Browse any tennis forum and you will often see a whole range of opinions on who are the best tennis servers of all time.
It’s easy to forget how important the second serve is too, as there’s no point having a killer first serve if the second serve is a sitting duck for the opponent to smack back with interest!
In this article, I will look at who I believe (from across the decades) have the best serves.
I haven’t considered the best female tennis servers here (that might be worth looking at in another blog post). In the modern game, we all know Serena Williams has an awesome serve, and I seem to remember Steffi Graf had a great serve too in the 1990s.
So here’s my top 10 in no particular order, although I save my personal favourite at the end.
He holds the fastest recorded serve recognized by the ATP, at a staggering 253km/h (157.2mph). This was in a Davis Cup match in 2016 against Bernard Tomic.
Not only does he possess a monster first serve, his second serve is almost as formidable as he can generate a huge amount of kick so it bounces up very high for the opponent and make it hard to return.
It’s almost like he has two first serves. His 6’ 9” height certainly helps to generate more power and a steeper angle into the court.
This guy had to be on the list.
Plenty of past and present tennis players have faster serves, but Federer’s serve is fast enough.
He possesses one of the most precise and accurate serves of all time, whether it’s using the slice to force his opponent out wide, or serving big down the middle. His second serve is very reliable too.
Like Sampras, when he’s in the mood Federer sometimes serves big on his second serve to surprise his opponents.
Like Isner, this guy is seriously tall, standing at 6’ 10”. His first serve is huge and his fastest was clocked at 156mph. However, his second serve is somewhat weaker and opponents try and take advantage of this when the opportunity arises.
Who remembers his victory at Wimbledon?
He was granted a wild card to enter the competition in 2001 and made it to the final, beating Pat Rafter. It was truly an emotional occasion and he was certainly the people’s champion that year.
During the 1990s, Ivanesevic had one of the most feared serves and was rarely broken in games. Being a lefty may have helped as it made it harder for his opponents to read his serve.
Although he doesn’t have the height of some of the fastest servers of all time, Roddick can match any of them for pace. He has a unique service action, coiling his body with a big knee bend, which he could unleash to generate huge power.
Roddick possessed a good second serve too, especially using the kick, generating a lot of topspin to get the ball bouncing up high off the court.
I loved watching the slow build up in his service motion, generating a lot of momentum before unleashing his serve with a big knee bend. Becker was a great net player, and his serve had a lot of accuracy to put his opponents under pressure.
His serve was surely a big reason why he won Wimbledon aged just 17, the youngest champion and a record he still holds to this day.
Like Becker, Raonic also has a slow and steady start at the beginning of his service motion. But Raonic is a tall athlete, possessing huge power like Isner and Karlovic. His average first serve speed is a staggering 225 km/h.
He is also able to disguise his serve by having the same ball toss for both flat and kick serves.
He revolutionised the tennis serve in the 1950s, and had a lot more power than his peers at the time. Not only could he serve fast, which was even more remarkable considering the racket head technology at the time, he could mix things up with different spins along with deadly accuracy.
Such was his dominance as a player, with his serve and volley style, tennis promoters tried changing the rules to make points last longer as they felt it would be more interesting for the public.
None of this worked though, and Gonzalez continued to win and have a great career.
I remember this guy winning Wimbledon in the mid-90s. He possessed one the of the biggest serves on the tour, which worked well with his aggressive serve and volley style.
He managed to beat Pete Sampras in the quarter finals at Wimbledon at a time when Sampras had an exemplary record.
Although the other 9 choices on my list aren’t in any particular order, my number one choice has to be Peter Sampras.
Nicknamed ‘Pistol Pete’, he could generate huge amounts of spin on his serve, to put his opponents under pressure as he would come storming to the net to finish off the point with one of his trademark volleys.
Sampras was one of the best serve and volley players of all time, and the high kick on his serve gave him more time to come to the net.
The accuracy of his serve was extraordinary whether it was hitting a serve close to the ‘T’ or close to the line serving out wide.
Although he didn’t have the fastest serve, it really didn’t matter. He could serve first and second serves with incredible consistency, even when under pressure.
So do you agree with this list? Did I miss anyone out?
Of course this is all rather subjective but I think a few of my choices would be on anyone’s list!
If you’re interested, this article contains some useful tips on developing an effective serve.