In the game of tennis, only while serving does a player have both ball and racquet under his or her control. Once a point turns into a baseline slug-fest, it’s the opponent who determines where the ball lands for the server, and vice-versa. The choice of going with a forehand or a backhand is dependent on which side the opponent hits the ball and based on that, the player has to make a lot of adjustments during rallies. But a server has every opportunity to set the game up for winning the point on his own. A good server with a decent game to go along with it has already won half the battle. So let me now run through the list of top 10 servers in tennis today (starting from last to first).
10. Gilles Muller:
Though I can’t vouch that this man from Luxembourg is an exceptional talent, I can, for sure, promise you that his serves are pretty big. Put his present ranking aside and rate him purely as a server. When you do that, you realize how ruthless a server this southpaw is. In spite of having not played many matches this year, you would be surprised to know he has so far served 559 aces this year. The fact that he has won 81% of his first serves shows he has been nailing the big ones quite often. He is particularly good at serving right down the middle, and seldom opts for the serve out wide.
All Tsonga needs to do if he has to make inroads into the top four is land his first serve in as frequently as possible. But that is easier said than done. Tsonga has an almost Sampras-like flat serve but the fact is, he doesn’t usually do justice to it. When he lands it at the right area on the deuce court, the effect can be devastating, but he often he fails to get the first delivery in. He generates tremendous speed off his serve, perhaps more than any other player currently. Tsonga’s biggest problem seems to be his second serve which does not support him well enough if the first one goes wrong.
8. Robin Soderling:
This Swedish star can possibly called a “two-time wonder”, having beaten Nadal in 2009 and Federer in 2010, with both victories coming at Roland Garros. However, we cannot ignore the most important weapon in his armoury apart from his power-packed groundstrokes – his serve. Soderling can consistently clock around 140 mph (most of them are unplayable) with this first serve. Even if his first serve does not find its target, he can hit a really good kick serve with the second one.
7. Sam Querrey:
Querrey is mostly overlooked as a server as he belongs to an era which has giants like Ivo Karlovic and John Isner. But having said that, it needs to be remembered he has the unique record of serving 10 consecutive aces in a match in 2007, the most by any individual. I think this record alone is enough to describe how big a server he is. This year alone, Querrey has served 660 aces despite not having played as many matches as some of the others in the list. He is partial to the wide serve, and has a decent winning percentage on the second serve as well.
6. Roger Federer:
The current world No.1 Roger Federer is ranked fifth in the all-time aces count. But then again, he has also played more matches than a majority of tennis players in the history of the game. So neither we can call him the greatest server ever nor can we ignore the effectiveness of his serve. Whenever he lands his first serve in, more often than not, he wins the point. He is good at serving aces both right down the middle and wide of his opponents. Although his first serve percentage has not been up to the mark these days, he has still mustered more than 630 aces so far this year. He is also duly helped by some really good “body serves”, which he has developed quite recently.
If you see a tennis star who stands 6 foot 6 inches tall, by default you can say he should be really good at serving, and in Del Potro’s case, it is no different. Aided by height, he unleashes some lightning quick serves which are not easily returnable. Even aside from the aces he pounds down, his style of serving forces plenty of errors from his opponents. He gets good bounce off his serve, especially on hardcourts. Returning his serve regularly gives fits to his opponents and that is why we quite often see his matches getting decided in tie-breaks. In addition, he has a very good record at saving break points in his career.
4. Tomas Berdych:
This Czech player not only has a very flat first serve, but is well-equipped with a good second serve too. That’s why, as a server, he is really dangerous. He is just a bit shorter compared to Del Potro, probably by a couple of inches, and serving has never been a problem for him at all. It has always been difficult to break his serve and whenever he races ahead in his service game, building up a 30-0 or 40-0 lead, he is all but assured of winning the game. The only problem with his serve is the high number of double faults he sometimes coughs up, and this problem often strikes him at the most inconvenient of times. But aside from that flaw, Berdych is definitely one of the best servers in the game.
3. Milos Raonic:
This young sensation is faring well as compared to other youngsters of his age (Tomic and Dimitrov) mainly because of his serve. Neither his footwork nor his defense is good enough, relatively speaking, so his current ranking within the top 15 is testament to the potency of his serve. In this year alone, he has served 996 aces which is quite amazing by any standard. The Canadian, as a server, will probably find a place in any all-time list too.
2. Ivo Karlovic:
This man holds the record for the fastest serve ever in tennis, having once clocked a speed of 156 mph. The list of top servers in tennis would always be incomplete without including his name. He is the tallest player ever to have played the game, and he probably never had much difficulty in becoming one of the game’s all-time great servers. If it hadn’t been for his occasional problem with double faults and awkward movement on the baseline, he would have been one of the hardest players to defeat. It is rare to see the sets he plays not going to tie-breakers.
1. John Isner:
After a long thought process, I have finally decided to rank Isner over Karlovic, though a few may disagree with me. Karlovic might have served more aces than Isner, but the latter is no mug either. His serve is more accurate than Karlovic’s – he serves comparatively less double faults than the Croat. He even gets more first serves in than Karlovic, which is a prerequisite for using your serve effectively. He has had some victories over top ranked individuals like Federer and Novak this year primarily because of his serve.