Hall Of Fame
Join Date: May 2004
Roddick has excellent placement and variety in addition to unparalleled power on his serve. Really, he can paint the lines, I've seen it. He can swing it out way wide with power, he can kick it to the corner way high with power, he can smack it down the T or up the middle to jam the player. And he can do all this with consistency.
Really, just in terms of raw goods, Roddick's serve is the best ever.
The reason he's not quite as effective as he could be on the serve is that according to what I've read from I believe Ljubicic, reading the direction of where he's gonna serve isn't as difficult as it could be.
Goran's serve was so effective, because it was so sneaky quick and he was left-handed. He could swing it out wide better than any player I've ever seen. Couple this with him being left handed, and that's devastating. His motion also had a very low ball toss, and he kind of just swayed then slided through his motion very slinky like. I think players just had a really hard time reading his serve. Roddick has a higher spin and power combo for sure and he also can paint the lines, but players have a better chance of reading where his serve is gonna go. The key to acing someone is not really power so much as getting them leaning the wrong way or guessing wrong.
This is why Goran said that Stich was the hardest serve for him to return, not Sampras'. He said it was because he could never read where his serve was going.
Of course, Sampras had the better second serve for sure, because he had more spin on the ball.
But as far as first serves go, I don't think Sampras was ever considered to have the best first serve in the game. It's the combination of his first and second serve *in addition to* the "clutch" x-factor (as opposed to the Philipoussis double fault by a VERY fast mile on set point down factor) , which is why people say he's the best *overall* server of all time.
Bruguera said Ivanisevic's serve was the best in history when on after getting blitzed by it in an indoor final, but he was probably talking about his first serve. Ivanisevic's second serve was not very consistent and he didn't get that much kick on it, was basically just a slower version of his first serve, rather than a specific second serve like Roddick's HUGE kicker second.
So, I think Goran had the most effective first serve ever, because you couldn't read it, and he was left-handed, and very tall, and hence got unparalleled angle on the ball, which when on made his out wide serves virtually unreachable because of the angle rather than the sheer velocity...which he would then surprise you with on the next point with a bullet up the T.
Sampras and Becker had the best clutch serving.
Sampras the best second serve with the best variety, potency (spinxpower), and consistency.
Sampras the best overall serve, but not the most unreturnable first serve, and definitely NOT the most aces...Goran was more of an "ace machine," but Sampras was a more balanced server, and got more forced errors off his serve than probably anyone to date, kind of like how a great claycourt forehand *forces errors* because of the spinxpower combination rather than an outright winner which is more generated by a flatter shot such as Korda's one-handed backhand.
Goran's serve was also more of an on or off shot, while Sampras' serve was always there for him. I think this is because Sampras' planted feet motion was more repeatable than Goran's unique see-sawing motion, somewhat open-stance motion.
Krajicek had a more devastating first serve than Sampras' in my opinion as well, because his motion like Goran's was sneaky quick. The problem with these sneaky quick motions, however, in my opinion, is that you can't generate as much topspin because you don't have time for a deep knee bend, which is key to generating heavy spin on the serve...which to me limits the effectiveness of their second serves compared to Sampras and Roddick, which is probably more important since even Michael Chang had an effective first serve when he got it in, who doesn't really?
Rusedski has a smooth motion, and is one of the best overall servers ever, as is Arthurs, but the rest of their games are a question mark.
Rosset had a devastating serve too, but no one talks about him, because his feet were about as fast to move as a waterfall of honey.
Of the new servers, I'd say Federer's more of a Stich, type server, simple yet effective, and very well placed, a very balanced serving attack.