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.
Based on a poll conducted on the Tennis Warehouse forum where just over 100 tennis players have listed who they think has the best serve:
I strongly disagree with this poll.
More accurately, here are the 10 best servers of all time.
1. John Isner
|Serving Stats||John Isner|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||78.6%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||56.1%|
|% Service Games Won||91.8%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||2.3|
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, but his second serve is also almost as formidable as he can generate a huge amount of kick so it bounces up very high for the opponent and makes 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.
2. Ivo Karlovic
|Serving Stats||Ivo Karlovic|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||82.7%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||53.3%|
|% Service Games Won||92%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||3.5|
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.
Here is the big man serving 45 aces in one match.
3. Reilly Opelka
|Serving Stats||Reilly Opelka|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||79%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||54.5%|
|% Service Games Won||89.8%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||3.1|
A list without the big American wouldn’t be fair. Opelka is one of the tallest tennis players in the world, but can still move fairly well for his size.
While his first serve is incredible, his second serve is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The amount of kick he gets is out of this world, especially on clay.
4. Pete Sampras
|Serving Stats||Pete Sampras|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||80.9%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||52.6%|
|% Service Games Won||88.7%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||3.7|
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. His first serve normally clocked between 115-130mph.
5. Roger Federer
|Serving Stats||Roger Federer|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||77.3%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||56.8%|
|% Service Games Won||88.8%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||1.9|
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.
6. Goran Ivanisevic
|Serving Stats||Goran Ivanisevic|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||82.5%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||50.1%|
|% Service Games Won||85.7%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||4.9|
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, Ivanisevic 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.
7. Andy Roddick
|Serving Stats||Andy Roddick|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||79.3%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||56%|
|% Service Games Won||90.1%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||2|
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 serve, generating a lot of topspin to get the ball bouncing up high off the court.
8. Boris Becker
|Serving Stats||Boris Becker|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||79.4%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||50.2%|
|% Service Games Won||85.8%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||4.8|
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 accuracies 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.
9. Milos Raonic
|Serving Stats||Milos Raonic|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||81.4%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||55.1%|
|% Service Games Won||91.2%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||3.3|
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.
10. Nick Kyrgios
|Serving Stats||Nick Kyrgios|
|% 1st Serve Points Won||77.2%|
|% 2nd Serve Points Won||53%|
|% Service Games Won||87.9%|
|Average Double Faults/Match||3.5|
Novak Djokovic once said that Kyrgios’ serve is the hardest to return. While that is slightly excessive, he is one of the best servers in the world.
It’s not all about power and spin on his serve, it’s more about the unpredictability. You never know what serve will come next. Kyrgios is almost impossible to read, which is the reason why so many players struggles against him.