10 Greatest Tennis Servers Of All Time

The most dominating shot in all of tennis is the serve. If a player has a great serve, they have the chance to consistently win their games. After that, they just need to do their best to fight for a couple breaks of serve against their opponent, and pulling out a win is possible.

Throughout the history of the sport, many top servers in the game have won plenty of titles. Not everyone on this list is a Grand Slam champion, but all of them benefited greatly from a well-rounded serve.

Keep in mind that this list isn’t the fastest servers of all time. There is more to a great serve than hitting with fantastic speed. Placement, consistency, and kick all make certain servers a little more challenging to handle than others.

1. John Isner

  • Average Aces/Match: 22.8
  • Service Games Won: 93.8%
  • Fastest Serve: 157.2 mph

Technically speaking, John Isner tops the list as the fastest server in tennis history. He has the fastest recorded serve recognized by the ATP in the history of the sport, hitting 253 km/h (157.2 mph) in a Davis Cup match in 2016.

Since starting on tour, he has always been a handful for players. He is nearly impossible to break when his serve is on. He crushes his first serve, but also hits a second serve that has pace and kick to it.

Most people know Isner as the player who won the longest match in tennis history. Why did that match last so long? The dominant serve of his made it impossible for Nicolas Mahut to figure out a break (113 Aces). Unfortunately, Isner is not the best at breaking other players’ serves, which is why he couldn’t seal the deal until 70-68 in the fifth set.

Watch a match of Isner’s, and chances are he will play at least one tiebreak. The vast majority of his sets basically come down to whether or not he holds his serve or not. It’s helped him overachieve in the eyes of many, spending a decent amount of time in the top 10.

2. Ivo Karlovic

  • Average Aces/Match: 22.7
  • Service Games Won: 92.08%
  • Fastest Serve: 156 mph

As one of the tallest players in the history of tennis, Ivo Karlovic has an advantage on his serve that few others can utilize. Even in this group of players, he stands as the tallest of them all. While many people think of him as nothing more than a guy who can crushes serves, he was able to take off as a player capable of doing some damage in smaller tournaments.

Even in Grand Slams, he had a few runs that made him one of the toughest early-round opponents in the sport. Isner has passed him in a lot of ways as the most dominant tall server in tennis history, but Karlovic is still a solid pick for the top 10. Facing him during his prime forced players to rethink how they play the game from the very beginning of the match.

There is a reason why Ivo Karlovic is one of the few players that can compete at the very highest level in the 40s, and that is not because of his great groundstrokes or movement, trust me. He is far from his prime, but thanks to his serve, he can still compete against the best players in the world.

3. Pete Sampras

  • Average Aces/Match: 11
  • Service Games Won: 88.75%
  • Fastest Serve: 153 mph

Compared to the other players of his era, no player capitalized more on a great serve than Pete Sampras. If not for his serve, there is no way that he would be one of the greatest champions of all time. He was able to crush first serves and put them wherever he wanted to gain an advantage. Sometimes he would hit aces that were impossible even to get a racquet on. In other cases, he would use a good amount of spin and power to put the ball right at his opponents to jam them.

His serve was so solid that he would often not hold back at all with his second serve. He felt that hitting a strong second serve was worth a few extra double faults here and there. He was also able to hit a second serve with a ton of kick that would allow him to get to the net and win the point.

Velocity-wise, Sampras is not going to be at the top of the list. He hit the ball very hard, but his accuracy and ability to exploit his opponents’ weaknesses is what really put him over the top. He also used technology that was a bit outdated, even for his era. He liked the setup that allowed him to become a pro, and he didn’t feel like changing. With modern technology, a prime Sampras could challenge anyone in tennis history for the title of “best serve ever.”

4. Andy Roddick

  • Average Aces/Match: 11.7
  • Service Games Won: 90.11%
  • Fastest Serve: 155 mph

Before the likes of John Isner and Ivo Karlovic playing on the ATP tour, Andy Roddick was considered the fastest server in tennis history. He reached 155 mph in a Davis Cup match back in 2004, which is extremely impressive considering he stands only 6’2”. He is one of the shorter guys to make a list, but he was nearly impossible to break.

Thanks to his powerful serve, he was able to reach number one in the world during his career. He also won the U.S. Open and will go down as a Hall of Famer. His serve and serve motion is so iconic that it was his logo used on clothes.

5. Goran Ivaniševic

  • Average Aces/Match: 15.4
  • Service Games Won: 91.61%
  • Fastest Serve: 156 mph

Goran Ivaniševic reached as high as number two in the world during his run in the 1990s. A 4-time Wimbledon finalist, he never could take that next step and win during his prime. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he won the 2001 Wimbledon title.

Known as arguably the best left-handed server in tennis history, he was able to win a good amount of free points on his serve. He had a very simple, effective ball toss that helped make him so dominant. Since he did not toss the bar high in the air, his serve would not break down like others when it was particularly windy.

6. Boris Becker

  • Average Aces/Match: 7.7
  • Service Games Won: 88.56%
  • Fastest Serve: 156 mph

When Boris Becker became the youngest to ever win Wimbledon at just 17 years old, many were absolutely shocked that a player that young could stay with the best. How was he able to pull it off? While he had a solid all-around game, it all started with an excellent serve.

Becker generated a lot of momentum during his slow service motion that became a calling card for him in general. Power was definitely there, but his ability to put the ball anywhere in the box really opened up the serve game for him. He was an outstanding net player, and a lot of it came down to set things up with that initial serve.

Even in his later years, Becker was still one of the best servers in the game. He started to lose a step with the serve and volley game, but he could always rely on getting a few cheap points with an amazing serve.

7. Pancho Gonzales

  • Average Aces/Match: N/A
  • Service Games Won: N/A
  • Fastest Serve: N/A

There is no doubt that the speed of Pancho Gonzales’ serve back in the day was not anywhere near the top players in the modern game. Not only has technology changed, but athletes have become stronger and taller than ever before.

With that said, Pancho Gonzales deserves a spot on his list for the way he overpowered his contemporaries in the 1950s. He introduced a new level of power to the game, which turned into a #1 ranking and two Wimbledon titles. 

Gonzalez was known as having the most dominant serve in the game during his era. He was able to hit harder than anyone else, and he had outstanding placement to go with it. This allowed him to have an exceptional serve and volley game that kept his opponents off-balance at all times.

He might not be the most known player from his era, but he made a lasting impact on a more modern style of play. His numbers at first glance might not look amazing, but consider that he won 12 Pro Slams during an era that didn’t allow pros to play in the same tournaments as amateurs. He was dominant as a pro, but gets lost in the shuffle a bit because of the pre-Open Era rules.

8. Roger Federer

  • Average Aces/Match: 7.8
  • Service Games Won: 88.84%
  • Fastest Serve: 143 mph

For one reason or another, Roger Federer doesn’t get the same type of respect as an amazing server as the others on this list. Maybe it’s because the rest of this game is so well-rounded that people forget. This is a guy who relied on a fast, powerful serve early on in his career. He might not be serving as hard as his prime right now, but he makes up for it with consistency and placement.

Federer is one of the few players in today’s game that feels confident enough with his serve that he will use to serve and volley technique from time to time. He is not as capable of hitting as many aces as in the past, but he still relies heavily on his serve and has one of the best winning percentages in tennis when serving.

Some people just love how fluid his service motion is as well. This is the guy who seems like he can hit aces effortlessly if he tries. He almost makes the game look too easy, even though it is obviously a challenge to go out against some of the top players in the world and win so many titles.

9. Bill Tilden

  • Average Aces/Match: N/A
  • Service Games Won: N/A
  • Fastest Serve: N/A

This is a name that throws it way back to the 1920s. Much like Pancho Gonzales, people should realize that this is all relative to his competition. Playing during a prime that was almost 100 years ago, things have certainly changed. He was one of the first big servers in tennis history, and that led to him being a superstar. His serve speeds are closer to amateurs these days, but he helped take tennis to another level during his prime.

In total, Tilden was able to win 15 major singles titles. He was the number one player in the world for six years. His height at 6‘2“ tall is not particularly big in today’s world, but he was a towering presence in tennis at the time. That allowed him to hit some amazing serves and follow it up with great court coverage when rushing the net.

10. Milos Raonic

  • Average Aces/Match: 18.9
  • Service Games Won: 92.2%
  • Fastest Serve: 155.3 mph

Rounding out the top 10 servers in the history of the sport is Milos Raonic. He hasn’t quite had that definitive moment yet in his career, but the Canadian is very similar to Andy Roddick in many aspects. He is just a notch below the best players in the world, but still a major threat when he is playing at his best.

His best finish in a major was in 2016, as he made it to the Wimbledon final. He has reached the semifinals one other time, in Australia in 2016. He is still just 29 years old, and he has a game that should translate well as he ages. Will he have a definitive moment and win a Grand Slam title? If he does, it will primarily come down to how well he serves. When his serve is on, he can beat anyone in the world.

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