Great comments, folks. Keep 'em coming. Now my turn to respond.
pc1, I'd like to rank all the great servers if possible, but as I said above we have very little evidence of the old-timers before 1960, and what evidence we do have is mostly hearsay that's bound to be unreliable. Take Budge's description of Doeg's serve, which I appreciate your taking the time to dig up for us. Though I don't doubt that Doeg had one hell of a serve, it's also clear that Budge was exaggerating a bit, going so far as to say "no man could chase it down" and one "never broke Doeg's serve." So before I give Doeg an honorary mention I'll need to see a few other contemporaries praising his serve in such glowing terms. By contrast I put more stock in Hoad's rating Fraser's serve above Gonzales', given that the latter is one of the greatest ever, so I'm more inclined to think Fraser deserves an honorary mention.
I agree that Newcombe should rank pretty high. Heavy kick like you said, and also one of the best 2nd serves ever. I also did consider Lendl and see your point about his serve, but I'm still not convinced that it's one of the all-time
great serves. Remember, we're trying to rank the best of the best. If we included every excellent serve this list would get very bloated indeed. I want the "greatest" in "GOAT" to mean something.
As for Tanner's serve lacking variety, maybe Datacipher could chime in on that. And good point regarding Dibley's serve rarely being rated above Newcombe's or Tanner's.
Originally Posted by Datacipher
NonP, I've often listed Noah as one of the most beautiful/graceful/efficient and powerful servers ever! I would rank his flat serve among the fastest (I was once told his flat serve was recorded in the early 90's/late 80's at 140mph but have not been able to verify that). His slice serve, was among the top 5 I've ever seen. He had a pure slice in both the deuce and add courts, with little topspin component. Which meant big speed, and big break. His ad court slice down the middle was the best I've ever seen.
The only knock I have on him, was that his flat serve was very flat, so he had HUGE power, but a slightly lower percentage, which wasn't helped by his tendency to hit down. I think b/c of this, he had to rely on more spin serves, even on the 1st serve to keep his percentages up. His kick serve was also not great, partly because he started tossing futher to the right, as his career went on. I actually think this was more efficient, and improved his slice, but he got a bit less kick. Thus, his second serve wasn't all that fast, and didn't have all that much kick!
Nevertheless, what an absolutely beautiful motion, and when on, extreme power.
Data, Ashe apparently put Noah's serve above Becker's and below McEnroe's. Do you agree with Ashe on that? I was gonna include Noah anyway, but I'm not sure he (and Mac) ranks above Becker. Also pc1 doesn't seem to think Tanner's serve had much variety, or at least not as much as Gonzales' and Newcombe's. Any input on that one?
Originally Posted by hoodjem
I think you should expand your list to 1-20. This will give you more "room to maneuver" and include some servers that you and others mention. (Just a suggestion.)
hoodjem, it looks like you misunderstood my intention. I've been in fact trying to expand my list. Doesn't have to be a top 10, 20, or whatever. I'm just more certain about those 10 players on the current list than about the others.
Also I'm not sure Dent belongs on the list at all, even at the very bottom. As you may well know he's been dogged by injuries and thus forced to tweak his serve throughout his career. Are we even sure which serve of his we're talking about? That's why I didn't mention him in my OP, actually.
But valid point on Edberg's 2nd kicker.
Originally Posted by britbox
Goran served way too many doubles to be ranked at #1 or #2. Sampras should be #1.
britbox, I've already addressed this. To wit, we're trying to evaluate the serve as a stand-alone shot. Goran was a headcase and as a result his whole game suffered on occasion, but not when he kept his head together. As a pure shot, though, his serve was among the best ever, IMO the very best.
Also his tendency to serve double faults is a bit of a myth. That's only true of some
of his most important matches, but usually his DF count was around or only a tad above the average. You can check the stats.