Greatest Serves of All Time

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

  1. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    BTW, Victor Pecci is not much talked about, probably casue most if not almost all posters never saw him in his ( pretty short) prime.But the guy was a giant with extreme talent and great touch.Terrifc kick serve, great reach at the net where he was one of the world´s best volleyers, specially touch volleys that would leave you breathless.Slow and laconic, had too much taste for the good life ( and drugs) and never took tennis too seriously.fortunately for the rest of his peers.His sliced Bh was defensive although he was pretty good with it approaching to the net.His Top spin Fh was unconsistent, but very penetrating on the good days.The few days he played well, the guy was fantastic.And he beat all the big names of his generation, including Bjorn Borg, maybe excepting mc Enroe.
     
  2. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Here are the top best Victor years.

    1981: reaches the IO final beating Vilas and losing to Clerc
    reaches RG semis, defeating Mayer and Noah, and losing against Borg...whom he had just beaten in the Montecarlo tournament.The only lose he had on clay for maybe 5 or 6 years¡¡¡

    in 79 he was glorious and should have made it to the YEC.

    -.beat 4 of the world´s premiere cc players (Connors,Vilas,Solly and Barazutti) to reach the FO final, unseeded.In the final, bows to a supreme Bjorn Borg, not before he took a set from Borg.The only player on tour able to do it on clay.
    -.Reached the semifinals at Montecarlo, losing to Borg
    -.Reached, on grass¡¡ the Queen´s final, taking a set off mc Enroe in the last match...after he defeeated all time great Arthur Ashe in the semid.Not bad for his first grass court event.
    -.Reached the forest Hills WCT event to Dibbs.But he scored wins against many of the world´s best players in that event...including world´s nº 2 John mc Enroe
    -.lost, on cramps, the Washington event.He was just a point away from winning it, but retired with cramps and Vilas emerged as the champion.
    -.won the Nice Gp event, defeating such solid top mten players like Alexander and Barazzutti
    -.reached the BA semifinals, but Clerc defeated him pretty handily.While he was able to regularly beat Vilas, it is surprising that he always lost to Clerc.

    Pecci also played a few exhibitions.He beat jimmy Connors at Asuncion, Paraguay, in 1980.

    As I said, one of the greatest underachievers, at the level of a Rios, a Leconte or a Mecir.
     
  3. Vespucio

    Vespucio New User

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    Great Goran!!!
     
  4. slice serve ace

    slice serve ace Rookie

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    found one higher - also sampras vs agassi at houston 02, 30/67, 44.8%

    that being said, i don't have that many stats for clay, i'm sure karlović or isner might top that

    anything over 40% is great on any surface, clay moreso
     
  5. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    do you know what ljubicic's % was? I don't think we have any numbers on him.

    also did you do stats on the Stich-Sampras YEC Final?
     
  6. slice serve ace

    slice serve ace Rookie

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    i have very few for ljubo, i'll try to find them

    stich - sampras, yes i did


    question for you - do you have stats for sampras vs courier and bruguera at RG96? i have those matches but incomplete... for instance, vs bruguera they switch to agassi-woodruf during the 2nd set, because agassi lost...so there is a gap of a good 15 mins or so
     
  7. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    what was the unreturned rate in that?
    do you have any stats on Philippoussis besides '03 W final or Rusedski?

    I don't have complete copies of those matches.
     
  8. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    For fast serves in terms of low toss and arm speef I pick Roche, Tanner, Curren and Ivanisevic...and, of course, Gonzales
    Kramer, Newk, Sampras or Becker were more kind of heavy servers with high tods and progressive acceleration while Edberg, Laver and Mc Enroe ir Stich more spin servers - like Hoad or Sedgy in past-
     
  9. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    slice serve ace,

    do you have the unreturned serve % for sampras vs rafter @ davis cup in 1997 ?
     
  10. spinovic

    spinovic Hall of Fame

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    Everyone has their own criteria I suppose, but for me, I have to look at the total package, and doing that, it is hard to pick anyone but Sampras.

    Not the most power, but more than most and plenty enough. Accurate. Good disguise. Huge second serve. And, could deliver under pressure.

    Sampras, on serve, was the total package and as close to perfect as I've seen in tennis.
     
  11. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    I find it difficult to understand how guys like Edberg, Federer and McEnroe can be put above Karlovic in this category.

    To see what I mean, you try to imagine how the career of those players would look like if they had had Karlovic’s serve.

    Karlovic has a career holding percentage (service games won) of 92%, which is well above any of those players (and also above Sampras).

    But that number is still far from telling the whole story, because, unlike Karlovic, those other players have at their disposal a hugely superior tennis ability when the ball is efficiently returned back to them, which means they still have a very good chance of winning the point if the point goes to “neutral.” Not so Karlovic. So to gage the real meaning of the holding percentage differences, you would have to compensate generously for this enormous difference in overall tennis ability. I mean, you give any of those players the Karlovic serve and they would probably have something like 98% holding percentage. Conversely, you give Karlovic the Edberg serve, and he would not be a professional tennis player.

    I think an effort needs to be made to take these things into account. There probably are many, many other players (barely heard of) whose serve was better than many of the guys you placed above Karlovic. Karlovic just stands out as a recent example of someone where the difference between his serve and the rest of his game is so enormous that he would not even had made it into the pro circuit even with a decent-to-good serve. I believe at least half the players you’ve placed above Karlovic would trade serves with him in a flash (and they wouldn't trade anything else, true).
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  12. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    ATP only has serve stats from '91 on so we have no idea what the career holding % is for most of the players on that list(even Goran's & Sampras' stats are incomplete)

    It seems likely that Karlovic's 92% is tops, but we will never know for sure. Stats in tennis is a relatively new thing(and still has a long way to go, there could be a lot more tracked even for current players, hopefully in 20 years we will have even more data to look at - wouldn't be cool to know how many fh winners nadal hits in a year? the tour average? etc)
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  13. vive le beau jeu !

    vive le beau jeu ! G.O.A.T.

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    in terms of "lethal serves"... what about the following ones ?

    ivanisevic
    sampras
    karlovic
    arthurs (often forgotten but he wasn't easy to break !)
    johansson (joachim)
    philippoussis
    isner
    roddick

    now, many other players have/had cool and efficient serves !
    (edberg's, for instance) :)
     
  14. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    Right. But in the case of Sampras, it’s very unlikely his holding percentage would be higher if the pre-91 years were included (it would probably be slightly lower).

    Anyway, let’s think about this for a minute. Karlovic’s holding percentage is 92. Sampras’ is 89- and here we are talking about someone who is generally considered one of the very best servers of all time (I agree), and perhaps the best. In addition to that, his overall tennis ability and achievements put him in the group of goats. He clearly belongs there.

    So even a guy like Sampras, with the Sampras serve AND the Sampras game, loses serve more often than Karlovic, who has (comparatively) almost no game to speak of.

    This, I think, should tell us something about the Karlovic serve. That’s my point. I like Edberg, and Mac and many of those guys, but when I see them listed as better servers than Karlovic, I have to scratch my head wondering what that’s supposed to mean.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  15. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    Like I said, its likely that Karlovic is tops. But it is a false statement to say that he has a higher hold % than all of those players listed since we have absolutely no data on most of them(1991 is just a blip in the history of tennis. would love to know what Mac's hold % in 1984 was, wouldn't you? judging by the scores of his matches, it could be something pretty high. tanner? pancho? we will never know. tennis just isn't a stats oriented sport, except for win/loss. its cool that ATP has recently added some info, but its woefully incomplete and limited - and some of it inaccurate as krosero has pointed out many times.
     
  16. mattennis

    mattennis Hall of Fame

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    While I agree that Karlovic's serve is better than Sampras's (for example), when you compare % of service games won you have to consider that Karlovic rarely got to the final rounds of big tournaments (QF, SF and Final of M-1000 or GS) and so he did not play against very top-players that often.

    Top players usually play against other top players more often (because they all usually get to final rounds in big tournaments) and it is more probable to lose some service games against a top-player than against a non-top-player.

    I have not studied this effect seriously but it probably skew things a little bit.

    For example, Wayne Arthurs (a great server from the 90s) had (IIRC) great service numbers, but he rarely got to the final rounds of big tournaments, he lost so many matches against lower-ranked players that he did not face very top-players that often. That could have an effect in his % and numbers related to service.

    I am not saying that it is a big effect (maybe 1 or 2 points percentage higher than what they may deserve had they played against top players more often), after all Arthurs really was one of the best servers of the 90s (some players like Agassi, Courier and Johansson have said that he was THE BEST server in the world).
     
  17. Old Chemist

    Old Chemist Rookie

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    Best servers list imo should include Sampras, Raonic, and Lendl in the top three.
     
  18. spinovic

    spinovic Hall of Fame

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    Thank you for making that point. Exactly what I was thinking...how often did Karlovic face high-level competition? I'm almost certain Karlovic has multiple early round losses in various tournaments where he was never broken, but simply lost in TB's.

    For example, in the 2003 US Open, he lost in the R32 to Sjeng Schalken while holding 17 of 18 service games. At '03 Wimbledon, he held 20 of 21 service games and lost in the R32 to Max Mirnyi. There's two matches in which he held 37 of 39 service games and lost of 6 of 7 sets played.

    By contrast, he faced Tim Henman in the opening round of the '04 US Open and was broken 3 times in 27 service games. Still great, for sure, but down around 88-89%, instead of mid-90's.

    Interestingly, he played Nadal in Milan (indoor, not sure if it was carpet or hard) in 2004. Rafa broke him 3 times in 15 service games.
     
  19. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    Yes, that’s definitely a valid point. But as you say, the difference wouldn’t probably be that significant. Also, he does run into players ranked much higher than him quite often, because he’s never been ranked very high. He broke the top 20 only for a few short months in 2008.

    I think the difference in holding percentage would not be so telling if we were talking about players with comparable playing ability. Or, especially, if the lesser player were the one who had a slightly lower holding percentage. For example, if Sampras had 92% and Karlovic, say 90%, you could reasonably argue that the difference cannot all come from the serve, but from the fact that Sampras is a better player.

    But in this case it’s the exact opposite. We know that Sampras is a much better player than Karlovic. So, if he is also a better server, then how is it that he holds serve 5 percentage points less often than Karlovic? Where else can the Karlovic lead come from except from a difference in serving ability? Nowhere.

    So while not making it to the final rounds does have some impact in the holding percentage, I think the enormous gap in playing ability has a much larger impact in the opposite direction. All you have to do is imagine Karlovic with his own serve plus the Sampras game. What would his holding percentage be? It's hard to believe it would be any lower. I think it would be higher.
     
  20. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    But does this really make up for the big correction needed for playing ability outside the serve? I don’t think so. That ability is a much bigger part of the holding % in other players than in Karlovic.

    Consider an equally relevant stat: percentage of service points won (both 1st and 2nd serves). Karlovic is at 72 and Sampras at 69. (You can see it at the player’s profile under ATP Match Facts.)

    Now the question: Which of these two players won a larger portion of those points as a consequence of something other than aces, service winners, and sitters off the return?

    If you’ve ever watched them play, you’ll instantly have to say Sampras. And I believe by a very significant margin. It’s not even close. So now, if Karlovic has the poorer serve of the two, from what aspect of his game does he get ahead of Sampras with 72% of service points won? I can’t see it.

    Another way of looking at it is this. There are no stats for service winners, let alone return sitters. But in aces alone, Karlovic has 18.8 per match, to Sampras 10.6. That’s 77% more aces per match over hundreds of matches. One might be permitted to do a bit of extrapolation from this, so we can reasonably expect that a comparison between the two would yield similar ratios for service winners and return sitters.

    If the purpose is to evaluate the serve, and only the serve, in isolation from the rest of the game, this is what you have to look at. What else is there?

    An interesting question would be, how would you rate Karlovic's game outside the serve? Would he be better than a decent college player if he had an average serve? I don't really know the answer, I am honestly wondering.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  21. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Just barely behind Curren-Connors as well.
     
  22. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I've found one higher than all those.

    Ivanisevic d. Roddick, 2001 Wimb

    Per The Hindu, Ivanisevic “sent down 41 aces and had 28 service winners, making it a total of 69 points when his serve was not returned”.

    The ATP has Goran serving on 111 points, so that's an unreturned rate of 62.2%.

    Goran made 71% of his first serves per the ATP. Serving out of his mind.
     
  23. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    In the quarters Goran d. Safin. Per the Philadelphia Inquirer, Goran had “31 aces and 43 service winners”.

    So that would be 74 unreturned serves out of 134 points, or 55.2%
     
  24. Nadal_Power

    Nadal_Power Semi-Pro

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    In final against Rafter he had 74 unreturned services, out of 154 total points that's 48%
     
  25. slice serve ace

    slice serve ace Rookie

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    moose, this is what i found for ljubičić

    03 basel vs federer 54/116, 46.6%
    05 doha vs federer 10/51, 19.6%
    05 marseille vs j.johansson 28/62, 45.2%
    05 rotterdam vs federer 46/131, 35.1%
    05 dubai vs federer 28/89, 31.5%
    05 madrid vs nadal 57/140, 40.7%


    for philippoussis

    95 us open vs sampras 52/147, 35.4%
    03 wimbledon vs agassi 79/157, 50.3%
    96 us open vs sampras 34/82, 41.5%
    00 paris vs safin 75/161, 46.6%
    97 davis cup vs sampras 34/112, 30.3%


    for rusedski

    97 hannover vs sampras 31/74, 41.9%
    95 wimbledon vs sampras 38/95, 40%


    about stich vs sampras in frankfurt 93

    36/141 for sampras, 25.5%
    53/133 for stich, 39.8%

    stich's last 12 first serves were aces


    abmk

    sampras against rafter at 97 dc had 44/98, 44.9%
    against scud at the same event 40/81, 49.4%
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2013
  26. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    There is no reason why a great server needs to win majors, or even win anything at all, in order to be acknowledged as a great server.

    Individual shots can be isolated, and none can be more completely isolated than the serve. It’s almost like a separate part of the game.

    In a race that consists in part running, part swimming, if someone consistently wins the running part by a mile, but then consistently loses the race because he is a lousy swimmer, would you conclude he is not a great runner?

    Serving is not a sport by itself, but it could be easily imagined as a one, in combination with receiving. A sport where play stops right after the return and the score is kept by returned vs unreturned points, switching server at the end of each game as usual.

    At this kind of sport, Karlovic would do a lot better than most of the people placed above him on these lists in the serving department. And the only reason he’d do better is that he is a much better server.
     
  27. slice serve ace

    slice serve ace Rookie

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    few more with 60+

    04 us open roddick against johansson had 74/118, 62.7% (and lost the match)

    96 stuttgart sampras vs mantilla had 26/43, 60.5%

    98 wimbledon sampras vs enquist 62/98, 63.3% (105 points were actually played on sampras serve; this is a stat for points that i saw...the actual stat is between 62/105, 59% and 69/105, 65.7%)

    sampras opened that match with 6 straight aces, never saw a start like that
     
  28. Nadal_Power

    Nadal_Power Semi-Pro

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    1992. Wimbledon final.. Goran made 80 unreturned services, from 166 services total


    1992. Masters Cup RR match between Sampras and Becker.. 75 unretunred services from 145 points total (51,7%). Becker had 40 from 75 services (53,3%) and Sampras had 35 from 70 services (50%)
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2013
  29. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    He served 164 points per Wimbledon.org and the ATP, which would come to 45.1%.

    I've searched without success for more stats on this match, would love to see any more you have.

    I got 81 (per set: 27, 13, 13, 11, 17).
     
  30. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    What did you get for Johansson?

    I haven't either, reminds me of Becker starting their Hannover final in '96 with 4 straight.

    I read in the press that Sampras started with 3 straight service holds at love against Enqvist.
     
  31. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    1997 Davis Cup
    Sampras served on 98 points and 44 serves did not come back: 44.9%
    Rafter served on 122 points and 37 serves did not come back: 30.3%

    1997 Grand Slam Cup
    Sampras served on 69 points and 36 serves did not come back: 52.2%
    Rafter served on 92 points and 32 serves did not come back: 34.8%

    1998 USO
    Rafter served on 135 points and 66 serves did not come back: 48.9%
    Sampras served on 155 points and 50 serves did not come back: 32.3%

    2000 W
    Sampras served on 132 points and 69 serves did not come back: 52.3%
    Rafter served on 167 points and 66 serves did not come back: 39.5%
     
  32. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Mc Enroe serve was considered the best in the world for years, and not because its power but the slice and effects.I enjoyed that serve ( or Edberg´s) more than some bombastic serves.
     
  33. Nadal_Power

    Nadal_Power Semi-Pro

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    My mistake, I also have 11 in 4th set but didn't count one when making stats.. thanks

    Stats for match :

    Code:
    Andre Agassi                                        Goran Ivanisevic
    
    163/322      Total points won                       159/322
    156/90/66    Services (total/first/second)          166/96/70
    69/90        Points won after 1st service           79/96
    42/66        Points won after 2nd serve             35/70
    52/166       Points won on return                   45/156
    78/166       Returned services                      115/156
    29/49        Wing of service returns (fh/bh)        45/70
    50           Winners                                38
    40           Service winners                        81
    23           Unforced errors                        52                
    1            Double faults                          7
    3/16         Break points                           2/5
    7            Service games without lost point       7
    110          Rallies 1-4 (241)                      131 
    41           Rallies 5-8 (61)                       20
    5            Rallies 9-12 (13)                      8 
    7            Rallies 13+ (7)                        /
                                                   
    Average number of shots in points in match : 3,64
    Average number of shots in points in match on Agassi's serve     : 4,93
    Average number of shots in points in match on Ivanisevic's serve : 2,43
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
  34. spinovic

    spinovic Hall of Fame

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    As I said, everyone has their own criteria. Part of mine is the ability to deliver at the same, or higher, level in the biggest moments. Since Karlovic was never in big moments, he's not even in consideration for me. But, I'm not trying to downplay his serve in any way. That's just my way of deciding. To each his own.
     
  35. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Great stats. I'm going to calculate Aggressive Margins with your UE counts: adding the DF's, I'll put down 24 by Agassi and 59 by Goran.

    A couple of questions. Those figures are remarkably close to NBC's late-match stats. Did you base your UE's on their count?

    And did you count any UE's on service returns?
     
  36. Nadal_Power

    Nadal_Power Semi-Pro

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    No m8, these are completely my stats, I'm glad if they are close to NBC. Nope, poor service returns are not in my errors stats, these are just mistakes from the rallies, after good return. All others are in service winners, it was easier for me to make them like that
     
  37. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Becker d. Chang, 1995 ATP Championships final, 7-6, 6-0, 7-6

    Becker served 24 aces and 36 service winners, per the New York Times. Chang said, “I have never seen anybody serve quite that effectively.”

    That's 60 unreturned serves in 96 service points: unreturned rate of 62.5%
     
  38. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    ^I was wondering about that match.

    have you come across any stats on Goran-Rusedski or Goran-Henman at '01 Wimbledon? his numbers are pretty amazing vs Safin & Roddick at that event.
     
  39. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    nope nothing on those
     
  40. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Anyone have stats on Becker-Chang at 96 AO? Any stats at all, not just service stats.
     
  41. Nadal_Power

    Nadal_Power Semi-Pro

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    Will do that match soon
     
  42. slice serve ace

    slice serve ace Rookie

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    hmm...he actually had 48 unreturned serves. when ny times says 36 service winners, they most likely mean 24 aces+12 other serves judged as service winners

    and j.johansson had 57/162 against roddick, 35.2%
     
  43. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Thanks for that. This is so annoying, the ambiguity and imprecision of language in tennis stats. This issue with service winners is something I've seen before.

    And today, too, we commonly say, "he had 36 winners and 12 aces," when the 36 winners include the 12 aces.
     
  44. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    NonP, just a heads up in case you haven't seen it (I'm quoting you at length in another debate): http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=7363912#post7363912

    Your point about prior decades is interesting and can be stretched back even to Tilden's time. I have boxscores from that period showing surprisingly low rates of service points won, service holds, etc. -- and conversely a greater rate of service breaks than we see today.

    It's not easy material for me to gather up or to summarize but we should get into it sometime.
     
  45. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Has anyone posted stats for Goran-Sampras at '92 Wimbledon?

    I found this in the press reports:

    Ivanisevic was so effective against Sampras that in addition to the 36 aces, he had 32 more service winners. All this with only five double faults.​

    That comes to 68 unreturned serves. The ATP has him serving 159 points (more than Sampras), but that's clearly wrong because the New York Times reported that Sampras never won more than two points in any of Goran's 21 service games. So Goran cannot have served more than 138 points (counting 12 points he served in the tiebreaks).

    The likelihood is that the ATP counted aces and double-faults twice in their service percentages. So if Ivanisevic’s aces and double-faults are subtracted once, then he served 118 points.

    118 service points with 68 serves unreturned = 58.6%
     
  46. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    1,150
    Not very swimmingly, I'm afraid. (Running your own business does that to you.) I should have all the stats on file somewhere. I just need to collect them in one place and organize them, that's the hard part.

    Thanks, krosero. And yes, the info from prior decades would be most interesting. As I just told Moose I plan to complie all the "freebie" (read: unreturned serve) stats sometime. It'll be a time-consuming effort, but well worthwhile given their obscurity.
     
  47. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2005
    Messages:
    7,889
    2013 Newport QF Isner d Karlovic 76, 76
    my stats:
    Isner: 53% serves were unreturned
    Karlovic: 45% serves were unreturned


    From an article on his match with Connors that year:

    I counted 25 aces, no double faults by Zivojinovic in this match.

    44% of his serves were unreturned. he was broken twice.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  48. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    Falkenbourg.Vines.
     
  49. krosero

    krosero Legend

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2006
    Messages:
    5,608
    How many points did he serve?
     
  50. josofo

    josofo Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    Messages:
    570
    you guys are still giving slam champions and legends of the game to much credit.

    almagro is a better server than edberg as is raonic, janowics, querry, anderson, lopez, fish.
     

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