Your top 10 ATP servers of all time

PilotPete

Hall of Fame
He's one of the best servers of all time but served very average when he was leading 40-15. He should have gone for the kill.
Probably been the Achilles heel of his career. Playing, conservative, safe by the percentages when it counts the most. Similar to his mentality on BPs.
 

Beckerserve

Legend
You keep pushing your wacky narrative about the Becker serve and I really take no joy in shooting it down as Boris was my own 1st tennis idol and remains one of my top 3 faves ever (along with Pete and Novak), but he most certainly did NOT have "the best flat serve on deuce and out wide on ad side of all time."

In fact it's quite debatable whether he was the best server of his own era. I've got a busload of stats from dozens of Mac's matches and I can tell you the guy would regularly win 35-40% of his service points outright as his opponent would struggle to read that motion of his. And we're talking late '70s to mid'-80s, when many top players including Mac himself till after '81 were playing with wood and didn't score anywhere near as many free points on serve. Put prime Mac in Boris' heyday and chances are these two go neck and neck in the unreturned-serve race.

And while stats for Zivojinovic are harder to come by a simple eye test would tell you the guy served even harder than Boom Boom, in fact as hard as anybody today (I'd go so far as to say harder than anyone currently active period). And as Moose just pointed out Bobo at '87 Wimbleedon was serving up aces at an unprecedented pace, including 26 in the 3rd round vs. Bates where he also had 50.9% of his serves unreturned. From a quick glance the only times Boris topped that % were in the 1988 DC SF vs. Bobo himself (57.3%) and in the '92 YEC RR vs. Pete (53.3%). As a stand-alone shot Bobo's serve was probably as good, if not even better.

Oh and Curren demolished Connors - you know, the same guy who'd play Boris tough even in his late years - with 17 aces in the '85 Wimby SF where Jimbo failed to put a whopping 57.6% of Kev's serves back in. Such a % was virtually unheard of back then, and Curren did it against the best returner in a major SF. He also handed Jimbo another L and 33 aces in '83 with wood, though that 4th-rounder was a more competitive 4-setter.

And that's just the '80s. You still would bet your guy has the best serve of all time? I sure wouldn't.



This is great new info... but I want the full count! Do you have it?



These are good picks, though what little I've got for Kyrgios ain't up to Krajicek's almost robotic standard. Need to study Muller (and Arthurs) more before I can render a verdict.
Becker had the best ever flat serve. Ask Agassi and Sampras bud. Yes guys did hit bigger serves eventually in 90s although NOT Sampras but that Becker flat serve was unplayable on fast courts due to his grip.
What he did not have as good as Sampras and Goran and Stich and McEnroe was the slice serve again due to his grip.
 

King No1e

G.O.A.T.
I know it's a complete waste of time trying to educate most of these jokers, but for the remaining few who actually care to learn:

OE #1 is indeed Pistol. The likes of Karlovic, Isner, Raonic and Kyrgios might be more dangerous day to day, and even as a fan I'd long resisted putting Pete atop Ivo and Goran, but what matters is whether you can bring your best against the strongest competition and that's where Sampras towers over the rest. Actually forget about Sampras, Goran at '01 Wimbledon aced his opponents more than Ivo or Isner in their own '15/'18 Wimby runs through corresponding rounds.

Three more things you likely aren't very familiar with:

1) Contrary to received wisdom re: surface "slowdown" service stats across the board have been creeping up, thanks to the extra spin made possible by today's more powerful racquets. That's why, among other things, you don't see many top players average less than 60% on 1st serves these days, whereas the opposite held true in the '90s.

2) Aces are nice but a more accurate barometer of serving prowess is % of serves that aren't returned by the opponent, and while the two stats generally go hand in hand Sampras (or Roddick for that matter) got an unusually higher proportion of the latter than most servers. In fact he had a whopping 50.8% of his serves unreturned in his seven Wimbledon finals, when even a Karlovic, Isner or Raonic often fails to clear the 50% mark on grass in non-pressure situations. Suffice it to say it's unlikely any of these servebots matches Pete's % across 7 Wimby finals vs. comparable opponents.

3) The ATP counted aces and DFs twice for most GS matches of the '90s, which has led to some of you regurgitating the howler that Pete friggin' Sampras won a lesser % of 2nd-serve points than the likes of (just to name a few) Delpo, Nishi, Thiem, Gasquet, Coric, Millman, Sock and Monaco. Fortunately a brave soul in @slice serve ace has completed the herculean task of (mostly) correcting the %s for the top '90s guys:


And that's despite Pistol S&Ving on a lot more 2nd serves than any baseliner then and now which almost certainly brought down his average. In short there's no one since Newcombe whose 2nd serve was anywhere near the same weapon as Pistol's. (And before you say Isner, check out his SF vs. Anderson and then try to tell me with a straight face Pete wouldn't have done more damage with his own 2nd serve.)

More in-depth (linked) explanations in the OP here:


Any of these guys could outserve another on a given day and the list is a perpetual work in progress, but it's definitely a whole lot better than the ATP's bogus "Serve Rating" most of you take as gospel. I suggest you check out some of my dissertations in that OP if you really care to find out more.
At this point NonP is the expert authority on all things servebot. That's a lot of work you've done over the years crunching the numbers!
 
T

TheNachoMan

Guest
He's one of the best servers of all time but served very average when he was leading 40-15. He should have gone for the kill.

He should’ve treated his second serve like another first serve. Miss it? No matter, you have 2 more first serves until deuce.
 

MeatTornado

G.O.A.T.
At this point NonP is the expert authority on all things servebot. That's a lot of work you've done over the years crunching the numbers!
I think devoting your life to the history of the manila envelope would be more exciting work than learning the ways of the servebot.
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
I know it's a complete waste of time trying to educate most of these jokers, but for the remaining few who actually care to learn:

OE #1 is indeed Pistol. The likes of Karlovic, Isner, Raonic and Kyrgios might be more dangerous day to day, and even as a fan I'd long resisted putting Pete atop Ivo and Goran, but what matters is whether you can bring your best against the strongest competition and that's where Sampras towers over the rest. Actually forget about Sampras, Goran at '01 Wimbledon aced his opponents more than Ivo or Isner in their own '15/'18 Wimby runs through corresponding rounds.

Three more things you likely aren't very familiar with:

1) Contrary to received wisdom re: surface "slowdown" service stats across the board have been creeping up, thanks to the extra spin made possible by today's more powerful racquets. That's why, among other things, you don't see many top players average less than 60% on 1st serves these days, whereas the opposite held true in the '90s.

2) Aces are nice but a more accurate barometer of serving prowess is % of serves that aren't returned by the opponent, and while the two stats generally go hand in hand Sampras (or Roddick for that matter) got an unusually higher proportion of the latter than most servers. In fact he had a whopping 50.8% of his serves unreturned in his seven Wimbledon finals, when even a Karlovic, Isner or Raonic often fails to clear the 50% mark on grass in non-pressure situations. Suffice it to say it's unlikely any of these servebots matches Pete's % across 7 Wimby finals vs. comparable opponents.

3) The ATP counted aces and DFs twice for most GS matches of the '90s, which has led to some of you regurgitating the howler that Pete friggin' Sampras won a lesser % of 2nd-serve points than the likes of (just to name a few) Delpo, Nishi, Thiem, Gasquet, Coric, Millman, Sock and Monaco. Fortunately a brave soul in @slice serve ace has completed the herculean task of (mostly) correcting the %s for the top '90s guys:


And that's despite Pistol S&Ving on a lot more 2nd serves than any baseliner then and now which almost certainly brought down his average. In short there's no one since Newcombe whose 2nd serve was anywhere near the same weapon as Pistol's. (And before you say Isner, check out his SF vs. Anderson and then try to tell me with a straight face Pete wouldn't have done more damage with his own 2nd serve.)

More in-depth (linked) explanations in the OP here:


Any of these guys could outserve another on a given day and the list is a perpetual work in progress, but it's definitely a whole lot better than the ATP's bogus "Serve Rating" most of you take as gospel. I suggest you check out some of my dissertations in that OP if you really care to find out more.
Great post. #1 in particular is a point that is often overlooked.

Regarding #2 I would not only agree, but go further and say that drawing the weak off-centre return was almost as important as hitting unreturned serves - especially in the 90s and before, when sweet spots were small and S&V was king. Guys like Rafter and Edberg may have had a modest record of aces and unreturnables, but their ability to consistently prevent their opponent from hitting clean returns meant that they were amongst the most effective servers in the game.

Pete was also very good at it, which is in no small part why his second serve was one of the greatest.
 

fundrazer

Legend
Good call on Pim Pim. I never watched much of him, was his serve really as good as I've heard?
Relatively quick and simple motion and he could place the ball anywhere in the service box. It's one of my favorites next to Krajicek's. Only wish I could serve even half as well.

Agassi was guessing a lot here, but he was getting bombarded by huge serves into all 4 corners.
 
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