Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by gmlasam, Jul 14, 2004.
I would say Andre Agassi.
Agassi has pretty effective serve. It complements his baseline game well.
He really uses his legs a lot and has very good out wide spin serve on deuce and ad side. He can also hit flat serve here and there and earn a few cheap points.
Grosjean's serve isn't too bad either
I'm not sure about that. Agassi's serve was a weakness for most of his career - I don't think he ever got lots of free points with it.
He used it pretty well to set up the next shot, I guess that counts.
I think both Agassi & Changs serves continue to improve over the years into service weapons. When Chang went to the longbody racket his serve really seemed to pickup some pace.
At his peak, Agassi held serve better than almost anyone else on the tour. Only Sampras and, I believe, Goran held a higher percentage of games. He's never been an ace machine, and doesn't get many "free points"; he just knows how to place his serve and hold. Same is true of Hewitt-neither of them have "big" serves, but they ARE effective nonetheless.
Thomas Johanssen is 5"11 or so and he's been clocked at 136 mph.
serena has got to be 6 foot.
grosjean has a huge serve. 130 at 5'9 ish? Thats nuts :>
Some short guys from the recent past who could really pop one:
All the above have hit 129mph or better.
Short guys with surprising pop on their flat serves:
Berasetegui(believe it or not he hit 128mph in the mid 90's)
Good memory Data!! Back in the day a SUPER SHORT Johan Kriek could really scorch one too!!! From memory he was like 5'6ish.
How does one define a "good serve"? Is it just the stroke isolated or does one count all the aspects of a "service game"? Players like Edberg didn't hit aces and because of it many has come to the conclusion that his serve was weak. but he held something like 90 percent of his serves at his peak. (There are figures listed in Gilberts "Winning Ugly". Only Stich was better than Edberg at holding service games").
Here, big serve seems to mean "aces" and nothing else here. If you count all the players who used the serve to force weak returns and kill the ball on the second or third stroke there are many players with good serves, including players under 6'.
Just a thought.
Yep, I think they used to say 5'7 in some reports, but who knows how accurate that was.
I saw Johan at a senior event back in the mid nineties. He was playing doubles and I was anxious to see his serve having only heard about it. He didn't disappoint, since it was doubles they were usually spinning it in, but he did unload a BIG flat serve down the middle that drew a small gasp from the audience. I would have guessed it at about 110-115mph but it was trumped by Connors who returned that flat serve almost as fast with a lunging return.
I remember I turned to a friend specifically after that point and noted that while the general level of play was obviously much lower(leisurely) that certain points here and there were still atp quality.
Also, I recall Michael Chang in a message to kids saying that you didn't have to be really big to hit a big serve and he noted "look at johan Kriek, he had one of the biggest serves on the tour and he was shorter than I am!"
That's because Edberg at his peak got to the net like a bolt of lightning. I tend to think he lost a step, and that was all she wrote for him similar to what happened to Chang. These guys relied on their speed so much. For Edberg though it was in terms of getting to the net behind his massive but not very powerful kick serve. It was a specialist serve, but once he lost a step it was no longer effective. Here is where having a big bomb of a serve like Becker and Sampras pays huge dividends in extending the useful life of one's career.
Those guys serve and volley a lot too, but because they didn't just rely on a kick serve, and flat out went for the ace on the first serve, they could illicit weaker returns and hence allow them to knock off easier volleys. This is why they remained competitive to the point of still being dark horses at slams even well past their peak.
Edberg on the other hand dropped off a cliff. The same would have happened to Rafter who relied on the same kind of kick serve had he lost a step. Fortunately, he retired before it got to that point.
Top players who use their serves more as setup shots than as outright service winner weapons will suffer the most precipitous drops in their tour prowess should they lose a step. Sampras and Becker types can hide/mask/cover for their declining foot speed much better just because of their forcing first serves.
People forget that even Chang at his peak was near the top of the tour in terms of service games held. But this is not an indication of how forcing his serve was, it was just an indication of how fast he was back then. Top ranked players, regardless of how fearsome their serves are, will always be near the top of the heap in terms of being able to hold serve...obviously, because they simply win a lot more matches than everyone else. This still doesn't truly indicate that their serves are so amazing though. What it indicates for those who don't have ace machine serves is that they back up the rest of their game incredibly well.
Take Chang for instance, his serve was always very weak. He added power later on, but that was at the significant expense of control as is his first serve percentage plummeted to the point that it became very debatable as to whether going for bigger first serves was actually helping his game. As far as his second serve goes, it was always a TOTAL cream puff. The game plan for defeating Chang was always smack the living daylights out of his second serve...and players did. The only difference between when Chang at his peak and in the sad end to his career was that in his peak he was lightning fleet of foot.
This enabled him to cover for his weak second serve much better, and to hold his ground off his opponents' forcing replies. And, obviously, once he could get a point back on even ground, chances are you were going to lose. Once he tore his ACL, he lost his foot speed. People think that the U.S. Open loss to Rafter was when he ceased being able to play...NO...total myth. Fact is, right after that he utterly demolished Rafter in the Davis Cup and certainly played like an ELITE player in that match. The only thing that changed was that soon after he tore his ACL. That was the end of it. When Chang came back, he came back just a little slower and he never recovered that speed. As a result, physically he was no longer able to compete at an elite level, and as such all of a sudden...literally, overnight...his seemingly effective service stats became exposed for what they were...a misleading lie. Chang for years covered up his weak serve, because of his speed. He lost that, all of a sudden we see that he really does have a WEAK serve...obviously, because if it weren't, it could stand on its own, by its own merit like Sampras' or Becker's.
Edberg's serve was still better than Chang's, but when you really consider it...it wasn't that great. His heavy kick serve is a nice shot, but not when it's you're only effective serve. When Edberg lost a step, players no longer felt as rushed and could tee off better. Also, because Edberg primarily only had one serve, it became that much easier to sit on and get grooved too...compared to guys like Becker and Sampras who were top of the heap effective with every type of serve and spin. Quite simply, Edberg's serve was exposed only when he lost a step. The instant he lost that step, we discovered that his serve alone, if taken in an isolated context, simply did not stand up by it's own merits. Edberg's serve, like Rafter's, was a tag team serve...it's effectiveness was directly linked to how fast his feet could close the net. The faster the feet, the better the volley position; but not so obvious, is the psychological effect Edberg's lighnting fast feet had on his opponents. His speed intimidated and pressured them into worse returns. Once they realized Edberg was no longer the same on his feet, they could relax more and just concentrate on the clocking the return without the distraction of his pesky feet. The same goes for Chang.
Serena is 5'8.
Impressive analysis. I would like to add the Edberg forced alot of return errors on his serve, which is as good as an ace. And his quickness to the net was partially because of his service techninque. He leaned a lot into the court and landed far in on the first step, before those quick feet even got to work. Does such a technique factor in when deciding how good service is, or is it just the strike of the ball and how fast it flies that matters? He also consistantly had a very high percentage of first serves in. Higher than most other players I would suspect and he had one of the best second serves.
Interesting take !Tym. Edberg's serve was a LOT more penetrating in his youth, back trouble took a lot of the sting and effectiveness out of it in later life. He had the best second serve on tour (Arguably slightly ahead of Boris) for quite a few years. I know he backed it up amazingly well, but it was a great second ball.
Big serve for a shorty... I'd say Lleyton Hewitt has a big first serve. However, his lack of consistency when going for that first serve often renders it ineffective, or at least a wildcard into the scouting report. If it's on, he'll be serving pretty well. If it's off or even normal, it's the usual rely on the second serve. But he's one of those guys who is so confident on his second serve, he at least used to have no qualms about going for broke on the first serve.
So by definition of a "big serve" I'd say Hewitt has one. But I certainly would not give him a reputation as a bomber or anything like that, because at least in the past and up till recently, it's generally been about whether or not it was on for the day. Fortunately for him, it's more like a bonus to his game than any A game or main plan.
Agassi's serve isn't very big. But it's effective and he uses it to set points up. He has won cheap points on occasion, but not that often (unless you count a one-two as a cheap point, then he's probably won quite a few).
The short guy with the best serve was 5'8 Rios in his prime. He would swing the ball waaaaaaaaay out wide and his next opponent could hit a perfect shot only for Rios to put it down the line for a winner. When he was on, his serve was almost unbreakable.
Rios went as fast as 133mph, though obviously that was a rare exception.
One interesting point is that Edberg started to flatten out his 1st serve late in his career. I think that he felt he needed more heat against the new returners. The modern returners got used to standing in and taking Edberg's kick serve on the rise even if it was taken fairly high, with their grips and strength they could pound it down at him. I remember Bollettierri coaching Flipper to watch Edberg's kick serve go up and then pound it down his throat. While having a coach stand inside the court and hit kick serves to Mark over and over. (which he did in a 1 sided match). Edberg may have indeed lost a step or a touch of spin off his serve, which I actually feel peaked around 92, when even his second serve had SO much action on it.
So, by 94 or so, Edberg was going for 110-120mph flat(at least flat for him) serves. The drawback was that, this still wasn't a huge serve by tour standards and if it came back Edberg had less time to close in on the net. I did note that in his last match against Goran at the USO, Edberg's serve looked more like the kick serve of old....
So what is usually the average serving speed for a male under 6'-0" tall?
i would like to disagree w. some of the posters. i think when chang changed to the longer frame, that was the start of the demise in his career. he wanted for his serve to be more of a weapon..his serving percentage went way dwn, he double faulted, and he nevcer did serve well with the longbody other to have more work on his serve..what help was that as you miss more and double fault? as for edberg..i dont think he lost a step so much as that players got on to his serve..they were starting to punish it and edberg really couldnt become a baseliner. the same thing happened to rafter IMO..who used his serve in much the same way as edberg and even started to develop his baseline skills more towards the end. he still had the legs, but players were onto his serve (maybe in part to the shoulder injury, but maybe more so because of the equipment) which benefits the return game far more than the return game. my o2. ed
oops..benefits the return game far more than the serve
That's a pretty broad question....no stats for that....but my guesstimates for an "average' current player:
for players 5'9-6'0...an average flat serve: 118mph
average 1st serve in a match: 110mph (obviously including slice/topspin 1st serves)
average 2nd serve:90 mph
That's interesting because although Chang peaked ranking wise after and still played great tennis reaching gs finals, I also felt that the longbody might have been hurting him more than helping. Serving was a mixed bag, but people don't seem to realize that Change was maxing out near 120mph with his POG before the switch. More importantly, I felt that he lost just a hair of confidence and control which he had with the POG. He made more errors off the ground and although it superficially may have given his groundies more punch with less effort, I think he became less aggresive in the way he swung out at groundies because of the slight loss of control.....
I would like to have said to him "hey Michael, I know you can control the longer racquet well when you set up just right and I know you're fast enough to do that most of the time, but on those key balls where everything is not just right, you're missing more....and when you are set up just right you know what? you already generate ENOUGH power. I have matches on tape from 92/93 where you are overpowering players like Sampras and Karbacher off the ground and at least staying in the general area with Courier, Agassi in the power department. In some matches the longbody is actually making you lose power/confidence."
i saw chang play a few times live throughout his career....some guys were eating up his 2nd serve and maybe the longer axe helped him a little there, but he was really erratic on his first w. the longbody. as to what happened in his career, i think he was the last guy that could make it really big on the tour for some longevity just with his wheels as a weapon and no other weapons.....hewitt is changlike fast, but we're all seeing that you cant do it based on wheels alone anymore..the game passed chang by IMO. his groundies were really getting punished in the end from what i saw as well and the big baseline gamers were running him all over the place. ed
i agree w/ ed, chang's speed was all he had, and it wasn't enough to get him by. i think that was why he made the switch to the longbody in an attempt to get more power, and reach. being just a scrapper wasn't cutting it anymore, and of course, as he got older, he just wasn't as fast, especially after the torn ligament. i doubt the racquet hindered his control much, but it's more likely he started going for more on his shots, rather than just keeping the ball in play. it was a change in his whole game, starting w/ the quest for more power.
edberg's back problems led him to start hitting a flatter serve instead of his huge kickers. as was mentioned before, he didn't mix it up enough, and relied on the kicker/volley combo. sampras is an example of one who mixed up his serves well so that it was difficult for his opponents to groove returns. the emergence of many players using western grips also made it tough, as high balls were still in their strike zone.
Not many of the 'under 6' guys have BIG serves, but most of them have effective serves, they have good slice and kick serves that they use to construct their points with. They aren't fast, but they're effective. ie. Agassi and Hewitt are never going to have 15+ aces in a match, but they might have 25+ winners off their 2nd shot.
Thanks for the extra info Data. I thought Edberg flattened his serve out due to excessive back strain due to the extreme toss and back bend, but must admit i didn't see or read much tennis for a few years.
I don't think Rafter really declined until at the very end, he was still considered a top player prior. In his last Masters Cup, however, before he retired though it was clear his shoulder that had bailed on him. He decided, however, to just leave it at that and not try to comeback once healed up. Nevertheless, even though he was basically only serving at 50% that tournament, he still put up competitive scores against the games absolute elite, which should tell you something. His style was still effective in the modern era.
I don't think players just suddenly got ood enough to not be troubled by Edberg's kick. I say this because I really do consider Edberg a slightly better version of Rafter, and I don't see how Rafter's kick or anything about his game was really any better than Edberg. I tend to think Edberg declined physically, and that was the end of it. His drop was precipitous. It seemed like he was #1 in the world one day, then an absolute the shadow the next. I'm always suspicious of when a player goes from contender to pretender literally overnight, when their contemporaries keep chugging along. To me that is more of an indication of a player's level of play simply declining, rather than the game passing him by. How can the game pass ONLY him by but not the very same contemporaries he dueled with for years with no problem? Obviously, someone declined while the other maintained his game.
I tend not to think that it's the effectiveness of one's style that suddenly became out of vogue. I don't feel this way, because I think there are any number of manners of playing that can all be effective IF played at one's peak.
I don't buy that players with new fangled western grips were suddenly able to deal with Edberg's kick without any problem. I do, however, believe Edberg declined physically. I base this on Rafter's success with his own kick serve on clay at the French no less. His kick serve was extremely effective for him that tournament and he played plenty of western grippers. Just look at how much trouble, Edberg gave Muster with his kick serve, and Muster is an extreme western gripper. Look at how even Todd Martin, who has never had a great kick serve, still managed to wreak havoc on Berasategui with it, and Berasategui is more western than anyone ever.
Heck, Rafter was even able to hold his own with Kuerten on clay with his kick serve.
Like I said, players decline...doesn't mean that at their peak they weren't special. AND if they were still at their peak that they couldn't compete.
After all, Rafter schooled Philipoussis in the U.S. Open final. Again, peak Edberg is simply a different animal from washed-up Edberg.
The amazing thing about tennis is how an absolutely unbeatable a player can look in one match and how absoletely pathetic in another. In sports, you're only as good as your last match unfortunately.
People tend to only remember when you last got flogged vs. your TRUEST level of tennis, which for Edberg might well be his dismantling of Courier in the U.S. Open final.
!Tym and others,
The relatively rapid decline of Edberg around '93 I think was mostly due to a decline in motivation. Around that time Edberg married and had a kid. Suddenly, winning tennis matches wasn't the most important thing in the world anymore.
The relative decline of the effectiveness of his serve, I believe was more due to physical problems rather than the returns suddenly got way better. The problems really started in1991 (even though he possibly was at his best that year as well, ie, Courier in the USO). I remeber the Stockholm Open final against Becker. Edberg was up 2-1 when suddenly the fine edge of his serve just went away. He still served a high percentage of 1st serves but the bite just wasn't there. This became symptomatic of the 'mature' Edberg all the way to his retirement.
And I don't know why we're discussing Edberg in this thread. He was alot taller than 6''!!
I'm gonna throw in Olivier Rochus. No, his serve isn't HUGE, but at 5'4, he can pound it. I think I saw his serve clocked at around 115-120 mph in the french open final.
I have wondered about the same thing... Stll one point more about Edberg's serve. I think that in his early years umpires didn't notice his foot fault in general at all. He made it in a quite unusual way with his back foot (right). Incidentally W Arhurs has (or at least has had ) the same problem with his back foot. Maybe it can be rather frequent as for pure serve&volleyers.
Later umpires began to judge his foot fault more exactly. Probably this is at least partly one reason why his serve got worse in his late years.
I don't think so. Edberg was called for foot-faults throughout his career. His record of 18 or so (called, that is) in one match was from the early days if I recall correctly. If anything, I think he foot-faulted less as the years went by.
Perhaps you're referring to Bud Collins repetitive comments during the FO89 final, where he thought that he wasn't called for them. I thought that Collins was way off mostly.
Yes, you may well be right John, we know he had some back problems...I don't know exactly what factor or factors were present in Edberg's motivation to change. I do know that it seemed to me that Edberg was using a flatter serve even more in some of the matches I saw with Agassi as opposed to some of the lesser returners. Sadly, at that point, not much in the Edberg arsenal was all that effective against Andre who was POUNDING everything. Of course when Edberg was at his peak, it was a real joy to watch some of his matches with Agassi. Wonderful duals pitting one of the all time greatest volleyers against a baseliner who loved to have targets at the net.
T Johansson hands down!
I don't know about this. I'm sure he switched to the longbody in an attempt to get power, but I don't think you can say "just being a scrapper wasn't cutting it anymore". The fact is Chang had already come back and revamped his game after declining in 90/91 because of injury and the realization that he needed to become more offensive. Already in 93/94 we saw bigger serves, taking the ball earlier, solid net play etc. Although he was able to continue the rise after switching, I think he might have been better off working with his orginal stick. I don't like to second guess the Chang's too much though as he did have great success with the longbody.
Although the game did change and become more powerful and that certainly was a factor in making it hard for Chang to mount a comeback. Clearly, more was at work of course than the game passing him by. Chang was not even being beaten by the new generation much of the time but by the same guys he had handled his whole career only a few years earlier! But oh well, he above all others has nothing to be ashamed of, in terms of effort both on court and to improve/expand his game, I think he is unmatched in tennis history.
Borg was 5'11", and he had a big first serve. I don't think Roscoe Tanner was over 6', and he probably had the best serve of anyone under 6'. Also, McEnroe is right at 6'.
When people talk about a 'big serve' I take it to mean the serve is big enough to be used as a weapon. I can't believe anyone is associating Chang with a 'big serve'. If he ever used his 'big serve' as a real weapon for winning his service games and matches then I missed them. Anyone with reasonable technique can crank a high mph if they go for it enough times. Even I can hit some real heaters but I can't do it enough to think I have a 'big serve'. Of the players currently playing I'd say Kiefer, Thomas Johannson and Grosjean rely quite alot on their serves to hold serve.
Rabbit I like your signature line.
I think he's closer to 5'6 than 5'4. When you're that short, every inch counts.
I sat few rows behind Mac , during Johnny Mac's serve in a 80's match and it was amazing to watch that extreme lefty 'hook' serve all night. I don't think i've ever seen anyone else come close to putting that type of 'english' with placement on a hard/fast tennis serve.
Separate names with a comma.