Tennis serves form the basis for the rest of the rally. Players are given two opportunities to land a legal serve in the service box. The first serve is usually quicker than the second.
The serve can be flat or can have a top spin. The player usually aims to land the serve on the side of the service box, which is either near the alley or near the center service line.
The faster the speed of the serve, the more difficult it is to return. The pace with which the returner receives the serve also depends on the surface. Serves on grasscourts and hardcourts are faster than on claycourts.
Service guns and radars are equipment that is used to record the serves of tennis players. However, if a server has to make a record book, it must be recorded with the equipment verified by the ATP.
There have been over 50 instances where male tennis players have recorded service speeds of over 230 km/hr. However, not all of them were recorded in tour-level matches or in main draw matches.
The governing bodies of tennis do not have an official list of the fastest recorded serves. This is because there is not a single technology that is uniformly employed across all tournaments to record the speed of the serves.
On that note, let's take a look at five of the fastest serves recorded in main draw matches through equipment verified by the ATP:
#5. Andy Roddick (249.4 km/hr)
The 2004 Davis Cup semis were contested between the USA and Belarus. In the opening match, Andy Roddick faced Vladimir Voltchkov. The former World No.1 raced to a straight sets win hitting 17 aces in the match.
The 2003 US Open champion dropped only one point on his serve in the match. In the final game of the match, Roddick broke his record for the then fastest serve by hitting a 249 kmph first serve.
"I hit a good one. It's fun for the fans. For me, it's still a point. It is something I will be able to tell people one day," said Roddick after the match.
#4. Milos Raonic (249.9 km/hr)
Milos Raonic was seeded third at the 2012 SAP Open. The Canadian did not drop a set in the entire tournament and successfully defended his title. It was the third title of his career and second of the season.
One of the highlights of the event came in the semis when Raonic landed a 249.9 km/hr serve against Ryan Harrison.
#3. Ivo Karlovic (251 km/hr)
Croatia drew Germany in the first round of the World Group at the 2011 Davis Cup. The first two singles rubbers saw Marin Cilic and Philipp Kohlschreiber score a win for their respective sides. In the doubles match, Ivo Karlovic partnered Ivan Dodig to face the German pairing of Christopher Kas and Philipp Petzschner.
The Croatian pair took a two-sets to love lead. In the fourth set, serving at 0-1 40-40, Karlovic served right at the body of the returner at a pace of 251 km/hr. The serve was returned out of bounds and Karlovic thus set a new world record for the fastest serve.
The Germans would eventually win the match and the tie.
#2. Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina (252 km/hr)
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina stunned everyone when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the second round of the 2022 Monte Carlo Masters. He finished as the runner-up in the event against Stefanos Tsitsipas. But the Spaniard lost four of his next seven matches on clay.
One of those matches was a second-round clash against Felix Auger-Aliassime. Despite taking the opening set, Davidovich Fokina lost the match in three sets. According to ATP's official website, his fastest serve was recorded at 252 km/hr. He averaged 190 km/hr on his first serves in the match.
#1. John Isner (253 km/hr)
John Isner broke the record for the most aces hit in ATP history during his third-round match against Jannik Sinner at the 2022 Wimbledon Championships. He has recorded serves of over 250 km/hr on multiple occasions. However, his fastest was recorded at the 2016 Davis Cup.
Playing in the first round of the World Group on the grasscourts of Kooyong, Australia were down 1-2 in the tie. Isner faced Tomic in the fourth rubber. He was leading 2-0 *5-6 40-40 when he registered a 253 km/hr ace. The American eventually won the match in four sets and sealed the rubber for the USA.