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Old 11-12-2012, 08:18 PM   #1
sonicare
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Default Pete Sampras Serve - Nostalgic Nonsense Breakdown Series 1 Episode 1

Welcome everyone to my Nostalgic Nonsense Breakdown Series referred to as NN-BS in the rest of this post.

Now that we have a 2 months break until we see some tennis again, I have decided to take some time out and educate some of the nostalgic peeps on this forum.

It is a great opportunity for all of you to learn from me, a tennis expert and historian in my own right.

Today, I will educate you on the NN-BS regarding the Pete Sampras serve, one of the most overrated shots in the history of our sport. Let's begin.

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If you have been watching tennis for any length of time, you have probably heard any or all of the following:

'.........pete had the greatest serve of all time..........'

'..........Pete could hit second serve aces..........'

'..........pete was clutch and always used his serve to get out of trouble..........'

'..........pete's second serve was almost as good as his first serve..........'

Before we go further, here is the definition of nostalgia:


In my experience, the nostalgic nonsense about Pete's serve comes from mainly two groups of people:

1) Old Farts - these are people who are set in their own ways and stuck in the dinosaur era. You will often hear them talk about the 'good old days' when everything was perfect. They do not like change because they feel threatened by it. If these people were in charge of the world, we would still be riding donkeys. They have the uncanny ability to refuse facts and value their erroneous opinions over objective data.

2) Wannabe Contrarians - these people like to argue just for the sake of arguing. While the 'Old Farts' simply don't know, the 'Wannabe Contrarians' don't know that they don't know. The layer of ignorance with these people is twofold. They have a 'too cool for school' attitude that they could not let go once they left high school. Call them snobs if you want. Seeking attention is their only purpose.

Moving on,

In a service game, you have 2 aspects:

- The serve as a standalone shot

- What you back your serve with i.e. your ground strokes and volleys

We are merely concerned with the former here.

The distinction is very important because it allows us to quickly compare two players and looks at their statistics for the percentage of services held and by looking at who had more game to backup their serve, we can determine who had the better serve.

This fact is also understood by the great Andre Agassi. Go watch the video below at the 65 second mark:


Now that we understand this distinction, we can make some simple observations.

If two players have the same percentage of service games held and one of them has an inferior toolbox to backup their serve, basic deductive logic will tell you that this player has to have a better serve in order to have the same hold percentage as the first player.

All we have to do now is look at the service game percentage hold and determine who was better or on par with Pete Sampras and how their backup game matched up to Pete Sampras.

Luckily for us, the ATP keeps hold of such stats:


The three guys ranked above Pete Sampras clearly have worse ground game than Sampras so the only way they can hold more often than Pete is by having a better serve.

There simply isn't another option. It is logic 101 and it seems to escape the NN-BS'ers.

Add to all the above, courts today are slower so it makes returning slightly easier. This further adds to the argument that atleast those 3 guys have a better serve than Pete.

Now, some 'Old Farts' and 'Wannabe Contrarians' will profess that they might have a better 1st serve but no way is their 2nd serve better. This is a classic example of what is known as 'clutching at straws' as defined below:


Out of desparation, the act of reaching or stretching for a solution, no matter how irrational or inconsequential. Literally - a drowning person who, unable to find any substantial floatation immediately at had, attempts to save himself from certain death by grabbing hold of a few stray pieces of straw floating on the water within arm's length.


The distinction that the NN-BB'ers try to make between 1st and 2nd serve is completely unnecessary and is an attempt to take attention away from this simple fact:

Ivo Karlovic, John Isner and Andy Roddick hold more often than Pete Sampras with a much worse backup game on slower courts and against arguably better returners


This is a simple fact that they cannot escape.

Next time you see a NN-BS'er mention that Pete Sampras had the best serve in the history of the game, ask them this simple question:

- How are Isner, Karlovic and Roddick able to hold more often with a worse ground game on slower courts than Pete Sampras?

If you hear a NN-BS'er say that Pete Sampras could hit second serve aces on cue , ask them:

- How did Pete ever lose his serve? never mind a match.

This concludes episode 1 of this series. Stay tuned. There is more to come.

Next time, you will be educated on the myth that is Rodney George "Rod" Laver, a 5 foot 8 supposed GOAT candidate.

Until next time.

Signing off



Sonicare (tennis expert and historian)
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Last edited by sonicare : 11-12-2012 at 08:24 PM.
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