As the official record holder for the fastest serve in ATP history, John Isner is a massive challenge for any player to go up against. The American has carved out a nice professional career for himself, despite not having the all-around game of a typical player who peaks in the top 10.
As dominant as his serve is, it can be very deceiving when watching on television or even in person. How fast does Isner serve?
His fastest recorded serve is 157.2 mph. He was able to reach the speed during a 2016 Davis Cup match. On average, he will usually be in the 140 to 150 mph range with his first serve, depending on playing conditions and overall level of fitness at a time. His second serve loses some speed, but he adds a kick to it that can be equally challenging to deal with.
The Isner Advantage
The biggest advantage for John Isner as a server is that he stands at over 6’10” tall. He isn’t the tallest tennis player in the history of the sport, but he does use his height to his full advantage. Height allows him to not only generate more speed on his serve, but also create a better angle for balls to bounce high off the ground.
It should be noted that while a lot of the fastest servers in tennis history are tall, it is not a given that is near would be one of the best. He had to work hard to turn his serve into one of the greatest weapons in the game. Without a dominant serve, he’d likely be a journeyman at best on tour.
His service motion allows for an excellent, fluid first serve, as well as plenty of action on the second serve. This all adds up to making it nearly impossible for him to experience a break of serve. Even an average or below average serve day for him is still better than 99% of the players on tour.
John Isner’s Serve Stats
The radar guns certainly light up when John Isner serving, but a look at the stats shows that he is doing more than just putting on a show. He is the most dominant player in tennis right now on serve, and he has been for most of his prime. In fact, statistics show that there has never been a server like him in tennis history.
Generally speaking, he gets a little over 70% of his first serves in. The majority of top players in the game sit around 65%. A great first serve with consistency means that few free points are available. He wins about 80% of his first-serve points, which also puts him near the top of the leaderboard.
The second serve isn’t quite as dominant, but still an above-average shot when looking at the stats compared to everyone else. Part of the reason why it doesn’t matter as much is that he is hitting so few second serves in the first place. He wins about 57% of his second serve points, and when factoring in the first serve points as well, it all equals out to roughly a 94% chance of winning a service game.
- First Serves In=70%
- First Serves Win=80%
- Second Serve Win=57%
When compared to the top players in tennis, Isner is consistently a few percentage points above Roger Federer in service games won. He can be five or six percentage points ahead of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, two players who have only slightly above average service. Yes, these players have other skills that make them all-time greats, but when looking only at serve, Isner is their superior.
Finally, his less than two double faults per match is simply impossible to ignore. He averages close to 12 aces for every double fault, which is an insane ratio no one else on tour comes particularly close to. For him to be one of the leaders in aces per match, and hit so few double falls per match, is insane. Usually, the numbers fluctuate with each other in most cases.
How Long Can Isner Continue Dominating On Serve?
A lot of people are surprised that John Isner will be turning 35 years old this year. He was a late bloomer in the professional ranks, spending his college years at the University of Georgia. He didn’t make his professional debut until 2007, and although he’s been consistent ever since, he’s only picked up one big singles title. That happened in 2018, as he took home the Miami Open title.
Most players his age are reaching the twilight of their career in tennis. However, the playing style of Isner should translate well as he continues to age. Even if he loses some speed on his service, he can continue to locate them and get a lot of free points. All it takes is breaking the opponents one time, and he has a high chance of winning.
Don’t expect him to break his personal speed record at this stage in his career, but he should be a top server in the game for at least the next couple of years. Barring any injury, his service motion will allow him to continue to annihilate the ball on first and second serves.