Roger Federer and the 30 Most Feared Servers of All Time

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentNovember 15, 2011

Roger Federer and the 30 Most Feared Servers of All Time

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    Is it going to be a flat serve out wide, is it going to be a slice serve, a top spin serve or will it be a kick serve? 

    This is the thought process you go through as you watch your opponent eye up the descending ball. 

    Like chess, there are a variety of strategies in tennis implemented when serving. 

    Let's look at the 30 most feared male tennis servers in the history of the game. 

Roger Federer

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    When you think about Roger Federer, the serve comes after the majestic forehand, the 16 Grand Slam singles titles (and counting) and even the elegant one-handed back (which has since been deemed a weakness). 

    For me, Federer's serve ranks up there as one of the most underrated strokes in tennis. 

    Not only is the serve aesthetically pleasing but the Swiss maestro's mastery has been an integral factor in his success.  

Clark Graebner

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    Clark Graebner's powerful stroke play was a hindrance to old school tennis aficionados.

    Graebner had a powerful serve, perhaps considered the fastest of his generation, so much so that some old school tennis aficionados even considered to expel first serve, such was Graebner's serving efficiency. 

    I highly recommend going to your local library and reading Levels of the Game, by American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John McPhee.

    The book recounts Graebner's match against Arthur Ashe during the 1968 U.S. Open. 

John McEnroe

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    The fact that in recent years John McEnroe still played tennis at a reasonably competitive level goes to show that his serve wasn't torture for his back. 

    An unusual and unique action allowed him to propel indecipherable serves. 

Jack Kramer

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    One of the first of his generation to consistently use the serve-and-volley, Jack Kramer admitted he had gained inspiration from Bobby Riggs. 

Maurice McLoughlin

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    Maurice McLoughlin's career was like his game—brief and quick. 

    What made his games so quick was his serve. 

    It was so fast that McLoughlin's nickname was the "The California Comet."

Gerald Patterson

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    Described as the "Human Catapult," Gerald Patterson's game evoked one adjective—power.

    He was Australia's second ever Wimbledon singles champion. 

    He was also awarded a Military Cross during World War I. 

John Newcombe

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    John Newcombe's second serve is potentially the best ever. Coupled with a seemingly effortless serve-and-volley game, he was a tough proposition on grass. 

    Aside from his trademark mustache, Newcombe also attracted headlines when he and 80 fellow professional tennis players boycotted Wimbledon in 1973 to back Nikola Pilić. 

Stefan Edberg

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    Stefan Edberg surely can lay claim to possessing the most frustrating serve for opponents in recent memory. 

    That kick serve was something. 

    As his opponent scrambled to get a racquet onto the serve, Edberg was already in position at the net. 

    Edberg's serve was so effective. 

Lew Hoad

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    A true blue larrikin, Lew Hoad was a very loose tennis player and carried out his live-by-the-shot or die-by-the-shot style. 

     Alfred Wright described Hoad as:

    "He hits the ball as hard as any top player ever has, and this is especially true of his flat first serve which he delivers like something out of a bazooka. He is temperamental and headstrong, but in the crisis of a match he plays, as one old Davis Cupper put it, 'real loose.'"

Neale Fraser

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    Neale Fraser's bomb of a left serve was flat, it had natural variation and its kick was so troublesome. 

    His career defining moments were perhaps defeating Rod Laver 6–4, 3–6, 9–7, 7–5 in the 1960 Wimbledon final. 

Kevin Curren

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    Kevin Curren had a pacey serve and was solid but not excellent in other aspects of his game. 

    Unfortunately his name will forever be synonymous with a then 17-year-old called Boris Becker.  

Slobodan Živojinović

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    Slobodan Živojinović came out of nowhere to reach the 1985 Australian Open semifinals. 

    He was 6'6" and had a cannon of a serve. 

    In fact, Ion Tiriac recalled Živojinović hitting 32 aces in one set against Jimmy Connors. 

    Personally, I'd take Tiriac's recollection with a grain of salt.  

John Isner

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    John Isner's 113 aces in a single match and of course "that" match between him and Nicolas Mahut won't be broken anytime soon. 

    There's a lot to like about Isner's serve: it can reach 150 mph, the natural bounce is challenging to counter, his height makes his serve harder to read and he has good control. 

Milos Raonic

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    I remember watching Milos Raonic record the fifth fastest serve ever and I couldn't help chuckle that it was against Andy Roddick—oh the irony. 

    Raonic is one of the most dangerous servers in the game at just 20 years of age. 

    In a few years time, he will shoot up the list. 

Bill Tilden

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    Bill Tilden's serve was supposedly timed at 163.3 mph, which is incredible, but there have been doubts over the accuracy of the equipment used. 

    Tilden's 83 percent winning rate in the professionals paled in comparison to his 93 percent winning rate during his time in the amateurs. 

Steve Denton

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    Steve Denton had an unorthodox serving motion but it contributed to him breaking the serving speed record in 1984, where his serve was timed at 138 mph. 

    Nowadays Denton spends his time coaching the youth. 

Greg Rusedski

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    Greg Rusedski can lay claim to having one of the biggest serves in recent memory. 

    It's unfortunate the other parts to his game were mediocre. 

    Currently, he has the ninth fastest serve in tennis history at 149 mph. 

Michael Stich

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    Michael Stich's serve was so big yet the action was so fluid. In fact, his entire repertoire of strokes was pleasing on the eye. 

    He generally served unreturnables or even if you could return it, he was already at the net to put away an easy volley. 

    With a winning record against Pete Sampras, the American opined on the German, "Stich had such a huge first serve and a big second serve that he could come in behind confidently, because he was such a gifted volleyer.""


Mark Philippoussis

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    So much unfulfilled potential. 

    Mark Philippoussis had one of the most dangerous serves in the history of the game. 

    It was just a pity he never could consistently call upon the serve a la Pete Sampras.

    The Australian is reportedly bankrupt, which is so sad, and one hopes he can rebuild his life. 

Richard Krajicek

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    A real hit-or-miss player, Richard Krajicek's career will always be a question mark—would he have been more consistent if he hadn't been plagued by injuries? 

    I say yes. 

    Krajicek rode his serve home at the 1996 Wimbledon when Pete Sampras suffered his only loss between 1993-2001. 

Joachim Johansson

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    Joachim Johansson's blistering speed and his power game debilitated his career.

    It's somewhat ironic that what made him also destroyed him. 

    I'll never forget watching him ace Andre Agassi 51 times only to lose the match and then go into the press conference and critique his own serve. 

Andy Roddick

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    There was a period of time where Andy Roddick's obsession with the speed record mirrored that of Shoaib Akhtar trying to break 100 mph bowling a cricket ball. 

    Roddick topped out at 155 mph, the second fastest serve ever. 

    Roger Federer, however, never seemed too bothered returning Roddick's thunderbolts. 

Don Budge

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    Don Budge is considered to have one of the best serves in tennis history. 

    Budge won 13 Grand Slam titles in two years. 

Boris Becker

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    Boris Becker was so advanced at such a young age.

    His serve was "boom boom." His court awareness coupled with his young legs and vibrant youth allowed him to win three Wimbledon titles by the age of 21.

Ellsworth Vines

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    Those who played against or witnessed Ellsworth Vines can testify how fast and how influential his serve was. 

    Writing in the New York Times, Geoff Macdonald rated Vines’ serve as the third greatest of all time. 

Roscoe Tanner

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    Before Andy Roddick, Roscoe Tanner was the original scorcher. 

    Tanner hit a 153 mph serve in 1978. 

    It took 26 years for it to be broken. 

Pete Sampras

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    The only criticism you could come up with Pete Sampras' serve is to nit-pick the fact he never was timed above 140 mph. 

    He never needed to because he was so accurate, his serve was very heavy, his tennis IQ was so high and it resulted in 14 Grand Slam singles titles. 

Goran Ivanišević

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    1,477 aces during the 1996 season tells you what you need to know about Goran IvaniŠević's serve.

Ivo Karlović

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    Ivo Karlović has the most incredible serve in tennis history. 

    He's 6'10" and has supreme control over his serve. 

    If only he could move as if he were 6'1". 

Pancho Gonzales

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    One of the most rhythmical serves ever. 

    Pancho Gonzales was so feared that tennis promoters changed the rules to limit Gonzales' serve. 

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