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Old 01-21-2013, 03:47 PM   #24
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,071

Originally Posted by fed_rulz View Post
I read that last link, and I found that your arguments unconvincing. With higher hold % in the 2000s, you can only deduce that players have gotten better at holding serves (IMO due to a combination of better serves and much better baseline games, despite the advances in return games). I'll give you a couple of counter examples - Nadal and Djokovic 2.0. Neither possess GOAT-like serves, but their hold %s are GOAT-esque. Also, there is not a single player in the top 10 today that has their serve as the major weapon.
There are several issues with this reasoning, and it's not just the higher hold % but the totality of facts that debunks or at the very least calls into question the standard talking points about today's so-called advances in return game.

First, you say neither Nadal or Djoko possesses a GOAT serve. But how can you tell? After all their hold %s are up there. Because you can tell by an eye test? OK, fine, but it doesn't explain the startling increases in service stats throughout the 1990s and the steadier ones in the 2000s (more on this shortly), unless you really believe players improved their serves across the board at such a fast rate over such a short period.

Then what? Because they hit fewer aces than a Karlovic or an Isner? Well, if you've been following this discussion closely (and frankly you should have, since one of the long posts I wrote on this very topic was meant directly for you) you should know that ace counts can be misleading, especially when we're talking about different eras. (And there's the fact that Fed isn't not exactly an ace-dispensing machine, which I doubt you'd want to call attention to.)

But let's say # of aces is a good barometer. After all what could be better than outright free points on serve, right? But here's the thing: the ATP, the magisterial authority we defer to in all things tennis, has collected stats dating back to 1991, and in that year not even a Goran or a Krajicek served over 10 aces per match. Yes, the same Goran who would come close to matching his Wimbledon ace record the very next year, and the same Krajicek who would be lighting up the stat sheets in the years to come.

Now, I think it safe to say even some of the most biased this-era-is-da-bomb fanatics would admit that these two had a better serve than the likes of Tsonga, Fish or Soderling, let alone the lower-tier servers like Monfils, Llodra, etc. So you've got two possibilities: 1) these guys really discovered some magical technique or potion unbeknownst to the tennis world in the antediluvian era of 1991 that allowed them to improve their serves so quickly, or 2) there was something else at work here. Which is more likely?

And again it's not just the # of aces, but the 1st-serve %, % of service games won and other service stats that saw steady improvements (perhaps except for DFs, but I've talked about this already) after 1991. Now think about this for a second: the courts are supposed to be slower these days, with players returning better than ever, but per just about every service statistic players are arguably enjoying more advantages than ever on their serves. You say this is due to better serves and much better baseline games despite the return revolution. OK, then you acknowledge, though maybe not intentionally, that there's more to this issue than simple statistics, since there's no way to gauge the degree of these so-called advancements without some sort of an eye test. And eye tests tell us that a Goran and a Krajicek were already serving bombs in 1991, but perhaps they didn't do it as often as they would in later years. What factors other than technology, strategy and mentality explain this evolution? We know it wasn't the technique, unless we're suddenly to discount the value of our eye tests. And it's not like they suddenly grew several inches. Then what? Some advances in nutrition maybe? Unlikely, these two weren't sticks who were barely hanging with the top guys. Then what? That they were at least part-time S&Vers? OK, that could explain why they didn't win more service games, but not how their serves as stand-alone shots saw steady improvements in their own era.

This is not rocket science. You just have to use a little bit of practical logic and common sense.

which brings us to Roddick.. despite his relatively poor baseline/net game, he has surpassed Pete in hold %. what does that tell you about his serve as a stand alone shot? Put him in a situation where the conditions were faster, poorer returners and poorer baseline games (90s), and you have a more lethal version of Roddick.
I've already addressed these points in my other posts. To summarize, Pete would likely hold a marginally higher % and Roddick's own would likely drop a little given each other's conditions. The difference would still be minor, and the decisive factor for me is that Pete probably gets a tad more freebies (unreturned serves), and is IMO the more clutch and unreadable server. I have no problem if you or anyone else wants to go with Roddick.
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