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The Fastest Tennis Serves Ever

What is the fastest tennis serve ever recorded? Who has the fastest serve in tennis right now?

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.

Quick Facts

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?

Sgroth

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?

Isner Serve

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.

Criteria

  • 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.
Rank Player Nationality Speed Event Type Round
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.

Criteria

  • 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
Rank Player Nationality Speed Event
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?

Bill Tilden

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?

College Tennis

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?

Fed 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.

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic Serve

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.

Player Novak Djokovic
Country Serbia
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)

Rafael Nadal

Nadal Serve

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.

Player Rafael Nadal
Country Spain
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)

Dominic Thiem

Thiem Serve

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

Player Dominic Thiem
Country Austria
Fastest serve speed 232 km/h (144 mph)
Height 185 cm (6ft 1″)
Highest rank 3
Age when serve hit 24
Tournament 2017 Gerry Weber Open
Career Average First Serve Speed 182 km/h (113mph)

Roger Federer

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.

Player Roger Federer
Country Switzerland
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)

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Tsitsipas Serve
Player Stefanos Tsitsipas
Country Greece
Fastest serve speed 214 km/h (133 mph)
Height 193cm (6ft 4″)
Age when serve hit 20
Tournament 2018 Wimbledon
Career Average First Serve Speed 193 km/h (120mph)

Daniil Medvedev

Medvedev Serve
Player Daniil Medvedev
Country Russia
Fastest serve speed 209 km/h (130 mph)
Height 198cm (6ft 6″)
Age when serve hit 23
Tournament 2018 Wimbledon
Career Average First Serve Speed 190 km/h (118mph)

Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev Serve
Player Alexander Zverev
Country Germany
Fastest serve speed 229 km/h (142mph)
Height 198cm (6ft 6″)
Age when serve hit 22
Tournament 2019 Wimbledon
Career Average First Serve Speed 201 km/h (125mph)

Does Height Help When It Comes To Serving?

Karlovic Serve

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:

Speed Vs Height

Can You Measure Your Own Serve Speed?

Pocket Radar

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?

Federer Serve Nishikori Miami 2014

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.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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11 Comments

  1. I never knew that Roger hit a serve at 230km/h.
    I remember one in Wimbledon’s final last year, I think it’s one of the match points, when he tried a huge serve and missed it by far. I guess he tried to closed it out with a record, it was a bomb.

  2. The first-serve speed may become slightly less important, particularly on clay, if serve returners position themselves 10 to 20 feet behind the baseline. Other variables for serving speed include the speed of the balls — some balls are slightly faster than others; new balls, of course, are faster; and the abrasiveness and wetness (or dryness) of the court surface — the temperature, humidity, altitude, and wind. Reilly Opelka, at 6′ 11.75″ tall, may break Isner’s record. Tennis may also have players 7′ or taller in coming decades, who average more than 140 mph and get more than 75% of their first serves in. If that happens, breaking 160 mph is possible.

    1. It’s kinda always been irrelevant somewhat on clay, rarely do you see big servers do well at the French, Isner that time when he should have beaten Nadal, but hard-pressed to think of any recent ones?

  3. Sam Groth is 6’1″ not 6’11” bit is very muscled up for a tennis player. Watched him at an event and l don’t believe he ever broke 130. Frances Tiafoe was there and served at about the same speeds.

    1. Thanks, that’s a typo, although Groth is 6ft 4″ not 6ft 1″.

      Serving is very much on the day, you can’t hit 140mph every day, you need things to come together. Like fast bowlers, it’s rare they consistently hit 90mph for every test match.

  4. Hey, “Perfect” Tennis, where is Ivanisevic in your list of fastest male servers? I know he clocked at least 144.

    1. Goran is, unfortunately, a victim of technology not being on every court or as accurate. His best was 130 odd at Wimbledon, which held the record for a while. I believe he hit over 140 in senior tours. Can’t make this list though.

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