Originally Posted by NonP
I think we may be talking past each other. For the record I'm well aware of the reputation of Gonzales' serve. The only reason why I've been reluctant to give him an honorary mention is that, unlike with Tilden, Vines and Kramer, I've met a few people here and elsewhere who have seen Gonzales play. If possible I'm hoping to give at least Gonzales, Newcombe and Tanner reasonable rankings.
And speaking of Newcombe, care to estimate where he ranks on the list?
IIRC Laver himself has spoken highly of Fraser's serve, but not quite in such superlatives. Do you know anyone other than Hoad who held it in such high regard? I think Fraser may deserve an honorary mention himself.
Here's the '60 Wimbledon final between Fraser and Laver, which the taller lefty (Fraser) won:
I'm not sure if you're trying to rank players all time or you're leaning toward players of recent years. Gonzalez has been mentioned by many greats as the all time best server and I'm not sure if in his time and even past his prime he wasn't considered the greatest server in the world. Vic Braden thought Gonzalez's service form was virtually perfect.
Newcombe is clearly one of the all time top servers. I was at a match in 1973 where he played Jimmy Connors, who in retrospect was already probably the best returner in the world. Now bearing in mind it was on a grass surface where it's harder to return, Connors didn't break Newcombe's serve once in three sets. If you combine that with his great kick second serve he clearly had one of the best service games in tennis history. Where he ranks I'm not sure but my gut is that he is in the top ten, maybe top five.
I have to think up names of all time server through tennis history to really know.
Fraser has been named by many to be a really great server but frankly I'm not sure how he ranks. He clearly was considered at worst one of the great servers.
I've also seen Tanner play and just from the impression of pure power and speed on a serve Tanner is up there with anyone I've seen. I am not sure exactly how he would rank all time because frankly my memory of his serving in person is no longer fresh in my mind. If memory serves (no pun intended) Tanner even set the speed record for official serving when he was on the Senior Tour in the early 1990's with I think 135 miles per hour, which was higher than the ATP speed record at the time by one mile per hour. He was timed at 153 miles per hour years earlier but I do have doubts about that since the equipment for timing the speed was more primitive in those days. He was fun to watch just for the serving alone and I remember at the US Open one year against Borg, Tanner knocked down the net with the power of his serve! Now perhaps the net was defective but I've never seen that before and I've never seen it since. My feeling with Tanner is that he doesn't really make the top ten because I don't think he had the variety of some players like a Newcombe or a Kramer or a Gonzalez.
When we look at serves obviously we don't just look at the speed of a flat serve but the variety of serves and the placement. One of the reasons Pete Sampras had such a great serve was not only the great speed but the variety of serves from the same toss. His second serve obviously had great penetration. I saw a tennis article comparing Pete Sampras' serve and Greg Rusedski's serve. I believe the article had Pete's serve and Greg's serve come off the racket at about the same same speed (Rusedski's may have been faster) but the revolutions per serve by Sampras was much faster so went the ball bounced Sampras' serve retained more speed and reached the receiver much quicker and therefore Pete's serve was more effective. I wonder if Sampras' serve in this way isn't similar to Newcombe's serve, ie I mean it was loaded with heavy spin and could knock the racket out of your hand.
Many old timers used to raved about a lefty server named John Doeg, who won the US Championship from what they say mainly on his almost unbreakable serve. I think Don Budge said the players called it John Doeg's egg ball because the ball resembled an egg when it came off his racket. Here's what Budge said about it in his ball "Don Budge-A Tennis Memoir"--The players referred to it as "John's egg-ball." Besides, when Doeg's serve in the ad court bounced, it would fly crazily off to the side, and no man could chase it down. If you did manage to get the ball back, just reaching the return carried you so far out of the court that there was no chance you could make it back in time to get Doeg's return. However, since John had little more proclivity for return serve than losing serve, all his matches were forever running to 18-16. You never broke Doeg's serve. You outlasted it.