Best Tennis Servers of All Time (Who’s #1?)

There are many factors that make a tennis player great, but one of the most crucial skills to master is the serve.

It is the shot that starts every point and, if executed correctly, can provide a significant advantage.

Throughout tennis history, there have been players who have honed their serves to the point of near perfection, often turning the tide of the match in their favor.

In this article, we will examine some of the best tennis servers of all time.

John Isner

John Isner, an American player, is well-known for his strong and accurate serve.

Isner holds the second-highest record for aces served in a single match, a testament to his serving strength.

His serve was a key element in the longest match in professional tennis history, a marathon battle against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010.

It is very difficult to break Isner’s serve because of his power.

However, his weakness is that he lacks the overall game to break back much of the time, leading to lots of tiebreakers throughout his career.

Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras, an American tennis legend, was renowned for his powerful and precise serve.

Known as “Pistol Pete,” Sampras won 14 Grand Slam titles in his career, thanks largely to his serving prowess.

Sampras’s serve was both explosive and unpredictable, often leaving his opponents guessing.

Goran Ivanišević

Next on our list is Goran Ivanišević, a Croatian player known for his devastating left-handed serve.

Ivanišević holds the record for the most aces served in a single season, demonstrating his remarkable serving ability.

His powerful serves played a crucial role in his memorable win at Wimbledon in 2001.

Serena Williams

When discussing the greatest servers of all time, we can’t overlook Serena Williams.

Serena’s serve has been an essential weapon in her arsenal, helping her claim 23 Grand Slam titles.

With a combination of power, accuracy, and consistency, Serena’s serve is considered one of the most formidable in the history of women’s tennis.

Ivo Karlović

Ivo Karlović, another Croatian player, is renowned for his towering height and mighty serve.

Standing at 6’11”, Karlović at one point held the record for the fastest serve ever recorded in professional tennis, clocking in at a staggering 156 mph.

His serve has been a key factor in his longevity in the sport, often providing him with a significant advantage over his opponents.

Roger Federer

Finally, we must mention Roger Federer, who, although not known specifically for his serving power, has demonstrated an uncanny ability to deliver clutch serves when it matters most.

Federer’s serve is not the fastest, but it’s one of the most accurate and well-placed.

This has often allowed him to dictate points from the outset and helped him to secure a record 20 Grand Slam titles.

FAQs – Best Tennis Servers of All Time

1. Who are considered the best tennis servers of all time?

Several tennis players have been recognized as exceptional servers throughout the history of the sport.

Some of the most prominent names include:

  • Pete Sampras: Known for his powerful and accurate serve, Sampras held the record for the most Grand Slam titles (14) until 2009.
  • Goran Ivanisevic: The Croatian left-hander possessed a fearsome serve and famously won Wimbledon as a wildcard entry in 2001 (though he had been as high as No. 2 in the world in 1994).
  • Roger Federer: Federer’s serve is not only precise but also versatile, enabling him to win 20 Grand Slam titles and maintain a dominant presence in the tennis world.
  • Ivo Karlovic: Holding the record for the most aces hit in tennis history, Karlovic’s serve is known for its exceptional speed and height.
  • Serena Williams: Regarded as one of the greatest female tennis players, Williams’ powerful serve has been a key component of her success, helping her win multiple Grand Slam titles.

2. What factors contribute to being considered a great server in tennis?

Several factors contribute to the recognition of a tennis player as a great server:

  • Power: The ability to generate substantial pace on serves, making it difficult for opponents to return them.
  • Accuracy: Placing serves precisely within the service box, allowing players to control the point and potentially earn an ace or set up a winning shot.
  • Variation: Employing a mix of different serves, including flat, topspin, slice, and kick serves, to keep opponents off balance and create opportunities for winners.
  • Consistency: Delivering a high percentage of first serves in play to maintain control of the point and reduce the chances of being broken.
  • Aces: Hitting aces, i.e., serves that opponents fail to touch, is a significant indicator of serving excellence.

3. How important is a strong serve in tennis?

A strong serve is highly significant in tennis for several reasons:

  • Dictating play: A powerful and accurate serve allows the server to control the point from the very beginning, putting pressure on the opponent.
  • Setting the tone: A dominant serve can establish a player’s confidence and intimidate opponents, making it harder for them to find rhythm or attack the serve.
  • Holding serve: A strong serve makes it more likely for a player to hold their service games, which is crucial for success in tennis.
  • Creating opportunities: A well-executed serve can set up an advantageous position for the server, enabling them to follow up with an aggressive shot and potentially win the point outright or put pressure on the opponent.

4. How do players improve their serving skills?

Tennis players can improve their serving skills through various methods:

  • Practice: Regular and focused practice sessions, dedicated specifically to serving, help players refine their technique, power, and accuracy.
  • Video analysis: Reviewing recorded footage of their serves allows players to identify areas for improvement, such as footwork, ball toss, or follow-through.
  • Seeking coaching: Working with a qualified coach who specializes in serving can provide valuable guidance and personalized feedback to enhance technique and strategy.
  • Physical conditioning: Strengthening the relevant muscles, particularly in the shoulders, core, and legs, helps players generate more power and stability during the serve.
  • Mental preparation: Developing a confident and focused mindset, visualizing successful serves, and managing pressure are crucial aspects of improving serving skills.

5. Can players with slower serves be considered great servers?

While power is often associated with great serving, players with slower serves can still be considered excellent servers for a variety of reasons:

  • Placement and accuracy: Even without blistering pace, a well-placed and accurately delivered serve can be challenging to return effectively.
  • Variation and strategy: Players with slower serves can compensate by utilizing different types of spin, slice, or angles to keep opponents off balance and force errors.
  • Consistency and placement: Consistently putting serves in play and effectively using placement to exploit opponents’ weaknesses can be as valuable as sheer power.
  • Tactical awareness: Understanding opponents’ tendencies and employing smart serving strategies, such as mixing up serves and using surprise elements, can compensate for lack of raw power.

6. Are left-handed servers more effective than right-handed servers?

Left-handed servers can have certain advantages over right-handed servers due to the rarity of left-handed play, which can make their serves less familiar to opponents.

Some reasons left-handed servers may be more effective include:

  • Different ball trajectory: Left-handed serves tend to have a different spin and trajectory compared to right-handed serves, creating an unfamiliar and challenging situation for opponents.
  • Visual asymmetry: Right-handed players may struggle to read the spin and direction of a left-handed server’s ball due to the visual difference caused by the opposite-handedness.
  • Strategic advantage: Left-handed servers can exploit their opponents’ weaker backhand returns by serving to the ad court, which is typically a right-handed player’s backhand side.

However, it is important to note that these advantages are not absolute, and many right-handed servers have achieved remarkable success in tennis.

7. How does the speed of a serve affect its effectiveness?

The speed of a serve plays a crucial role in its effectiveness.

A faster serve can offer several advantages:

  • Less time for opponents: A high-velocity serve reduces the time opponents have to react and prepare their return, increasing the likelihood of errors or weaker shots.
  • Enhanced pressure: The speed of a serve can create psychological pressure on opponents, making it more challenging for them to return effectively or mount an aggressive response.
  • Increased aces and unreturnable serves: Higher serve speeds make it more likely for serves to result in aces or unreturnable shots, providing easy points and momentum for the server.

However, it’s important to balance speed with accuracy, as an overly fast serve that frequently misses the target may be less effective overall.

8. What are some memorable serving performances in tennis history?

Tennis history has witnessed numerous memorable serving performances.

Some notable examples include:

  • John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut (2010 Wimbledon): This match holds the record for the longest match in tennis history, with Isner hitting 113 aces and Mahut hitting 103 aces during the three-day battle.
  • Ivo Karlovic’s aces record: Karlovic hit a staggering 13,541 aces in his professional career, setting a record that exemplifies his exceptional serving prowess.
  • Goran Ivanisevic’s Wimbledon win (2001): Ivanisevic’s victory as a wildcard entrant at Wimbledon included several exceptional serving performances, particularly in the final against Patrick Rafter.
  • Serena Williams’ dominance: Throughout her career, Serena Williams has consistently showcased her powerful serve, which has contributed significantly to her numerous Grand Slam victories.

These are just a few examples, and there have been many other remarkable serving displays throughout the history of tennis.


While many factors contribute to the making of a great tennis player, the serve is undeniably a crucial weapon. P

layers like Pete Sampras, Goran Ivanišević, Serena Williams, Ivo Karlović, John Isner, and Roger Federer have demonstrated the power and impact of a well-mastered serve, earning them a place among the best servers in tennis history.

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