Serve speed has and continues to be one of tennis’ major talking points. Even in the early 1920s, the talk of the town was Bill Tilden's cannonball serve, which was said to have been clocked at 163.3 miles per hour.
Tilden used that weapon to dominate the other players of that era. While a big serve today doesn't guarantee success on tour, players like Pancho Gonzalez, Stan Smith, Roscoe Tanner, Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, and the Williams sister have used their triple-digit serve speeds to blow away opponents and win Grand Slam titles.
While reports of big serves from yesteryear are hard to verify, the introduction of oversize racquets made from graphite in the 1980s, saw the average players serve jump up significantly in speed, almost to the point that the human eye could no longer keep up with the ball.
That saw the introduction of the famous Cyclops’ infrared beams, and later the Hawk-Eye system, to help line judges call the lines on serves.
Assisted line judging technology wasn't the only tech to be introduced though, and at the International Players Championships in Miami during the 1989 season, the sport debuted a piece of kit that measured the speed of a serve —a radar gun.
Previously serve speeds had been measured with technology that was unreliable like a ballistic chronometer but the radar gun offered faster, more precise readings, and perhaps, more importantly, gave the tour a numerical talking point that could be used to promote the game and it's star players.
This post looks at the world’s fastest men’s and women’s tennis serves recorded throughout history, how important a big serve is and whether or not the players winning the big titles are also the ones with the biggest serves. Let's take a look.
What is the fastest male tennis serve ever recorded?
The fastest male tennis serve ever recorded is 263.4 km/h (163.7 mph) in 2012 by Sam Groth of Australia. At ATP level, John Isner holds the ATP's official record for the fastest serve at 253 km/h (157.2 mph).
What is the fastest female tennis serve ever recorded?
The fastest female tennis serve ever recorded 220 km/h (136.7 mph) in 2018 by Georgina Garcia Pérez of Spain.
What is the fastest serve ever recorded at Wimbledon?
The fastest serve ever recorded at Wimbledon was 238.2 km/h (148 mph) in 2010 by the American, Taylor Dent. Fellow American, Andy Roddick has the second-fastest serve ever recorded at SW19 in 2004 at 235 km/h (146 mph), and in 2017 Milos Raonic fired down the third-fastest serve at 233.3 km/h (145 mph).
What is the Fastest Tennis Server Ever Recorded?
On May 9, 2012, at a Challenger event in Busan, South Korea, Australian Sam Groth hit the world’s fastest serve ever recorded at 163.7 mph (263.4 kph).
This bullet of a serve came at three match points down during his second-round match against Uladzimir Ignatik from Belarus. Groth lost the match 4-6, 3-6. You can see his serve in the grainy video below:
Groth has a bulky muscular build but rather than a short, stocky guy; he stands at 6’4” (193 cm) giving him both plenty of raw power and long levers to get the racquet through at high speeds.
Some clearer footage from Groth's match against Federer at Wimbledon in 2015 where he clocked 147 mph on serve also highlights that his record-breaking serve was no fluke. Check out that ground force activation and how he gets his body weight through the shot.
Is this the fastest serve ever recorded?
Yes and no. Groth's serve took place at Challenger event, and the ATP does not formally recognise service speed records made at Challenger level due to lack of uniformity, availability, and calibration of radar guns.
Nevertheless, the serve speed of 263 km/h (163.4 mph) recorded by Groth in Busan was measured using ATP-approved equipment, and other data gathered appeared within a normal range.
At ATP level, John Isner holds the ATP's official record for the fastest serve at 253 km/h (157.2 mph).
Who are the Fastest Servers in Tennis?
While the ATP, WTA and ITF don’t maintain or publish official serve speed rankings, a complete dataset belongs to SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT), who have been tracking serve speeds for more than 20 years.
Of course, serve speed isn’t captured on every court at every tournament, and sometimes the technology being used isn’t the same at every venue. Still, there is enough data out there to know what's physically possible and who the biggest servers are on tour.
Men's Top 37 Fastest Serves Ever (ATP)
Below you'll find a list of the fastest servers in ATP history. Players can only be listed once with their fastest serve being the one in the table.
- Men's serves must be recorded at or over 230 km/h (143 mph) minimum standard speed.
- Only one serve per player is recorded here. For example, Andy Roddick has many serves over 143 mph, but only his fastest at 249 km/h (155 mph) is included
- In cases where more than one service has been recorded at the same speed by different players, the oldest recorded serve is listed first.
|1||Sam Groth||Australia||263.0 km/h (163.4 mph)||2012 Busan Open Challenger Tennis||Singles||2R|
|2||Albano Olivetti||France||257.5 km/h (160.0 mph)||2012 Internazionali Trofeo Lame Perrel–Faip||Singles||1R|
|3||John Isner||United States||253.0 km/h (157.2 mph)||2016 Davis Cup||Singles||1R|
|4||Ivo Karlović||Croatia||251.0 km/h (156.0 mph)||2011 Davis Cup||Doubles||1R|
|Jerzy Janowicz||Poland||251.0 km/h (156.0 mph)||2012 Pekao Szczecin Open||Singles||1R|
|6||Andy Roddick||United States||249.4 km/h (155.0 mph)||2004 Davis Cup||Singles||SF|
|Milos Raonic||Canada||249.4 km/h (155.0 mph)||2012 SAP Open||Singles||SF|
|8||Joachim Johansson||Sweden||244.6 km/h (152.0 mph)||2004 Davis Cup||Doubles||1R|
|Feliciano López||Spain||244.6 km/h (152.0 mph)||2014 Aegon Championships||Singles||1R|
|10||Marius Copil||Romania||244.0 km/h (151.6 mph)||2016 European Open||Singles||QF|
|11||Hubert Hurkacz||Poland||243.0 km/h (151.0 mph)||2016 Davis Cup||Singles||1R|
|12||Taylor Dent||United States||241.0 km/h (149.8 mph)||2006 ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament||Singles||1R|
|13||Juan Martín del Potro||Argentina||240.0 km/h (149.1 mph)||2017 Stockholm Open||Singles||F|
|14||Greg Rusedski||United Kingdom||239.8 km/h (149.0 mph)||1998 Newsweek Champions Cup||Singles||SF|
|15||Dmitry Tursunov||Russia||237.0 km/h (147.3 mph)||2006 Davis Cup||Singles||SF|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||France||237.0 km/h (147.3 mph)||2014 Rogers Cup||Singles||QF|
|Frances Tiafoe||United States||237.0 km/h (147.3 mph)||2018 Estoril Open||Singles||F|
|Taylor Fritz||United States||237.0 km/h (147.3 mph)||2020 US Open||Singles||3R|
|18||Fernando González||Chile||236.0 km/h (146.6 mph)||2007 Italian Open||Singles||SF|
|19||Gaël Monfils||France||235.0 km/h (146.0 mph)||2007 Legg Mason Tennis Classic||Singles||QF|
|Dušan Vemić||Serbia||235.0 km/h (146.0 mph)||2008 Countrywide Classic||Singles||?|
|Marin Čilić||Croatia||235.0 km/h (146.0 mph)||2016 Davis Cup||Singles||1R|
|22||Ivan Ljubičić||Croatia||234.0 km/h (145.4 mph)||2005 Mutua Madrileña Masters Madrid||Singles||F|
|Stan Wawrinka||Switzerland||234.0 km/h (145.4 mph)||2014 Davis Cup||Doubles||F|
|24||Grigor Dimitrov||Bulgaria||233.4 km/h (145.0 mph)||2013 Aegon Championships||Singles||?|
|Reilly Opelka||United States||233.4 km/h (145.0 mph)||2016 U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships||?||?|
|Viktor Troicki||Serbia||233.4 km/h (145.0 mph)||2017 Davis Cup||?||?|
|27||Nicolás Jarry||Chile||233.0 km/h (144.8 mph)||2018 Davis Cup||?||1R|
|28||Fernando Verdasco||Spain||232.0 km/h (144.2 mph)||2009 French Open||?||?|
|Dominic Thiem||Austria||232.0 km/h (144.2 mph)||2017 Gerry Weber Open||?||?|
|30||Mardy Fish||United States||231.7 km/h (144 mph)||2007 Pacific Life Open||Singles||1R|
|Marcin Matkowski||Poland||231.7 km/h (144 mph)||2009 ATP World Tour Finals||Doubles||?|
|32||Robin Söderling||Sweden||230.1 km/h (143.0 mph)||2010 ATP World Tour Finals||Singles||RR|
|Nick Kyrgios||Australia||230.1 km/h (143.0 mph)||2019 Wimbledon||Singles||2R|
|Roger Federer||Switzerland||230.1 km/h (143.0 mph)||2010 Gerry Weber Open||?||?|
|35||Martin Verkerk||Netherlands||230.0 km/h (142.9 mph)||2003 Breil Milano Indoor||?||?|
|Nicolás Almagro||Spain||230.0 km/h (142.9 mph)||2016 Argentina Open||?||?|
Women's Top 17 Fastest Serves Ever (WTA)
Below you'll find a list of the fastest servers in WTA history. Players can only be listed once with their fastest serve being the one in the table.
- Women's serves must be recorded at or over 200 km/h (124 mph) minimum standard speed
- Only one serve per player is recorded here. For example, Serena Williams has hundreds of serves above 200 km/h, but only her fastest at 207 km/h (128.6 mph) is included
- In cases where more than one service has been recorded at the same speed by different players, the oldest recorded serve is listed first
|1||Georgina Garcia Pérez||Spain||220.0 km/h (136.7 mph)||2018 Hungarian Ladies Open|
|2||Aryna Sabalenka||Belarus||214.0 km/h (133.0 mph)||2018 WTA Elite Trophy|
|3||Sabine Lisicki||Germany||210.8 km/h (131.0 mph)||2014 Stanford Classic|
|4||Brenda Schultz-McCarthy||Netherlands||209.2 km/h (130.0 mph)||2006 Cincinnati Masters (qualifiers)|
|5||Venus Williams||United States||207.6 km/h (129.0 mph)||2007 US Open|
|6||Serena Williams||United States||207.0 km/h (128.6 mph)||2013 Australian Open|
|Ivana Jorović||Serbia||207.0 km/h (128.6 mph)||2017 Fed Cup|
|8||Julia Görges||Germany||203.0 km/h (126.1 mph)||2012 French Open|
|Caroline Garcia||France||203.0 km/h (126.1 mph)||2016 Fed Cup|
|10||Brenda Schultz-McCarthy||Netherlands||202.7 km/h (126.0 mph)||2007 Indian Wells Masters|
|11||Nadiya Kichenok||Ukraine||202.0 km/h (125.5 mph)||2014 Australian Open|
|12||Lucie Hradecká||Czech Republic||201.2 km/h (125.0 mph)||2015 Wimbledon|
|Naomi Osaka||Japan||201.2 km/h (125.0 mph)||2016 US Open|
|14||Anna-Lena Grönefeld||Germany||201.1 km/h (125.0 mph)||2009 Indian Wells Masters|
|15||Ana Ivanovic||Serbia||201.0 km/h (124.9 mph)||2007 French Open|
|Denisa Allertová||Czech Republic||201.0 km/h (124.9 mph)||2015 Australian Open|
|17||Kristina Mladenovic||France||200.0 km/h (124.3 mph)||2009 French Open|
Unrecorded Fast Serves – Reality or Folklore?
Before the radar gun came on the scene in the 1980s, serve speed had to be measured using different methods that weren't quite as accurate.
For example, Roscoe Tanner's serve speed was registered at 153 mph at Palm Springs in 1978 during the final against Raúl Ramírez using older equipment.
It's also said that Bill Tilden, pictured above, had a serve that was clocked at 163.3 mph but unfortunately there is nothing concrete to verify that.
So is this the fastest serve with a wooden racquet or is it just folklore that's had a few miles per hour added over the years? With the right technique and biomechanics then we know 150mph is possible but 163mph? Unlikely.
How Fast is a College or High School Serve?
Like the ATP and WTA tour, at college and high school level you'll find serve speeds range widely. While average first serve speeds on the ATP tour will be higher than college players, there are plenty of college and recreational players that can fire down super quick serves.
Players like Steve Johnson who came through the college system regularly hit 130 mph on serve during their Division 1 years and with the right technique, kinetic transfer and enough practice, breaking the 130 mph barrier is not out of reach for a lot of athletes, even if the rest of their game isn't up to scratch.
Does the Fastest Serve Mean the Best Serve?
While a fast first serve is undoubtedly a useful tool in the arsenal, tennis is a multi-faceted game and setting records on the speed gun doesn't always translate to success.
Take a look at the fastest recorded server of all time, Sam Groth. He made it to 24 in the world but never made it past the third round of a Grand Slam. While his serve was a key driver in achieving that ranking, it wasn't enough to propel him to the upper echelons of the sport.
Compare that to two-players who don't even feature in the table above, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. They have 37 Grand Slam titles between them but rarely go above the 125 mp/h mark. However, they have both hit top speeds of 136 mp/h (219 km/h) and 135 mp/h respectively which is not to be sniffed at.
Federer, who does make the list of the quickest ever, said in an interview in 2005 that he never serves at 100% speed as you lose accuracy. He believed that when you're around the 120 mph mark, then that's quick enough and accuracy matters more.
What Serve Speeds Do the Top Players in the World Serve At?
The highest-ranked players naturally have good serves, but rather than the raw speed they often rely on placement, consistency and variety to win matches. Let's take a look at what sort of speeds some of the current Top 10 generates.
Djokovic has one of the most improved serves on tour and under Becker's tutelage, turned a weakness into a strength.
The Serb ditched the yippy bowling motion into one of the cleanest techniques going, and while he isn't setting speed records, his pace, and accuracy are a handful for all comers.
|Height||188cm (6ft 2″)|
|Fastest serve speed||219 km/h (136 mph)|
|Age when serve hit||22|
|Tournament||2009 Madrid Masters|
|Career Average First Serve Speed||184 km/h (114.5 mph)|
Out of all Nadal's attributes on a tennis court, his serve is probably the least impressive in terms of technique, spin, variation and speed but when it's working it does bag him some free points.
While not the quickest, he's tinkered around with it over the years, notably at the 2010 US Open where he added ten miles per hour more than we'd seen before and that is where he hit his career fastest serve of 135 mph.
|Height||185cm (6ft 1″)|
|Fastest serve speed||217 km/h (135 mph)|
|Age when serve hit||25|
|Tournament||2010 US Open|
|Career Average First Serve Speed||180 km/h (112 mph)|
Thiem's serve has undergone several changes over the years, moving from pinpoint stance to platform, and tweaking his motion between a long fluid swing, to an abbreviated Monfils or Roddick style then back to a full fluid motion
|Fastest serve speed||232 km/h (144 mph)|
|Height||185 cm (6ft 1″)|
|Age when serve hit||24|
|Tournament||2017 Gerry Weber Open|
|Career Average First Serve Speed||182 km/h (113mph)|
Undoubtedly one of the greatest servers of all time, Roger Federer is capable of hitting serves in the 130 mph range, with his fastest ever being 143 mph.
Rather than raw speed, Federer relies more on variety and states he rarely serves at 100% speed due to the associated drop off with being able to land it accurately. Serving at high speed also puts a significant strain on the body, which with a history of back problems is something the Swiss is keen to avoid.
|Fastest serve speed||230 km/h (143 mph)|
|Height||185 cm (6ft 1″)|
|Age when serve hit||29|
|Tournament||2010 Gerry Weber Open|
|Career Average First Serve Speed||187 km/h (116 mph)|
|Fastest serve speed||214 km/h (133 mph)|
|Height||193cm (6ft 4″)|
|Age when serve hit||20|
|Career Average First Serve Speed||193 km/h (120mph)|
|Fastest serve speed||209 km/h (130 mph)|
|Height||198cm (6ft 6″)|
|Age when serve hit||23|
|Career Average First Serve Speed||190 km/h (118mph)|
|Fastest serve speed||229 km/h (142mph)|
|Height||198cm (6ft 6″)|
|Age when serve hit||22|
|Career Average First Serve Speed||201 km/h (125mph)|
Does Height Help When It Comes To Serving?
The answer here is yes, and the data quickly proves it. Look at the graph below that shows the relationship between speed and height for the ten fastest serves of all time:
Can You Measure Your Own Serve Speed?
The costs of radar equipment a few years ago were prohibitively expensive, but as technology has advanced, prices have come down, and gadgets such as the Pocket Radar have made it more accessible.
The Pocket Radar is priced at $299 to $399 so for an individual it's probably not worth it as I think you would use it once in a blue moon. However, for a coach or a group buy at a tennis club, then it's a fun little tool and a way to track improvement if you are trying to ramp up the mp/h.
Several apps promise to track server speed; this is usually done by tracking the ball via frames per second and working out distance over time. They likely aren't the most accurate but for a bit of fun they're worth a go.
Who Has The Best Serve?
I listed who I thought the Top 5 servers of all time were a few years ago, that list is due an update but here are my takes on the following:
Who has the best serve?
In terms technique and fluidity, Milos Raonic.
Who has the hardest serve to return?
Unfortunately, I haven't faced it, but it has to be John Isner.
Who has the most variety on serve?
Roger Federer, all from the same ball toss for great disguise.
Who has the most accurate serve?
Again, Roger Federer.
Who has the most reliable serve?
Of the players I've seen, Pete Sampas.
How quickly do you serve? Have you faced any big servers at club level? Let me know in the comments.