General Tennis

The Top 5 Servers of all Time

For this next post I thought I'd take a look at who I consider the Top 5 servers of all time. I'm only really going on the generation that I've had the opportunity to watch and I've based my opinions on a range of attributes – such as speed of the serve, accuracy, how well the serve holds up under pressure, the 2nd serve and the adaptability of it.

1. Roger Federer

Federer Serve
Well surprise surprise at number 1 I've put Roger. It was actually quite a difficult decision and I'm still not 100% sure I've fully made my mind up on this. I think sometimes it depends on the match – if I'd just watched the Fed vs. Djokovic French Open '11 Semi Final then I'd have no doubts about putting Roger at 1 as the clutch serving in that match was unreal. But then again if I'd watched Federer vs Tsonga at Wimbledon then I'd be doubting it.

The reason I've put Roger at number 1 is really because I don't believe there has ever been a more accurate or versatile server of a tennis ball. The fact he is able to serve in all 4 corners of the service box without giving any indication of where's it going from the toss, has meant it's one of his best weapons. And perhaps often overlooked due to the other aspects of his game that are so good.

2. Sampras

Sampras Serve
If this was the battle of best second serves in the history of the sport then I'd have to give this one to Sampras, purely on the amount of big points he won behind this serve (often with aces). The Sampras serve was arguably his best weapon (perhaps second only to his attacking style of play), Sampras had such a fluid and relaxed motion that allowed him to hit such a heavy ball with huge amounts of spin which made it both difficult to read and even harder to return with any purchase on it. It was also so good in the clutch, allowing him to find the lines late in tie breaks means it goes down as one of the best of all time.

3. Boris Becker

Becker Serve
Boom Boom Becker – I never really saw much of him play live so I only really have highlight reels and clips to go on. Beckers knee bend was crazy, which allowed him to generate pace and spin especially on his favoured grass courts.

4. Goran Ivanesavic

Ivanesivic Serve
I have to say I never liked Goran as a player, there was just something about him that I could never warm to – and him beating Henman at Wimbledon only made it worse. I don't think I'd ever wanted Rafter to win a match so bad ever. However, there's no doubting Goran had a great serve, it was difficult to read and was weird because he had a relatively low ball toss, so I imagine it was onto you pretty quickly.

5. Andy Roddick

Roddick Serve
Perhaps not the weapon it once was, but still when its on, its on. Roddick serves really flat, and his swing is weird in that sense that it's almost non existent. It's a very compact motion but whilst jerky looking, it's very uncomplicated so rarely does it break down.

Other notable candidates that didn't make the Top 5

Greg Rusedki
It was actually quite close between him and Andy Roddick if I'm honest – the fact that Rusedski was a perennial under achiever makes it difficult for me to include him. But despite that there's no doubt his serve was a huge weapon especially with the fact he was left handed. He consistently belted the ball down at 130mph plus and was able to generate great angles.

Mark Phillipousis
Although Phillipousis had a huge serve due to his height and long arms. He also managed to get quite alot of bounce from what I remember. But he never really made his serve count by winning any Slams so he can't make the top 5.

Feel free to chime in if you think I've missed anyone…


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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  1. I understand your a Federer fan.. but IMO, the number one place is not for him, and I think you know it! 🙂

    You said it yourself 🙂 It’s a choise made more with the heart!

    For me the best server fo all time is Sampras! Your descprition is perfect.

    My top 5 would be:

    Sampras, Ivanisevic, Federer, Roddick, Rusedsky

    1. I think in terms of second serve – then there is no competition – Sampras is far and away the greatest. But in terms of all round serving I think it’s very close between the 2. Federer has such versatile placement, and Sampras has the weight of ball. It’s too close to call.

      1. I wrote this post in 2011. Anderson and Raonic were complete non-factors on the tour then 🙂 but still, I wouldn’t include them now tbh.

        Karlovic is close and of course it’s a great service with how many aces he’s hit but personally, I never liked his motion. It also falls to bits under pressure.

  2. If I had to pick a serve, Sampras serve is still the best. If Federer had a serve like Sampras’ he would win more Grandslams

  3. Man… Roger is great… but I think the first place belongs to pistol pete…!! C’mon man ..Why so biased..!

  4. 6 years on and this listing still holds up, however Karlovic would definitely need to be mentioned in the top 5 somewhere.

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