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krosero 10-02-2012 06:01 PM

First Serves Under Pressure
 
Borg made his first serve on 12 of 13 break points in the 1980 Wimbledon final against McEnroe.

That stat is probably the most impressive that Moose and I have come across, in the category of first serves made when facing break points.

Del Potro replicated it recently at the Olympics, making his first serve on 12 of 13 break points against Federer.

On all 13 break points, Del Potro directed his serve to Federer’s backhand. Twelve times in a row he made his first serve, and Federer stabbed at the ball to get it back, if he could get it back at all. Only once in that stretch was Federer able to get the serve back and convert a break point: that was at 9-all in the third. But Federer got broken back at love, so the match continued for several more games. Del Potro kept saving break points with his first serve.

Finally on the 13th break point, Del Potro missed his first serve. He directed his second serve to the backhand, but Federer was able to run around it and play a forehand. They got into a tense rally in which Federer hit 5 forehands and only one BH; and Federer converted it. That was the decisive break, and Federer served out the match 3-6, 7-6, 19-17.


Some other standout performances in this category:

Isner in a 2012 Davis Cup match vs Federer, made his 1st serve on 11 of 12 break points
Lendl in a 1983 W semifinal vs Tanner, on 9 of 10
Borg in the 1977 W final vs Connors, on 12 of 14
Smith in the 1971 W final vs Newcombe, on 11 of 13
Borg in the 1976 W final vs Nastase, on 10 of 12
Borg in the 1979 Masters semis vs McEnroe, on 10 of 12
Federer at the 2001 W, R16, vs Sampras, on 9 of 11
Djokovic in a 2012 RG quarterfinal vs Tsonga, on 9 of 11
Rosewall in the 1970 USO final vs Roche, on 12 of 15
McEnroe in the 1981 W final vs Borg, on 12 of 15
McEnroe at the 1990 USO vs Sanchez, on 12 of 15
Roche in the 1970 USO final vs Rosewall, on 8 of 10
Kuerten in a 2000 Masters Cup semi vs Sampras, on 8 of 10
Roddick in a 2012 Miami match vs Federer, on 8 of 10
Smith in the 1972 W final vs Nastase, on 13 of 17
Pancho Gonzalez at the 1969 W, R128 vs Pasarell, on 8 of 11 in the last 3 sets
Borg at the 1980 Wimbledon, R128 vs El Shafei, on 7 of 7
Lendl in a 1987 USO semi vs Connors, on 6 of 6
Kuerten in the 2000 Masters Cup final vs Agassi, on 6 of 7
McEnroe in the 1979 Masters semis vs Borg, on 5 of 6
Borg in the 1979 W final vs Tanner, on 7 of 9
Newcombe in the 1971 W final, on 6 of 8
Laver in the 1969 W final vs Newcombe, on 5 of 7
Sampras in the 1999 W final vs Agassi, on 4 of 4


And from less big servers (or servers who used heavy spin):

Connors in the 1981 W semis vs Borg, on 20 of 22
Nadal in the 2006 Rome final vs Federer, on 9 of 10
Chang in the 1989 RG final vs Edberg, on 22 of 25
Lewis in the 1983 W semis vs Curren, on 13 of 15
Nadal in the 2007 RG final vs Federer, on 14 of 17
Agassi in a 1995 W semi vs Becker, on 13 of 16
Edberg in the 1989 Davis Cup final vs Becker, on 9 of 11
Connors in the 1975 W final vs Ashe, on 17 of 21
Nadal in a 2012 AO semi vs Federer, on 8 of 10
Rosewall in the 1974 W semis vs Smith, on 6 of 7
Nadal in the 2011 W final vs Djokovic, on 5 of 6
Wilander in the 1988 RG final vs Leconte, on 4 of 4



And some poor performances:

Ashe in the 1978 Masters final vs McEnroe, went 0 for 6
Becker in the 1989 W semis vs Lendl, went 0 for 6
Wilander in the 1983 AO final vs Lendl, went 0 for 4
Becker in a 1993 W semi vs Sampras, went 0 for 4
Lendl in the 1984 USO semis vs Cash, went 2 for 10
Lendl in the 1988 USO final vs Wilander, went 2 for 10
Becker in the 1989 W final vs Edberg, went 1 for 5
Pernfors in the 1986 Davis Cup final vs Cash, went 2 for 9
Agassi in the 1999 W final vs Sampras, went 2 for 9
Kriek in the 1981 AO final vs Denton, went 2 for 8
Noah in the 1983 RG quarters vs Lendl, went 2 for 8
Lendl in a 1983 W semi vs McEnroe, went 2 for 7

Limpinhitter 10-02-2012 06:13 PM

If what has been written is remotely true, I have to believe that Pancho Gonzales has had numerous serving performances that would be at the top of this list that are undocumentend and that we'll never know about.

krosero 10-02-2012 06:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Limpinhitter (Post 6932306)
If what has been written is remotely true, I have to believe that Pancho Gonzales has had numerous serving performances that would be at the top of this list that are undocumentend and that we'll never know about.

Shame we only have that one stat for him, against Pasarell.

I know the remark you're referring to, I wish I could locate the exact quote, or at least the source. It was a comment to the effect that Pancho almost always got his first serve into play when facing a break point.

But as they say, don't quote me on that!

krosero 10-02-2012 07:01 PM

Here's another: Borg made his first serve on 4 of 4 break points in the 1979 RG final against Pecci.

That's kind of a mixed case because Borg normally hit big first serves, but on that occasion he was spinning them in.

In the '80 W final it was a different story. At 4-all in the second set he faced 3 break points, all potentially giving McEnroe a chance at a two-set lead. Borg put 3 strong serves in the box and drew return errors on all of them.

pc1 10-02-2012 07:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by krosero (Post 6932347)
Shame we only have that one stat for him, against Pasarell.

I know the remark you're referring to, I wish I could locate the exact quote, or at least the source. It was a comment to the effect that Pancho almost always got his first serve into play when facing a break point.

But as they say, don't quote me on that!

I'll see if I can find some quote on pressure serves for Gonzalez. I think perhaps both Segura and Kramer did mention some words to that effect. Maybe Vic Braden.

pc1 10-03-2012 06:58 AM

From Pancho Segura's Championship Strategy-How to play winning Tennis

"The best serve I have ever seen in tennis from the viewpoint of perfect rhythm, effortless motion, and effectiveness was that of Pancho Gonzalez. The toss was as smooth as silk, the knee motin classical, the **** of the arm impeccable, the arc made by arm and racket totally fluid--and the ball came off the racket like a bullet. In his best playing years, one could predict that, if Gonzalez was down 0-40 on serve, the first serve would always go in. It always did."

From Jack Kramer's book The Game--FIRST SERVE-Vines had the finest serve I ever saw, but Gonzales, the great competitor, was more consistent with his in the tightest spots. Tilden, too, must be ranked for speed and deception.

May be able to find more quotes later on Gonzalez's serve under pressure. I read somewhere that someone kept an informal record on year of Gonzalez's serve percentage on big points and it was extremely high.

Limpinhitter 10-03-2012 07:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pc1 (Post 6932391)
I'll see if I can find some quote on pressure serves for Gonzalez. I think perhaps both Segura and Kramer did mention some words to that effect. Maybe Vic Braden.

This isn't directly relevant, but, Vic Braden wrote about Gonzales' serve as being so dominant that the pro tour expermented with allowing only 1 serve per point. The thinking was that taking away Gozales' first serve would take away his advantage. Rather, having only 1 serve increased Gonzales' advantage over the rest of the field.

Tony Trabert has also commented to the effect that he thought his ground game was better than Gonzales', but that, Gonzales' serve was so much better, his ground game didn't make enough of a difference. IMO, Trabert did have a more powerful ground game, but, not necessarily a better ground game. Gonzales was a touch player like McEnroe (but with much prettier strokes) who was a quicker, better athlete overall than Trabert, who used his ground game very effectively to keep his opponent off balance and frustrate attacking net rushers.

pc1 10-03-2012 07:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Limpinhitter (Post 6933114)
This isn't directly relevant, but, Vic Braden wrote about Gonzales' serve as being so dominant that the pro tour expermented with allowing only 1 serve per point. The thinking was that taking away Gozales' first serve would take away his advantage. Rather, having only 1 serve increased Gonzales' advantage over the rest of the field.

Tony Trabert has also commented to the effect that he thought his ground game was better than Gonzales', but that, Gonzales' serve was so much better, his ground game didn't make enough of a difference. IMO, Trabert did have a more powerful ground game, but, not necessarily a better ground game. Gonzales was a touch player like McEnroe (but with much prettier strokes) who was a quicker, better athlete overall than Trabert, who used his ground game very effectively to keep his opponent off balance and frustrate attacking net rushers.

Actually it is quite relevant. The point was that Gonzalez's serve was so strong and that he was getting his serve in a very high percentage of the time when he needed it. If he missed any serve he loses the point. Great stuff.

pc1 10-03-2012 09:35 AM

From the Fireside Book of Tennis-From an article by Julius Heldman called The Style of Pancho Gonzales--The strongest part of Gonzales' serve is his ability to put the first ball into play when the chips are down. At 0-40, 15-40 and 30-40, his battling average on first serves must be .950. It is incredible to have so high a percentage while still hitting hard and almost flat. The number of aces served on these important points is also astounding.

There are a lot of greats famous for putting big serves in when the pressure was on, Pancho Gonzalez is perhaps the most revered by the experts but I would say in the last few decades you would have to look at Borg and Sampras as being well known for this also.

Krosero has McEnroe doing well in this area but I don't recall him being well known for this area of the game. He probably was excellent but it wasn't mentioned that often.

Speaking of Borg, here's what Fred Perry wrote about him in his book Fred Perry-An autobiography-Borg was the best player I've ever seen when it came to battling his way out of a tight corner; when he was love-40, 15-40 or 30-40 down he was marvelous. Look how he came back so many times from seemingly impossible postions against players like Mark Edmondson, Vijay Amritraj and Victor Amaya during his great Wimbledon years.

Moose Malloy 10-03-2012 10:23 AM

Quote:

If what has been written is remotely true, I have to believe that Pancho Gonzales has had numerous serving performances that would be at the top of this list that are undocumentend and that we'll never know about.
This stat is still undocumented, only krosero & I have researched it, I've never seen a commentator or article or official stats mention it, even with today's players. Funny how primitive a sport tennis still is in so many ways. So easy to find out 1st serves made, 1st serve pts won, but no one thought it was important to track amount of 1st serves made down break point? aren't they the most important points?

Quote:

"The best serve I have ever seen in tennis from the viewpoint of perfect rhythm, effortless motion, and effectiveness was that of Pancho Gonzalez. The toss was as smooth as silk, the knee motin classical, the **** of the arm impeccable, the arc made by arm and racket totally fluid--and the ball came off the racket like a bullet. In his best playing years, one could predict that, if Gonzalez was down 0-40 on serve, the first serve would always go in. It always did."
I've said it before, but I think fans shouldn't just accept everything former players say as fact(often when players come off the court today, they are way off when asked about what they think their or their opponents 1st serve % was, etc. So while it may seemed to those who played Pancho that he always made first serves when down break point, who knows how true that was. unless these old players had photographic memories or something)

We all know how famous Becker was for hitting big serves down break point, coming back from 0-40 etc. Well, krosero & I have tracked many of his matches & turns out he was fairly average at making first serves down break point. I followed his entire career & would have bet good money that he would have a high number of 1st serves made down break points, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Many posters here(& commentators) repeat that about Becker frequently & probably always will. So something that isn't really true is widely accepted as fact, because of our "impressions" of watching matches, with no actual stats.

Quote:

The strongest part of Gonzales' serve is his ability to put the first ball into play when the chips are down. At 0-40, 15-40 and 30-40, his battling average on first serves must be .950
"must be?" again no actual facts, just guesses. That's tennis for you in a nutshell, past & present.

Quote:

Pancho Gonzalez is perhaps the most revered by the experts but I would say in the last few decades you would have to look at Borg and Sampras as being well known for this also.
Turns out Sampras wasn't too special in this stat either(from matches tracked)

But his huge 2nd serves sort of balanced that out.

Quote:

Krosero has McEnroe doing well in this area but I don't recall him being well known for this area of the game. He probably was excellent but it wasn't mentioned that often.
Well, just because he wasn't 'mentioned' doesn't mean jack to me. The more matches I track of his the more I realize how clutch he was. The serves he put in down break points in the '81 W final were ridiculous(not aces which leave more of an 'impression' on viewers, but virtual unreturnables. some of the most impressive serving I've seen in a Wimbledon final, esp considering the circumstances)
I see you frequently argue in GOAT debates that former players aren't historians and we should take their opinions with a grain of salt. I sort of feel the same thing here. They aren't statisticians, so their opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.
I know you'll probably never do it, but taking stats can really make you see things about players you would never notice otherwise. Stats don't tell everything, but certainly do add to the experience.

Quote:

And from less big servers (or servers who used heavy spin):
Chang made 1st serves on 15 of the 17 break points he faced in the last 2 sets in the '89 FO final. Will try to get complete stats.

Quote:

Lendl in the 1988 USO final vs Wilander, went 2 for 10
how many 1st serves did Wilander make when down break point in that match?

I have more stats on this from some Federer matches. I think he's pretty good at making 1st serves down break point.

Quote:

That stat is probably the most impressive that Moose and I have come across, in the category of first serves made when facing break points.
Navratilova had such a high serve % in many of her major finals, I would guess she had high numbers in this category as well.

Moose Malloy 10-03-2012 10:55 AM

Quote:

Some other standout performances in this category:
Isner made 1st serves on 11 of 12 break points vs Fed in Davis Cup.
Courier went 5 of 6 in '93 W SF.

Quote:

And some poor performances:

Becker in the 1989 W semis vs Lendl, went 0 for 6
Ashe in the 1978 Masters final vs McEnroe, went 0 for 6
Wilander in the 1983 AO final vs Lendl, went 0 for 4
Lendl in the 1984 USO semis vs Cash, went 2 for 10
Lendl in the 1988 USO final vs Wilander, went 2 for 10
Lendl went 1 for 8 in '91 AO final

BobbyOne 10-03-2012 11:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pc1 (Post 6932391)
I'll see if I can find some quote on pressure serves for Gonzalez. I think perhaps both Segura and Kramer did mention some words to that effect. Maybe Vic Braden.

Deleted post

Limpinhitter 10-03-2012 12:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BobbyOne (Post 6933664)
Deleted post

I think I can correctly guess who you were going to write about.

pc1 10-03-2012 12:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Moose Malloy (Post 6933434)
This stat is still undocumented, only krosero & I have researched it, I've never seen a commentator or article or official stats mention it, even with today's players. Funny how primitive a sport tennis still is in so many ways. So easy to find out 1st serves made, 1st serve pts won, but no one thought it was important to track amount of 1st serves made down break point? aren't they the most important points?



I've said it before, but I think fans shouldn't just accept everything former players say as fact(often when players come off the court today, they are way off when asked about what they think their or their opponents 1st serve % was, etc. So while it may seemed to those who played Pancho that he always made first serves when down break point, who knows how true that was. unless these old players had photographic memories or something)

We all know how famous Becker was for hitting big serves down break point, coming back from 0-40 etc. Well, krosero & I have tracked many of his matches & turns out he was fairly average at making first serves down break point. I followed his entire career & would have bet good money that he would have a high number of 1st serves made down break points, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Many posters here(& commentators) repeat that about Becker frequently & probably always will. So something that isn't really true is widely accepted as fact, because of our "impressions" of watching matches, with no actual stats.



"must be?" again no actual facts, just guesses. That's tennis for you in a nutshell, past & present.



Turns out Sampras wasn't too special in this stat either(from matches tracked)

But his huge 2nd serves sort of balanced that out.



Well, just because he wasn't 'mentioned' doesn't mean jack to me. The more matches I track of his the more I realize how clutch he was. The serves he put in down break points in the '81 W final were ridiculous(not aces which leave more of an 'impression' on viewers, but virtual unreturnables. some of the most impressive serving I've seen in a Wimbledon final, esp considering the circumstances)
I see you frequently argue in GOAT debates that former players aren't historians and we should take their opinions with a grain of salt. I sort of feel the same thing here. They aren't statisticians, so their opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.
I know you'll probably never do it, but taking stats can really make you see things about players you would never notice otherwise. Stats don't tell everything, but certainly do add to the experience.



Chang made 1st serves on 15 of the 17 break points he faced in the last 2 sets in the '89 FO final. Will try to get complete stats.



how many 1st serves did Wilander make when down break point in that match?

I have more stats on this from some Federer matches. I think he's pretty good at making 1st serves down break point.



Navratilova had such a high serve % in many of her major finals, I would guess she had high numbers in this category as well.

Moose I agree with you in all these areas. My point with McEnroe was that it's amusing to me that people like McEnroe aren't noted for that but were superb. Better to be great in an important stat and not be known for it than not be great and get undeserved credit for being great.

I have always thought that tennis should have a Sabr type organization that researches important stats like this.

Incidentally Moose I do have stats for matches that I've charted but not nearly as many as you. I think it's a wonderful thing the work that you and Krosero have done.

But as I wrote earlier I was going to give comments by former pros about players like Gonzalez. I did not say it was necessarily true.

kiki 10-03-2012 01:39 PM

Bill Tildenīs serve has been severely underrated, probably due to little general knowledge about his game.But he patented the cannonball and had amazing 5 of first serves in.

BTW, wasnīt him who said that a player is as good as his second serve?

Limpinhitter 10-03-2012 01:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kiki (Post 6933958)
Bill Tildenīs serve has been severely underrated, probably due to little general knowledge about his game.But he patented the cannonball and had amazing 5 of first serves in.

BTW, wasnīt him who said that a player is as good as his second serve?

I think it was Maurice McLaughlin who pioneered the cannonball serve.

krosero 10-03-2012 03:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pc1 (Post 6933082)
From Pancho Segura's Championship Strategy-How to play winning Tennis

"The best serve I have ever seen in tennis from the viewpoint of perfect rhythm, effortless motion, and effectiveness was that of Pancho Gonzalez. The toss was as smooth as silk, the knee motin classical, the **** of the arm impeccable, the arc made by arm and racket totally fluid--and the ball came off the racket like a bullet. In his best playing years, one could predict that, if Gonzalez was down 0-40 on serve, the first serve would always go in. It always did."

From Jack Kramer's book The Game--FIRST SERVE-Vines had the finest serve I ever saw, but Gonzales, the great competitor, was more consistent with his in the tightest spots. Tilden, too, must be ranked for speed and deception.

Quote:

Originally Posted by pc1 (Post 6933348)
From the Fireside Book of Tennis-From an article by Julius Heldman called The Style of Pancho Gonzales--The strongest part of Gonzales' serve is his ability to put the first ball into play when the chips are down. At 0-40, 15-40 and 30-40, his battling average on first serves must be .950. It is incredible to have so high a percentage while still hitting hard and almost flat. The number of aces served on these important points is also astounding.

Thank you PC1. That quote from Fireside looks very familiar and it may be the one I read. Do you know when that was written?

Kramer's comparison between Vines and Gonzalez is interesting, although I don't know how much it's worth since Kramer was still only 18 when Vines retired.

Limpinhitter 10-03-2012 04:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by krosero (Post 6934208)
Thank you PC1. That quote from Fireside looks very familiar and it may be the one I read. Do you know when that was written?

Kramer's comparison between Vines and Gonzalez is interesting, although I don't know how much it's worth since Kramer was still only 18 when Vines retired.

I have seen one particular short video of Vines serve from the back side that looked virtually identical to Gonzales' motion in the video link below. I have tried to find it again on all of the video sharing sites including www.britishpathe.com and www.ina.fr, but, have been unsuccessful. Again, in this particular view of Vines' serve, it looked virtually identical to the view of Gonzales' serve from the back side here, and again, where the narrator comments on Gonzales' flexible shoulder, later in the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...Z-49eebo#t=73s

PS: Here is a view of Vines' serve almost head on:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/vide...rd-vines-video

krosero 10-03-2012 05:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pc1 (Post 6933348)
Speaking of Borg, here's what Fred Perry wrote about him in his book Fred Perry-An autobiography-Borg was the best player I've ever seen when it came to battling his way out of a tight corner; when he was love-40, 15-40 or 30-40 down he was marvelous. Look how he came back so many times from seemingly impossible postions against players like Mark Edmondson, Vijay Amritraj and Victor Amaya during his great Wimbledon years.

That's true, though it's ironic that the famous serve that Borg made against Amaya (down double break point in the fourth set as I recall) was a second serve.

krosero 10-03-2012 05:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Limpinhitter (Post 6934266)
I have seen one particular short video of Vines serve from the back side that looked virtually identical to Gonzales' motion in the video link below. I have tried to find it again on all of the video sharing sites including www.britishpathe.com and www.ina.fr, but, have been unsuccessful. Again, in this particular view of Vines' serve, it looked virtually identical to the view of Gonzales' serve from the back side here, and again, where the narrator comments on Gonzales' flexible shoulder, later in the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...Z-49eebo#t=73s

PS: Here is a view of Vines' serve almost head on:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/vide...rd-vines-video

Great footage, Limpin, and thanks for trying to find that.


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