What makes for better longevity? great serving or great returning?

Flint

Hall of Fame
If your goal as a pro was longevity, and staying at or near the top for many years once you were past your peak, would you rather have;

-the 50th best return and the 3rd best serve on tour

or

-the 50th best serve and the 3rd best return on tour
 

Soul_Evisceration

Hall of Fame
If your goal as a pro was longevity, and staying at or near the top for many years once you were past your peak, would you rather have;

-the 50th best return and the 3rd best serve on tour

or

-the 50th best serve and the 3rd best return on tour
So basically you are asking would you rather have the career of Ivo Karlovic/John Isner or David Ferrer?

I think we all know which one the majority would take ;)
 

citybert

Hall of Fame
Depends on era of fast courts or lighter balls but based on what we see its mostly big servers. Agassi and connors were unusual also agassi took 2 yrs off so he saved on his mileage.

In the end longevity will come down to genes and how your body takes all the training and tournaments
 

Jonas78

Legend
Definitely a great serve. Try to make fast points and effective serve-games. If you can hold the serve games pretty easily the chances to make a break usually come.

A mediocre serve and good return sounds like many long and exhausting rallies to me, both on your own serve, and your opponents.

But as some have pointed out, genes probably play an important role here.
 
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scotus

G.O.A.T.
The problem has to do with the rest of your game.

The best returner usually has a great baseline game. I've never seen it otherwise.

The best server, however, does not necessarily have a good baseline game or even a good net game. The only stroke that a good server naturally has is the overhead smash but his volley and movement can be subpar.

This is why if you might see more of the great returners rank higher.
 

TheFifthSet

Legend
The problem has to do with the rest of your game.

The best returner usually has a great baseline game. I've never seen it otherwise.

The best server, however, does not necessarily have a good baseline game or even a good net game. The only stroke that a good server naturally has is the overhead smash but his volley and movement can be subpar.

This is why if you might see more of the great returners rank higher.
Right, so what about all else being equal, with only both strokes in isolation being taken into consideration?

Too often, the serve as a stroke gets conflated with the service game, same with a return and a return game.

Staying true to my criteria, I would take a top 1-3 serve over a top 1-3 return. The serve is more of a weapon and an outright point finisher, whereas even the best returners need to regularly follow up their quality returns with a well-constructed point. A top server like Karlovic doesn't even boast a top 1000 baseline game, yet has won 92% of his service games over his career. Give any above average baseliner his serve and they would probably sweep the tennis calendar. However, if we gift Seppi with Novak or Andy's return (sans the rest of their return games) he still probably never sniffs a major.

Of course, this analysis lacks rigor, but I can't say I have the energy to delve further into it. It seems pretty intuitive. A better comparison IMO would be a historically great serve versus a great return game (which of course influences a players service game conversion, too). Would an average pro like the mid-30's Robredo prefer Karlovic's serve or Novak's baseline game? Perhaps it's the latter but it's closer than many would naturally assume or be willing to admit.
 
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mike danny

Bionic Poster
I say a good serve.

What good use would a good return have if you couldn't hold serve to save your life?
 

scotus

G.O.A.T.
Right, so what about all else being equal, with only both strokes in isolation being taken into consideration?

Too often, the serve as a stroke gets conflated with the service game, same with a return and a return game.

Staying true to my criteria, I would take a top 1-3 serve over a top 1-3 return. The serve is more of a weapon and an outright point finisher, whereas even the best returners need to more often than not follow up their quality returns with a well-constructed point. A top server like Karlovic doesn't even boast a top 1000 baseline game, yet has won 92% of his service games over his career. Give any above average baseliner his serve and they would probably sweep the tennis calendar. However, if we gift Seppi with Novak or Andy's return (sans the rest of their return games) he still probably never sniffs a major.

Of course, this analysis lacks rigor, but I can't say I have the energy to delve further into it. It seems pretty intuitive. A better comparison IMO would be a historically great serve versus a great return game (which of course influences a players service game conversion, too). Would an average pro like the mid-30's Robredo prefer Karlovic's serve or Novak's baseline game? Perhaps it's the latter but it's closer than many would naturally assume.
I would take the serve, of course.

Robredo would definitely take Karlovic's serve, since he already has a solid baseline game.

However, John Isner, even with his serve, hasn't won a single slam, and I consider his baseline game above average.
 

TheFifthSet

Legend
However, John Isner, even with his serve, hasn't won a single slam, and I consider his baseline game above average.
His standstill groundstrokes aren't terrible, but I'm not sure his overall baseline game can be categorized as anything other than subpar.

Isner's career break rate is 11%, one of the worst ever. I can imagine his lack of mobility and coordination affect him on the first serve return, but even his second serve return is an anemic 42%, so how much of it is due to his baseline game? To his credit Isner performs much better in tiebreaks than Karlovic, plus sees less of a drop-off in return games against top players. That would lend credence to the idea that he doesn't always make a concerted effort on the return until the tail end of a set. Even so, his movement prevents him from being a good baseliner, much like Karlovic he's toast when on the run.
 

TheMaestro1990

Hall of Fame
Definitely a great serve. Try to make fast points and effective serve-games. If you can hold the serve games pretty easily the chances to make a break usually come.

A mediocre serve and good return sounds like many long and exhausting rallies to me, both on your own serve, and your opponents.

But as some have pointed out, genes probably play an important role here.
This. Very reasonable thinking and logic as well.
 

scotus

G.O.A.T.
His standstill groundstrokes aren't terrible, but I'm not sure his overall baseline game can be categorized as anything other than subpar.

Isner's career break rate is 11%, one of the worst ever. I can imagine his lack of mobility and coordination affect him on the first serve return, but even his second serve return is an anemic 42%, so how much of it is due to his baseline game? To his credit Isner performs much better in tiebreaks than Karlovic, plus sees less of a drop-off in return games against top players. That would lend credence to the idea that he doesn't always make a concerted effort on the return until the tail end of a set. Even so, his movement prevents him from being a good baseliner, much like Karlovic he's toast when on the run.
Point well taken.
 
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