Greatest Serves of All Time

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

  1. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    NonP, I agree with Krosero that you're NOT dismissive. I like the way you take into account the input of the posters.

    One thing that's always tough in threads like this is that I find the older players often get shortchanged but there is little mention of them in today's tennis.

    I would tend to think for example that if we didn't have statistics in baseball for example, great players like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Henry Aaron would be shortchanged. However we do have some videos of them and we have virtually all the statistics for them that proves they were great players.

    Anyway great thread.
     
  2. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    krosero and pc1, thanks for the confirmation/compliment. Really appreciate it.

    BTW, though I don't generally partake in the GOAT discussions, in baseball there's no debate: Babe by a country mile. :)
     
  3. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I had Noah serving at 72% in the Vilas match. I also have him at 57% vs Mac in the '82 Davis Cup Final.
     
  4. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    For the Vilas match, my mistake, I gave ABC's stats after only 1 set.

    Would be interested in seeing your '82 stats, for that five-setter. One of Mac's best victories on clay.
     
  5. truthorbust

    truthorbust Banned

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    Kevin Curren was a great server when on.. a bit nervy though .

    My fav is Wayne Arthurs .. what a variety he had. Truly uncanny.
     
  6. droliver

    droliver Professional

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    I think people took the wrong lesson from that interesting article about wood versus graphite racquets and the example of Philapoussis

    From that Atlantic article
    " Crawford Lindsey, a partner at the United States Racquet Stringers Association and co-author of the influential Physics and Technology of Tennis, points out that wooden rackets, because of their greater weight, have a greater Apparent Coefficient of Restitution (ACOR) than most of the composite rackets on the market today (though only when struck dead center). Top players serve so much faster today not because of their rackets but because of their raw physical power. Male professional tennis players have grown roughly two or three inches taller and fifteen to twenty pounds heavier in the last thirty-five years, according to International Tennis Federation data. "

    For racquets of similar weight, the ACOR of graphite clearly allows more energy transfer to the ball. As I mentioned upstream, the mass required of a wooden racket to "keep up" eventually limits how long you could exert max effort to bring it thru the contact zone.
     
  7. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    No. Not for pro players. If one is not in shape, then certainly fatigue can take a toll on the serve, however, I have never run into an accomplished tournament player who's serve started getting slower because his racquet was too heavy. Most players by that point,(even amateur) are conditioned and adjusted to their racquet. Certainly, I saw little evidence of great servers from the wood racquet era slowing down to racquet weight. Gonzalez for example, was famous for his ability to keep hitting huge serves in long matches. Sampras used a racquet nearly as heavy, and even when tired, was often able to keep his serving speed. The rare exceptions being when he was absolutely unable to even hit with his normal motion eg. against Corretja/Yzaga etc. But his lack of speed then was not due to the heaviness of his racquet.
     
  8. droliver

    droliver Professional

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    That's completly counter intuitive IMO. You see fatigue at all levels during play, some of which is indistputabily from the labor of stroke production. If your raquet is 10-20% heavier (which is the spread we're talking about) and you do hundreds or a thousand plus strokes per match near maximum effort while running frequently during play, IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE.
     
  9. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    Sorry but no. Even in seniors (60 yrs plus), you'd be hard pressed to find experienced players who's match fatigue stems (or would stem) from a slight increase in stroke production effort. Even if we use a racquet 10-20% heavier, that will translate into a much smaller percentage increase in stroke production energy overall...I'd guess about 1 or 2%. In any case, the demands of bending, running, stopping, starting, lunging are far more of a factor. This is true at all levels...often amateur players aren't swinging all that hard relatively anyways, but pro players are so efficient and relatively effortless, that it might be a bit of a wash.

    Again, a bit of forearm or wrist fatigue could happen, when one first adjusts to a heavier racquet...that's about it. And it will go away shortly....of course this scenario doesn't happen at all at the pro level.

    I really don't think this is even that non-intuitive for the non-player/athlete. Do you think that if Federer or Roddick or Nadal, took some lead tape of their racquet that suddenly they'd be fitter in 5 set matches? Serve harder in the 5th? Actually, I'd argue that if we want to take a couple oz. and make the most impact, the best place to put it would probably on a players shoes. You take one hell of a lot more steps for every swing you take! But of course, for pro players, even a couple of extra oz. in the shoes isn't going to be a huge factor.

    Again, to repeat: most fit players don't even lose much serve speed over the match, and, when they do it's usually the result of general fatigue which is not caused by a heavy racquet but by the running/stopping/starting they have had to do. If you don't think so...well I suppose there's nothing else to say.

    Certainly we see that baseball pitchers also lose very little speed of their fastballs, though I often wonder if those that do, do so due to micro-injuries incurred during the game. Certainly this seems to be a factor in baseball....there have also been some theories floated as to why it may be different from a tennis serve in this manner, but nothing conclusive that I know of.

    PS.I'll also mention, I"m not sure your conclusion even makes sense to me in that:

    "For racquets of similar weight, the ACOR of graphite clearly allows more energy transfer to the ball. As I mentioned upstream, the mass required of a wooden racket to "keep up" eventually limits how long you could exert max effort to bring it thru the contact zone."

    If we assumed that max efforts were being used for both racquet weights, then why do you assume only the heavier racquet will illicit sub-maximal efforts? I've been assuming you mean sub-maximal speed...
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2010
  10. droliver

    droliver Professional

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    It's just pointing out that for equal effort you get more MPH with graphite on equivalently weighted racquets. If you want to keep serving the same speed you have to swing harder, which again over the course of a match will result in more fatigue. Like I pointed out, part of the fatigue produced in a match (much like a baseball pitcher) is from the repetitive motion of stroke production rather then just aerobic footwork. Ignoring the cumulative effects of 10-20% weight difference on a motion done hundreds-1000+ times in a match at near maximum effort belies simple physics.
     
  11. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Latest version with recent edits.
     
  12. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Since I've received little specific input on the servers yet to be added to the list I thought I'd separate my last big update into bullet points. Hopefully that'll make this new semi-update easier to read and prompt some of you to weigh in. But first, the current ranking, which remains unchanged:

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

    Honorary mentions: Tilden, Vines, Kramer

    In case you haven't noticed yet, I now believe Newcombe's place over Tanner is secure due to Newk's significantly higher 1st-serve percentages. Give us a shout if you disagree, otherwise their ranking will stand as it is.

    On to the bullet points. Your input on any of these would be appreciated.

    - I'm still undecided on Stich vs. Newk (and Tanner). Stich not only had a big 1st serve but also a top-notch 2nd serve that Sampras picked out of all his top rivals' (though, of course, it's debatable whether Stich's was the very best), which is why I initially put him rather high, but Newk is no slouch himself in the 2nd-serve department.

    - While I've penalized Rusedski for his rather low 1st-serve percentages, Tanner's own mediocre stats got me thinking maybe I might have been a little too harsh on Greg, who did get lots of free points and some decent 1st-serve percentages that were markedly better than Arthurs'. On the other hand his larger margin for error often came at the expense of effectiveness. I still feel comfortable putting Newcombe and Tanner above him, but I'm not too sure about him vs. Curren and Noah. Anyone got more 1st-serve stats for Kev and Yannick than krosero has provided?

    - We're still trying to determine where Arthurs belongs on this list. Like I said, I think his rather low 1st-serve percentages and relatively high double-fault counts put him below Krajicek, but still above Stich. The question is whether he ranks above Roddick.

    - Two other recent candidates are Philippoussis and Isner, who boast a great 2nd serve in addition to a huge 1st serve. One could also make a case for Forget, Rosset and Joachim Johansson, though Pim Pim is a tricky choice as his time on the pro tour was so short.

    - So far west coast 2 hander is the only one who has given props to Sadri. Definitely need more input on this one.

    - Here's a synopsis of pc1's extensive posts on Ashe and Smith:

    Ashe was recognized as one of the top servers in the late '60s, along with Gonzales and Newcombe. He was also known for incredible serving streaks where he would serve lots of aces, perhaps better than Becker in this respect. Back then he had possibly the fastest flat serve plus the best slice serve, which could pull his opponent wide in the deuce court. Ashe probably had a better serve than Smith when he was healthy. Kramer himself compared Ashe's serve in the late 60s to Vines', no small praise as the latter was the peak in Kramer's mind.

    Smith's serve, if perhaps lacking the variety of Newcombe's or Ashe's, had great power and was at its best comparable to Becker's. And while Ashe's was probably superior on his good day Smith in his prime might well have served better. John Alexander wrote that Smith's serve was very fast and he got a lot of 1st serves in, but thought it was overrated.

    And pc1 also provided this ranking: Newcombe > McEnroe > Becker, Ashe or Tanner > Smith > Noah > Curren. Do you guys agree?

    - I'm willing to give an honorable mention to Fraser among the old-timers, but so far we have only Hoad rating his serve above Gonzales'. If anyone knows of other contemporaries rating his serve in similar terms, please let us know.

    And for the record I haven't forgotten Gonzales. I think I'll hold off placing him for now, until some of these other names have been added.
     
  13. Borgforever

    Borgforever Hall of Fame

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    EDIT - CORRECTED MY LIST -- Greatest servers of all time throughout recorded tennis-history -- IMO -- in no particular order but each had their special little extra magic element that was unique:

    * R. F. Doherty, Great Britain (honorable mention)

    * Sir Norman Brookes, Australia

    * Maurice McLoughlin, USA

    * Bill Tilden, USA

    * Ellsworth Vines, USA

    * Jack Kramer, USA

    * Pancho Gonzalez, USA

    * John Newcombe, Australia

    * Roscoe Tanner, USA

    * Björn Borg, Sweden (Sverige)

    * John McEnroe, USA

    * Ivan Lendl, Czechoslovakia (honorable mention)

    * Boris Becker, Germany

    * Goran Ivanisevic, Croatia

    * Pete Sampras, USA

    * Roger Federer, Switzerland (Schweiz)

    All these guys had variation, great speed and except Goran they usually served at clutch with impressive results...
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
  14. Borgforever

    Borgforever Hall of Fame

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    Sorry -- I missed a few names in the above list -- so here's the addition to the above list:

    * Norman Brookes

    * John McEnroe

    * Jack Kramer -- Lennart Bergelin was adamant that Kramer's serve was the toughest he ever saw, in every mach, year after year -- angrily Bergelin would foam at the mouth when the greatest serves was debated and with vibrant, tunderous growl he went: "No one had a tougher serve than Kramer! Not a single one! Get it!?"...

    And great honorouble mentions from me goes to R. F. Doherty and Ivan Lendl, who also served like gods and extremely consistently too...

    The names I mentioned here and in the above post just points to the guys who could serve extremely well, extremely consistently and most importantly at clutch. They had immense variation but could thunderbolt serves in a ridiculous manner.

    Naming guys like Rusedski, Krajicek, Roddick, Curren and Karlovic is just out of the question in this debate -- GREATEST SERVES OF ALL TIME. Yes, these guys have monster serves like the above mentioned players and some of them could pound a few serves maybe harder than anybody on occasion. But seldom at clutch, so consistently, in big-finals against the greatest returners the game has ever seen as the names I've counted above.

    If we are just going to include players who had great, thunderbolt serves the debate goes off the rails completely.

    In such pipe-dream, know-nothing debates Colin Dibley, Charlie Pasarell and Victor Amaya could very well be argued as having the greatest serves of all time...

    I am 6 feet 4 and being tall makes so much easy to stream bombs. My serve is good but just because I am athletic and somewhat decent on the court my height easily makes pound 15-25 aces per three set match nowadays. Lovely racquets they have today. But that's not the point. If I had better technique and greater innate tennis skill -- a' la Pancho, Tanner and the names above I would've went Ivanisevic on all comers.

    Greatest serve of all time means so much more than 140 mphs serves. The serve is an extremely complex shot with enormous amount of variation and absolutely demands supreme psychological strength and focus to pull off when it's crucial in THE BIG, CRUCIAL MOMENT...
     
  15. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    Excellent post. Someone once said about Jack Kramer (and I'm not a fan of Kramer's by any means) that he won more sets on one break than anyone. I think Vines called him a serving machine or something to that point.

    Apparently Kramer, aside from serving at a high percentage has a great slice serve which could pull you off the court.

    His second serve was comparable to anyone's and arguably the greatest ever.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
  16. pines2222

    pines2222 New User

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    A lot of people are putting Roddick around #5 or #6, which I think is way too high. Here's the problem: when Roddick plays Federer and the other very top players, his ace and service winner count usually goes way down. Compare that to when Federer plays Karlovic. Karlovic still gets in plenty of aces and winners. That alone bumps down Roddick a ton. You look at the other guys on the list, when they played the top players, they still threw in a ton of service winners. Roddick doesn't.
     
  17. azbabolat

    azbabolat New User

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    Roddick should be higher, he has one of the hardest serves out there
     
  18. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Did Lennart play against Kramer in Davis Cup or something?
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
  19. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Very nice list.

    I think you could at least add Gonzales to your Hon. Mentions section. You yourself provide evidence that he had a pretty impressive serve, by all accounts.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
  20. Borgforever

    Borgforever Hall of Fame

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    Yes, Hoodjem -- Lennart played Jack many times. I've never had the privilege of playing Sampras but those I've spoken to all say the same spontaneous thing, ranting "Pete was the godamm devil! Like a nuclear tank he would just chop your head off with that serve relentlessly! Whatever you pulled off, the greatest shots you ever made, finally getting to breakpoint -- he would've just slaughter you like nothing -- even on the second serve! The only one who was always impossible to meet when it counted! I have nightmares about playing Pete!"...

    Bergelin said the same thing about Kramer. Lennart studied Kramer's serve extensively and used that in the development of all of Borg's different kinds of serves in the summer prior to Wimby 1976. The nasty angled slice, the nuclear A-bomb in all corners, the heavy American Twist, the flat cannonball, the vicious unpredictable side-spin -- and Kramer's tactics in his serve was adopted by Borg -- going for aces at crucial moments -- even on the second-serves against Amaya in the 4th set down 1-3 and 30-40 -- Fortress smokes the ace out the corner on the second serve -- the hallmark of all ultra-servers and Kramer's in particular...

    Jack Kramer was arguably one of the greatest experts on the tennis serve who ever lived. Watch my 3rd clip of Laver vs Roche on YT where Jack Kramer with an eagle-eye, Einstein-tennis-knowledge analyzes Roche's wonderfully explosive delivery in a super-slow-motion sequence.

    Kramer does the same in the coming Borg Wimby 1976-clips.

    Lennart and Jack where very friendly up until the end although Lennart never really defeated Jack...
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
  21. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    well the rest of their games, either physical or mental wasn't up to the mark .... why penalise their serve for the deficiencies of the rest of their games ???

    Also as far as roddick is concerned, he has more than on enough occasions proved his serving prowess under fire in big matches ( in grand slams )

    agreed, but this should be a plus point for those who've done it, rather than a negative point for those who were good enough in the lesser matches, but didn't get enough chances in the bigger ones ....
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
  22. swordtennis

    swordtennis Legend

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    1) Pistol Pete
    2) All the rest.....
     
  23. pines2222

    pines2222 New User

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    But Roddick's serve isn't that effective against the top players, and effectiveness is what makes a serve great. For instance, in the last three Andy Murray - Andy Roddick matches, guess who had more aces? That would be Murray. The good players eventually catch up to Roddick's speed and make his first serves look more ordinary. I'm not saying that even against the best players Roddick doesn't get his fair share of service winners. I just don't think he gets more service winners than the other top players, which means putting him on the all-time greats list an open question.

    Also, Federer's serve is hugely underrated, because a lot of times he uses the serve to set up the winner on the next shot. But when he's down break point, how many times has Federer come up with a big serve when he needed it?
     
  24. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    umm, that's because murray is a much better returner than roddick. Not because roddick has an inferior serve to murray
     
  25. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
  26. swordtennis

    swordtennis Legend

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    Federer's serve up through 2007 should recieve an honorable mention. His back is not as limber as it once was.
     
  27. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Don't have time to respond to every individual post right now. Just a short note to those of you who are new to this thread: I suggest you read at least the OP and preferably my following updates first before expressing your disagreements. There I explain why some worthy names have been left out and why a Sampras or a McEnroe isn't ranked higher.
     
  28. Zefer

    Zefer Rookie

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    Andy Roddick, John McEnroe & Roger Federer.
     
  29. the green god

    the green god Semi-Pro

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    Wow. Mcenroe is really getting the short end of the stick here. From 1979 up to mid 1985 we are talking about the most dominant stroke from argulably the best player in tennis, and he barely gets a sniff in here?
     
  30. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    McEnroe had a great serve but remember we're comparing him to the cream of the crop so the fact he's even on the list is an accomplishment.
     
  31. sypl

    sypl Rookie

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    Ivan Lendl has got to be in this conversation. Big serve and ridiculous first serve percentage, regularly above 80%. Not cream puff spun serves either. Proper, hard, flat serves.
     
  32. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    I think this is the Ivan Lendl of your imagination. I think Lendl was underrated as a clutch server, he served well on important points (though, at the same time, he also got tight against the very best opponents so that might be a wash); however, in my memories, WHEN he was going for his big first serve, his percentages were mediocre...I'd guess them to be closer to 50% overall...

    I can't think of anyone who hit hard, flat serves regularly even close to 80%.
     
  33. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I can't think of anyone either.

    In an old thread I collected various figures we have for him on first-serve percentage, either calculated by us or published in the media.

    WILANDER
    83 AO - 42%
    85 RG - 43%
    87 USO – 50%
    87 Masters - 48%
    88 USO - 42%


    CONNORS
    82 USO - 52%
    83 USO - 43% (several points to go)
    87 USO - 49%


    AGASSI
    88 USO - 48%
    89 USO - 48%


    MCENROE
    Jan. 83 Masters – 47%
    83 W - 72%
    January 84 Masters - 47%
    84 RG - 73% (six games left)
    84 USO - 64%
    85 USO - 57%
    87 USO - 63%


    BECKER
    January 86 Masters – 76%
    88 Masters – 64% after three sets, 70% in fourth
    89 USO – 63%


    EDBERG
    87 W – 67%
    89 TMC - 57%
    90 AO - 54%


    CASH
    84 USO - 52%
    87 W - 61%
    88 AO – 59% after four sets


    MECIR
    87 Key Biscayne – 43%


    TANNER
    83 W - 75%

    Lendl's first-serve percentage seemed always to hover around 50% or lower against other baseliners who didn't attack his second serve. Against net-rushers he usually took some speed off the first serve to get it in.
     
  34. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    I think Lendl mentioned that was his strategy and one of the television commentators spoke about it during the matches against Wilander. I think it was during one of his French Finals against Wilander in 86 or 87.

    I've read people writing that Gonzalez served at 70%. I've always found perception versus the reality very interesting. Sometimes I've found in reading statistics about players in sports that the reality wasn't close to the perception and at times I've found the reality was even greater than the perception. I would guess Gonzalez did serve around 70% because he didn't serve at full power most of the time.

    What Roddick has done in recent years, serving at over 70% while maintaining excellent power is very impressive. That's why he has led the ATP in holding serve a number of times. I think Roddick may have the existing known record at I think 92% of holding serve. I think Karlovic may have tied it or even broken it but I'm not sure.
     
  35. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    Since I've been doing stats on older matches, I've found the 'memories' of many writers is quite faulty. Writers aren't statisticians, they are just paid to write about their observations. were there any statisticians in the 50s/60s? how many matches were televised? I'm guessing the few stats I've seen from that time (NY Times) were compiled by the guy who wrote the actual article on the match. That's pretty hard, to jott down stats live(no tapes to doublecheck) plus notes of your own observations for the article & expect to be totally accurate on both counts. krosero already found many errors on the NY Times stats for USO matches from the 70s, where they presumably had access to more stats, imagine what sort of statistical errors would be made by some guy writing an article(by himself) on Gonzo playing a final on the pro tour in the 50s. And would players' memories themselves really be all that reliable? did they all possess encyclopedia-like minds? when they walked off the court in 1955 & said 'Pancho probably served at 70%" should we just assume that's probably in the ball park? Because I've seen players come off the court today & say stuff like "I haven't seen the stats, but he must have served at XX%" only to be told they weren't even close to that number. Tennis is a very in the moment sport, which really just comes down to a few points. You're more likely to remember if your opponent made 1st serves on the few break points that are generally played throughout a long match, not the hundreds of other points, many of which were quite unmemorable. And those points more accurately reflect the serve %'s

    Steve Tignor wrote an article recently about how different his perception of the Fed-Del Potro match was from watching on site compared to watching it on TV - namely he had no access to stats while in the stadium, & was quite surprised by some stats he learned afterwards.

    we've all heard that Jack Kramer took the big game to another level(serve & volleying on all serves), yet the youtube highlights I've seen show him serve & volleying less on grass than Ivan Lendl did. God knows how Tilden really played, I can't just accept what writers of any time say, esp since the definition of baseliner/serve & volleyer has apparently changed so much over time(not to mention other tennis terminology) and God knows what Pancho really served at(even if he said '70%' himself, I would have doubts. I'm guessing he wasn't taking notes on all his matches)

    Not to put down what Roddick is doing, but he is a baseliner, so he generally has larger targets on his serve regardless of his mph, if you know what I mean. ESPN had stats on his 2nd serve a few years ago, he was basically serving 90% of all of his 2nd serves to his opponents backhand, albeit with a lot of pace. Imagine if John McEnroe, someone who was serve & volleying a ton, was doing that circa 1984. I doubt he would have had as much success coming in with that kind of predictable pattern. I think he had a riskier serve than Roddick(even with so much less mph) He had to be very accurate or he would get burned. He served around 57% for 1984, I believe, which was considered very good for his style of play. Roddick is not hitting as close to the lines on the serve as Mac, since he doesn't have to. Sampras' lower 1st serve % was also for the same reasons, he couldn't just hit every 2nd serve to the backhand.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  36. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    Good points. Incidentally since McEnroe had a Games Won Percentage of 65.32 in 1984 there is a good chance he held serve at a higher percentage than Roddick ever did that year.

    When did you find the Kramer highlights? In the highlights I've seen Kramer seems to serve and volley often. Kramer wrote in his book that until he played Riggs on tour he only served and volleyed on first serve and stayed back on second serve. He claimed due to the necessity beating Riggs to the net that he had to serve and volley on second serve too. Riggs claimed that Kramer improved his second serve when they played on tour.

    It would be interesting to see what some of the posters in the Former Players forums think of the reality of older great versus the myth. For example I think Tilden matched the myth and Rosewall was far better than his reputation which was already great. Laver, while many consider him to the the GOAT to me actually surpassed what I expected and I expected a lot. A number of former greats were way below what I expected.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  37. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I think these are all excellent points. On the issue of stats before the Open Era, you mention the New York Times boxscores that we've seen for the USO finals, at least back through 1920. Without video, there's no way to check them, but they do look better than the 1970s boxscores in one way: all the numbers add up. That is, the winners and the errors add up to the total number of points. There are, at least, no internal contradictions in those boxscores. And that was not true of the 1970s boxscores which were full of mistakes (even the first-serve percentages were way off).

    Now, just because they have no internal contradictions, doesn't ensure that they're totally accurate. To know for sure we'd need videos of the matches.

    Or if we found two written sets of stats for the same match, and they disagreed, that would tell us somebody's stats were wrong.

    But in general I am right there with you in your skepticism about what the old sources can reliably tell us. Human memory, changing terminology, different contexts, are all factors to account for.
     
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  38. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    I totally agree with you about human memory and a lot of these old sources. I've found factual information about old time greats that dispute what the legends have said about them. Often I am shocked by how off the myths are. Some are fairly accurate and some players like Ken Rosewall have far exceeded what people have written about them and in Rosewall's case, it was a very favorable opinion in general, with the exception of some like Jack Kramer.

    Sometimes I wish it was like baseball in which virtually everything is recorded and we can accurate gauge how great a player or team was.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  39. krosero

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    Well I think one problem is that in the early 20th century, the style of sports writing was so much more inflated than it was today. It makes every match back then seem to take on mythic proportions -- and then that's the myth that gets passed on to us.

    So I don't always know what to make of those really old accounts.

    I do know that it would be a mistake, though, by simply looking at the old reels and saying, 'Well the old writers really exaggerated through the roof because that tennis doesn't look impressive at all to me.' Whatever it may look like to us, does not mean that the people of the time did not consider it the best they had ever seen. I'm sure THEY considered the tennis they saw to be stretching the limits of human skill in tennis. The question is, even beyond that, how much is exaggerated purely because their journalistic/writing styles were more inflated than what we would use?

    And then I find myself asking, how much did the convention of dramatic writing style affect accuracy? I mean, in the interest of writing a dramatic story, or finding an emotional angle, did the writers sacrifice or neglect accuracy more than we would? Very, very hard to say.

    By Laver's time, the writing style had toned down. So my image of Laver was never that high, before I saw him play on video. I expected to see simply a well-rounded player -- a supremely well-rounded one, but not a flashy one.

    So it was a big surprise for me, finding his old matches, and discovering that the man was always going for winners and was really exciting to watch.

    History is tricky business -- but so much fun.
     
  40. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I wasn't saying its a myth as to how great these older players were, but maybe it was sort of a myth as to how they actually played. Just because writers from the 20s say Tilden was a baseliner doesn't mean its necessarily true. Esp considering what we consider a 'baseliner' to mean today(meaning they almost never come to net, which stats today show. somehow I doubt a player of the 20s/30s almost never came to net)

    Most writers/fans today would say Borg was a baseliner(even those that saw him play) but you & I know how often he came in at Wimbledon(far more than Federer, who is considered an allcourt player by most writers/fans) See what I mean about how tennis terminology has changed? Now imagine how much its changed from the 20s.

    I can only imagine what tennis writers will say about players of today or the 80s/90s in another 20 years. And that will generally be accepted as fact(like Kramer & the big game - not saying he didn't come in a lot for his time, but can you be sure he attacked as much as say, Mac did? How could you know? I know you love playing hypotheticals as far as putting players from different eras vs each other, but all you really know, or will ever know, about players from certain eras is just what is written about them so how can you be sure how they played? if you want to just stick to results in judging them fine, but I think people should limit fantasy matchups to players they've actually seen)

    I've seen articles claiming Manuel Santana won Wimbledon mostly from the baseline(he's said this himself) I have that final on dvd, & nothing could be further from the truth. Do you see what I'm trying to say?

    That Kramer clip was posted here a while back. Its footage from his 1st Wimbledon title. I know using a few points to judge someone isn't entirely fair, but with his rep for S&V you'd at least expect him to follow all 1st & 2nd serves in, esp on grass, no less. That's how Mac & Edberg & so many other true S&V players played on grass their entire careers.
     
  41. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    I understand what you what you meant Moose. I just trying to point that we have so many myths about players in tennis, their record, styles etc that have bee distorted over over time. The comparison you made with Borg and Federer is excellent in how people have been given a different impression on their respective game styles.

    It's amazing how you pointed out how terminology has changed with the times. I guess Jimmy Connors nowadays would almost be considered a net rusher and a big serve and volleyer. lol.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  42. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Interesting points here. I must say, i always trusted my eyes the most, so my memory of matches reaches into the mid-60s. The era before, i have to go to clips and films, to correct or confirm my readings. Indeed, often myths are reiterated, especially by the players themselves, who seem to believe their own image more than the reality. I don't believe the always over 70 % theory of Pancho. He and Kramer had a solid ego, which shines through their memories. From from my impressions on clips, i find Vines and von Cramm the most modern, smooth style players of the 30s.
    Yes, for the 60s, Santana and Ralston played serve and volley tennis on grass. And even the clay court game was played more in an allcourt way, relying on stylish drives and spins, tactical long and short play, more than grinding out with looping shots from the baseline, which became common since the late 70s. See those clay maestros like Pietrangeli, Santana or Nastase. The one writer, could could describe matches the best and most visual, was imo Rex Bellamy. From his descriptions you could really imagine a players style.
     
  43. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    It's odd with Laver because he's such a mild manner man but when he got onto the tennis court there didn't seen to be anything he couldn't do. In watching Laver when you was on one of his hot streaks he just made it seen so easy and that it was a clinch to hit winners regularly.

    I guess in the Roaring Twenties they tended to make every match some sort of Mythic Drama. I do get a kick out of the writing in those day.

    What I try to do is to take everything with a grain of salt when I read a lot of this stuff. The Ellsworth Vines' ace that Bunny Austin couldn't see is one of those stories that I just think is absolutely stupid. Unless Austin had a blindfold on him I don't know how he couldn't see on which side it aced him on. If Vines hit a serve that went 300 miles per hour he should have seen it.

    I also try to understand if the author has other motivations. Jack Kramer talks about the great Don Budge as his number one ever but if you read between the lines you see that Kramer considers himself to be greater than Budge. Therefore if he says Budge is greater than Sampras, he is automatically calling himself better without looking like an egotist.
     
  44. krosero

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    I agree with you. And the Vines ace -- not a believable story.

    It would be so much simpler, of course, if you could just take everything that seemed to have a layer of myth on it, and just chuck it as nonsensical, or non-factual. The real difficulty here is that just because a style might be inflated and dramatic, does not mean at all that there isn't good information there. It just means more work for us, in analyzing it.

    And sometimes dishonesty or inaccuracy appears in the most sober styles of writing, too. Sometimes those qualities (dishonesty, inaccuracy) are expressed with little more than stats. That actually happens a lot -- the misuse of stats.
     
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  45. Datacipher

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    Many times, when giving advice or instruction, Pancho said that if you weren't getting in 70% of first serves, that you should reduce pace until you do.

    So, in a way, he did say it. Of course, whether or not he actually followed that advice, how consistently he followed it, how accurately he was able to follow it, whether he felt it was applicable to all strategies....I do not know.

    Since so many experts laud his percentages, I think it likely that he followed this to some degree. He also said on more than one occasion that he "never" hit a flat serve...he said that he always had at least a touch of slice or kick on the ball to increase his percentages.

    What this actually translated to in overall percentage, I do not know, but, since he actually said 70%, it's also possible that this may be partly responsible for the idea that he served around 70%! Although Vic Braden has also written that he regularly served 60-70% and Vic words should be seriously considered...but I have the feeling Vic was giving a very informal conclusion there, if he had comprehensive stats, he'd probably have given more precise numbers.
     
  46. Datacipher

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    Thanks krosero. Jibes exactly with my general impressions. Interesting that your sample is so clearly suggestive of the baseliners vs SV players theory. It is of course, completely likely intuitively, but the numbers don't always come out so cleanly.
     
  47. Moose Malloy

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    the Jan 83 Masters 47% is very interesting, since he won that match in straights. do you know what Mac's % was?
     
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  48. krosero

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  49. krosero

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  50. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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