why doesn't the better server win against the better returner in today's game?

buscemi

Professional
Yeah but you consider the fact that he faced the grass co-GOAT or GOAT who also happens to be the absolute perfect matchup against him. Yet he still came close to the finish line against him 2 seperate occassions.

I realize the danger of saying "If Fed wasn't there Roddick would have won" but in this case I think he would be good enough to win 1 in other eras and probably multiple in this one. If he can come that close to beating prime/peak Federer then he can beat other ATG on an off day or take advantage when the draw opens up. Remember besides Sampras and Borg no one has came close to matching Federer's consistency on grass at peak and even then the other 2 were a little more vulnerable to getting pushed. I mean Federer got taken 5 sets 0 times in his grass peak. Roddick came closest.

I don't think it is out of the question that Roddick could maybe take out the weaker versions of Sampras at Wimbledon (98 and 00) if if Pete had an off day. Of course peak Roddick would be making hay in 01-02 at Wimby as well. Sampras was quite shaky in a fair number of those matches. Same goes for the 80's. I think he would get his 1 wimbledon in pretty much any era. I think he could cash in multiple in this era.
I agree that he played some really competitive matches against Roger, but he also had some pretty big scares in QF and/or SF rounds at many of those Wimbledons. In 2005, Grosjean took him to 5 sets in the QF, and he struggled past Johansson in 4 sets (winning the last two sets in 12-10 and 7-5 tiebreakers) in the SF. In 2009, a semi-injured Hewitt took him to 5 sets in the QF, and he scraped past Murray in 4 sets (9-7 and 7-5 tiebreakers in sets 3 and 4) in the SF. And in 2004, he had a tight 4 setter in the SF against Ančić, who was clearly talented but had a losing record outside of Wimbledon that year.

If you transplant Roddick into, say, 1993 or 1994, those QF or SF matches might have been played against Becker, Edberg, Agassi, Stich, or Ivanišević, with ARod having to win both of those matches just to get to Sampras, who was pretty close to Fed's level.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
I agree that he played some really competitive matches against Roger, but he also had some pretty big scares in QF and/or SF rounds at many of those Wimbledons. In 2005, Grosjean took him to 5 sets in the QF, and he struggled past Johansson in 4 sets (winning the last two sets in 12-10 and 7-5 tiebreakers) in the SF. In 2009, a semi-injured Hewitt took him to 5 sets in the QF, and he scraped past Murray in 4 sets (9-7 and 7-5 tiebreakers in sets 3 and 4) in the SF. And in 2004, he had a tight 4 setter in the SF against Ančić, who was clearly talented but had a losing record outside of Wimbledon that year.

If you transplant Roddick into, say, 1993 or 1994, those QF or SF matches might have been played against Becker, Edberg, Agassi, Stich, or Ivanišević, with ARod having to win both of those matches just to get to Sampras, who was pretty close to Fed's level.
it's grass...everyone has those kind of scares besides Federer, and I consider 03-04 to be Roddick's wimbledon peak and on those two years he was mostly untouchable on grass besides against Federer. And losing a set on grass to quality grass courters like Ancic and Murray is no big deal lol Hewitt was playing quite well in 09 and like I said that's not peak Roddick either...digging pretty deep into the well there. Borg had early round 5 setters in 77-79. Becker lost lots of sets in his title runs. Same for edberg, Stich lost a lot of sets when he won in 91, Sampras lost like 5 sets on the way to the finals in 95 and was losing sets to nobodies in 2000.
Federer has spoiled us big time by rolling through every round every year at his peak.

Sampras was pretty close to Fed's level if not at it but remember the matchup...sampras doesn't have Fed's first serve return. Roddick couldn't take out 93-95/97/99 Sampras but he would have a shot at lesser versions if Pete played below his best.
 

buscemi

Professional
it's grass...everyone has those kind of scares besides Federer, and I consider 03-04 to be Roddick's wimbledon peak and on those two years he was mostly untouchable on grass besides against Federer. And losing a set on grass to quality grass courters like Ancic and Murray is no big deal lol Hewitt was playing quite well in 09 and like I said that's not peak Roddick either...digging pretty deep into the well there. Borg had early round 5 setters in 77-79. Becker lost lots of sets in his title runs. Same for edberg, Stich lost a lot of sets when he won in 91, Sampras lost like 5 sets on the way to the finals in 95 and was losing sets to nobodies in 2000.
Federer has spoiled us big time by rolling through every round every year at his peak.

Sampras was pretty close to Fed's level if not at it but remember the matchup...sampras doesn't have Fed's first serve return. Roddick couldn't take out 93-95/97/99 Sampras but he would have a shot at lesser versions if Pete played below his best.
I don't think that we're that far apart. As you note, it would have been very tough for ARod to take out Sampras in 93-95, 97, or 99. Let's take one of those remaining years: 1998. If Roddick were in the bottom half of the draw, he'd have to beat Ivanišević and Krajicek in the QF and SF. As you note, guys like 2004 Ancic and 2009 Murray were no slouches on grass, but I think we'd both agree that 1998 Ivanišević and Krajicek would have been tougher competition. Ivanišević/Krajicek/Sampras would be a pretty tall order for ARod.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
I don't think that we're that far apart. As you note, it would have been very tough for ARod to take out Sampras in 93-95, 97, or 99. Let's take one of those remaining years: 1998. If Roddick were in the bottom half of the draw, he'd have to beat Ivanišević and Krajicek in the QF and SF. As you note, guys like 2004 Ancic and 2009 Murray were no slouches on grass, but I think we'd both agree that 1998 Ivanišević and Krajicek would have been tougher competition. Ivanišević/Krajicek/Sampras would be a pretty tall order for ARod.
2000 could be doable and obviously 01-02. I also think he could have a shot in years like 85-92 where the balance of power was a lot more even. Becker and Edberg were good but they were far from unbeatable like Sampras and Federer at their best pretty much were. If Roddick caught fire he could power his way through the draw.

Honestly if you look at history pretty much every grass courter around Roddick's caliber has won a wimbledon. Every single player who has made it to 3 or more wimbledon finals has won a title besides Roddick and all of them besides Ivanisevic and Roddick have won multiple.
Ivanisevic is similar to Roddick but still even then he had 2 bites at the apple without Sampras(who stoned him thrice, Federer stoned Roddick 4 times), making good on the second one. I consider the 2 to be similar grass courters, but I think Roddick was mentally stronger. Yet, Roddick ran into Federer every single time he played well at Wimbledon. And it's not like he wasn't deserving of those finals spots, well maybe 1 time he wasn't but the other time his performances against Federer speak for themself.

Also another thing is that I think Roddick would benefit on the slicker grass and he would like getting into those serve fests because he was usually pretty reliable in tie breaks. His serve/forehand would be deadly and he could also make a little better use of the net. He was more complete than most other big servers. His passing shots weren't bad either....all the right ingredients to be successful on the old grass.
 

buscemi

Professional
2000 could be doable and obviously 01-02. I also think he could have a shot in years like 85-92 where the balance of power was a lot more even. Becker and Edberg were good but they were far from unbeatable like Sampras and Federer at their best pretty much were. If Roddick caught fire he could power his way through the draw.

Honestly if you look at history pretty much every grass courter around Roddick's caliber has won a wimbledon. Every single player who has made it to 3 or more wimbledon finals has won a title besides Roddick and all of them besides Ivanisevic and Roddick have won multiple.
Ivanisevic is similar to Roddick but still even then he had 2 bites at the apple without Sampras(who stoned him thrice, Federer stoned Roddick 4 times), making good on the second one. I consider the 2 to be similar grass courters, but I think Roddick was mentally stronger. Yet, Roddick ran into Federer every single time he played well at Wimbledon. And it's not like he wasn't deserving of those finals spots, well maybe 1 time he wasn't but the other time his performances against Federer speak for themself.

Also another thing is that I think Roddick would benefit on the slicker grass and he would like getting into those serve fests because he was usually pretty reliable in tie breaks. His serve/forehand would be deadly and he could also make a little better use of the net. He was more complete than most other big servers. His passing shots weren't bad either....all the right ingredients to be successful on the old grass.
The big question for me is how well Roddick could have developed his net and S/V game if he played in the '80s or '90s. Obviously, he didn't do so well in his efforts in he 2000s. Clearly, some of that had to be with the way the game had changed, but ARod also never seemed like a natural at net. From 1983-2001, a S&V player won every year, except for Agassi's win in 1992.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
The big question for me is how well Roddick could have developed his net and S/V game if he played in the '80s or '90s. Obviously, he didn't do so well in his efforts in he 2000s. Clearly, some of that had to be with the way the game had changed, but ARod also never seemed like a natural at net. From 1983-2001, a S&V player won every year, except for Agassi's win in 1992.
he wasn't a natural at net by any means but imo his volleys were serviceable enough where on faster courts with fewer dipping passes and more balls above the height of the net he could put away the volleys that his huge serve and forehand generated. People too often let what Federer Look at what Raonic did this year and Roddick certainly doesn't have less feel than he does.

I think a lot of people let what Federer did to him cloud their judgement of Roddick as a volleyer. I mean it is peak Fed, he made everyone look bad with that short slice, Roddick just was on the short end of the stick too many times. I'm not calling Roddick a great volleyer by any means but he was serviceable and had some surprising feel at times.

But yeah that is a good point. Another thing too, is that Roddick never served like a serve volleyer...he served like a guy who just wanted to either blow the ball by his opponent or set up a weak return he could tee off on with his forehand because that is the type of player he was. To be an effective serve volleyer you have to take a little off and place the ball so you have more time to approach the net. Roddick just bashed the serve down the tee too often which is not as good a play as going wide and volleying into the open court. Also his positioning and instincts at net were not the greatest either.

But like you said if he had grown up a serve volleyer he would probably make those small adjustments. Also having a coach who wasn't a strict baseliner would help too.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
roddick's returning was quite solid for a guy with his serve from 03-05 or so. Much better than traditional servebots at 20-25%.
Yes. He just could not maintain that as he got older.
Same with Sampras, he was winning 25-30% at his peak which is amazing for a guy with his serve.
Sampras is in his own category. I think of him as essentially a cruiser, a little like Federer but more so. More aggressive. He expected to go BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM and get a game. If he did that, he tried to break once per set, but even then he figured he would win the TB. When he was winning easily, he went pretty much into servebot mode. But when he had to struggle to win, he had another gear.

Federer did not start out that way so much. In the beginning he wanted to win every game, and that's when his returning on grass was amazing. Later he also started to coast too much. Now he cruises way too much, so when his serve lets him down, he doesn't have that extra gear any more.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
The big question for me is how well Roddick could have developed his net and S/V game if he played in the '80s or '90s. Obviously, he didn't do so well in his efforts in he 2000s. Clearly, some of that had to be with the way the game had changed, but ARod also never seemed like a natural at net. From 1983-2001, a S&V player won every year, except for Agassi's win in 1992.
I would say it comes down to talent at the SnV game. If a guy like Raonic can come in now as often as he does in 2016, Raonic could have done it in the early 2000s. It's not that it was not possible. He just didn't have those skills and instincts.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
but grass is a small sample size...in 04 he was at 87%, in 05 he was at 90%. That's decent. Was at 87 and 84 in 04 and 05 on hard which is decent too.
It's not a small sample size when you look at a career on grass and then each year on grass and see the upper limits of the serve game. Hewitt's top was around 6% lower than Fed's top, and his average was a good bit lower than Fed's average. He has to depend his return to make up for that weakness.

If you look at all the top years of all the great grass players, Hewitt's serving was way lower than most of the others.

There is always the 60% wall. It usually takes 60% or more games to win slams. At least half of the Wimbledon winners in the Open era won 60% or more of their games. That's simply a fact.

If you drop it down to around 57% all but five make that list. So you do the math:

96/21
93/24
90/27
87/30

And to have a good shot winning, it should really be higher, closer to 60.

I can't break down serve/return for slams. I don't have that data. But I do have data for the rest of the year on grass for the last 25 years.

I can find 14 times that players won 30% or more return games in a year on grass. Of those times, 7 did not result in winning Wimbledon.

There are times when a guy with over 60% of games did not win Wimbledon, but they are rare.

Fed played 6 matches in 2013, won 61.25% of games, then went out in the 2nd round.

Agassi in 95 won around 65% of games but went out in the SF. 6 matches.

Edberg played 11 matches, went out in the SF at around 63%.

So over 60% is no guarantee, but the guys who did and did not do well at Wimbledon had better wins in smaller grass tournaments.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
Yes. He just could not maintain that as he got older.

Sampras is in his own category. I think of him as essentially a cruiser, a little like Federer but more so. More aggressive. He expected to go BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM and get a game. If he did that, he tried to break once per set, but even then he figured he would win the TB. When he was winning easily, he went pretty much into servebot mode. But when he had to struggle to win, he had another gear.

Federer did not start out that way so much. In the beginning he wanted to win every game, and that's when his returning on grass was amazing. Later he also started to coast too much. Now he cruises way too much, so when his serve lets him down, he doesn't have that extra gear any more.
With Federer I don't think he just cruised...he just lost ability.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
It's not a small sample size when you look at a career on grass and then each year on grass and see the upper limits of the serve game. Hewitt's top was around 6% lower than Fed's top, and his average was a good bit lower than Fed's average. He has to depend his return to make up for that weakness.

If you look at all the top years of all the great grass players, Hewitt's serving was way lower than most of the others.

There is always the 60% wall. It usually takes 60% or more games to win slams. At least half of the Wimbledon winners in the Open era won 60% or more of their games. That's simply a fact.

If you drop it down to around 57% all but five make that list. So you do the math:

96/21
93/24
90/27
87/30

And to have a good shot winning, it should really be higher, closer to 60.

I can't break down serve/return for slams. I don't have that data. But I do have data for the rest of the year on grass for the last 25 years.

I can find 14 times that players won 30% or more return games in a year on grass. Of those times, 7 did not result in winning Wimbledon.

There are times when a guy with over 60% of games did not win Wimbledon, but they are rare.

Fed played 6 matches in 2013, won 61.25% of games, then went out in the 2nd round.

Agassi in 95 won around 65% of games but went out in the SF. 6 matches.

Edberg played 11 matches, went out in the SF at around 63%.

So over 60% is no guarantee, but the guys who did and did not do well at Wimbledon had better wins in smaller grass tournaments.
well that's cause Federer and most great grass players have ATG serves...Hewitt obviously is not in that category but his serve wasn't weak by any means. It got him some cheap points
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
With Federer I don't think he just cruised...he just lost ability.
I think he started cruising somewhat during his peak. I think he started to learn how to manage his energy better. In 2003 I think he was still young and going for every point in every game.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
I think he started cruising somewhat during his peak. I think he started to learn how to manage his energy better. In 2003 I think he was still young and going for every point in every game.
nah there was just a dropoff in 07. He was winning return games at a high rate in 06.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
nah there was just a dropoff in 07. He was winning return games at a high rate in 06.
2006 was his 3rd best year returning on grass, but 2003 and 2004 were higher. 2004 was 35%. Winning 35% of return games on grass is about like winning 50% on clay, which is why Nadal and Federer are absolutely on top at their peaks on their best surfades.

So yes, 07 was the big drop. Up until then he was at around 30% or higher. In 2013 he was up to 27%, but only for 6 matches. In 2005 26%. in 2012 25%. In all other years 24% or below.

This is why I laugh at the idea that Federer now is playing anywhere near to his early level on grass.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
2006 was his 3rd best year returning on grass, but 2003 and 2004 were higher. 2004 was 35%. Winning 35% of return games on grass is about like winning 50% on clay, which is why Nadal and Federer are absolutely on top at their peaks on their best surfades.

So yes, 07 was the big drop. Up until then he was at around 30% or higher. In 2013 he was up to 27%, but only for 6 matches. In 2005 26%. in 2012 25%. In all other years 24% or below.

This is why I laugh at the idea that Federer now is playing anywhere near to his early level on grass.
well remember in 03 and 04 he went out of the french early and therefore had more time to prepare on grass and be more dominant at halle. In 05 and 06 he made it deep and turned around and played halle in a few days and predictably he was not as sharp as usual. 06 I suspect his return games won% at Wimbledon was extremely high..I mean there were 3 bagels and a host of 6-2 sets in there (granted he faced big servers and better opponents in other years).

His returning on hard is a little weirder as he somehow got up to 30% in 2011 and 2015, which is better than what he did in 04 and on par with 05. No doubt that is influenced quite a bit by him going out early in more HC events earlier in 15 and 11. Despite that, it is clear his level on hard was nowhere near his peak years. But it also lends more credence to the view that games won% is a nice tool but while beating the guys in the early rounds is nice, what you bring for the elite opponents is very important. You have to adjust for context.

Also I believe the top 10 and the field to be a little shallower in 11 and 15 which would help prop up early round numbers. He couldn't bring the elite level in 11 or 15 to actually win the majors. Most often, decline isn't measured against the field but against the elite. Of course if you are losing more to the field too that is a sure sign of decline as well, as we see in his 07/08/10 seasons.

Also want your take on this: It seems service games won% on clay sharply increased in 09. Whereas before it was extremely difficult to hold above 85% on clay, players began doing it routinely. Part of the reason Fed and Nadal's clay numbers might be a little deflated from 05-07. I chalk it up to decreased depth in the field and faster clay courts.
 

Meles

Bionic Poster
well remember in 03 and 04 he went out of the french early and therefore had more time to prepare on grass and be more dominant at halle. In 05 and 06 he made it deep and turned around and played halle in a few days and predictably he was not as sharp as usual. 06 I suspect his return games won% at Wimbledon was extremely high..I mean there were 3 bagels and a host of 6-2 sets in there (granted he faced big servers and better opponents in other years).

His returning on hard is a little weirder as he somehow got up to 30% in 2011 and 2015, which is better than what he did in 04 and on par with 05. No doubt that is influenced quite a bit by him going out early in more HC events earlier in 15 and 11. Despite that, it is clear his level on hard was nowhere near his peak years. But it also lends more credence to the view that games won% is a nice tool but while beating the guys in the early rounds is nice, what you bring for the elite opponents is very important. You have to adjust for context.

Also I believe the top 10 and the field to be a little shallower in 11 and 15 which would help prop up early round numbers. He couldn't bring the elite level in 11 or 15 to actually win the majors. Most often, decline isn't measured against the field but against the elite. Of course if you are losing more to the field too that is a sure sign of decline as well, as we see in his 07/08/10 seasons.

Also want your take on this: It seems service games won% on clay sharply increased in 09. Whereas before it was extremely difficult to hold above 85% on clay, players began doing it routinely. Part of the reason Fed and Nadal's clay numbers might be a little deflated from 05-07. I chalk it up to decreased depth in the field and faster clay courts.
Federer had a higher rate of acing on clay that year and in some of his later years. Generally the field has been aging. Djokovic's had great return numbers in 2011 and then they dropped until a recent resurgence. I suspect return is one of the things that is relatively weaker for all of the older players that dominate on tour. That would make Federer's numbers a touch higher perhaps.

Games won numbers also will reflect some clutchness. Federer can be an unclutch serverer on clay. In 2009 he was clutch, doing a better job on saving breaking points.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
well remember in 03 and 04 he went out of the french early and therefore had more time to prepare on grass and be more dominant at halle. In 05 and 06 he made it deep and turned around and played halle in a few days and predictably he was not as sharp as usual. 06 I suspect his return games won% at Wimbledon was extremely high..I mean there were 3 bagels and a host of 6-2 sets in there (granted he faced big servers and better opponents in other years).
That's why it is important to take into consideration results at Wimbledon, because theoretically it is easier to rack up games in tune-ups. So I look mostly at Wimbledon itself. But I don't have stats for serve and return for slams.

But 2006 is the second most dominant Wimbledon ever, second to JMac in 84.
His returning on hard is a little weirder as he somehow got up to 30% in 2011 and 2015, which is better than what he did in 04 and on par with 05. No doubt that is influenced quite a bit by him going out early in more HC events earlier in 15 and 11. Despite that, it is clear his level on hard was nowhere near his peak years. But it also lends more credence to the view that games won% is a nice tool but while beating the guys in the early rounds is nice, what you bring for the elite opponents is very important. You have to adjust for context.

Also I believe the top 10 and the field to be a little shallower in 11 and 15 which would help prop up early round numbers. He couldn't bring the elite level in 11 or 15 to actually win the majors. Most often, decline isn't measured against the field but against the elite. Of course if you are losing more to the field too that is a sure sign of decline as well, as we see in his 07/08/10 seasons.
I can only tell you the general trend. In most years the guy who wins the most games on a surface wins a slam on that surface, and sometimes on two for HCs. It's not a lock.

In years when no one gets to 60%, it's much harder to predict. But even in those years often the guy who wins the highest % of games is the slam winner.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Also want your take on this: It seems service games won% on clay sharply increased in 09. Whereas before it was extremely difficult to hold above 85% on clay, players began doing it routinely. Part of the reason Fed and Nadal's clay numbers might be a little deflated from 05-07. I chalk it up to decreased depth in the field and faster clay courts.
I think this inflation of service numbers reflects an overall increase on all surfaces and is largely unrelated to surface.

Check service game stats in 1991, then check 2016. Everyone appears to be serving better. Nadal's GOAT-clay year, 2008, was based on around 50% of all return games won, but his serve stats went up after that. So I would say it's more a matter of the strings that are allowing everyone to hit harder with more control (through spin).

This is pushing % of service games won up and % of return games down.

Here is just one example:

In 1993 Brguera was 79/35 on ALL surfaces. That come out to around 57%, not bad for any year. But on clay, 81/43 or around 61.5%. What strikes me immediately is the 43% of return games won, Rafa-like at his peak. Courier in 1992, 89/38 127, and that's also Rafa-like, but what strikes me is the high number on return. Bruguera 94, 80/44, again 62% but insanely good on return.

I don't have the data in a good from to see, but it's pretty obvious to me that serving is going up on clay and returning is coming down. The totals are staying pretty much the same. Anything over 60% is a great year.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
I think this inflation of service numbers reflects an overall increase on all surfaces and is largely unrelated to surface.

Check service game stats in 1991, then check 2016. Everyone appears to be serving better. Nadal's GOAT-clay year, 2008, was based on around 50% of all return games won, but his serve stats went up after that. So I would say it's more a matter of the strings that are allowing everyone to hit harder with more control (through spin).

This is pushing % of service games won up and % of return games down.

Here is just one example:

In 1993 Brguera was 79/35 on ALL surfaces. That come out to around 57%, not bad for any year. But on clay, 81/43 or around 61.5%. What strikes me immediately is the 43% of return games won, Rafa-like at his peak. Courier in 1992, 89/38 127, and that's also Rafa-like, but what strikes me is the high number on return. Bruguera 94, 80/44, again 62% but insanely good on return.

I don't have the data in a good from to see, but it's pretty obvious to me that serving is going up on clay and returning is coming down. The totals are staying pretty much the same. Anything over 60% is a great year.
I get that the strings make a difference from the 90's but 08 to today isn't much of a change at all in the way teh game is played
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
I get that the strings make a difference from the 90's but 08 to today isn't much of a change at all in the way teh game is played
It's only 8 years, so it's harder to track.

In 2015 35 players won 80% of games serving on clay. In 2014 25.

In 2003 there were 14.

In 1996 there were 9.

In 1991 there were 4.

I just picked those years. That's not enough, but it's worth graphing by year for the last 25 years.

In 1991 54 players won 30% or more of return games.

35 in 1996.

34 players in 2001.

2008, also 17 players

In 2015 17 players did it.

My conclusion but only temporary because we need more data:

The best players in the world are winning more games total, with serving going up quite a bit and returning going down, but less...








It seems to me that since around 2000 returning has stayed about the same on clay, but serving is going up. However, this is unimportant if we aren't tracking the winners.



Only 3 players this year, 2016.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
It's only 8 years, so it's harder to track.

In 2015 35 players won 80% of games serving on clay. In 2014 25.

In 2003 there were 14.

In 1996 there were 9.

In 1991 there were 4.

I just picked those years. That's not enough, but it's worth graphing by year for the last 25 years.

In 1991 54 players won 30% or more of return games.

35 in 1996.

34 players in 2001.

2008, also 17 players

In 2015 17 players did it.

My conclusion but only temporary because we need more data:

The best players in the world are winning more games total, with serving going up quite a bit and returning going down, but less...








It seems to me that since around 2000 returning has stayed about the same on clay, but serving is going up. However, this is unimportant if we aren't tracking the winners.



Only 3 players this year, 2016.
seems to me the depth of the field is decreasing...more games concentrated at the top. And it isn't like the cast of characters at the top has changed much the last 10 years.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
seems to me the depth of the field is decreasing...more games concentrated at the top. And it isn't like the cast of characters at the top has changed much the last 10 years.
And that is a possibility. Everyone has a different idea of when eras were strong and when they were not.

But eventually, if this is true, there has to be a reversal. For instance, if the guys at the top are strong, and those underneath are weaker, eventually everyone is going to be weaker when the strong guys get too old to win.

But does that explain a trend that has been happening for 25 years now? Has everything simply been getting weaker and weaker for 25 years? Or is something else going on?
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
And that is a possibility. Everyone has a different idea of when eras were strong and when they were not.

But eventually, if this is true, there has to be a reversal. For instance, if the guys at the top are strong, and those underneath are weaker, eventually everyone is going to be weaker when the strong guys get too old to win.

But does that explain a trend that has been happening for 25 years now? Has everything simply been getting weaker and weaker for 25 years? Or is something else going on?
My point wasn't to say whether eras are weak or not, just to show why the games won% cannot be taken at face value especially when comparing across a period of years.

I think over the last 25 years though the game has definitely gotten more top heavy.
 

bjsnider

Hall of Fame
examples: players like isner, karlovic, cilic, del potro, raonic etc losing and having negative H2Hs against players like djokovic, murray, nadal, nishikori etc.
In sum, why do the slowest players lose to the quickest ones? Tennis rewards skill and movement to a much greater extent than a big serve. It's not even a new thing, or limited to the modern, juice-ball graphite era. Bjorn Borg's record vs. Roscoe Tanner was 10-2. Given your examples, you could also ask why marginally talented players lose to the game's all-time greats, eg. Djokovic vs. Isner. That question comes with a built-in answer.
 

cknobman

Legend
Yet the serving stats gets stronger? Facts are stubborn things.;)
You know you are right.

Looking back through time on the ATP website reveals some interesting stats.

They have a "rating" for returners and servers.

It seems 1999 and 1995 compared to today:
Average serve rating is higher today.
Average return rating was higher in the past.
 
The big servers of the 90's knew how to serve-and-volley. The big servers of today do not.

Serve-and-volley guys of 90's: Becker, Edberg, Stich, Sampras, Krajicek, Rafter, Ivanisevic. All won majors, and all knew how to volley, and all were talented athletes.

Big serve guys of today: Isner, karlovic, Raonic, Groth, Raonic, Anderson, Cilic. These guys either have bricks for hands or trees for legs.

If you can't follow your serve to the net, it is easy for a great returner to neutralize your serve by blocking it back high over the net. Simple as that.
 

Meles

Bionic Poster
You know you are right.

Looking back through time on the ATP website reveals some interesting stats.

They have a "rating" for returners and servers.

It seems 1999 and 1995 compared to today:
Average serve rating is higher today.
Average return rating was higher in the past.
I definitely think part of it is the age of the field. Return often worsens pat a players absolute physical prime. Age of field seems to be byproduct of Poly strings in that stronger players are favored. Part of it may be a strong group of aging veterans, but I believe the stat you are using may include a field of over 100 players, so this may not be the dominating factor. It might be better to compare the trend over the last 10 years. The 90s is a time that is not returning with the current poly game and the easier passing shots.

edit:
HOW are you pulling a rating for the field or calculating one?
 
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Meles

Bionic Poster
nadal switched to rpm in 2010 but he has used poly pretty much his whole career. He used to use duralast. Unlike Djokovic and Federer he does not use gut in the mains

LOL I can't even fathom how someone could think Nadal started using poly in 2010 given his game style...
Well its a common misconception:
"Toward the end of the Sampras era and just before the dawn of the Federer/Nadal era a polyester based string from Luxilon was introduced to the pro tour. The Luxilon ALU was first made popular by Guga Kuerten and it caught fire among the pros. The ALU was seen as a string with magical properties and was adopted by Agassi, Federer, Roddick and a stable of pros. It allowed players to take huge cuts and realize greater control and spin than ever before. These strings helped usher in a new era of power baseline tennis. All the top pros used them, well almost all. The notable exception was Rafael Nadal who used Babolat Duralast."

I am not a poly string expert, but there seems to be a perceived difference between Duralast and other polys. I believe Nadal has switched again:
"During the International Premier Tennis League in December, Nadal tried a few different strings and has decided to switch away from Babolat RPM Blast 135 (15L gauge) to Luxilon Big Banger Original 130 (16 gauge)."
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
Well its a common misconception:
"Toward the end of the Sampras era and just before the dawn of the Federer/Nadal era a polyester based string from Luxilon was introduced to the pro tour. The Luxilon ALU was first made popular by Guga Kuerten and it caught fire among the pros. The ALU was seen as a string with magical properties and was adopted by Agassi, Federer, Roddick and a stable of pros. It allowed players to take huge cuts and realize greater control and spin than ever before. These strings helped usher in a new era of power baseline tennis. All the top pros used them, well almost all. The notable exception was Rafael Nadal who used Babolat Duralast."

I am not a poly string expert, but there seems to be a perceived difference between Duralast and other polys. I believe Nadal has switched again:
"During the International Premier Tennis League in December, Nadal tried a few different strings and has decided to switch away from Babolat RPM Blast 135 (15L gauge) to Luxilon Big Banger Original 130 (16 gauge)."
babolat duralast IS polyester...just cuz it isn't big banger doesn't mean it isn't poly. There are some subtle differences between luxilon and the babolat polys but it is all poly and has the same general effect.
 

10isMaestro

Semi-Pro
examples: players like isner, karlovic, cilic, del potro, raonic etc losing and having negative H2Hs against players like djokovic, murray, nadal, nishikori etc.

generally pre-matches people always say something along the lines of "yea murray/djokovic/nadal have better defense and ROS so they're gonna win"
My first instinct is to say that the players you listed, while enjoying a big serve and a big forehand, do not have much to put on the table with the rest of their game. They fit into a very specific niche which mainly works around hitting faster than anybody else. Once you get passed that good serve (and, besides perhaps Karlovic, Isner and Raonic, it's mostly just a good first serve), a lot is missing. They do not move as well or as fast as the rest of top players, do not have the ability to introduce lots of veriety in a successful manner at that level and, most of all, they go so much into a game of all-or-nothing on a regular basis that it often takes just a few more balls per set to drive their error count way up there.

When you consider Sampras, on the other hand, you had a guy who could serve not only big, but also accurately. He also had a terrific second serve, as well as an approach and net game to complete those shots. The man also had a solid forehand. Few people think about it because he was such a good server and volleyed so often, but he could win good rallies by camping at the baseline because he had a consistent, accurate and powerful (if need be) forehand. He also moved very well and had an eye to spot opportunities to move forward. His game had two "holes": his backhand was a significant drag from the baseline and he had troubles adjusting his game to slower surfaces. If you think about Karlovic or Del Potro, there are considerably more than just two holes in their games. A lot of things lag behind their serves and forehands. On the backhand side, they never do any sort of damage, can't vary the pace, placement and flight path of the ball enough to really bother someone. To top it all off, despite being giants, you see them routinely get passed at the net and I don't think we can even talk about them introducing touch shots like accute angled volleys, drop shots, drop volleys and short angle slices to their games... You meet up with Del Potro, you know exactyl what he will do: hit deep, hit as many forehands as possible and 90 percent of the time the man goes for pure pace.

You can get away with being unidimensional player if you're insanely good at it and do not face the elite of the sport too often. If that aspect is hitting hard, you better hope your opponent can't read you too much and isn't wonderful at covering the court -- all of the guys above are great are doing just that, retrieving balls. On top of it, you included 3 of the big 4! I mean, who has a winning record agains these guys without having played just one or two matches against them?
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
The big servers of the 90's knew how to serve-and-volley. The big servers of today do not.

Serve-and-volley guys of 90's: Becker, Edberg, Stich, Sampras, Krajicek, Rafter, Ivanisevic. All won majors, and all knew how to volley, and all were talented athletes.

Big serve guys of today: Isner, karlovic, Raonic, Groth, Raonic, Anderson, Cilic. These guys either have bricks for hands or trees for legs.

If you can't follow your serve to the net, it is easy for a great returner to neutralize your serve by blocking it back high over the net. Simple as that.
You can talk about how great Ivanisevic was coming to the net and explain his success that way, but the fact remains that his ability to return was in servebot range. He won matches serving, not returning. Ivanisevic won Wimbledon by the smallest margin of any slam winner in the history of the Open era. He played the same kind of servebot tennis that drives me insane. Skip to the TB to find out where the action is or figure he might break about every 7th game.

Don't compare him to a guy like Edberg who won nearly 30% of his return games and maybe was even better than that, because his best years aren't even factored into his stats - which start in 1991.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
ah yes, ELO rating...where Murray has a higher peak than Sampras
Murray has very good stats across the board on grass. He compares very well with Sampras.

If you want to find one idea that argues that things were deeper in the 90s, that might be it. Because I don't think Murray is on the same level as Sampras on grass, in this or any other parallel universe. ;)

My argument in favor of the competition being more intense in the early 90s on grass (at least) would come from the number of very dangerous players still playing. Edberg was still around, Becker, others. I would not make the same conclusion about HCs though. Clay? Probably. I think there were more top players who were very dangerous on clay then.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
Murray has very good stats across the board on grass. He compares very well with Sampras.

If you want to find one idea that argues that things were deeper in the 90s, the might be it. Because I don't think Murray is on the same level as Sampras on grass, in this or any other parallel universe. ;)

My argument in favor of the competition being more intense in the early 90s on grass (at least) would come from the number of very dangerous players still playing. Edberg was still around, Becker, others. I would not make the same conclusion about HCs though. Clay? Probably. I think there were more top players who were very dangerous on clay then.
Agreed,

But also games won% will always favor the return oriented player because of servers coasting like you said. Also because of TB's where of course a superior TB player like Sampras or Federer will have an advantage.

Regardless it is clear peak Sampras>peak Murray on grass and hard so that is where ELO fails, because it takes name into consideration and not level of play.
 
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Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Agreed,

But also games won% will always favor the return oriented player because of servers coasting like you said. Also because of TB's where of course a superior TB player like Sampras or Federer will have an advantage.

Regardless it is clear peak Sampras>peak Murray on grass and hard so that is where ELO fails, because it takes name into consideration and not level of play.
I'll put this out to you, because it's simply a fact. The reason I carefully calculated games won for the whole Open era, all surfaces, was simply to see what happened. The results were so definite that it still amazes me to this very moment, but when you think about it, it makes sense.

The most % of games are won on clay. The least on grass. HCs are clearly in the middle.

What this means is that the slower the game, the bigger factor returning becomes. And when returning becomes a huge factor, those same return skills are also important for winning on serve because so many serves come back, and so many points end up in neutral. On slower surfaces players play more of the same style on both serve and return, so guys like Nadal are able to rack up huge stats on return but also have good stats on serve.

The very best example of the exact opposite style would be Ivanisevic, and of course on grass. Sampras would be very close to that, and that explains Pete's problems on clay in the 90s

The reason this is so important is that tennis is faster today on all surfaces due to the rackets and strings. Even on grass, with heavier balls, higher bouncing grass and grass that probably delivers more uniform bounces, the same huge advantage to the server remains because of the speed. But that same speed is now decreasing SnV because of the rifle shots that come back on return.

The result of the overall faster speed on shots is that serve stats in general are, if anything, also going up on clay. Returners have an ever-increasing advantage when teeing of on big returns, so that helps them, but the advantage still has to be more for the servers when they continue to gain mph on serves.
 

RanchDressing

Hall of Fame
Murray has very good stats across the board on grass. He compares very well with Sampras.

If you want to find one idea that argues that things were deeper in the 90s, that might be it. Because I don't think Murray is on the same level as Sampras on grass, in this or any other parallel universe. ;)

My argument in favor of the competition being more intense in the early 90s on grass (at least) would come from the number of very dangerous players still playing. Edberg was still around, Becker, others. I would not make the same conclusion about HCs though. Clay? Probably. I think there were more top players who were very dangerous on clay then.

Ok I'm not going to say much in this conversation.

Murray is a great player, but there's one stat where he falls behind Novak, Federer, and especially Sampras. That's the glaring defect.

Average second serve speed. That's what the very best of all time have that the others don't. Murray is content with that second serve kicker. That's been a huge pivot point for novak against him. Novak has a much better second serve and murray ends up hitting 90mph kickers just not to miss. Against you or I that would be a great serve; forces opponents to play the point. But against the best in the world, it's a shocker he's left that serve the way it's been for so long.

Against most of the field that second serve will be fine, and his second serve points won won't be too bad. But it was when he stepped that second serve up against novak that he beat him at wimby. Otherwise it's just a lower tier serve compared to what federer, novak, and ESPECIALLY sampras brought to the table, day in and out.
 

Meles

Bionic Poster
I'll put this out to you, because it's simply a fact. The reason I carefully calculated games won for the whole Open era, all surfaces, was simply to see what happened. The results were so definite that it still amazes me to this very moment, but when you think about it, it makes sense.

The most % of games are won on clay. The least on grass. HCs are clearly in the middle.

What this means is that the slower the game, the bigger factor returning becomes. And when returning becomes a huge factor, those same return skills are also important for winning on serve because so many serves come back, and so many points end up in neutral. On slower surfaces players play more of the same style on both serve and return, so guys like Nadal are able to rack up huge stats on return but also have good stats on serve.

The very best example of the exact opposite style would be Ivanisevic, and of course on grass. Sampras would be very close to that, and that explains Pete's problems on clay in the 90s

The reason this is so important is that tennis is faster today on all surfaces due to the rackets and strings. Even on grass, with heavier balls, higher bouncing grass and grass that probably delivers more uniform bounces, the same huge advantage to the server remains because of the speed. But that same speed is now decreasing SnV because of the rifle shots that come back on return.

The result of the overall faster speed on shots is that serve stats in general are, if anything, also going up on clay. Returners have an ever-increasing advantage when teeing of on big returns, so that helps them, but the advantage still has to be more for the servers when they continue to gain mph on serves.
The ELO ratings are interesting. What blows my mind as a Murray fan is that his 2009 was the 7th best ELO rating for a year all time. @Mainad @Sysyphus @batz @sosa09 and others what was going on in 2009 and why has it been frutstration most of the time? http://www.tennisabstract.com/blog/2015/09/18/the-case-for-novak-djokovic-and-roger-federer-and-rafael-nadal/
ELO looks imperfect overall, but why was 2009 Murray his greatest stats year. His potential has been unfilled until maybe the next few years.

To me the better server wins. Your stats on the surfaces and examples like Sampras make perfect sense. Despite the net game being under attack from the game of today and the returning, the serve is still favored. The four semifinalists at the French all had extremely strong first serve games on clay. Thiem's jump on grass is from his first serve points won going from 75% to 92% from last year. Its all about the first serve and how a player can dominate from that shot.

I like dominance ratio, but at some point it fails; servebots, Ivansevic, Roddick. Sampras had a great balance and a far more dominating first serve game than Federer. It may not have been as exciting as Federer, but one could argue it was more effective. Federer with his current return game has a chance for majors because he keeps producing on serve. Fed's current hard court first serve numbers are in Sampras territory (just not quite peak). Fed's current hard court return game is far better than peak Sampras.:eek:
 

Meles

Bionic Poster
Ok I'm not going to say much in this conversation.

Murray is a great player, but there's one stat where he falls behind Novak, Federer, and especially Sampras. That's the glaring defect.

Average second serve speed. That's what the very best of all time have that the others don't. Murray is content with that second serve kicker. That's been a huge pivot point for novak against him. Novak has a much better second serve and murray ends up hitting 90mph kickers just not to miss. Against you or I that would be a great serve; forces opponents to play the point. But against the best in the world, it's a shocker he's left that serve the way it's been for so long.

Against most of the field that second serve will be fine, and his second serve points won won't be too bad. But it was when he stepped that second serve up against novak that he beat him at wimby. Otherwise it's just a lower tier serve compared to what federer, novak, and ESPECIALLY sampras brought to the table, day in and out.
Murray has been working on that 2nd serve, but even on clay his 2nd serve points won is a weakness. You sell Djkovic short. What he did last year on 2nd serve is revolutionary and the rest of the tour is trying to catch up. The key for Murray at Wimbledon was an improved serve. Its why he's been a notch below the big 3 for his career. The danger is that he may be getting his first serve dangerous enough and his 2nd serve respectable. Murray will be a terror if his health allows him to continue serving well. Djokovic fans look out.:D
 

Meles

Bionic Poster
My first instinct is to say that the players you listed, while enjoying a big serve and a big forehand, do not have much to put on the table with the rest of their game. They fit into a very specific niche which mainly works around hitting faster than anybody else. Once you get passed that good serve (and, besides perhaps Karlovic, Isner and Raonic, it's mostly just a good first serve), a lot is missing. They do not move as well or as fast as the rest of top players, do not have the ability to introduce lots of veriety in a successful manner at that level and, most of all, they go so much into a game of all-or-nothing on a regular basis that it often takes just a few more balls per set to drive their error count way up there.

When you consider Sampras, on the other hand, you had a guy who could serve not only big, but also accurately. He also had a terrific second serve, as well as an approach and net game to complete those shots. The man also had a solid forehand. Few people think about it because he was such a good server and volleyed so often, but he could win good rallies by camping at the baseline because he had a consistent, accurate and powerful (if need be) forehand. He also moved very well and had an eye to spot opportunities to move forward. His game had two "holes": his backhand was a significant drag from the baseline and he had troubles adjusting his game to slower surfaces. If you think about Karlovic or Del Potro, there are considerably more than just two holes in their games. A lot of things lag behind their serves and forehands. On the backhand side, they never do any sort of damage, can't vary the pace, placement and flight path of the ball enough to really bother someone. To top it all off, despite being giants, you see them routinely get passed at the net and I don't think we can even talk about them introducing touch shots like accute angled volleys, drop shots, drop volleys and short angle slices to their games... You meet up with Del Potro, you know exactyl what he will do: hit deep, hit as many forehands as possible and 90 percent of the time the man goes for pure pace.

You can get away with being unidimensional player if you're insanely good at it and do not face the elite of the sport too often. If that aspect is hitting hard, you better hope your opponent can't read you too much and isn't wonderful at covering the court -- all of the guys above are great are doing just that, retrieving balls. On top of it, you included 3 of the big 4! I mean, who has a winning record agains these guys without having played just one or two matches against them?

Really liked your post and that middle paragraph was great. I don't have much to say except that one unidimensional player has some touch:

Not a fluke.;)
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
@Meles
@falstaff78
Murray has been working on that 2nd serve, but even on clay his 2nd serve points won is a weakness. You sell Djkovic short. What he did last year on 2nd serve is revolutionary and the rest of the tour is trying to catch up. The key for Murray at Wimbledon was an improved serve. Its why he's been a notch below the big 3 for his career. The danger is that he may be getting his first serve dangerous enough and his 2nd serve respectable. Murray will be a terror if his health allows him to continue serving well. Djokovic fans look out.:D
Isn't the key word here "balance"? Guys with incredible stats on first serve had better have a good enough 2nd serve to complement that, or people will eat them alive when the 1st serve goes off.

And even guys with the best possible 2nd serve have to also have a very good 1st serve.

I think in the end the most important stat on serving besides games is ALL serve points won, %, because it takes everything into consideration. It will also self correct for aces and double faults.

There are a lot of players we can't get full data for. Anyone who wins less than 17% of service games on grass for their career isn't on the career list, so you have to get approximate figures under player profiles.

Roddick is on the cusp at 17.13%.

Ivanisevic has only 15%, and he is easily the worst returner of the last 25 years to win Wimbledon - which is why he also won Wimbledon with the lowest number of games ever by %, going back to 1968.

Here are the players who won 55% or more of all their games in the grass careers, obviously only looking at the last 21 years, in the order of highest % of games.

Federer
Murray
Sampras
Djokovic
Edberg
Agassi
Hewitt
Nadal
Gasquet
Becker
Stich
Rafter
Roddick
Ancic

The list is skewed towards players 2000-2016. I believe that % of total games has one up because grass is now a slower surface in comparison to the others (more about uniform, higher bounces). If I am right, Sampras, for example, is even better than he appears. Becker and Edberg are probably hurt statistically because part of their careers are not averaged in, including slam years.

Now, for all points on serve and 1st serve vs 2nd serve POINTS:

72.93 37.14 84.70
71.95 38.39 78.82

Sampras lead by about 1%. Since stats have gone up since the 90s, I'd say that show pretty conclusively that Sampras was the better server.

Note that Sampras clearly leads on 1st serves, Federer leads on 2nd serves. This does not mean that these two won more games than anyone else. It means they won more games than any other of the champions. There are servebots with better stats, but they have horrible return games.

Finally, lets look at BPs saved for their careers:

Sampras 74.12
Federer 71.24

So that's what I would go by, not be who won the most points on 1st and 2nd serve but who won the most points, period, and who's BP % indicates the most clutch.

Since BPs saved tends to average around 1-2 % lower than service point %, anything plus is good. Fed is just a about even, but Pete a bit more than 1%.

In short, I would not go so much on 1st serve as all serves, and I'd pay special attention to BPs - what you have been calling "clutch".

That's the real dominance.
 
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Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Ok I'm not going to say much in this conversation.

Murray is a great player, but there's one stat where he falls behind Novak, Federer, and especially Sampras. That's the glaring defect.

Average second serve speed. That's what the very best of all time have that the others don't. Murray is content with that second serve kicker. That's been a huge pivot point for novak against him. Novak has a much better second serve and murray ends up hitting 90mph kickers just not to miss. Against you or I that would be a great serve; forces opponents to play the point. But against the best in the world, it's a shocker he's left that serve the way it's been for so long.

Against most of the field that second serve will be fine, and his second serve points won won't be too bad. But it was when he stepped that second serve up against novak that he beat him at wimby. Otherwise it's just a lower tier serve compared to what federer, novak, and ESPECIALLY sampras brought to the table, day in and out.
But here's another way to look at it.

The absolute gold standard for 1st serving is Ivanisevic. He won around 87% of his 1st serve points on grass. That's 2% higher than Karlovic. His 2nd serve was very attackable IF someone got to see it. He won around 50.5% of his 2nd serves.

On 2nd serve 59% is the gold standard. That's were Federer is.

The problem for Murray is that his 2nd serve winning % is more or less average for a great player. But because his 1st serve is relatively weak in earning points, he has to serve a lot of 2nd serves, and as you say they are attackable. The reason he wins as many as he does is because of his defensive skills, a lot like Nadal. But Nadal's % on all service points on grass is 1% higher, and Murray's defensive skills on grass are WAY above Nadal's. So he is depending on his overall game to gut out 2nd serve points, and that has killed him. And he is way better on serve on grass than on other surfaces.

If Murray had a better serve he would have a whole bunch of Wimbledons by now.

That's one of many reasons why Lendl is so good for him. Lendl somehow gets him to go for more shots and not to just try to outlast everyone else.
 
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