pete is overrated, sure his serve is among best ever, but simply that guy has 14 slams, he had much more than only serve, while most of this guys were limited comparing to Pete. Pete is one of best servers ever no doubt about it, but really when somebody say he is best ever - it is because they saw many matches of him and he was better after serve, on return and so on than other big servers in his era.

    For example Pete´s record is pretty bad vs Krajicek and i believe it is because Krajicek just had bigger serve than Pete and outserved him in their matches.

    So for 90s i say best server Goran.

    In last decade we had Roddick, Karlovic, Isner, Johansson, now Raonic - who will be among best servers for sure

    Among those guys Roddick has-had most groundgame.

    So his numbers are better thanks to this.

    Karlovic´s 1st serve is i believe most dangerous weapon in tennis history, at his serving peak he had accuracy, speed and high FS% - what is also thanks to his height.

    His 2nd serve is average, but 1st best ever.

    Isner-high 1st serve%, maybe best 2nd serve ever

    So i believe from this era Karlovic at his peak is best server

    So i say Goran -IVo hard to tell, one was lefty, played in era with quicker grass, carpet and generally besides clay faster conditions vs many big servers

    another guy played in this era, his groundgame is probably worst among all big servers on that list and still his numbers are best or 2nd best in many categories.

    Look on ATP website there is list since 1990 stats - service games won, 1st serve points won, aces and so on- Ivo is up there best or 2nd best almost in everything with such limited game.
     
  13. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Federer had an unreturned rate of 44% in the semis against Djokovic.

    The roof over Centre Court was closed, and Federer looked comfortable from the opening point. He served with pace and precision, winning 75% of his first-serve points and 72% of his second serve points. He kept Djokovic guessing, especially when Federer served to the body (he won two easy points with the element of surprise). Djokovic, the best returner in tennis, failed to put 44% of Federer’s serves in play. In the third set, he missed 62% of them.​

    http://blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2012/07/06/the-wimbledon-final-we-all-wanted/
     
  14. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Federer has great location and disguise which is more effective than power alone.
     
  15. ibbi

    ibbi Semi-Pro

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    Pete and Goran, and Fed has to be in the conversation at this point. Roddick has the power, but Fed's got the variety, the unreadability, strong second. No comparison.
     
  16. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    Federer's service was a major factor in him winning this Wimbledon. He has good accuracy, disguise and power too. The serves out wide to Djokovic and Murray's forehand I liked a lot. Apart from the serve, I thought his backhand was a big weapon yesterday too, come to think of it.
     
  17. ibbi

    ibbi Semi-Pro

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    Not just this one. Roddick would have beaten him in 2009 if his serve hadn't kept him in it, and he would have lost to Nadal in straight sets in 2008 without it, probably even would have lost 2007.
     
  18. smoledman

    smoledman Legend

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    Federer has to be considered one of the top 10 greatest servers of all time.
     
  19. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    Sure. Roddick never came closer.
     
  20. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    ???????????
     
  21. Setmatch45

    Setmatch45 Rookie

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    I think Pete has to be number 1 in serving number two as a player behind Roger.
     
  22. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    Among recent era players, yes.
    Rosewall in 2010 rated the all-time order as 1) Hoad 2) Gonzales 3) Laver 4) Federer.
    Gonzales in 1995 rated them 1) Hoad 2) Sampras.
    I will concur with these supreme judges.
     
  23. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    The way he was serving at Wimbledon it was incredible. It's not pace, but it's the disguise and pinpoint accuracy that was so effective. With a faster grass, it would be even more lethal.
     
  24. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Are there 10 players with better serves than Federer, who have won major championships?
     
  25. Dharmaboy

    Dharmaboy Rookie

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    many tennis publications and professional players all say that Pete Sampras had the best serve ever in tennis. Not pace or power just pin point accuracy had him acing guys for games on end.
     
  26. Dharmaboy

    Dharmaboy Rookie

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    Agree. Guys who had more powerful serves than Pete couldn't win with it. Kinda like having a gigantic Muffler in your stock Honda Civic and it would go to waste because everything else couldnt utilize it.
     
  27. smoledman

    smoledman Legend

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    No, that guy was trolling. Has there ever been a more clutch server in slams other then Pete?
     
  28. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Let's think of some ones who may be better.
    Pete Sampras-Some think he had the greatest serve ever
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC99glR53wE
    Neal Fraser-Arguably the best serve of his day
    Pancho Gonzalez-Possibly the best serve of all time
    John Newcombe-Possible the best serve of his time and one of the best ever.
    Arthur Ashe-He was called Aces Ashe for a good reason.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43csIDKmkMk
    Bill Tilden-One of the first well known big flat servers although he said himself that he used the twist serve as the basis of his serving game.
    Ellsworth Vines-Some believe for pure serving power he was the greatest. Legendary for his serving power.
    John Doeg-The guy had nothing but a great serve according to observers. People have written that you never broke him you just waited for him to tire. He won a major they say on serve alone. Lefty server.
    Jack Kramer-In his day was thought of as perhaps the greatest server of all time. Wicked slice serve. According to Vic Braden he could pull his opponent wider on his serve serve in the deuce court further than anyone. Big flat serve and arguably the greatest second serve of all time with Sampras and Newcombe.
    Lew Hoad
    John McEnroe-Not the fastest but can very few could handle his can opener slice serve in the ad court?
    Stan Smith-In his day a great server.
    Roscoe Tanner-It seemed like if you blinked the serve was over. Seemed to hit the serve when the toss was rising. Not sure if I've ever seem a tennis ball hit the back wall after the ball release faster than with Tanner. Incredible power.
    Boris Becker
    Goran Ivanisevic-I don't think anyone who saw Goran would question why he's on this list.
    Ivan Lendl-Big serve but as Brad Gilbert said his variety of serve made him a great server plus he had an excellent second serve.
    Borg-Huge server with wood. Great pressure server.
    Kuerten-Very underrated serve but a big serve.
    Bob Falkenburg-Huge serve and not much else.
    Michael Stich
    Andy Roddick-Led the ATP many times in percentage of holding serve. Oddly enough rarely mentioned among the all time great servers although he deserves to be.

    Opinions?? I may be able to name more but I have to research the names of some of the winners of majors.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2012
  29. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Just so you guys know I'm in the process of a massive update containing all the %'s of unreturned serves that have been listed here so far. I know I haven't been very active on this very thread I started myself, so think of it as a penance of sorts.

    Also, I see that Fraser's name has been bandied about recently. Is he due at least an honorary mention? Please share your thoughts.

    Of course any input on the missing candidates (Philippoussis and Ljubicic in particular) would be welcome. :)
     
  30. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Neal Fraser definitely had an all time great serve. It was the prototype for Laver and Roche's serves, a great power lefty kicker.
     
  31. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Stop beating around the bush! I want rankings damnit!
     
  32. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Yes I think he deserves at least an honorary mention. I know that John Alexander was more impressed with his serve even more than Pancho Gonzalez's serve and that's saying something.
     
  33. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Is this the latest GSOAT list?

    I wish to make clear that this ranking is based not on the pure shot, but more on the physical AND mental aspects of serving more highly. In other words, it ranks great servers, not just great serves.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2012
  34. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    OK, done. Look for Fraser's name in my next update.

    hoodjem, I think we should make clear from now on that my list mostly looks at these serves as pure, stand-alone shots while yours rates the mental aspect more highly. In other words, mine ranks serves while yours ranks serveRs. If you can start adding a note to that effect it'll clear up a lot of confusion and dissension.
     
  35. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I think hoodjem means that people in this forum do not automatically put Laver in top stroke lists unless they feel he deserves it. So while Laver had an excellent serve it certainly did NOT belong among the best of all time. I believe he means that this is an example.

    Hoodjem, if I'm wrong please correct me.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2012
  36. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    I know. I was just asking him to point out the difference between our rankings, especially for the newcomers who haven't followed this thread from the start.
     
  37. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Just thought of something. Perhaps you can combined rankings of the greatest serves with greatest returns to see how player on both lists rank just for fun.
     
  38. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    I believe that Pancho had the best service because, as Julius Heldman has researched, he was able to win his service game even when he faced break point against him. He did it almost always!
     
  39. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    You are correct. It may have been excellent and extremely effective, consistent, and accurate, but it was not GOAT-worthy
     
  40. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    That's clearly one of the reasons. Sampras was also able to do that regularly in my opinion as well as a few other great servers.

    Another reason in Gonzalez's favor is that the serve took so little out of him that he could consistently serve well even late in a match. It was a stroke that was very smooth, powerful and according to Vic Braden without any hitches.
     
  41. okdude1992

    okdude1992 Hall of Fame

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    I like your list for current/recent guys. Said it before, and i'll say it again. Ivo Karlovic. Worst overall game, playing in an era where players return better than ever, slower conditions than before. Yet he still has the best stats.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2012
  42. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    I've addressed these talking points before (in fact just earlier today most recently), and since you seem to like stats here are a few that should at the very least challenge the conventional punditry.

    First, if today's players were indeed returning better than ever and the conditions indeed so slower than before, one would expect to see servers to get broken more often. But the stats tell a different story: the top 10 servers of the 2000s actually won a higher % of service games than their 1990s predecessors, 87.1% vs. 86.0%. (I don't have the stats for the top 20 handy, but a cursory look shows hardly any difference between the two decades, and probably a little more in the latter's favor). And there's an even more telling stat: players won 90% or more of their service games only seven times in the '90s (the total number of players is 3, with only Sampras achieving the feat more than once), as opposed to a whopping 20 times in the '00s. I'd guess by my rough counts that the number of free points also favors the '00s.

    In short the standard talking points aren't simply supported by the stats. The reasons for this seeming discrepancy are complex and can't be explained adequately in a few short sentences, but to summarize:

    1) The "consensus" regarding the supposed slowdown of surfaces is mostly bunk (this is another big topic in its own right).
    2) While it's a myth that the modern racquets help improve your maximum serve speeds significantly, they do allow you to impart more spin, which helps increase your 1st-serve percentages and also go for more freebies as well since it's easier now to hit bigger 2nd serves.
    3) Today's homogenization of playing styles (which, I should emphasize, is not the same thing as homogenized conditions) has influenced the return of serve, which tends to be more conservative today and which in turn tends to benefit the top players more than their lower-ranked competitors.

    And speaking of free points, you'd be quite suprised to know that Karlovic isn't head & shoulders above the other top candidates in % of unreturned serves. The # of aces is only part of the equation.
     
  43. ClassicSwede

    ClassicSwede New User

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    Sampras hands down!!!

    Pistol Pete in his prime!!!
    His 1 & 2 serve was the greatest, perhaps not the most powerful server but still up there.
    He could place them on a dime, Heavy serves that only a PS85 can give you :)
    Have you ever seen a more confident server?

    Sure there have been innovators that has raised the bar over the years but if I could choose to serve like any pro past/present... hands down Sampras!!
     
  44. gsuede

    gsuede Rookie

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    I would love to see a stat how many times Sampras was broken to close out a set or a match I bet its a very small number. He was the closer
     
  45. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I counted 50 unreturned serves(14 were aces) by Isner vs Fed in Davis Cup.
    131 total service points for Isner so 38% were unreturned.

    of the 36 return errors he drew from Fed, 25 were bh's
     
  46. dangalak

    dangalak Banned

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    Pete Sampras is probably the most overrated server in history. :lol:
     
  47. scotus

    scotus Legend

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    I wonder if this member was banned for saying "Pete Sampras is probably the most overrated server in history."
     
  48. 6-1 6-3 6-0

    6-1 6-3 6-0 Banned

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    I think Nadal has a case for having one of the greatest serves of all time. At US Open 2010, he tied Andy Roddick's record of winning the title dropping serve only 5 times (was only broken until the QF against Verdasco), and at Roland Garros 2012, he was only broken once up until the final (lost his serve in the 1st round against Bolelli).

    [​IMG]
     
  49. NickJ

    NickJ Rookie

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    Mike Sangster - who? i hear you cry....

    To quote Wikipedia (so probably not 100% accurate I know) -

    "Serve -
    Sangster was renowned for his fast serve. His fastest serve was recorded at 154 miles per hour in 1963. This compares with the current world record of 155 mph set by Andy Roddick in a Davis Cup match against Russia in 2004. Although it was considered by many to be a world record at the time, Sangster's record remains unofficial since it was not timed with precise modern technology (Similarly, Bill Tilden had a serve timed unofficially at 163.6 mph in 1931). In order to return his serve, players had to retreat to the back of the court. In one match at the US Open, Rod Laver retreated so far back that he became entangled with the backstop netting."

    He wrote a book called Cannonball Tennis! What's not to like!
     
  50. 6-1 6-3 6-0

    6-1 6-3 6-0 Banned

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    How were those serve speeds measured? What was the range of error?
     

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