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Is Roger Federer's serve underrated? Looking back at the Swiss' top 5 serving performances

Roger Federer serves at 2020 Australian Open
Roger Federer serves at 2020 Australian Open
Rudra Biswas
Modified 21 Jul 2020

Roger Federer is considered the greatest player of all time by a large percentage of tennis fans, and not without reason. The Swiss Maestro has worked tirelessly to become a great role model, both for spectators and his colleagues.

Federer sits at the top of the Grand Slam leaderboard, having won a record 20 Majors with his effortless style of play. But while the Swiss' game looks highly technical and hard to implement, in reality it is hinged on the basics.

Nowhere is that more evident than in his smooth, rhythmic serve.

Most fans consider Roger Federer's forehand to be his best stroke, which means his serve often doesn't get enough recognition. But it is arguably an even more important part of Federer's arsenal, and has helped him dominate as well as get out of crunch situations.

On that note, here are the five best serving performances of Roger Federer's career:

5) Roger Federer vs Marin Cilic, Wimbledon 2016 QF

Roger Federer
Roger Federer's serve got him out of jail vs Marin Cilic at Wimbledon 2016

On his day, Marin Cilic can absolutely hammer the ball. And that was the case during his Wimbledon quarterfinal against Roger Federer, as he played breathtaking tennis to lead the Swiss two sets-to-love.

Having been in lackluster form all year, Federer had been pushing his shots into the net for a large part of the match. Serving at 4-5, 30-40 in the fourth set, Roger Federer faced and saved a match point with a strong second serve which Cilic sent way beyond the line.

Roger Federer showed plenty of muscle on his second serve that day, with over 16% of his second serves either getting a forced error from Cilic or resulting in an ace. Roger Federer faced two more match points on his serve at 5-6, and defiantly saved them with his serve again.


In the tiebreak, the Croat gained a fourth match point at 6-7 on the Federer serve. Just when it looked like the Fed Express was dead in the waters, he hit a ridiculously powerful second serve that Cilic failed to middle.

The Swiss would eventually seal the tiebreak, and then the match in the fifth set, hitting 27 aces past Cilic overall.

4) Roger Federer vs Janko Tipsarevic, Australian Open 2008 3R

Roger Federer serves to Janko Tipsarevic at Australian Open 2008
Roger Federer serves to Janko Tipsarevic at Australian Open 2008

The Swiss was recovering from glandular fever at the beginning of the 2008 Australian Open, and found himself outplayed from the baseline against an inspired Janko Tipsarevic.

Roger Federer failed to serve out the first set at 5-4, and went on to lose the set in the tiebreaker. Tipsarevic was hitting one crisp backhand after another, and the hard-fought match went eventually close to the four-hour mark. However, Federer had his serve to bail him out.


It is no secret that Roger Federer has one of the best racquet swings while serving. The Swiss Maestro left Tipsarevic guessing on the return all match long, losing just three break points.

With a more circular windup and less deep racquet drop, Federer was able to bamboozle his opponent throughout the match, hitting one service winner after another.

Not able to read where Federer was going to place his serve, Tipsarevic had to rely on his groundstrokes in the neutral rallies to take him over the line. But if a player cannot break Federer's serve, they don't have much of a chance to win.

In the end, the Swiss would win the match at 10-8 in the 5th set, hitting 39 aces past Tipsarevic.

3) Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2014 final

Roger Federer serves to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon 2014 final
Roger Federer serves to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon 2014 final

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic brought out their absolute best tennis for well over three hours in 2014, to produce arguably the best Wimbledon final of the decade.


Roger Federer turned back the clock on Centre Court as he forced his top rival, who is younger than him by five years, into an epic battle. The Swiss won the first set in a tiebreaker, and the Serb equalized by winning the second. In the third set Federer would put up his best serving performance of the match, winning 85% of his first serve points.

But the Swiss was not able to capitalize on that, as he made some costly errors with his groundstrokes. That coupled with some dogged play by Djokovic enabled the Serb to steal the third set in a tiebreaker.

Just when it looked like Djokovic would run away with the match, holding championship point on the Swiss' serve at 5-2 in the fourth set, Federer thundered down an ace right at the T to stay alive.

Federer would eventually break Djokovic twice and then hit a couple more aces at 6-5 to push the match into a fifth set. But at 4-5 in the final set, the pressure got to Roger Federer as his game crumbled, allowing Djokovic to get the decisive break.

Nevertheless, it was one of the best serving performances of Roger Federer's career as he hit 29 aces and won 77% of his first serve points.

2) Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon 2007 final

Roger Federer rejoices after beating Rafael Nadal in the 2007 Wimbledon final
Roger Federer rejoices after beating Rafael Nadal in the 2007 Wimbledon final

The Swiss Maestro has had a love-hate relationship with five-set epics at Wimbledon, having won and lost in almost equal measure. But until 2007, Roger Federer had not been embroiled in a five-setter since he had upset Pete Sampras at SW19 as a youngster in 2001.

That would change in the final versus Rafael Nadal, as the two rivals would go blow-for-blow in an exemplary display of modern tennis. Hitting twice as many winners as unforced errors, Federer and Nadal were equals for most of the match - with only Federer's serve on big points giving him a slight edge.

In the third set Roger Federer was run extremely close by Nadal, but he got out jail by serving well whenever he was put under pressure. Despite the Spaniard having served well in the match, it was Federer who got more aces or set up more easy points on his serve - especially on big points.

At 2-2 in the fifth set, Nadal had 15-40 on Federer's serve. But the Swiss sent down a fierce serve to Nadal's backhand and went on to hold, before winning the next three games in succession to clinch the match.

The numbers show Roger Federer hit only 24 aces throughout the match, but it was his clutch serving on the big points that made the performance special.

1) Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick, Wimbledon 2009 final

Roger Federer serves to Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final
Roger Federer serves to Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final

In 2009, Roger Federer made history when he won a then-record-breaking 15th Grand Slam by overcoming Andy Roddick in a long and grueling five-set Wimbledon final.

The American took the first set in a tiebreaker after Federer had failed to capitalize on four break points. The second set would be contested in a similarly close fashion, with Federer struggling to find enough first serves - he landed only 55% of his first serves. Eventually, Roddick would hold four set points in the second set tiebreaker.

Federer saved the first three with a backhand winner, a big unreturnable serve and an ace, before Roddick himself messed up the fourth. With a new lease of life, Roger Federer took the tiebreaker and equalized the match.

Realizing the threat that the American was posing, Federer amped up his serve's intensity over the next three sets. The match eventually went into a decider, and Federer kept his composure as he won 90% of his first serve points in a set that lasted well over an hour.

At 14-15 Roddick finally gave in to his nerves as he made a couple of forehand errors to concede the match. Roger Federer hit a career-highest 50 aces throughout the match, in what was a serving performance for the ages.

Published 21 Jul 2020, 14:17 IST
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