Is Agassi's 1st serve return overrated?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by dropshot winner, Oct 5, 2009.

  1. dropshot winner

    dropshot winner Hall of Fame

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    In case you misunderstood me, I didn't mean that Agassi won less % of points when returning 1st serves, compared to 2nd serve. Because that's nearly always the case (even for Federer, Murray).

    It's just that you won't find a player that returns 2nd serves better than Agassi, but you'll find a few that are able to return 1st serves more effectively.
     
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  2. NamRanger

    NamRanger G.O.A.T.

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    I seriously doubt that. When you are judging the return based on just sheer quality, Agassi's 1st serve return is the best. Murray might (although I really doubt it) have a better 1st serve return game, which is totally different. However based on just the quality of the 1st serve, Agassi's is unparalleled.
     
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  3. drakulie

    drakulie Talk Tennis Guru

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    the first and only time AA played Ivo, he won 21% of first serves, and 55% of first serves.

    Murray won 17% of first serves, and 40 % of second serves.

    How is less, 10% more?? Please explain?



    Being serious,,,,,, do you play tennis?? have you ever heard of the phrase, "you're only as good as your second serve"???

    Agassi exposed everyone on their second serves, EVERYONE, as do most people who play tennis. They expose their opponents second serve. Reason is, everyone's second serve is usually not their weapon. It's a safety shot to start the point, without being put into too much of a defensive situation from the get go.

    Players had to change their serve strategy against Agassi. Even the best servers. That's how damn good he was.

    Like I said before, and you continue to confirm it>>> you are clueless.
     
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  4. dropshot winner

    dropshot winner Hall of Fame

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    A good Agassi 1st serve return is definately better than a good Murray 1st serve return.
    Agassi often hit a return winner and then got aced or service winner'd twice, Murray or 05 Federer OTOH get nearly every serve back, which is very effective if you can outplay everyone from the baseline.
     
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  5. KrossKourt

    KrossKourt New User

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    I think strawberry pop tarts are overrated. But its still good.

    So in essence. It doesn't matter if agassi's first serve return game is overrated or not. Its still damn good and it produced results throughout his career.

    The same result as eating strawberry pop tarts. By the time you finish eating it. It is still damn good.

    Unfortunately I can't eat this post.
     
    #55
  6. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    ahahahahahahahhah
     
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  7. Lejanius

    Lejanius Rookie

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    I don't think Agassi's serve return was overrated at all.

    the OP's original point (as I understand it) is that despite his great return Agassi was aced a lot.

    which makes a lot of sense. Agassi stood inside the baseline often which opens up the angles for aces. In essence Agassi gambled a lot against big servers forcing them to make a decision to try and ace him or hit a regular serve and let him tee up on it.

    So he was aced a lot but hit a lot of return winners. It is a gamble and the style he played. So it makes perfect sense that he would have given up a lot of aces.

    I think the OP is confusing the number of aces he gave up as a flaw in his game when in reality Agassi wasn't overly tall and he stood close to the baseline giving up certain angles to gain an advantage in the return game.
     
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  8. drakulie

    drakulie Talk Tennis Guru

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    actually standing inside or near the baseline takes away angles.

    However, one has way less time to react.
     
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  9. EtePras

    EtePras Banned

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    Agassi's 1st serve return is definitely overrated, and easily the worst service return in history. He spent how many years holding the record for getting aced the most times in a match? If it were that easy, Nadal would just get the record for most clay court losses in a season and be pronounced the best clay player ever.
     
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  10. KrossKourt

    KrossKourt New User

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    I wonder if andre agassi ate pop tarts
     
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  11. helloworld

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    Agassi's ability to return is the best ever, but he doesn't use his ability to the full potential. Sometimes it is wise to block a big serve into play just to stay in the point, but Agassi has too much pride to do that consistently. Most serve that he can't get a good whack on, he would just let it pass him. With his hand-eye coordination and returning ability you would have thought he could have done much more with it, but he just didn't utilize it the right way.
     
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  12. drwood

    drwood Hall of Fame

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    I disagree. Agassi stood very close to the baseline even to return 1st serves -- that's why he allowed so many aces. In return, he was able to hit aggressive shots off of the serves he could return; that's why he was so effective. Most players who serve 40+ aces over a 5-set match LOSE, so the high ace counts really didn't hurt Agassi a ton, with the large exception being Sampras (only on fast surfaces, though) -- but even Sampras said that Agassi forced him to change his game by making him serve and volley on 2nd serves.
     
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  13. beernutz

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    Just because you keep saying it doesn't make it true. How about posting some actual evidence to support your theory?
     
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  14. jserve

    jserve Rookie

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    No. You guys just don't understand what the OP is trying to say. Agassi had a bad return day in 2005. His return is way overrated.
     
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  15. Ripster

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    Not at all overrated. He stood closer to the baseline to hit aggressive returns and cut off the angles....why stand at the wall and float it back when the big server is going to approach the net and knock off an easy volley?

    Agassi's passing shots off 'big servers' are, to this day, the best.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2009
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  16. Lejanius

    Lejanius Rookie

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    your absolutely correct, I misstated my point actually which is that when you move in you gamble that you have enough reaction time. but yes you cut down the angle when you move in.
    thanks
     
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  17. JeMar

    JeMar Legend

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    His first serve return is overrated. He was amazing at second serve returns, but there have been better returners when you look at just getting the ball back.

    Connors, Hewitt, and even Federer in his prime were better at making the opponent play a lot of points off his first serve.
     
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  18. tricky

    tricky Hall of Fame

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    But that's the thing. Agassi wasn't really trying to block back every 1st serve, he was tryin to leverage pressure so that servers would go for lower percentage 1st serves. Which would in turn mean that Agassi would face a higher number of 2nd serves than other players. This works even better in tiebreakers.

    Much is made about Agassi's unbelievable eye-hand, but he did also study his opponents. Looking for tendencies and such.
     
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  19. ChrisCrocker

    ChrisCrocker Rookie

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    you realize agassi had to play 1st serves much harder because he played in an era of serve and volley players right? you think fed,nadal, and murray chipping their backhands or forehands 5 feet over the net would win them the point even though it lands deep? he got ace a lot because of his size and his slice not being better than his 2h backhand
     
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  20. JeMar

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    I just don't think Agassi had the best return ever. I have to give the title to Connors, who faced many more serve and volley players, put a ton of balls back on the court, rarely got aced, and was also very aggressive on his returns.

    Agassi was more aggressive, but also wasn't as consistent.

    I would say that Connors had the best return off first serves, Agassi had the best return off second serves, and Connors was top over-all. If someone places Agassi best of all time, I would say that's overrating it. If he's left at 2, I'd say it's right where it belongs.
     
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  21. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    Ill take Mac's opinion on this one. Agassi was the best returner of all time
     
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  22. JeMar

    JeMar Legend

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    It's definitely debatable, and we all know what a sensationalist McEnroe is!
     
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  23. World Beater

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    you cant really compare.

    obviously when you are facing 130 mph serves, your returning is gonna be more inconsistent than when you are facing 110 mph serves.

    you tell me?
     
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  24. JeMar

    JeMar Legend

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    I think the comparison is valid when you remember that Agassi's frame was much larger than Connors' and Agassi also didn't have to haul that beast of a frame that Connors used. There's enough advantages and disadvantages to the two eras that I think a comparison can be made.

    Again, Agassi was damn good, but I think Connors was more of a total package.
     
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  25. drakulie

    drakulie Talk Tennis Guru

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    I stated something similar in an earlier post.

    It is not often a great server changes their tactics/game plan when facing a returner. Agassi was that good, in that he force servers to go for more, or take something off their first serve, so they wouldn't have to feed him a second serve. Sampras himself said one of the reasons he went for such huge second serves against Agassi was because his normal second would not be enough. So in essence, he hit two first serves.

    Sorry, but Connors never did this to an opponent.
     
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  26. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    Yeah except he played against both of them.
     
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  27. KrossKourt

    KrossKourt New User

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    i think agassi liked cereal more rather than pop tarts. possibly trix or fruity pebbles. those cereal brands are not overrated
     
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  28. tricky

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    FWIW, you could make the case that Federer's return of service is overrated nowadays. He's not in the top 10 this year in return points won in either 1st or 2nd serve categories.
     
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  29. JeMar

    JeMar Legend

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    This is true.

    He does a terrible job of converting break points too.
     
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  30. NamRanger

    NamRanger G.O.A.T.

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    This has actually always been the case in Federer's career.
     
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  31. shakes1975

    shakes1975 Semi-Pro

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    Excellent post !! Very good and accurate observation.

    Please do not mind Agassi Fans like Drakulie and others who have no clue.

    Agassi's return approach is too aggressive against Sampras. Against a server like Sampras, Fed's and Hewitt's approach is much, much better. They got back a lot of serves into play, got the returns low and to the side, making Sampras stretch and lunge for the volley, and then used the pass.

    Agassi's "macho" attitude works well against every other server except Sampras, and Krajicek when he was "on".

    Also, Becker's, Stich's 1st serves are not in the league of Sampras and Krajicek. Just posting a W/L record does not prove anything.
     
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  32. NamRanger

    NamRanger G.O.A.T.

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    Sampras backed up his serve better than anyone else on the planet in the 90s, and had an incredible serve to begin with.
     
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  33. shakes1975

    shakes1975 Semi-Pro

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    I am only talking about the return.

    Against a player like Sampras on the faster surfaces, I would rather go with a player like Hewitt who made Sampras work on most of his service points, rather than Agassi who hit a few blazing winners but who also gave away a lot of aces and service winners.

    Agassi was great enough to make Sampras change his mindset on the second serves. So Sampras had to serve +10 mph on his second serves. So what ? He was able to do it and get the job done. Sampras knew that when it really mattered, he would get the ace against Agassi, whether it's 1st or 2nd serve. In fact, Agassi's approach to returning only amplified the excellence of Sampras' serve.

    Against somebody like Hewitt, Sampras realized that even if he serves 130mph and on the lines, the serve is going to come back. And almost every serve is going to come back. Sure, most of the returns were chips and blocks, but the consistency bogged him down. As great as the rest of his game was, if he was forced to play every return, there was always going to be a few careless errors and he would be in trouble.

    IMO, against Sampras, the hewitt approach is definitely better. And against everyone else, Agassi's return is better. And Hewitt's record against Sampras is even better than Agassi's.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2009
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  34. NamRanger

    NamRanger G.O.A.T.

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    You forgot to mention the fact that Hewitt...


    A. Has way better passing shots than Agassi
    B. Is way faster, so he can afford to play more consistent returns in and make it up with his speed
    C. Has an incredible topspin lob, which in fact does affect how Sampras approaches the net after a serve



    Because of these factors, Hewitt can put the ball into play more often without having to go for so big of a return. Overall, Hewitt's return game (which is way different from the actual return shot) matches up better against Sampras in particular, but Agassi's return game and return is simply superior versus the field.


    Agassi simply cannot play Hewitt's return against Sampras, because he doesn't have the other Hewitt qualities. He can't chase Sampras volleys down, nor does he have the topspin lob threat to give him more breathing room. So Agassi is forced to return like he does.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2009
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  35. tricky

    tricky Hall of Fame

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    Yeah, see, I actually do prefer Hewitt's return game over Agassi. I made the case for Agassi's aggressive style, but I think blocking the ball with good passing angles is overall better policy than attacking the 1st serve as Agassi did. Especially in any era where seemingly everybody has a big serve and a big FH.

    I think the debate is philosophical. Is it better to attack the 1st serve or block at a much higher percentage, presuming the player is good at both?
     
    #85
  36. shakes1975

    shakes1975 Semi-Pro

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    Very good post. I agree with your distinction about the return game and return shot. However, I do think that the OP was talking about the return game and not just the return shot.
     
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  37. KrossKourt

    KrossKourt New User

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    everything in bold needs proof.
     
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  38. drakulie

    drakulie Talk Tennis Guru

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    And Sampras himself has said numerous times the best returner he faced was, Agassi. (talk about not having a "clue" :roll: )


    I'll take sampras' opinion over yours.
     
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  39. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    Which proves converting break points at a high rate is over rated.
     
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  40. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    As did McEnroe who played Jimmy and Andre.
     
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  41. pabletion

    pabletion Professional

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    #91
  42. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    He should have just blocked more back. After all all big serving players who followed those bombs into net HATE a blocked return LOL
     
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  43. Max G.

    Max G. Hall of Fame

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    Gah. This giant thread, and NOBODY has actually looked at the statistics that everyone's arguing about, Agassi's win percentage when returning first serves?

    Sheesh, people, the data's right there. You want to know how good Agassi's first serve return is? LOOK AT THE PERCENTAGES HE WINS WHEN RETURNING FIRST SERVES. ATP has great data on this.

    This isn't a thread about whether Agassi is a good returner or not. He is. It's about, specifically, whether his FIRST SERVE RETURN is as good as indicated by the occasional flashy winner he hits off of it - is the tradeoff between hitting some great returns at the cost of getting aced a lot worth it. It's not about whether he can beat all those big servers - he can. It's whether he beats them by crushing their second serve return and being ok on their first, or by both. Quotes that say "AGASSI IS A GREAT RETURNER" or stats that say that aren't relevant, because the question is which PART of his return is great - first serve return, or second serve return, or both.

    Compare Agassi to, say, Goran Ivanisevic. Look at Ivanisevic's win percentage on first serves and win percentage on second serves.

    Next, compare someone else to Goran Ivanisevic. Say, pick someone else elite - Pete Sampras, who is not as good a returner as Agassi, but is certainly as deadly of a player overall. Compare Sampras to Ivanisevic, look at win percentage on first serves and win percentage on second serves.

    Now, I certainly expect that Andre would have a better win percentage on returning second serves. But the relevant question is
    1) Does he have a better win percentage on returning first serves
    2) And, if so, how much better is it?

    Here's the data. Agassi and Ivanisevic have played six full matches against each other (not counting the 3-0 RET match). In those matches, Goran Ivanisevic won 86, 86, 87, 86, 88, and 78 percent of his first serve points, respectively. He won 39, 58, 30, 42, 57, 45 percent of his second serve points, respectively.

    Sampras and Ivanisevic played a total of 18 matches against each other. Of those, the ATP had statistics for 12 of them. It those, Ivanisevic won 76, 87, 94, 89, 77, 82, 87, 81, 77, 80, 83, and 84 percent of his first serve points. He also won 51, 34, 51, 47, 52, 55, 52, 25, 40, 44, 56, and 33 percent of his second serve points, respectively.

    I think this data supports the idea for Agassi being a great second serve returner, but not as great of a first serve returner against the big servers. You can pretty much read off Agassi's wins off of the second serve win percent - the three matches of that list that Agassi won off Ivanisevic were ones where he absolutely CRUSHED the second serve return - Ivanisevic could manage win percentages of a measly 39, 30, 42 on his second serve in those matches! Whereas, in nearly all of the matches between the two (except the very first one, back in 1991), Ivanisevic consistently would win between 86 and 88 percent of his first serve points, regardless of whether he would win or lose the match.

    Sampras, not known as a "great" returner (though I'm sure he was, he had to be good at all parts of the game, just not as exceptional at it as Agassi was), got a better win percentage off of Ivanisevic's first serve (plenty of below-86 matches.)

    This isn't quite a fair comparison, though, because Sampras had a better overall record against Ivanisevic - 12-6, of which one was a walkover so it's more like 12-5, and only one of those wins coming post-1993. If you look at the second serve win points, Agassi also did a tad bit worse on second serve return than Sampras did, on average! That's a bit weird to me.

    Matches against Boris Becker are inconclusive, In the AA vs BB matches that ATPtennis.com had statistics for, AA went 7-1, letting BB win an average[1] of 72 percent of his first serve points and 41 percent of his second serve points. Pete Sampras, who went 11-7 against BB in the matches ATPtennis had statistic for, let BB win 78% of his first serve points overall and 47% of his second serve points.

    Agassi was a more effective returner [2] - he was 6% more effective on both first and second serves, which would indicate that he's equally good at returning first and second serves compared to others in his field.

    Against Richard Krajicek, another big server of the 90s:

    Agassi: overall record 3-3 [3]. Percent of first serves won by RK: 81. Percent of second serves won by RK: 54.

    Sampras: overall record 5-4 (of those with stats). Percent of first serves won by RK: 82. Percent of second serves won by RK: 51.

    In this matchup, Sampras was a better 2nd serve returner and a slightly worse first serve returner, even though he had a worse record against RK overall? WTH?

    OK, I'm not doing any more, I think I've come to my conclusion. Andre Agassi was as good at returning first serves as he was at returning second serves - the appearance that he got aced a lot was probably made up for by his aggressiveness on the returns which he DID get a racquet on. When comparing him to another player of his generation, I don't see a marked gap between 1st and 2nd serve return statistics that would indicate that his return prowess came ONLY from his second serve return stats. This effect may still be there for individual players, depending on individual matchups, but it's not looking like it's an "Agassi vs any big servers" effect, if it's ever there.

    (Of course, these are only three players. Of these, Ivanisevic indicated that the gap is there, and RK and BB indicated that there is no gap. If someone wants to do more players, I'd certainly be curious to hear - Rusedski? Is there a lefty effect? There's far more big servers than these. But I've looked at enough to conclude that the effect that the OP was talking about, if there, is not very big, and certainly not obvious, and I don't want to look at any more, I've got better things to do. Oh! And all this is comparing Agassi to Sampras, but that's also just one comparison - if someone wants to do a comparison to a good return-blocking player of Agassi's generation, that would be informative as well.)

    [1] (Note about my averages - I'm taking the averages per match, and then averaging those to get an "overall" average. I realize that's not the right way of doing it and I should be weighting it by total points. If someone else wants to do that work, go ahead, I don't feel like it.)

    [2] Yes, I realize it's not a measure of how good he is as a returner, it's how good he is overall on returning first and second serves, so it takes into account his ground game and passing shots as well. It's the best proxy measure I can think of, though.

    [3] I am excluding the match where RK was just coming back in a brief comeback attempt after not being on tour for two and a half years. Not even sure RK would count as a big server the way he was playing in that match ;)
     
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  44. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    ATP has incorrect stats all throughout the 90s

    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=2812426#post2812426

    They consistently seem to be counting aces & double faults twice.
     
    #94
  45. acehigh

    acehigh Rookie

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    I don’t think you can compare Agassi to today’s players and game. He was the one that pioneer serve return and hitting on the rise tactics. Players have adapted and improved on it. With today’s high tech equipments and strings it is much easier to attack a serve if it is anything less than a bomb. Look at the women’s game. Its almost a disadvantage to serve.
     
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  46. Max G.

    Max G. Hall of Fame

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    Huh. That's annoying. Thanks for the correction.

    Well, I take back what I said about great stats. They're halfway competent stats, I s'pose...

    They're still good enough for this question, I think. These errors bias the stats in the other direction - doublecounting aces and doublefaults would lead to a higher apparent percentage of first serves won by the server, and a lower apparent number of second serve points won? So it would overrate the effectiveness of the second serve return, and underrate the effectiveness of the first serve return. So hopefully even though the specific numbers are wrong, the trends are still the same.... I'm not confident in that anymore, though.
     
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  47. shakes1975

    shakes1975 Semi-Pro

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    And yet, Sampras leads Agassi in H2H and trails against Hewitt.
     
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  48. obsessedtennisfandisorder

    obsessedtennisfandisorder Professional

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    brilliant post up until the bolded part.

    it explains the thinking on here by many TWers in regards to what's a good return...

    Back in the 90's man...people like edberg and stich did not stuff up ANY
    easy volleys...thus it became pointless to give them easy volleys to finish points.

    While i appreciate your thinking dropshot...you've gotta remember about
    WHERE people stand on the return.

    If you stand further back (like say Hewitt) sure...you may get more serves "back"..but you ALSO FOREGOING THE OPPORTUNITY TO HIT AN AGGRESIVE RETURN. Andre thought the risk was worth it...based on what I outlined above...there were tons of awesome volleyers..including 1st volleys
    in the 90's..eg rafter becker sampras etc.
     
    #98
  49. dropshot winner

    dropshot winner Hall of Fame

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    A defensive return doesn't have to be a semi-deep floater that can be volleyed for a winner.
    A well hit, skidding low return is tricky even for the best volleyers.
    Agassi didn't give himself the possibility to hit a defensive return, so just like Hewitt, he ignored an alternative strategy (btw, Hewitt did hit big returns, just not nearly as often as Agassi).

    The perfect kind of returner IMO should be using all kind of returns, variety is key.

    Mixing between deep and very short defensive returns and agressive big ones makes it very difficult for the opponent.

    But most players aren't comfortable at using different court positioning on 1st serve return, guys like Agassi and Federer like to stay close to the baseline and the likes of Hewitt and Murray prefer to stand further back.

    I think that Agassi was a bit too ambitious on first serve return, he often chose a side before the serve was hit. This meant that he either hit a great return or got aced.
    When you anticipate right it's a very effective strategy, but if you don't you're gifting way too many points.

    I'm convinced that Agassi would've won more points on 1st serve return (on average) had he been able to hit defensive returns and had used his agressive returns more selectively.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2009
    #99
  50. Andres

    Andres G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
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    I would pick Hewitt over Agassi, though.
     

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