Rafa's serve

Does Rafa have the worst serve among the true greats?

  • Yes

    Votes: 9 45.0%
  • No

    Votes: 11 55.0%

  • Total voters
    20

BlueClayGOAT

Semi-Pro
Does Rafa have the worst serve among the true greats?
Genuine question. I was thinking about it and couldn't think of any other great for whom the serve was less of a weapon.
 

Sunny Ali

Hall of Fame
Does Rafa have the worst serve among the true greats?
Genuine question. I was thinking about it and couldn't think of any other great for whom the serve was less of a weapon.
Fuc*k man, once again please note ... slower serve doesn't necessarily mean a worse serve! Otha, how many times does this have to be said? :)
 

BlueClayGOAT

Semi-Pro
Fuc*k man, once again please note ... slower serve doesn't necessarily mean a worse serve! Otha, how many times does this have to be said? :)
No, it doesn't. You are right. But I asked the question with that understanding. He doesn't get too many free points off his serve at all.
 
No, it doesn't. You are right. But I asked the question with that understanding. He doesn't get too many free points off his serve at all.
He's not about those free points. He explained it very well in 2011 when he stopped serving fast after nailing fast serves at 2010 USO. He can serve fast but he doesn't like it. On top of the shoulder issues it started giving him, he values placement over speed, and he feels whenever he serves fast and it's not an ace the ball tends to come back quicker, which he isn't really a fan of. He wants his serve to set up his forehand, which he's very decent up at with those kick/slice serves.

As a matter of fact, one of the most noticeable improvements in his game this season has been that his second serve no longer gives his opponents the control of the point from the get-go every time, which makes it easier for him to keep control of the point and dictate play with his forehand. His serve is still nothing to write home about, but it is complimentary to his forehand-centered game, just like his backhand.
 

BlueClayGOAT

Semi-Pro
He's not about those free points. He explained it very well in 2011 when he stopped serving fast after nailing fast serves at 2010 USO. He can serve fast but he doesn't like it. On top of the shoulder issues it started giving him, he values placement over speed, and he feels whenever he serves fast and it's not an ace the ball tends to come back quicker, which he isn't really a fan of. He wants his serve to set up his forehand, which he's very decent up at with those kick/slice serves. One of the most noticeable improvements in his game this season has been that his second serve no longer gives his opponents the control of the point from the get-go every time, which makes it easier for him to keep control of the point and dictate play with hus forehand. His serve is still nothing to write home about, but it is complimentary to his forehand-centered game, just like his backhand.
Well, the objective almost every time you serve is to either get a free point or to set up a strong first shot, preferably the forehand, off a weak return. Federer has the greatest serve-first shot combo in the history of the sport. It's not just Rafa who does that.

There's no doubt Rafa does well with the serve he has. My question is: would he have been as successful, or more so, if he had a big serve which gave him free points? (everything else in his game remaining the same).
 
Well, the objective almost every time you serve is to either get a free point or to set up a strong first shot, preferably the forehand, off a weak return. Federer has the greatest serve-first shot combo in the history of the sport. It's not just Rafa who does that.

There's no doubt Rafa does well with the serve he has. My question is: would he have been as successful, or more so, if he had a big serve which gave him free points? (everything else in his game remaining the same).
My point is that he doesn't like the ball to return faster to him, which is what usually happens if he doesn't nail the serve, because it doesn't give him time to run around his backhand and hit a strong forehand to start off the point. He thinks that all in all he loses more points that way than he wins, so he'd rather stick to hitting a medium-paced slice or kick serve that draws his opponent out of court and gives him time to set up his forehand off a weak return, allowing him to start moving his opponent around, which most of the time grants he'll get the point. Of course, if he had a world class serve like Federer it'd be a whole another story, but he doesn't. He can serve fast and get some aces, but his consistency is probably not good enough for him to be convinced he should keep serving that way instead of resorting to his slice/kick serve which he's very decent at and usually yields good enough results.

I only wanted to point out that his serve is nowhere near as bad as it's commonly said to be. Take for instance the USO final this season. Granted, Anderson was all kinds of terrible and still hit more aces than Nadal, but Rafa had far and away the better serve performance of the two nonetheless. Angled, slice and kick serves who took Kevin out of the court and allowed Rafael to dictate play while the man in front of him would serve flat to the T most of the time, which Nadal could read and return back. Funny enough, he hurt a "servebot" more with his serve than Kevin did tomhim. Sometimes it isn't only about speed.
 
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BVSlam

Professional
Well, the objective almost every time you serve is to either get a free point or to set up a strong first shot, preferably the forehand, off a weak return. Federer has the greatest serve-first shot combo in the history of the sport. It's not just Rafa who does that.

There's no doubt Rafa does well with the serve he has. My question is: would he have been as successful, or more so, if he had a big serve which gave him free points? (everything else in his game remaining the same).
That is difficult to say, because the serve is an integral part to his baseline game. If he had an incredibly big serve, I don't think he would have played the same way because the mindset is different. Nadal is very much capable of hitting instant winners, but the core of his game is to break down an opponent completely. Heavy shots and incredible defense mean his opponents have to be very concentrated consistently. His serve allows him to get the consistency on his ground game in order to achieve that: many big servers aren't super consistent baseliners, because in a way it also disrupts the rhythm of their ground game, and Nadal thrives on the rhythm of his ground game.
 
Connors, Wilander and Agassi's serves were nothing special, either. Specially Connors's and Wilander's. Courier's too? Although I feel Jim and Matts did a great work getting good angles and effects, just like Rafa.

It's probably Connors but it's close. They are all on the same tier serve wise IMO. And don't sleep on Andy Murray either. That second serve...
 
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That is difficult to say, because the serve is an integral part to his baseline game. If he had an incredibly big serve, I don't think he would have played the same way because the mindset is different. Nadal is very much capable of hitting instant winners, but the core of his game is to break down an opponent completely. Heavy shots and incredible defense mean his opponents have to be very concentrated consistently. His serve allows him to get the consistency on his ground game in order to achieve that: many big servers aren't super consistent baseliners, because in a way it also disrupts the rhythm of their ground game, and Nadal thrives on the rhythm of his ground game.
Very good post. It's what I was trying to explain, but you did a better job at it than I did.

As for the winners part, Moyá always says he's dumbfounded by the amount of short points and winners Nadal can get effortlessly in practice against other players, but every time he gets on Rafa about him not doing it enough in matches he says it's just not in his mindset to play that way in tournaments.
 

bhpower

Rookie
Maybe but nonetheless His serve is good, pretty underrated. Good spin and accuracy, high fs percentage and very few double faults.
 

BlueClayGOAT

Semi-Pro
Connors, Wilander and Agassi's serves were nothing special, either. Specially Connors's and Wilander's. Courier's too? Although I feel Jim and Matts did a great work getting good angles and effects, just like Rafa.

It's probably Connors but it's close. They are all on the same tier serve wise IMO. And don't sleep on Andy Murray either. That second serve...
Haven't seen the 1970s and 80s greats play, so I wouldn't know much apart from what I've read and a bit of YouTube. I've heard Connors didn't have a great serve. Dunno much about Wilander and Courier either, apart from the fact that they weren't anything exceptional serve-wise.

Murray has a kinda sucky 2nd serve, but he can still serve pretty big and get a few free points off his 1st when it's on.
 

Rubens

Hall of Fame
Connors and Agassi had worse serves, as stated earlier. Wilander too, but he's not a true great.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
Connors and Agassi had worse serves, as stated earlier. Wilander too, but he's not a true great.
Agassi's serve was better than Nadal's. Agassi's serve is one of the most underrated parts of his game. Nadal's serve is better than Wilander or Connors' though.
 
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