Greatest Serves of All Time

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by NonP, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

    Jun 10, 2010
    There is some good video of Gerald Patterson's immaculate service technique:

  2. dr7

    dr7 Rookie

    Sep 1, 2016
    I won't dig into a bunch of stats, but from the "eye test" I have to give the nod to Sampras. You don't beat Agassi in 4 out of 5 Grand Slam finals unless you have a serious serve. That serve, 1st and 2nd serve got him out of some big holes countless times and he did it on some really BIG points in really BIG matches. That is part of my assessment, BIG Points, BIG matches, coming through under pressure. Pete seemed to be the first guy that gambled, would pick his spots and go for huge 2nd serves. Pete was only 6 feet or maybe 6.1, but he had a beautiful, fluid motion that was repeatable and didn't break down under pressure.

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  3. NonP

    NonP Hall of Fame

    Jul 22, 2009
    I had the #s for the Gonzales match and also Laver's vs. Fraser, but since they weren't complete I decided against posting them. The other ones I indeed didn't have. Grazie for bringing them to our attention.

    It's quite likely those 30 "aces" by Vines are in fact all of his unreturned serves in that match, as 30 clean aces in such a short 3-setter would be an exceptional # even now. Let me know if you ever confirm it or see it contradicted in another report, otherwise we'll go with 30 out of 79 for Vines. Do you have Bunny's total in that match, BTW?

    P.S. Moose got 33 and 29 unreturned serves for Santana and Ralston respectively in their '66 Wimby final. Not sure how/where you got 39 and 35.

    And thought I'd point out you got the year wrong ('48 rather than '49) in your OP about the Gonzales match. Might wanna go back and correct it.

    You're welcome. ;)

    Hey Moose, thanks for the Donald #s. And I'd be most interested to see the stats from the Newport final. Not just 'cause it had two heavyweights going at each other on grass but also 'cause Ivo's #s for some reason tend to be somewhat underwhelming in his matches against other servebots, or at least among those we have so far. I'm guessing the mere horror of having to play a clone of himself psyches him out. :D

    Believe those have been posted/viewed before. Anyhoo a new shout-out to the old-timers can't hurt.

    dr7, I assume you're new here so let me say welcome to the forum and direct you to the very first post of this thread, which explains the purpose and methodology of this ranking/discussion:

    I've said several times before that all things considered I'd pick Pete over anyone else for that proverbial do-or-die match, but as a pure stroke I do think his serves falls just short of Goran's and Ivo's. Having said that I'm currently considering moving Sampras to the very top of the heap, not because of that clutch factor but also because some of the stats I've recently unearthed strongly suggest his serve even as a stand-alone shot was hardly second to anyone's. Stay tuned.
  4. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

    Dec 27, 2005
    ^I don't count aces with unreturned serves, remember? Kroseros numbers on Santana Ralston are correct.
  5. NonP

    NonP Hall of Fame

    Jul 22, 2009

    So are you still doing this or did you at some point start including aces in your counts of unreturned serves?
  6. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

    Dec 27, 2005
    Like I said before, I only do that in this thread. I did change the language to return errors instead of unreturned serves at some point.
    I certainly didn't expect anyone to care about that stat or start archiving my work, esp all these years later(the Santana thread is from 2011)
    Seemed like krosero was the only one who even read what I posted, so I rarely post any stats threads anymore(still do stats though)
    most posters here seemed to just care about goat debates and #1 for 1964, 1977 etc...
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
  7. NonP

    NonP Hall of Fame

    Jul 22, 2009
    OK, time for a new update. See if you can locate the changes in our main ranking:
    1. Ivanisevic
    2. Karlovic
    3. Sampras
    4. Gonzales
    5. Krajicek
    6. Arthurs
    7. Roddick
    8. Newcombe
    9. Isner
    10. Becker
    11. Philippoussis
    12. Zivojinovic
    13. McEnroe
    14. Raonic
    15. Curren
    16. Stich
    17. Tanner
    18. Rusedski
    19. Federer
    20. Muller
    21. Smith
    The Honorary Hall of Fame remains intact (by order of birth as usual):
    • McLoughlin, Maurice - perhaps the first distinguished cannonball serve in tennis history
    • Tilden - yet another storied power serve, which he bolstered with spin and accuracy
    • Doeg, John - Ivanisevic to Vines' Sampras, a southpaw whose serve was considered one of the two or three greatest ever (along with Vines') in his heyday
    • Stoefen, Lester - one of the first giants with a feared high-rise rocket launcher
    • Vines - by many accounts, the best and fastest serve of the pre-WWII era
    • Kramer - in addition to a formidable first delivery, perhaps the best second serve before Newcombe and Sampras
    • Denton, Steve - his unusual service motion notwithstanding, an ace dispenser that could bring enormous heat
    • Edberg - for his iconic kicker (any logo ring a bell?), arguably the best ever for serve-and-volley
    • Johansson, Joachim - Denton of the aughts
    As you may have noticed we have a new addition this time: Gilles Muller. Yes, that Muller, the same Luxembourger who has never been ranked higher than #34 in the world. And we currently have only three matches in which we know how many of his serves were unreturned. So how does one justify the inclusion of such an obscure journeyman? This is why:

    2016 Newport SF W Young - 73.3% (33/45), 18 aces, 3 DFs [25% (18/72), 0 aces, 3 DFs]
    2015 AO 3R W Isner - 47.4% (46/97), 23 aces, 3 DFs [52.2% (59/113), 30 aces, 2 DFs]
    2013 Marseille QF L Tursunov - 45.3% (39/86), 27 aces, 5 DFs [27.5% (28/102), 10 aces, 3 DFs]

    (Go here for a primer on how to interpret these %s.)

    That 73.3% is easily the highest ratio of unreturned serves by any player in our database, and in fact the only one we were able to confirm that exceeded 70%. (The only two other possible cases thus far: Karlovic winning at least 66.7% of freebies on serve vs. Bracciali in the first round of '05 Wimbledon, and Llodra of all people scoring 71% against Isner in the first set of their 2nd-rounder at '12 Paris. Alas we've never been able to fill in the gaps.) Of course we're talking a very small sample size, and I suspect Muller is in fact a borderline GSOAT candidate a la Ashe, Noah, Forget, Rosset, Ljubicic, Tsonga and Kyrgios, but when you look at the number of aces per match (which I admit isn't a perfect parameter) Muller does come out slightly ahead of these guys. And I like to give unsung plebeians their due, so I say Muller deserves extra credit for that 70+% game alone. If you got a problem with that, tough.

    And you may have seen that Rusedski has now overtaken Federer who in turn has moved past Smith. Going forward I'm going to take a radical approach that says any received wisdom is more false than true and unless we come across contrary evidence we rank these candidates according to the data we do have. So Stich now sits above Tanner despite the latter's more formidable reputation, and while Smith's serve may well be better than Fed's when equalized for conditions Stan's underwhelming stats so far place him at the very bottom of the ladder. I have more or less Greg's complete known stats and once I confirm his # of unreturned serves and total service points in the '97 USO final I'll go ahead and post his numbers as well.

    Some names we're trying to decide whether to add or drop (year of birth in parentheses):
    • Bob Falkenburg (1926)
    • Mike Sangster (1940)
    • Colin Dibley (1944)
    • John Feaver (1952)
    • Victor Amaya (1954)
    As I warned last time Gerald Patterson (1895) has now been eliminated. Speak up if you find this turn of events outrageous! And of course if you got other ideas or suggestions. As always stats, press reports and/or firsthand accounts are a great way to bolster your case.

    And now some light housekeeping:

    Moose, FYI an e-pal asked me yesterday to say thanks for your stats and also let it be known that he drops by this forum for your and other posters' stat work as tennis is not one of those sports where this kind of info is readily available. And I doubt he's the only lurker that feels the same way, so do feel free to post any stats that you think people might like to know about. It's not just moi and krosero who are paying attention. :cool:
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  8. krosero

    krosero Legend

    Dec 3, 2006
    Good catch, corrected. Don't have Austin's aces, only know that he won 37 of 81 service points (45.7%) and was broken 7 times. Vines won 52 of 79 service points (65.8%) and was broken once.
  9. skaj

    skaj Rookie

    Jan 16, 2017

    13.Sharapova(pre shoulder surgery)
    17.Ivanovic(up to 2008.)

    who did I forget?
  10. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

    Jun 18, 2004
    Yes, it's easy to forget that Ivanovic had one of the biggest serves on the tour for a while. Amazing that it could go that badly after that.
    pc1 and skaj like this.
  11. Fedfan34

    Fedfan34 Hall of Fame

    Nov 10, 2010
    If this is a top five list, this is easy:
    Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, and Sampras
    If we get into top ten, it goes something like:
    Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, and Sampras

    Not sure about 9 and 10.
    pc1 likes this.
  12. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

    Dec 27, 2005
    @NonP I finally took stats on the Tanner Vilas AO final
    Here are the unreturned serve rates:

    39/84: 46%
    1st serve: 30/37: 81%
    2nd serve: 9/47: 19%

    22/86: 25.5%
    1st serve: 16/51: 31%
    2nd serve: 6/35: 17%

    I also took stats on Feds match vs Bozoljac at 2010 Wimbledon(I recall you saying it was his best serving year, ace wise?)

    59/135: 43.7%
    1st serve: 47/94: 50%
    2nd serve: 12/41: 29%

    62/140: 44.28%
    1st serve: 53/90: 59%
    2nd serve: 9/50: 18%
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
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  13. boredone3456

    boredone3456 Legend

    Jun 25, 2007
    I think the top 5 is solid, not sure I would put Stosur #2 personally although her kick serve is underrated by many. I'd probably remove a few of those ladies, Vandeweghe & Gorges come to mind, and consider Henin. For her size, Henin could blast the serve and had decent serve placement as well. I'd probably drop folks like Lisicki and Brenda down a few spots, they had power but consistency is a major issue in both of their serves, especially for Lisicki.
    pc1 likes this.
  14. skaj

    skaj Rookie

    Jan 16, 2017
    speed of henin's serve was impressive for her height, fine placement too I agree(same goes for Schiavone and Mattek-Sands), but it was not too consistent, especially the second serve, she risked too much... I wouldn't put her among the best servers. I think it was just not a big weapon, which was the case for the other girls I mentioned. she had all the other weapons though :)

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