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Old 08-28-2012, 03:48 PM   #742
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,071

Originally Posted by okdude1992 View Post
I like your list for current/recent guys. Said it before, and i'll say it again. Ivo Karlovic. Worst overall game, playing in an era where players return better than ever, slower conditions than before. Yet he still has the best stats.
I've addressed these talking points before (in fact just earlier today most recently), and since you seem to like stats here are a few that should at the very least challenge the conventional punditry.

First, if today's players were indeed returning better than ever and the conditions indeed so slower than before, one would expect to see servers to get broken more often. But the stats tell a different story: the top 10 servers of the 2000s actually won a higher % of service games than their 1990s predecessors, 87.1% vs. 86.0%. (I don't have the stats for the top 20 handy, but a cursory look shows hardly any difference between the two decades, and probably a little more in the latter's favor). And there's an even more telling stat: players won 90% or more of their service games only seven times in the '90s (the total number of players is 3, with only Sampras achieving the feat more than once), as opposed to a whopping 20 times in the '00s. I'd guess by my rough counts that the number of free points also favors the '00s.

In short the standard talking points aren't simply supported by the stats. The reasons for this seeming discrepancy are complex and can't be explained adequately in a few short sentences, but to summarize:

1) The "consensus" regarding the supposed slowdown of surfaces is mostly bunk (this is another big topic in its own right).
2) While it's a myth that the modern racquets help improve your maximum serve speeds significantly, they do allow you to impart more spin, which helps increase your 1st-serve percentages and also go for more freebies as well since it's easier now to hit bigger 2nd serves.
3) Today's homogenization of playing styles (which, I should emphasize, is not the same thing as homogenized conditions) has influenced the return of serve, which tends to be more conservative today and which in turn tends to benefit the top players more than their lower-ranked competitors.

And speaking of free points, you'd be quite suprised to know that Karlovic isn't head & shoulders above the other top candidates in % of unreturned serves. The # of aces is only part of the equation.
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