Wanted to keep this a bit separate from my stats post... Because it concerns different things, so I apologize for the double posting.
And these are just inquiries to DefCon and others... not really arguing, just curious about their perspectives.
Talking purely on aces... Doesn't Roddick have the ability to conjure up aces, at least on par with Philippoussis if not better? Or are we isolating Mark's peak year with Roddick's peak year? Mark makes a ton of faults too, or at least that's my impression.
I would argue that Roddick has placement on his serve and has used variety in spins on it.
-The guy seems to have clear and obvious targets and hits within inches of the line when he's going for it on those targets. Some opponents he's always aiming to the backhand. Some opponents, always aiming to the forehand. And a lot of his aces, throughout a match though especially in succession practically contact half of the service line.
-It's not always, but there are some strategic moments where Roddick goes for the slice serve out wide on deuce and often gets results with it. It flies in around 105-115MPH and it's not the serve he always uses, but for instance, I believe he aced one on Fed yesterday with it. Its slice/pace ratio might not be as much as Rogers, but for crying out loud it's still a good 10 or more MPH faster too.
-He has clearly been using changeup serves for over a year now, switching from the 120+ MPH serves to 90MPH serves. Obviously, if you can serve fast, you should have some capability of controlling slower serves (though this doesn't apply to everyone because of the margin created by spin combined with power on contact). But it's not like we consider pitchers to be less varied because they have changeup pitches and use them now and then.
-I would argue that on very broad and general categories, Roddick has 3 totally different second serves.
* #1 - The shoulder-or-higher bouncing kick serve that's around 90-110 MPH that he's mostly been using up until recently. He almost always gets this in, but it's true that he isn't painting lines with this serve, but he's certainly driving the majority of the ATP crazy with it. Federer is an exception in being able to destroy this serve on the return.
* #2 - The serve that american broadcasters have been pointing out, but it's an obviously different second serve than we're used to seeing from him except at Wimbledon this year. A second serve that more or less is a 120+ MPH serve with a bit of topspin, and this serve is hitting lines with good placement.
* #3 - It's a rare serve from Roddick, but he's hit a variant of a twisted serve that comes in looking like a kick serve going towards the forehand (righty) and has an insane kick to the backhand when it hits the ground. Fluke or not, I've seen him use it on rare occasions, but clearly remember it on the Australian Open quarterfinal match against Younnes El Aynaoui when it jammed him for a service winner.
Anyways, these are most of the different serves I see from Roddick. I'm not going to argue that Roddick's serve is better than Sampras' (not that I've seen it), but I feel that he's got a varied serve with placement, and obviously has pace. It's not like all of his serves are hitting 2-3 feet inside any service line, or always aimed at the middle of the top service line. They're clearly positioned and as far as I can tell (and even see on replays), they're hitting the sidelines and are hitting various angles.
However, I would like to know from you guys how his serve could improve and how he could improve the variety and placement on them. What types of serves you think he should hit more of, etc... I think that would make a good discussion.
A much better discussion than just saying "he doesn't have such and such" and keep it in a vague manner.
Also, for the less informed like myself (I came into appreciating tennis late), I'd like to know what makes the other players' serves so much greater. I know it would be naive of me to judge Ivanisevic's (sorry for mispell) serve as it was this year because of his injuries and the same to Philippoussis.
I do think Federer's serve is awesome because of its placement and spin and how he sets up easy points with it. However, those types of serves up the spin/pace ratio by lowering pace, and that works perfectly under control for Federer. Part of me wonders if he was hitting first serve faults yesterday because he was going for bigger first serves initially. Also, I believe when his MPH was up on the serve, his positioning of the ball wasn't all that different from Roddick's similarly paced serves.
But I don't think it's a case of "Player X has a sucky serve because it's not Player Y's serve." But I do notice that some people do have this notion of a "Strictly One Ideal Way to Play Tennis" concept. I'll admit I don't agree with that notion. Not even when you break it down to just strokes and serves.