Pete Sampras Serve - Nostalgic Nonsense Breakdown Series 1 Episode 1

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by sonicare, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. sonicare

    sonicare Hall of Fame

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    Welcome everyone to my Nostalgic Nonsense Breakdown Series referred to as NN-BS in the rest of this post.

    Now that we have a 2 months break until we see some tennis again, I have decided to take some time out and educate some of the nostalgic peeps on this forum.

    It is a great opportunity for all of you to learn from me, a tennis expert and historian in my own right.

    Today, I will educate you on the NN-BS regarding the Pete Sampras serve, one of the most overrated shots in the history of our sport. Let's begin.

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    If you have been watching tennis for any length of time, you have probably heard any or all of the following:

    '.........pete had the greatest serve of all time..........'

    '..........Pete could hit second serve aces..........'

    '..........pete was clutch and always used his serve to get out of trouble..........'

    '..........pete's second serve was almost as good as his first serve..........'

    Before we go further, here is the definition of nostalgia:

    [​IMG]

    In my experience, the nostalgic nonsense about Pete's serve comes from mainly two groups of people:

    1) Old Farts - these are people who are set in their own ways and stuck in the dinosaur era. You will often hear them talk about the 'good old days' when everything was perfect. They do not like change because they feel threatened by it. If these people were in charge of the world, we would still be riding donkeys. They have the uncanny ability to refuse facts and value their erroneous opinions over objective data.

    2) Wannabe Contrarians - these people like to argue just for the sake of arguing. While the 'Old Farts' simply don't know, the 'Wannabe Contrarians' don't know that they don't know. The layer of ignorance with these people is twofold. They have a 'too cool for school' attitude that they could not let go once they left high school. Call them snobs if you want. Seeking attention is their only purpose.

    Moving on,

    In a service game, you have 2 aspects:

    - The serve as a standalone shot

    - What you back your serve with i.e. your ground strokes and volleys

    We are merely concerned with the former here.

    The distinction is very important because it allows us to quickly compare two players and looks at their statistics for the percentage of services held and by looking at who had more game to backup their serve, we can determine who had the better serve.

    This fact is also understood by the great Andre Agassi. Go watch the video below at the 65 second mark:

    [​IMG]

    Now that we understand this distinction, we can make some simple observations.

    If two players have the same percentage of service games held and one of them has an inferior toolbox to backup their serve, basic deductive logic will tell you that this player has to have a better serve in order to have the same hold percentage as the first player.

    All we have to do now is look at the service game percentage hold and determine who was better or on par with Pete Sampras and how their backup game matched up to Pete Sampras.

    Luckily for us, the ATP keeps hold of such stats:

    [​IMG]

    The three guys ranked above Pete Sampras clearly have worse ground game than Sampras so the only way they can hold more often than Pete is by having a better serve.

    There simply isn't another option. It is logic 101 and it seems to escape the NN-BS'ers.

    Add to all the above, courts today are slower so it makes returning slightly easier. This further adds to the argument that atleast those 3 guys have a better serve than Pete.

    Now, some 'Old Farts' and 'Wannabe Contrarians' will profess that they might have a better 1st serve but no way is their 2nd serve better. This is a classic example of what is known as 'clutching at straws' as defined below:


    Out of desparation, the act of reaching or stretching for a solution, no matter how irrational or inconsequential. Literally - a drowning person who, unable to find any substantial floatation immediately at had, attempts to save himself from certain death by grabbing hold of a few stray pieces of straw floating on the water within arm's length.


    The distinction that the NN-BB'ers try to make between 1st and 2nd serve is completely unnecessary and is an attempt to take attention away from this simple fact:

    Ivo Karlovic, John Isner and Andy Roddick hold more often than Pete Sampras with a much worse backup game on slower courts and against arguably better returners


    This is a simple fact that they cannot escape.

    Next time you see a NN-BS'er mention that Pete Sampras had the best serve in the history of the game, ask them this simple question:

    - How are Isner, Karlovic and Roddick able to hold more often with a worse ground game on slower courts than Pete Sampras?

    If you hear a NN-BS'er say that Pete Sampras could hit second serve aces on cue , ask them:

    - How did Pete ever lose his serve? never mind a match.

    This concludes episode 1 of this series. Stay tuned. There is more to come.

    Next time, you will be educated on the myth that is Rodney George "Rod" Laver, a 5 foot 8 supposed GOAT candidate.

    Until next time.

    Signing off

    [​IMG]

    Sonicare (tennis expert and historian)
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
    #1
  2. RF20Lennon

    RF20Lennon Legend

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    I agree with you but what was the point?? And Sampras was more clutch than these guys! he would come up with serves at the big moments but i agree with you on the whole but i dont see the big picture
     
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  3. DolgoSantoro

    DolgoSantoro Professional

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    I predict rage and denial will be the response to this, although you will certainly get much more than that if you go after Laver.

    You do make an interesting case though, didn't know Andre said that. Very enlightening.
     
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  4. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    the whole post seems to be geared towards controversy.
    old farts and contrarians
    donĀ“t you have indoor courts in your part of the world to amuse you in the next couple of months?
     
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  5. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    While I agree with the general argument, the path of debate chosen has a few holes in it - despite the OP implying or stating outright otherwise - which can potentially scuttle the intention to paint an argument as being a voice of reason and logic.
    This isn't really the whole picture though... the returner also plays a significant part in how a service game goes. If the era you're playing in is typified for it's great returners then service stats will adjust accordingly, and vice versa.

    That logic is a little too basic and incomplete. Again, it doesn't allow for the other major factor: the quality of the returner. We cannot accurately screen for return quality, nor factor how two different returners would return the same serve on different occasions, nor how the same returner would return two different serves.

    *Simple* logic would be a better explanation for the approach used - it avoids including the multitudes of variables which would make a quick statistical analysis almost impossible (notwithstanding most of the data simply isn't available). It makes use only of the information which is already available (let's just assume it is all correct) which could be seen as wanting in some respects if you were to do a truly representative comparison of serve quality.

    As above, it might seem right when you use only the easily available data but it is far from being the "only way" or that there "simply isn't another option". Of course there are other options - how about returners are worse than they used to be? Perhaps they take bigger cuts because they know a meek return wont suffice and so the return percentages drop accordingly with the increased risk that comes with that approach?

    Perhaps the balls are significantly more server friendly than they used to be. Can this idea be completely discounted? If so, characteristics comparison between balls from 1995 and 2012 should be available and be able to be used to screen for the bias it would create. If not, it can't be discounted as a significant factor.

    On the original topic specifically I think the tennis of yesteryear is very often overrated in terms of its quality. The pace, angles etc typical of each era are often viewed and judged with such partisan eyes it almost defies belief. Countless times I've seen people argue that Lendl had a forehand as good, or better than Federer's. Looking at the footage and trying to be as objective as possible I sometimes wonder if they've ever seen footage or even watch tennis all that closely. The same comparison can be made for many GOAT-worthy shots.

    Did Sampras have the greatest all-round serve of all time? Or did he just get the best results with it (which therefore factors in the era and opponents also)? I say he's close... but then Agassi and others who ought to know have sometimes said otherwise (then again, many of these guys are well known to be pretty myopic in their views and/or quite poorly educated so their own biases cannot be ruled out either).
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012
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  6. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    While the OP has made some excellent points, there are several things to consider when we look at Sampras' percentage of service games won numbers versus the few who are ahead of him. First of all we have to consider that in his time that Sampras usually led the ATP in percentage of holding serve. This could mean several things. One thing is that considering the equipments, surfaces and overall conditions it may have been harder to hold serve in those days and a slightly lower number may be good enough to led the ATP. Another thing is that Sampras went deeper into tournaments than Isner, Roddick or Karlovic and faced better returners like an Agassi, Chang etc. The last thing is perhaps the others are just plain better. Personally I think guys like Isner and Roddick are fantastic servers but to me it's debatable whether they are superior to Sampras. Roddick's numbers in leading the ATP however are fabulous and I do think he is on Sampras' level, maybe above or just below him.
     
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  7. Devilito

    Devilito Hall of Fame

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    Petros = 6'-0"

    End of story. If you can't figure out, sorry
     
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  8. Mister drool

    Mister drool Rookie

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    To the purpose of this thread i quote the great Jeffrey Lebowski (aka "the dude")

    : "yeah... welll, that's just like... your opinion man...."
     
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  9. aceroberts13

    aceroberts13 Professional

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    I would also argue that to an extent (and I stress extent) that Sampras' hold% was more greatly affected by the fact that he was in many more tough matches than the three gentleman ahead of him. I also think this same caveat would apply to Roddick and Isner as well but to lesser extents than Sampras. Just food for thought. Simplified my logic is this: You consistently go deeper into tournaments, you consistently face tougher tournaments which is more true to Sampras than Roddick and Isner.
     
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  10. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    not tall enough???:confused:
     
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  11. President

    President Legend

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    Sampras= 6'1'', Roddick=6'2''. Didn't realize 1 inch could make such a big difference:oops:
     
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  12. BrooklynNY

    BrooklynNY Hall of Fame

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    What's Karlovic's hold slam quarters and beyond?

    What about Isner's hold % in masters finals?

    These numbers alone don't tell the story, as other posters have alluded to.
     
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  13. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Height is part of the sport. Isner is very tall and no one is making excuse for his weak movement. Rosewall doesn't have a great forehand because he was small. You can't argue over different physical trait.
     
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  14. President

    President Legend

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    Most people agree that current conditions favor returners much more than servers compared to the 90's. Slower surfaces and better strings mean that it is easier to get the ball into the court with interest. Overall I think Isner, Roddick, and Karlovic as well as a few other players (including from Sampras' own era) have better serves than him. None of them, of course, could match his overall game or mental strength which is why they achieved so much less.
     
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  15. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Yes, PC1 have explained that. But today's players faced better returners, slower surface.

    Karlovic holds the record for most aces per match in 2007(better than Goran's best year in 1996), and he faced tougher condition/returners.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012
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  16. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Yeah as if a 2% difference with players who have mostly played half to a quarter of the matches that Pete played is statistically significant to warrant any conclusion.
     
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  17. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

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    Just a question......do the ATP stats the OP is using include all of Ivo's matches? I believe the ATP stats include the qualies? Ivo has and still does have tons of matches in the qualies and all those will inflate his numbers vs Sampras who played only a few qualifying rounds very early in his career and was always in the main draws vs much stronger players.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012
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  18. NadalDramaQueen

    NadalDramaQueen Hall of Fame

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    Sonicare, you are a true expert. Your knowledge is exceeded only by your class.
     
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  19. 90's Clay

    90's Clay Legend

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    Pete could come up with the goods when he had to under pressure situations when holding serve.. To a point NO ONE could do before.

    And it wasn't just the speed and power.. It was the placement and the disguise of the serve which made him so difficult to break

    By far the best server ever in the clutch and far and away the best 2nd serve ever
     
    #19
  20. The-Champ

    The-Champ Legend

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    wow, Andre must really hate Sampras. According to him Fed and Nadal are probably the two greatest player ever. Even as a rabid Nadal fan, I wouldn't rank him above Pete, and then you have other legends from the 60s to 80s. The meth must have done a lot of damage :)
     
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  21. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Not necessarily because as I mentioned he often doesn't last to the later rounds where he may often play a better returner.

    Thing is that if players were better returners today relatively speaking it may stand to reason that the percentage of service breaks are higher. Yet I see at the top levels that servers seem to hold serve at a higher rate.

    I have the stats for Sampras in the 1990's and he did lead the ATP most years in the 1990's if I recall correctly. It is an interesting discussion however.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2012
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  22. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

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    Wouldn't say hate but going all the way back to the Jrs there is no love lost between the two. I remember back in the early 90s Andre make the remark that Pete "looks like he just swung out of a tree" alluding he had long arms and hairy and he looked like an ape......Andre also had issues with Courier and again the two didn't really get along.

    Probably jealous that Pete would always beat his A** :)
     
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  23. Blocker

    Blocker Semi-Pro

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    Pete Sampras can't win.

    He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

    Some say he only won salms because of his serve. Some like the OP suggest his serve isn't what it's made out to be.

    So which one is it?

    I'm willing to bet that if you asked one million knowledgeable tennis fans which one player they would choose to serve for their life, the majority would say Sampras.

    Stats only tell half the story.
     
    #23
  24. Laurie

    Laurie Professional

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    I don't know why the OP is getting so worked up, quite strange.

    As for Agassi's comments, I don't see anything wrong with it, and in fact is a compliment to Sampras. Agassi is saying that although Sampras may not have had the fastest or the biggest or the "best" serve, he was the best at defending his serve. Whether that meant knocking off a volley, or aces, or unreturnables, or stting up the point to finish with a groundstroke winner or at the net, Sampras had many options and skills to turn serves into his favour.

    As far as I'm concerned that's a good compliment. As for his serve, without getting into stats I don't have, Sampras was the best at getting out of trouble score wise, and was the best at the combination of combining slice and topspin at pace, hence the reason his 2nd serve was so superior. I can think of Becker as well, but maybe Becker concentrated sometimes on taking too much pace off the 2nd serve to get the kick, which sometimes sat up like a duck for his opponents.
     
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  25. piece

    piece Professional

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    While it's true that Sampras faced top players more often than Karlovic has, this doesn't seem to have inflated Karlovic's percentage of service games held to any significant degree:


    This suggests that regardless of the quality of player Karlovic faces, his serve is more effective than Sampras' since Sampras held serve less often than Karlovic even though the rest of his game is superior to Karlovic's in every respect.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
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  26. Prisoner of Birth

    Prisoner of Birth Banned

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    Sampras has the best service game in history. Possibly the best 2nd serve as well. But a good few players have the better 1st serve, like Ivanisevic and Karlovic, for instance.
     
    #26
  27. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

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    Let's see if I was given the choice to have the serve of one of the top players of all time or a guy who floats around the top 50 on a good year......hmmmmm which one would I take?

    I don't really get the OP whole take on this....you have always had guys on tour who had huge monster serves, Dibley, Amaya, Phister, Bobo.....big deal maybe he should win a few matches first. It's just like in golf you have theses guys who can hit 400yd+ drives...so freaking what -
     
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  28. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Since there are only three ranked higher and really only one of those three that has had his serve tested in grand slam semi's and finals a few times, I would be interested in seeing Roddick's service holds vs Sampras in those bigger matches. Can someone supply that stat?
     
    #28
  29. the green god

    the green god Semi-Pro

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    Your stats are meaningless regarding Ivo and Isner. Sampras was getting much deeper in draws playing against the best in the world. They were playing and racking up those stats against inferior players. How many grand slam semis did they get to?
     
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  30. wrxinsc

    wrxinsc Professional

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    A ++ effort troll (and a preemptive straw man like teh boss)

    Signing off

    wrxinsc
     
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  31. Winners or Errors

    Winners or Errors Hall of Fame

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    Has anyone else noticed that the OP just spun everyone up and left? If you feed them, they'll keep posting.
     
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  32. piece

    piece Professional

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    See post #25
     
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