Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by NonP, Jan 14, 2010.
yeah , those stats are not available on the atp website
It's true that Chang played more matches against the top 10 and 20 than Agassi did. But as you say it's because he played more matches than Andre overall. I'm sure Chang also played more lower ranked players than Agassi did, if we're just talking about absolute numbers.
It's the percentage that counts here. Andre and Michael are practically in a tie in terms of how often they broke serve; but a greater portion of Andre's numbers, as compared to Chang, had to be won against top competition. If I'm reading ABMK's numbers correctly, I think that's what they show.
And in any case, Chang's edge in number of top players faced, as absolute numbers, is not even that large: 113-106 for top ten players, 169-165 for top twenty.
And just for perspective, in those samples Sampras went 8-3 against Chang and 15-10 against Agassi (it's 25 matches between those two isn't it?)
Not sure what the win/loss would indicate, but I'm throwing it in for perspective.
True. You definitely have a point but my point is I still am not sure because we don't know how strong the lesser player's serves were. The natural assumption is to think that the top ten or twenty would have the better service stats however. So it's very possible it looks better for Agassi but to me there is some doubt.
oops, I missed one match , stuttgart 96
agassi vs sampras ( 91-2000 ) : 25 matches, 60 breaks, 342 matches, 17.543%
Delete. Accidentally late double post.
I don't believe the Davis Cup Stats were included.
I rearranged the list right after watching Karlovic have a pretty mediocre match against a sub-par Nadal at the 2010 AO. His "huge serve" didn't seem that much of a positive. Perhaps that one poor showing colored his demotion too much.
I was going to point this out. I'm not sure the gross measure of serve games won is much of a measure of return at this level, but, when you compound that even further by correlating serve ability with ranking....I think the validity flies right out the window.
And that's another thing I'm worried about. I don't want to be rigid so I'll give in to some points. It seems to me that point of the article was whether Agassi is the default choice for GOAT of service return and whether there is debate on his status as the best returner in his time. I think we'll muddling in too many different scenarios and examining whether it's top ten, top twenty. We now should go whether the serves of Chang's opponents are superior to Agassi's opponent. It's getting too complicated for a simple point and it's very simple. Can anyone say with 100% or 90% or even 5% confidence that Agassi is the best serve returner of his time? I think it's debatable.
It's not quite like Sampras who led the ATP in percentage of holding serve in most of the ten years and even when he wasn't leading he was very close. Sampras is legit in his argument for greatest server.
Agassi led the ATP only a few times in percentage of breaking serve during the ten years examined and some years he wasn't in the top ten. The GOAT of returner should be better than that.
I guess we just have to disagree. I don't want to keep beating a dead drum. My point is Agassi doesn't have enough when we examine his record to be call the return GOAT. We don't have all the information for the amount of games played. It's just not substantial enough information for me.
I'm just going to stop on this topic. I understand everyone's reasoning and it is all logical and does make sense. Below is the information again. If the returners are in the top ten, it is listed. If they are out of the top ten, the ranking is not shown.
Agassi 29% service games won-56 matches
Chang 36% 67 matches-3rd in ATP
Agassi 34% 57 matches-6th in ATP
Chang 37% 80 matches-1st in ATP
Agassi 37% 44 matches-1st in ATP
Chang 33% 87 matches-5th in ATP
Agassi 34% 66 matches-5th in ATP
Chang 33% 87 matches-6th in ATP
Agassi 36% 82 matches-2nd in ATP
Chang 32% 84 matches- 8th in ATP
Agassi 31% 52 matches-8th in ATP
Chang 35% 84 matches-1st in ATP
Agassi 28% 24 matches
Chang 33% 68 matches-2nd in ATP
Agassi 32% 86 matches 3rd in ATP
Chang 30% 52 matches
Agassi 33% 77 matches-1st in ATP
Chang 26% 52 matches
Agassi 28% 55 matches
Chang 29% 68 matches-5th in ATP
thing is with Sampras, he had to have a great total game, backing up his serve, in order to be leading the tour in service holds. A complete game, plus mental consistency, year in and year out (in that respect he resembles Chang, not Agassi). So I think that's what Pete's hold statistics reflect: his ability to hold serve. That's the argument for Pete: that he had the best total serve-and-volley game (or serve-and-stay-back game, when he chose to do that) of his time. Theoretically, with his hold numbers, you would think that part of his total hold game included a serve that was, at least, one of the best of its time. And everyone agrees Pete's serve was at least one of the best of its time.
In the same way I think that everyone agrees that Agassi had, at the least, one of the best returns of his time. But the best return game of his time? I don't know if Agassi has ever had that argument made for him. Maybe he has. But that's not what I think people are referring to when they say he had the best return.
I always assumed McEnroe's famous statement about Agassi having a better return than Connors referred to the return as a single stroke. Now, maybe I read that into his statement. It's possible my assumption was wrong. But that's how I read it.
Anyway that's what I think the argument for Agassi has always been -- the best return of his time, considered as a single stroke.
I'm not really clear what you mean. So let me make this point generally.
If it's a bad idea to correlate serve ability with ranking -- if it's not justified to assume that higher ranked players have better serving ability -- then it is equally unwarranted to assume that higher ranked players don't have better serving ability.
Just speaking generally, I would think the latter assumption carries a higher burden of proof.
So it may be possible that Agassi, while facing top players more frequently than Chang, did not face better serving ability. But is it likely? I would say no.
now you are mixing 2 things up.
a) whether agassi was the best returner of his time
b) whether agassi was the best returner of all time
you ( and the author ) are trying to dispute b by disputing a , which I don't agree with . I think the article takes a wrong approach .... with insufficient data .
yes, he WAS the best returner of his time and most would say that with confidence !
he wasn't in the top 10 in returning in 3 years, 91, 97 and 2000 ... 97 was his worst year in that decade by far, he was riddled with injuries as well, so I guess its reasonable to give a pass on that one
yeah, there isn't sufficient info to prove he is the best returner of all time, but there is more than enough to prove he was the best of his era ..
Going by the best servers of their era :
vs sampras : agassi leads by a mile
vs goran : I checked this and agassi leads this as well
vs becker : agassi owned him ( both returning and results wise ) and becker owned chang , don't even have to bother to check in this case
vs stich : agassi owned him ( both returning and results wise ), 5-0 and chang went 3-3 vs him. Is there really a need to check here ?
vs krajicek : I checked this and agassi leads this as well if we include their 2003 match , otherwise he is just marginally behind
as he played richard more on the faster surfaces grass,faster HCs and carpet than chang did
1995 AO stats
During the Agassi-Sampras final, ESPN said that Sampras led the tour in 1994 in service games held, with 88% won. At the 1995 AO, coming into the final, he stood at 94.5%.
Then Cliff Drysdale gave some numbers for Agassi, but it wasn't his break percentage. He said Agassi had great return percentages, but the graphic they put up said "Return of 2nd Serve." Agassi was at 59%, for all of 1994 (marked down as leading the tour). In his first six rounds at the 95AO, he stood at 62%.
So I think ESPN was providing a different stat for Agassi, about his success returning second serve -- not the number of times he broke. The Lee article has Agassi breaking serve only 34% of the time in 1994 (fifth in the ATP).
And besides, you're not going to find anyone breaking 59% of the time. I don't know, but has anyone ever broken more than 40% of the time? Coria had 39% in 2003, does anyone know of something higher?
But Drysdale did say that Agassi had the best return in the game.
And Pete did too, in an article in The Age (Melbourne):
The Age, incidentally, had picked Agassi to win in four.
I agree that it is equally unjustified to assume the opposite. If I HAD to pick one guess as to the correlation, I'd choose, top players have better serves, although, I think it at best a very weak correlation. Traditionally, big servers and lesser servers have been all over the tour. My guess would be the top 10 would have a slightly higher average serving ability overall, but about the same "range" as other segments of the top 100. And in fact, if you look at the sheer volume of opponents Chang and Agassi faced somewhat "randomly" from the same pool of opponents, my guess is, they probably faced essentially exactly equal serving.
In any case, I was simply saying that in terms of measuring THE return, return games won is already a slightly tenuous measure. To then draw conclusions about the return based on another measure thrown in between....well it's so shaky, I just can't validate it.
To me, it would be like saying: Chang is better at steering a car than Agassi. I know this because Chang and Agassi live in the same apartment and Chang has gotten to work about 10 seconds faster on average over the last 15 years. Ok...MAYBE....BUT, then we notice that Agassi has driven cheaper cars to work slightly more often then Chang. Cheaper cars have worse steering (again...MAYBE), therefore, Agassi probably actually steers better than Chang...(OK, I'm outta here!!!).
Now admittedly, there may indeed be more significant extraneous variables in the above analogy, but my point is simply that the ever-increasing chain of assumptions is too much for me at that point.
Now if one were trying to measure effectiveness of return GAMES, then, I think the top 10 measure would have more effect, since presumably the top players hold more often, regardless of the specific reason why. EVEN then though, I wonder if the percentage difference between Agassi and Chang could possibly allow for true differentiation given the relatively small difference in both measures....
I agree, it's ENTIRELY debatable. There is no specific data for this, and even that which we have does not really show a clear trend. So going into even more tenuous rough measure, on rough measure, is futile IMO.
(as I also mentioned, there are many factors, I'd even suggest surface before I looked at the ranking of opponents....)
All we have left are appeals to authority. Indeed, many of Agassi's peers pick him. I'm inclined to give that weight, but as we discussed, you can't always take these at face value by any means. The players are just as influenced by flash, and reputation, and perhaps even more prone to personal bias than we are. I am sure they would all rank both high, but Agassi higher? why? Would any be aware that Chang has broken them 3% more over their career matches? Might they remember the 3 HUGE forehands Agassi once hit? Remember how heavy that one backhand Agassi hit was, while forgetting that Chang hit one to them like that to? Actually NOT SERVE AS WELL, because IT IS Agassi over there?? If you're Becker, do your opinion count considering Agassi had a special read on you? Who knows? Besides the fact, that the guy with the best return of all time, may have peaked at #53 in 1974, because he had a mediocre backhand, and his serve choked under pressure....or maybe it was that journeyman doubles player...who never played the big guys in huge matches. Maybe it's Todd Woodbridge! lol....not as crazy as it sounds!
Excellent point. I think perhaps we should redefine it as Total Return Game which I would say is the overall skills to help a player break serve. Using Connors as an example he not only had a great offensive return but he was very quick and returned many serves that many players would not return at all. Connors was also great defensively, able to lob, had great mobility and had superb passing shots on the run. I don't have the statistics on Connors but subjectively I would rank Connors higher than Agassi in a number of these categories. Agassi had the great single stroke in the return and he had great passing shots, but not he was not that great on the run as Sampras pointed out.
So Sampras can be redefined as having a great Total Serving Game for the same reasons. Goran may have a better overall first serve but Sampras over the years backed it up better.
I think if you try to define a single stroke like the service return, then we have to look at just two things, one is how consistent is the return and how good is the return? Agassi was obviously superb at hitting the offensive return and perhaps he had the best single return overall if you account for everything. My guess and it's only a guess is that a few players got the serve back more consistently. Coria for example had some excellent years returning but I don't think his returns were quite as aggressive as Agassi's.
Again, excellent points.
Since records have been only kept since 1991 I would tend to think players have broken the 40% barrier but I can't prove it. Coria seems to be the highest from what's I've seen in the records.
I'm following your point now. It is a slight edge in Agassi's favor, that he faced top players a little more frequently than Chang did. And all things being equal, that probably means that Agassi faced players who held a little more frequently than Chang's opponents did. And all things being equal, Agassi's opponents held more frequently probably because they were better servers. So that makes Agassi's break numbers a little more impressive -- and as the final step, that probably means Agassi's return itself played the key role in those breaks. All of these are reasonable assumptions (certainly better than the opposite assumptions), but I agree, it's a lot of steps, and at best the edge that Agassi has here is a slight one -- as far as rankings go. Statistically, it could easily be that Agassi has no significant edge at all in the rankings issue.
Now if Agassi had a massive edge in facing top players, that would be something else. But like you I'd look at surface as a bigger variable in this sort of comparison. And who knows if either player has any edge there.
Yes, imo that would solve a lot of problems, redefining it that way. It's just more specific.
I think that the ESPN stats from the 95AO may be an example of how return differs from a return game. They wanted to show how Sampras and Agassi were each leading the tour, as best server and best returner. For Sampras that was easy -- he led the tour in hold percentage. So they just showed that stat. For Agassi, they showed him leading the tour in something specific to the return itself: something about returning second serves. I guess they showed that because Agassi was not leading the tour in return games won (he was only fifth).
Now, for someone like Connors, I don't see a big difference between return ability and the ability to break. Connors was good on the run and had great overall defense. Maybe not as good as Borg; maybe I would put Connors slightly higher if we just mean the return, and Borg higher if we mean ability to break serve overall. But I'd expect Connors to be higher than Agassi in break percentages. It's just a pity no such stats are available.
By the way, if ESPN in '95 could get the stats for who was leading the tour in return of second serves, then maybe the ATP kept records on unreturned serves. That stat would get you closer to judging the return itself, as distinct from the return game overall.
There are stat sport services that research information for corporations. There is a company called STATS that used to publish books on statistics in baseball and I think they do research for companies like ESPN. I wonder if they can research information like this in tennis.
I calculated the nos for chang and agassi - surface wise breakup of matches played ..... had to do some manual work from the atp website for chang, grr, anyways here it goes
agassi of course played the higher percentage of matches on grass and hard, chang the higher percentage on carpet and clay ....
Can't get stats for distinguishing b/w slower and HCs though as it is subjective
You have the stats ( and ranking ) for sampras holding serve , throughout the 90s,right ? Can you please post them here ? I'd like a comparision with roddick and even more interestingly federer !
I'll try to get them to you later. It may have to wait until tomorrow but I'll get them out.
Sampras Serving Statistics
1991-87%-Percentage of serve games held-2nd
What's very impressive is that Sampras was the leader six out of ten years and was never lower than fourth. Very consistent. Clearly the best overall service game in tennis of those ten years.
thanks for posting those ...
I want sampras to be the number 1. like this list.
Does anyone know if Borg truly served at 135 mph at Wimbledon against Connors in 1978?
If so, that's pretty damn high for a wooden racquet and gut strings.
It's hard to say with the speed measuring devices of the time. Wood doesn't slow down the serve too much and Borg was one of the top servers of the time so I can see it being reasonable.
Here's a video from Borgforever that shows Borg serving in his 1981 semi against Connors. Some of those serves look awfully fast to me, whether they are 135 mph, I don't know.
Pete Sampras the greatest . Love that photo of him tanned no shirt on in service motion. Sunny hardcourt. Hairy animal GOAT. That photo should be framed. Not sure where it is located....
Phillipousis had a perfect service motion and a great serve.
Both were in peak form and Borg destroyed him. Shows how great McEnroe was in 1981 to beat a peak Borg in Wimbledon and the Us Open. Did Bog beat John at the masters in 1981?
Yes, Borg beat McEnroe in three sets.
I'm not sure if Borg was in peak form in the 1981 US Open final. He had a death threat against him and while I suppose you could say his play was good, I don't think he was in top form.
This may sound terrible but frankly I was never crazy about the 1980 Wimbledon final with McEnroe against Borg. I don't think either player played at near their top levels. McEnroe and Borg could play a lot better. In fact I've read that Borg was injured when he played the 1980 Wimbledon final. McEnroe probably should have beaten him.
Really ???? I never heard about bjorn being injured ! He looked perfectly 100% to me
BTW lets not ignore that mcenroe was tired from the doubles match on saturday and bjorn was pretty fresh
I agree though that neither of them played their best tennis throughout, though there were patches of play where they did
It's famous because the match was exciting but I like the Borg-Gerulaitis Wimbledon semi better than 1980 McEnroe match by far. I thought the quality of play was much higher throughout in that match. Both players in that match were pretty close to top form.
Heck I like the 1984 McEnroe-Connors semi at the US Open better also as far as McEnroe matches are concerned.
I haven't seen that match, but from what I've read about that match, its probably true
I'd agree, that was a better quality match
The McEnroe-Connors 1984 US Open semi is one of my favorite matches. Great rallies, different styles played at night at the Open.
Incidentally for the purposes of this thread, I just found out Karlovic held serve at 94% for the year in I think 2007. I think that's the record for holding serve since they have been keeping records.
I haven't check 2008 and 2009 yet so who knows, someone may have surpassed the return record and the serving record in those years.
So far the serving record is 94% by Karlovic as far as I can see and the return record is 39% by Coria.
Since these records have only been since 1991 I would tend to think they aren't the real records but I don't know if we will ever find out.
My guess would be that some greats like Gonzalez or Kramer or even a John Doeg may have surpassed that percentage record by a little bit. It has to be by a little bit after all, how much can you surpassed 94% by? Coria's return record I'm fairly certain has been surpassed numerous times in history. It is an excellent showing however. Agassi's and Chang's best I think is 37%.
yeah, it was
2009 highest was karlovic ( 92% ), I don't have the 2008 stats though ( If you do, can you give any link or put them here please ? )
return highest % ( I have stats from 2003 to 2009 except for 2008 ) and yeah coria is the highest I've seen
Quite a discussion since my last flyby on the return of serve (particularly Agassi's vs. Chang's). I don't have much to add, but two points bear repeating:
1) Return games won are a good measure of the player's return game, but not necessarily his return of serve per se. And as some of you have noted, the opponent's serve and the surface are just two of the confounds that should be taken into account.
2) Considering that they were virtually neck and neck in this respect throughout the '90s, I think Agassi's greater success against the best servers does give him the edge over Chang.
That said, I also think we can all agree that Chang's return wasn't half bad itself and deserves mention in the GROSOAT discussions. (Create a thread on the RoS if you want. I ain't touching that one. ) Props to Sampras for mentioning it at the end of his book where he created "the ultimate tennis player" from his main rivals' strokes.
And thanks to pc1 for digging up those stats.
Thank you for providing an excellent impartial thread.
Yes, I know you guys will start saying he benefitted from a modern racquet so it's unfair to compare all of his aces, non-return serve, and his ridiculous high % of hold serve(despite having subpar overall game) against the oldies who used the small, wooden racquet. However, one thing you cannot dismiss Karlovic's advantage, and it's his height. He has the the ability to create better angle, easier to hit his target(service box), ball bounce higher than normal, and has power. This is all due to his height advantage. His 1st serve is the most difficult to return in men’s tennis.
Actually, considering the stats, it's a reasonable choice. It's not as if you said Harold Solomon.
No, I think we have to accept his high percentage at face value.
It is an awesome number--for whatever reason.
Time for another update. The list remains unchanged:
Honorary mentions: Tilden, Vines, Kramer
The following names were mentioned shortly after my last update: R. F. Doherty, Norman Brookes and Maurice McLoughlin. While it's good to see someone giving props to this neglected part of tennis history, I gotta say there's virtually no evidence on which to judge these players' serves with a fair degree of accuracy (British Pathe doesn't have a single clip of these pre-Tilden greats of the sport). And the fact that even a Jack Kramer or a Bud Collins never refers to their serves in a GSOAT debate is telling. So no honorary mentions for those three. Give us a shout if you disagree.
And speaking of honorary mentions, I've been saying for weeks that Fraser might deserve one himself, but so far we have only Hoad rating his serve above Gonzales'. If anyone knows of other similar quotes, let us know. This will be the last time I'll keep Fraser in the discussion.
Also this post caught my attention:
Many posters have explained why we shouldn't just look at the aces and service winners, but as for those three matches, Murray had more aces than Roddick because the Brit is a better returner than the Yank is a better server. This is a fallacy I see too often in these serve comparisons. Note that Roddick has a rather poor return for a top 10 player. It's unwise to judge his and his opponent's serves on the basis of their matchups.
Finally, given the zero input I got last time my future updates will include just one bullet point from now on. We can move on to the next one as soon as the current issue is resolved.
So the question du jour is, how secure is Stich's place over Newk (and Tanner)? Stich not only had a big 1st serve but also a top-notch 2nd that Sampras picked out of all his top rivals', but Newk is no slouch himself in the 2nd-serve department. Let's answer this one first before revisiting Arthurs.
Out of curiosity, where is Pancho Gonzalez?
I don't think Stich should rank ahead of Newcombe and perhaps Borg should be on the list. Newcombe was ranked by many, perhaps even most when he was at his peak as the best server in the game, with the best second serve. Jack Kramer ranks him among the best servers ever, Ashe ranked him as the best server in the game in his book "Arthur Ashe-Portrait in Motion" and that book was written in 1973.
These are coming from the “General Pro Player Discussion”:
The great Karlovic at his best.
Of course, you can find plenty of his video in Youtube. There’s just no one can serve like him(1st serve), ever!
federer's serve? it's not the fastest, but it's the most effective, karlovic is a joke, he's got a huge serve but a great server must be able to get results from it, you can't just serve 140 miles/h and not win anything and say i am a great server
um yes you can.
Karlovic consistently is one of the top two in holding serve each year. He holds the record since records have been kept for percentage of holding serve at 94%. This is all with an all around game that doesn't come close to Federer's. Yes he's an excellent server and more effective over the years than Federer's.
Separate names with a comma.