With John Isner thundering his way past the 10,000 career aces milestone, we look at where he ranks among the ATP’s best ever servers.
10. Sam Querrey
Average aces/match: 12.26
The current American number two and world number 14 is certainly no slouch when it comes to the serve.
Querrey’s appearance in this list is significant considering that Pete Sampras (average aces/match: 11.00) didn’t make it. John Isner grabs the headlines as the big serving American, but you underestimate Querrey at your peril.
9. Richard Krajicek
Average aces/match: 12.62
6’5″ Krajicek was a scourge of Sampras and is one of the few players who can claim to have bested him over his career with a record of six wins from ten matches, and much of it was down to his serve.
Indeed, the 1996 Wimbledon champion’s autobiography is titled ‘Harde Ballen’, which translates to ‘Fast Balls’. Justified.
8. Kevin Anderson
Average aces/match: 13.08
The outrageously likeable and nearly-nearly man Kevin Anderson probably doesn’t look all that pleasant from across the court when he has a tennis ball in his hand.
The South African giant makes no secret of his reliance on his serve and with an average of 13.08 aces per match over nearly 500 appearances, it’s easy to see why he places so much trust in it.
7. Gilles Muller
Average aces/match: 13.39
Two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Muller is well-known for his explosive left-handed bomb of a serve, although an accusation of over-reliance upon it has often been levelled at Luxembourg’s finest.
It’s easy to see why too. His highest ever career ranking of 21 does not really hint at a player who has built upon such a tremendous weapon in his arsenal.
6. Goran Ivanisevic
Average aces/match: 13.85
The first of the ATP’s elite four-player 10,000 club to make our list, Ivanisevic will forever be associated with two things: Wimbledon, and that serve.
In 1996 alone he produced 1,477 aces – to this day still an ATP record for number of aces in a single season.
The only thing that is perhaps surprising here is that he isn’t higher on the list.
5. Mark Philippoussis
Average aces/match: 13.86
Philippoussis did not play enough games, it’s as simple as that. Nicknamed the Scud after the missile in honour of his huge serve, he was blighted by injury and off-court distractions and remains one of tennis’ great ‘what if?’ stories.
However, that serve, right? When it was good, it was a thing of absolute beauty, and he once powered 46 aces down Andre Agassi’s throat in a single match at Wimbledon. Wow.
4. Milos Raonic
Average aces/match: 14.75
At just 27 years old and probably half his career still ahead of him, we could well be looking at one of the the greatest servers, statistically, tennis will ever produce.
He has already produced a 1000+ ace season and, most tellingly, after a match in Rome in 2014, Novak Djokovic said of Raonic: “I can’t recall the last time I was feeling so helpless returning. Even his second serve.”
3. Wayne Arthurs
Average aces/match: 15.84
The surprise entry on the list.
Aussie Arthurs was a doubles specialist and won 12 titles during his career, but everyone on the ATP singles tour and Davis Cup circuit feared his serve.
During a 2005 Davis Cup tie, Mario Anic could win only three points against Arthurs’ serve in the first set and five in the second, saying afterwards: “I’ve played with a lot of big servers but I’ve never felt like today, that I really couldn’t do anything.”
Jim Courier described Arthurs’ serve as the best he’d ever seen, and Agassi wouldn’t let a conversation about service go by without mentioning his name too. Fine references indeed.
2. John Isner
Average aces/match: 17.55
Being a 6 foot 10 inch giant must definitely help your service game, but there is no denying that Isner has been consistently thrilling fans with his baseline bombs for years now.
You could argue, though, that he probably shouldn’t won more given the strength of his serve, as a highest ever world ranking of number 9, 13 titles, and one Grand Slam quarter-final just hasn’t done it justice.
1. Ivo Karlovic
Average aces/match: 19.62
Another giant at 6 foot 11 inches, there is no denying that Karlovic is the biggest server on the ATP tour and has been for some time. Indeed, it is what has allowed him to stretch out his career and has him still competing at the age of 39-years-old.
His career, though, has largely mirrored that of Isner. He’s never been higher than number 14 in the world rankings and never been further than a quarter-final in a Grand Slam.
Proof aplenty, then, that a huge serve is not all you need in tennis.
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