The Best: Pete Sampras
When you look at the serve, the key
thing is not just the percentages and the damage done with first serve winners,
it is when you can produce those serves. For me, Sampras (pictured) was the
greatest server ever because he had this uncanny ability on break-point down to
produce a serve that would win him the point - either directly or a shot later.
I don't think Sampras was the
greatest volleyer of all-time but he had the easiest volleys because most of
the time his opponent could only ever pop up his serve for an easy winner.
Time-after-time Sampras would coast
through matches knowing that even if he went two break points down he could
produce a first serve winner or a second serve that would lead to an easy
volley. With such a good serve it meant that life was pretty easy on tour for
It is the best serve I have ever
seen - and the one with the best results.
Best of the Rest
Picking the best of the bunch after
that is pretty tricky but out of people who have won Grand Slams I think Goran
Ivanisevic and Boris Becker are the ones that stand out.
Becker's was good for similar
reasons as I mentioned with Sampras. It might not have been the most
destructive serve but time and again he produced really good serves at crucial
times in major finals. The amount of points he won on his first serve from break
point down or at other crucial stages puts Becker second on my list after
When you are looking at who had the
most destructive serve I would go for Ivanisevic but I'd also have to mention Ivo
Karlovic may not have won a Grand
Slam or even reached a final but he does have an amazing service record and you
cannot argue with what he does. He wins more service games than anyone else
year-in and year-out so you have to put him up there with the great servers in
history. It's almost like he has an unfair advantage over his opponents and he
uses it very well.
With Ivanisevic, he just had the
ability to stroll up to the line and fire ace after ace after ace. It was just
John McEnroe is another one that
deserves a mention. McEnroe had one other thing that Sampras had. In the early
stages of Sampras's career he was coached by a guy called Pete Fischer who
thought him an amazing skill.
What Fischer used to do was get
Sampras to throw the ball up and when the ball was in the air he would cry
things like "forehand" or "backhand" and then Sampras would
have to play the shot that way. So from the same ball toss Sampras could do the
kick serve, the serve out wide or the serve down the middle and McEnroe had
that ability too.
McEnroe stood so side-on that you
couldn't tell from the ball toss where he was going to go. He didn't have
anywhere near the fastest serve around but its unpredictability meant it had a
Some people put Wayne Arthurs up
there but he was a bit of a poor man's Ivo Karlovic. He had a serve that
treated him well though, while Greg Rusedski also had a very good penetrating
And of course Andy Roddick has a
good serve, a very good serve in fact, but I wouldn't put it in the top
bracket. It is a huge serve, a world record serve, so he has to be mentioned,
but many of them are returnable.