The serve is one of the most important skills in tennis and having a good serve is almost a criterion for elite tennis professionals. In the open era of tennis, a player without a solid serve will struggle at a professional level, as a good returner will easily break their serve. There are some players who have built their career on their strong serve, including some players on this list. Now let’s get to our ranking of the all-time 10 greatest servers in tennis history.
10. Joachim Johansson
The 6’6” Swede famously hit 51 aces in a four-set match against Andre Agassi at the 2005 Australian Open, yet still managed to lose the match. Johansson also has one fastest serves on record at 152 mph.
9. Roscoe Tanner
Roscoe Tanner had one of the strongest serves of the 1970’s and his big serve was once clocked at 153 mph. Tanner won the Australian Open in 1977 and was a Wimbledon finalist in 1979.
8. Milos Raonic
The Canadian has a personal record of 155mph, and has clocked the fastest serve ever at Wimbledon at 144mph. Raonic wins a staggering 91% of service games. John McEnroe has even said that he thinks Raonic has the best serve of all time. Raonic has a bright career ahead of him and could be a slam winner in the near future.
7. Boris Becker
Nicknamed ‘Boom Boom’ because of his fast and accurate first serve, the German former world No.1 won six major singles titles including three at Wimbledon. Becker’s success with his serve was a combination of speed and placement.
6. John Isner
The 6’9” American holds the record for most aces in a match. Isner served 113 aces against Nicolas Mahut at 2010 Wimbledon, in longest professional tennis match in history which spanned a total of 11 hours and 5 minutes of play. Isner has the third fastest serve of all time at 157mph. Isner has a great 1st serve, and his possesses one of the best 2nd serves ever, which is often a kick serve that bounces high off the court making it difficult to return.
5. Roger Federer
As the winner of 18 Grand Slam championships, Federer has a full variety of strengths to his game, his serve is one of them. The Swiss maestro’s top serve speed is around 125mph, which is not a blistering pace when you compare with some of the other servers on this list, however what makes Federer’s serve so good is his accuracy and ability to mix up his serve. Federer’s accuracy is pinpoint and often right on the lines. Mixing up his serve, Federer at times will add extra spin on his first serve or serve a kick serve to keep his opponents guessing. Federer holds the record for most aces for a Grand Slam final which was achieved in the 2009 Wimbledon final with 50 aces.
4. Andy Roddick
Andy Roddick was a consistent performer and from 2002 through 2010 had nine consecutive seasons finishing in the world top 10. Roddick had one of the most powerful serves in tennis history. Roddick would regularly hit serves in the 130-140mph range, and once hit a 155mph serve in a 2004 Davis Cup match. Roddick won 1 major title, the 2003 US Open, and was a finalist on three occasions at Wimbledon, each time being runner up to the great Roger Federer.
3. Pete Sampras
Sampras is one of the greatest tennis players in the history of the sport and his serve is also one of the greatest of all time, some even rank him as the greatest server ever. Sampras’ serve is a big reason he won 14 Grand Slam titles and also how he earned the nickname ‘Pistol Pete’. Sampras hit his serve with power and precise placement on both his first and second serves. Sampras was particularly known for being able to deliver a phenomenal serve when he needed to, and his solid second serve on many occasions would be as quick as a first serve.
2. Ivo Karlovic
Standing at a towering 6’11”, Ivo Karlovic is considered a giant in any professional sport, but in tennis his height allows him to hit angles and to generate ball bounce on his serve that causes problems for his opponents. Karlovic’s serve consists of extreme pace and the ability to position them in any corner of the service box. If we were to rank based only on first serves then Karlovic is the greatest server of all time, however the reason he doesn’t top this list is his second serve is relatively poorer.
1. Goran Ivanisevic
Ivanisevic had a mammoth first serve that was powerful and precise, and because he served with a slightly open stance it was extremely difficult for his opponents to read. Ivanisevic also backed up his amazing serve with a great attacking game, which had him reaching three Wimbledon finals before unexpectedly winning the title in 2001 as a tournament wild card. Ivanisevic’s second serve was also a reliable weapon that earned him many free points and often got him out of trouble. Andre Agassi once said that Ivanisevic was the first player that could regularly serve 20-30 aces a match. Ivanisevic’s 213 aces at 2001 Wimbledon is the record for most aces in a tournament. He also have the record for most aces in a single season with 1,477 in 1996.