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Old 01-14-2010, 05:12 AM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 994
Default Greatest Serves of All Time

I've noticed that among the zillion GOAT threads in this forum there isn't a single one devoted to the greatest serves (for real), and since the serve is the shot least affected by outside variables (including racquets and strings) I've decided to create a new thread myself. Here's my preliminary ranking:

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

Honorary mentions:

McLoughlin, Maurice - perhaps the first distinguished cannonball serve in tennis history
Tilden - yet another storied cannonball serve, which he bolstered with spin and accuracy
Vines - by all accounts, the best and fastest serve of the pre-WWII era
Kramer - in addition to a formidable 1st serve, perhaps the best 2nd serve before Newcombe and Sampras
Denton - his unusual service motion notwithstanding, could bring enormous heat
Edberg - for his legendary kicker, arguably the best serve ever for S&V
Johansson, Joachim - Denton of the 2000s

Now a couple of things:

1) The purpose of this thread is to rank the serve as a pure stand-alone shot mostly free of outside factors. That is, McEnroe's serve had top-notch disguise, variety and placement and, as pc1 pointed out, his great hook in the ad court won him many points, but would his serve be as effective for a non-S&Ver? That's an important question to me, whether the player's serve would suit all playing styles. (I suppose we could create two separate rankings--one for net-rushers and the other for baseliners--but that would make this discussion even more hopeless than it already is.) By the same token, Edberg and Rafter had great kick serves that they could follow up with their tried-and-true forays to the net, but I think we can agree that most players would pick Goran's or Karlovic's serve over that of these S&V masters.

Similarly, Goran and Stich were headcases and as a result their whole game suffered on occasion, but not when they kept their head together. On the other hand Arthurs' 1st-serve percentage often averaged below 55%, which tells me the problem was more than mental. And my ranking is weighted more toward the 1st serve and based on serves as opposed to service games. These are the reasons why Sampras doesn't rank at the very top as some of you have fairly argued.

2) Let's limit this list to the best of the best. Put more bluntly, we can talk about mere big servers like Safin and Tsonga on another thread.

3) Given the lack of sufficient visual evidence and the different rules they had to serve under (like keeping one foot on the ground), I think it all but impossible to rank such old-timers as Tilden, Vines and Kramer with a fair degree of certainty. Hence their honorary mentions.

Now it's your turn to sound off and tell us where these and other servers should rank. Just try to give some reasoning behind your rankings especially of the pre-1980s candidates. Much as I appreciate your input I can't take anyone's word on faith. So instead of just stating the obvious like "X could crank it up" or "Y had a great 2nd serve," say something more helpful like "Tanner's great disguise and nearly on-the-rise delivery put him ahead of (fill in the blank)." You get the drift.

Last edited by NonP : 01-21-2013 at 12:02 AM.
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