Greatest Serves of All Time

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

  1. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Great update, and very interesting milestone here, to say the least. Looks like the uptick in service stats that you've been tracking is continuing.
     
  2. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    I think one thing we do have to consider in service stats is perhaps looking at the standards deviations above the mean. For example Sampras usually led the ATP in percentage of holding at around 90% which means that it was easier to break serve. That may not be worse than Karlovic now considering the changes in tennis.
     
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  3. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    I shall, but I'll need some help along the way. We haven't incorporated original research for some time now.

    No problemo. As for Levels of the Game I actually have the book and while I second your thumbs-up I'm not sure I recall much on Graebner's service mechanics. Will double-check when I have time (unless you can point me to a particularly relevant passage).

    This is the kind of input I'm looking for. Would prefer a little more on the technical side but it's a good start.

    It'd be interesting to see if '15 was an anomaly or the increasing amplification of a trend. Even by recent standards some of the %s were pretty ridiculous.

    Yes, that's really the best way to compare serves from different eras and not the direct apple-to-apple comparisons preferred by the ignorant that think numbers do tell most of the story. Again if you were to go by the %s only you'd have to conclude that Fed in '15 had a stronger service game than not only his youthful self smack in the middle of his prime but also none other than Pete Sampras. This is not quite as bad as the teenyboppers trying to compare Pete and the Big Three of Fed, Rafa and Novak in # of Masters titles, but it's the same kind of idiotic one-size-fits-all thinking.
     
  4. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I don't think I ever responded to this. Here you go.
    41/133: 31%

    I also have stats on the Ram-Karlovic final from Newport last year that I didn't post.

    Karlovic
    52/108: 48%
    1st serve: 40/73: 55%
    2nd serve: 12/35: 34%

    Ram
    54/115: 47%
    1st serve: 40/71: 56%
    2nd serve: 14/44: 31%
     
  5. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Hey Moose, grazie again for these and also for the new Newk stats. Ram's relatively high % here isn't too surprising given Ivo's poor return, but the latter's own % ("only" 48%) on the reportedly fastest grass court around did catch my eye. Did he just have a somewhat off day or was it Ram returning well (or at least clearly better than Brown and Sock)?

    BTW I took some time to browse Voo de mar's generally useful (if not so user-friendly) site for additional unreturned %s late last year, and despite your stamp of approval I'm afraid his numbers aren't always 100% accurate. I've asked @slice serve ace about this and he was already aware of some of Voo's stuff and assured me himself that if VDM's numbers don't match exactly they're wrong. I know slice is telling the absolute truth when he says he's a "little insane" when it comes to accuracy, and I suspect you (and moi) are as well. :D Generally I trust our numbers more than just about anyone's, including the "official" stats.

    Still VDM's work is indeed impressive. Will be checking out more of his stats when I have time.

    P.S. Is there a reason why you don't tag or quote other posters directly? In our case it doesn't really matter as you're one of the few posters whose recent posts I make sure to check out when I've been away for a while, but was just wondering why you don't use the tools available to everyone.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
  6. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    NonP,

    Have an idea for you. You could also break down the various different categories for serves. For example you could start with best slice serve or best kick serve? Who had the best second serve overall? Who had the fastest serve? Who had the best combo of speed and placement? Who had the best lefty serve? Who is the server you want to serve out a match with your life on the line?

    I've wondered that about Moose myself.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016
  7. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    Some stats on Kyrgios vs Cilic in the Marseille final.
    28/57: 49%
    1st serve: 21/34: 61%
    2nd serve: 7/23: 30%
     
  8. prostaff1

    prostaff1 Rookie

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    1. Goran
    2. Ivo
    3. John (Isner)
    4. Andy
    5. Pete
    6....whoever
     
  9. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I think this might be the highest, I've come across for Isner.
    Vs Groth, Davis Cup
    47 of 83 were unreturned(56.6%)
     
  10. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Just too much to get into right now. :D Maybe after we get the top 30 in order (and after I take care of urgent personal matters). We'll see.

    But I'll partially oblige and take a stab at three of the Qs, with the caveat that my choices are limited to those I've seen.
    • Best 2nd serve: in the Open era (or at least in the past 30 years) there's Sampras and there's everyone else
    • Best lefty serve: Goran
    • Guy I'd trust to serve for my life: Pistol (again).
    There's a reason why he's self-admittedly partial to noir. ;)

    IMO Kyrgios is more or less in the same league as Forget and Ljubicic: good, even great, but not quite GOAT. But do keep the numbers coming. Always interesting to see these unreturned %s.

    That's indeed the highest one I have, the next highest coming from his win over Ivo in the '13 Newport QF at 53%. (BTW do you have the total number of service points won/played for this match?) So that's the first one for Isner that exceeds 55%, which again is somewhat odd for a server of his caliber but I'm sure more will show up as we keep digging.

    BTW a small % of these numbers I got from Voo de Mar's site (not the '77 Wimby SF stats though, it seems). Since it's probably helpful to know where they come from I'll try to make note of their origin going forward.
     
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  11. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    I'd agree with you about Sampras in the Open to serve for your life. I may trust Newcombe as number two for that and he's there for best second serve too.

    Goran for most nerve-wracking hold to win Wimbledon.
     
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  12. MLRoy

    MLRoy Rookie

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    Imagine what Tanner could have done with a Babolat, or a Prince, even?! I can picture the aluminum number he used to use. (By Head?)
     
  13. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    To my recollection, Tanner used a PDP aluminum racquet. It was similar to the Head Master, aluminum frame with a plastic throat.
     
  14. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    They showed a stat last night during the Tsonga-Djokovic match. Up until the QF 53% of Tsonga's first serves were unreturned.
     
  15. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    A few more stats for Gonzalez, from American Lawn Tennis. These are for the final of the 1948 US Nationals, in which Gonzalez d. Schroeder 16-18, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4

    These stats all pertain to the first set only:

    Gonzalez served on 96 points, and 35 serves did not come back (16 were aces): 36.4%. The unreturned rate on his 54 good first serves was 50%. On his 39 good second serves it was 20.5%.

    Schroeder served on 109 points, and 30 serves did not come back (6 were aces): 27.5%. The unreturned rate on his 74 good first serves was 28.4%. On his 34 good second serves it was 26.4%.

    In that first set, Gonzalez made only 2 clean return winners, Schroeder only 1.


    Gonzalez made 117 of 199 first serves (58.8%), divided by set:

    54/96 - 56.3%
    18/26 - 69.2%
    15/24 - 62.5%
    14/25 - 56.0%
    16/28 - 57.1%

    Schroeder made 133 of 198 first serves (67.2%), divided by set:

    74/109 - 67.9%
    14/19 - 73.7%
    12/16 - 75.0%
    15/23 - 65.2%
    18/31 - 58.1%

    The data was compiled by Mary Louise Bruneau. She added that in the 1894 final the unreturned rate of first serves was under 20% for both finalists:

    I’ve heard that 50 years ago, players did not have such powerful serves. An analysis of the 1894 Championship Match between Wrenn and Goodbody shows that each player returned over 80% of his opponent’s first serves.​
     
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  16. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    A bit about Vines' serve speed, in the Sheffield Telegraph of late July, 1939 (unfortunately some of the text is unclear):

    Last night, I asked Ellsworth Vines, most consistent hardest hitter lawn tennis has known, what was the actual speed of his service. Reply: 118 miles per hour!

    [This was] not a “leg-pull.” Scientific […] timed Vines’ services in a […] with Donald Budge shortly […] they left America.​
     
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  17. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    I understand they used to measure from the center of the net not off the racquet.
     
  18. Druss

    Druss Semi-Pro

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    Arthurs? Do you actually mean Wayne Arthurs at No6? Seriously?......why?
     
  19. RacquetAbuse101

    RacquetAbuse101 Rookie

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  20. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I doubt there was the technology needed to capture the speed of a tennis ball at any one point in the 1930's. I suspect that the 118 mph figure was probably the average speed from contact to whatever end point was chosen. Having said that, my understanding is that serve speeds at pro matches were taken by radar gun at the point where the ball crossed the net as recently as the early 2000's, and that, presently, the speed is taken directly after contact.
     
  21. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    You may be correct.
     
  22. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    One could shoot movie film of a serve, and if one could accurately measure the distance traveled between frames of the film, then one could calculate the speed rather accurately. (We did this is my physics class in college, but not with a tennis ball.)

    After all speed = distance divided by time
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2016
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  23. BTURNER

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    I am not going through all 22 pages. I assume Tracy Austin is already on most lists.
     
  24. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I'm afraid to ask what lists you are referring to.
     
  25. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    Come on BTURNER, clearly Frankie Durr has it all over Tracy Austin.
     
  26. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Her secret was the extended index finger.
     
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  27. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    So sick of Tracy haters on this forum. Just so you know, she hit a high percentage of slow mix up serves as a tactical ploy. it always worked. Nobody ever correctly anticipated her boomer on the tee. Never.
     
  28. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I was referring to Francoise Durr.

    As for Tracy Austin, I'm not aware of the haters on this forum. I always thought of her as a Chris Evert clone, a great talent but not as great as Evert in any aspect of the game, except her willingness to mix moonballs into her groundgame. In my view, her serve was in the same league with players like Hingis, or Rosewall on the mens' side. It was a point starter just good enough to give her a chance to win with the rest of her game. In my view, she didn't try to hit it big more often because that would be a low percentage shot since she used a forehand grip and hit very little spin to bring the ball into the service court. I'm not familiar with her "boomer," down the tee. But, given the rest of her game, I expect that any deviation from her typical safe serve was a change-up, intended to keep her opponents off balance.
     
  29. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    I loved watching Tracy Austin. She was a great player. One of the great tragedies in tennis history is that she had injuries. She probably would've won a lot more majors.

    For the record I was joking about Durr and Austin's serve.
     
  30. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Tracy had a "boomer"?
     
  31. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    Well perhaps you can say strong serve down the middle. Not too many on the tour had a boomer in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Maybe Wade, Navratilova, Mandlikova and Potter.
    Thought occurred to me that Hingis is actually quite similar to Rosewall in some ways. Both weren't the most powerful hitters but both could redirect the shots and get nice annoying angles. Serves were relatively equally potent and both were nice touch players with excellent volleys.

    Perhaps Austin could also be compared to Rosewall but I don't think she enjoyed approaching the net as much as Rosewall or Hingis.
     
  32. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    Gonzales was measured at 112 mph and Hoad at 110 mph, again not at the racquet head, but further along the curve, maybe even at the back of the court.
     
  33. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    Vic Braden mentioned in one of his books that he had no doubt Gonzalez would have been timed regularly in the 140 mph range. And that was in the late 1990s.
     
  34. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    I presume that Braden meant IF Gonzales had been measured at the racquet head.
     
  35. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    And if he used the more powerful racquets in the late 1990s. I wasn't very clear. Sorry.
     
  36. BTURNER

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    I am kidding !!!!!!!! teasing, joking etc and was from my first post on the topic.
     
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  37. BTURNER

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    So was I! You had me right the first time. It was all in fun
     
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  38. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    See they never once correctly anticipated it, did they. I'll bet you never once guessed when the 'boomer':) was coming either!
     
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  39. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    I will be willing to bet you never once correctly anticipated a boomer, when Tracy played.
     
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  40. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    :oops:
     
  41. Todd Hicks

    Todd Hicks New User

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    Sampras probably had the best serve of all time. Besides being very fast, he was able to complement it with an overall game that helped him win so many grand slams. Much as I loved Roddick, he wasn't nearly as good as Sampras or Federer.
     

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