He was the first player over 6 feet to enter the world top 10 and also one of the first to have his serve clocked at over 130mph. Marc Rosset gives us his ranking of the best serves of the last thirty years on the ATP tour.

He was the first player over 6 feet to enter the world top 10 and also one of the first to have his serve clocked at over 130mph. Marc Rosset gives us his ranking of the best serves of the last thirty years on the ATP tour. From Becker to Nadal, we take a little trip back in time…

 

 

1/ Goran Ivanisevic

 

“If you think in terms of aces and the capacity to kill off the point at the very first shot, the hardest of all was definitely Goran. When he was fit, it was coming in from high up, and it was coming in fast. It was a nightmare. He was left-handed, and his body movement didn’t give any indications whatsoever where he would hit it… And that’s without even talking of the frustration that comes from playing against such a player. For me, he was the worst of all. Against him it was “boom”, game over. No need to come in to volley behind that. On fast surfaces I only him beat him once in my whole career, I think. (Three, actually. Ed).

 

 

 

2/ Roger Federer

 

“First for his ability to hit aces when he needs them, but more generally for his ability to get ‘the’ serve he needs in a tight spot. It’s all a question of self-control, because we’ve seen many great servers whose serve crumbles at 5-6 or in a tiebreak, … Federer, for his part, knows that he will always be able to rely on this weapon even when the tension is at its highest point.”

 

 

 

3/ Pete Sampras

 

“Halfway between Ivanisevic and Federer. Pete wasn’t really looking to ‘kill’ the exchange. But his service was remarkably reliable, either in terms of aces or to build a platform for the point: his service was powerful and then he would run in to the net to hit a nice volley. When I was playing against him, I thought he was more accessible to me than Ivanisevic. I was better at ‘feeling’ his zones. We often played big matches, him and me; Richard Krajicek could also come under this category.”

 

 

 

4/ Boris Becker

 

“Of course, it’s long gone now. It was another kind of tennis, one where priority was given to attacking. Between us two, it was kind of ‘one for you, one for me’: I’d win a match, and then he’d win the next. With Boris, you had to remain focused because he didn’t give up many opportunities on his serve, and as he was very opportunist… I would have loved Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win his semi-final, as it’s this kind of tennis that’s missing amongst today’s elite.”

 

 

5/ Rafael Nadal

 

“It might surprise you as he’s not an ace machine, but when you look at Rafa, you realise that he wins an incredible number of points on his serve. It doesn’t fly in at 150mph, but it’s precise; it goes exactly where it has to go, with the right variations. His serve doesn’t aim at finishing the point right away, but to give him the perfect follow-up. In people’s imagination, the great servers are Ivanisevic, Isner, but a great server is above all a server who can hit an ace when he needs it! And Rafa, with his lefty serve on the tiebreaks, is very impressive when it comes to saving break-points.”

 

 

 

Interview by Guillaume Willecoq