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Roger Federer is the greatest server in tennis history, according to a worldwide poll

Roger Federer voted to have the best serve in tennis history
Roger Federer voted to have the best serve in tennis history
Mihir Gawade
Modified 27 Jul 2020, 16:02 IST

Roger Federer is the best server in the history of tennis, at least according to the readers of ESPN.

The website recently conducted a worldwide bracket polling tournament on its Twitter account 'ESPNtenis', where some of the most dominant servers in tennis history were pitted against each other. Fans of Roger Federer would be happy to know that the Swiss Maestro's serve was voted as the best serve in history by a fairly big margin.

Roger Federer comfortably polled ahead of his closest competitors Nick Kyrgios and Andy Roddick in the semifinal and final respectively, to win the bracket polling competition and be crowned as the best server in the history of tennis.

Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick in the final to win the poll
Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick in the final to win the poll

Aside from Federer, the other spots in the bracket competition were filled by the tallest giants ever seen on tour. There was John Isner, at 2.08 metres, who is always ready to launch a missile serve down the T. There was also Goran Ivanisevic and his fellow Croat Ivo Karlovic - who is even taller than Isner by three centimetres and boasts perhaps the biggest first serve in history.

American tennis legend Pete Sampras took on fellow American Andy Roddick in the opening round, which is just as well since they both regularly terrorized returners with their serve bombs. Argentina's 'gentle giant' Juan Martina Del Potro, Canada's Milos Raonic and Luxembourg's Gilles Muller - the last of whom didn't let one of the better returners in history (Rafael Nadal) have a look on his serve in a crucial final set during their Wimbledon 2017 clash - also made an appearance.

The tallest player in the history of tennis Reilly Opelka, as well as Sam Groth - who once fired a serve at 263kmh - added more firepower to the list. And rounding it up were the mercurial Australian Nick Kyrgios, French powerhouse Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Sweden's Joachim Johansson (who once served 51 aces in a single match against Andre Agassi), two-time Slam finalist Kevin Anderson and 1991 Wimbledon champ Michael Stich.

Roger Federer 'aces' everyone

You would expect tall players with superior upper body strength, who can muscle down big serves at an average speed of 230km, to easily walk away with this poll. But there's something about Roger Federer's serve that makes it stand tall despite being far from the biggest on tour.


The Swiss has among the best techniques ever seen, with a rhythmic and smooth action that gives his serve the grace of a ballerina rather than the machismo of a gladiator. Federer's serve is based more on the placement of the ball in the box than raw pace and power.

Roger Federer
Roger Federer's serve is perhaps his most important weapon

But it's not the grace and the flow alone that make Federer's serve the best; it's the weapon's precision, accuracy and penchant to deliver consistently that make it an irreplaceable armament in the Maestro's quiver. The Swiss has one of the most underrated serves in the history of tennis, and has often used it as his biggest get-out-of-jail card when even his other most trusted ally - the forehand - fails him.

The voters of Espn's poll recognized this too, as they swiftly gave Roger Federer the overwhelming majority in every round.

Federer demolished Germany's Michael Stich in his first tie, polling a lion's share of 91% out of the total 1,437 votes. In the quarter-finals, Federer went against the South African Kevin Anderson and once again won by a huge margin - polling 86.3% of the 1,205 total votes.

Federer faced big-serving Aussie Nick Kyrgios in the semifinal and polled 76.9% of the 1,635 total votes, to reach the final almost unchallenged.

Andy Roddick meanwhile upset 14-time Slam champion and one of the best serve-and-volley players in history, Pete Sampras, by polling just ahead with 57.7% of the 1,195 total votes. Roddick beat another fellow American John Isner in the next round, taking home 66.8% of the 695 votes. He reached the final by beating Juan Martin del Potro comfortably, with 65.4% of the 837 total votes in the semifinal clash.

Roger Federer and Andy Roddick reached the final of the polling tournament
Roger Federer and Andy Roddick reached the final of the polling tournament

Most were interested to see if the pace and power of Roddick's serve would sway the fans' opinion and help him beat the accuracy and precision of the Maestro's serve.

However, Roger Federer had another fairly comfortable victory despite facing his closest competition of the tournament. The 20-time Grand Slam champion polled 64.6% of the 1,936 total votes in the final round over the American.

Roger Federer is the king of a lot of things, and is now recognized by at least one poll to have the best serve in tennis history. The Swiss Maestro's serve is not so underrated after all!

The picturesque Roger Federer serving stance
The picturesque Roger Federer serving stance

That said, it is pertinent to note that recency bias probably played a part in the polling results. Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic both fell in the opening round despite being two of the most effective servers in history. And other serving greats like Boris Becker, Richard Krajicek and Roscoe Tanner were completely excluded and failed to make the bracket.

Published 27 Jul 2020, 13:51 IST
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