Beyond The Numbers

Many Happy Returns: Alcaraz's Historic Statistic Against Serve

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers reveal the Spaniard's return prowess
August 08, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz has posted historic numbers on first-serve return points this season.
Carlos Alcaraz has posted historic numbers on first-serve return points this season. By Craig O'Shannessy

There are four ways a point starts in tennis. Carlos Alcaraz is the best-performing player in more than a decade in one of them. Which one do you think it is?

The four ways a point starts are:

  1. Your first serve.
  2. Your second serve.
  3. Opponent’s first serve.
  4. Opponent’s second serve.

Alcaraz is currently No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and has amassed a formidable 47-4 record this season, including six titles, coming into the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers in Toronto.

So, where is he currently the peak performer so far in 2023? An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis uncovers precisely where the 20-year-old Spaniard sits alone at the top of the mountain.

Follow The Cast Of ATP Tour | Break Point

2023: Alcaraz Category Ratings (Before Toronto)

  • 1st - First Serve Return Points Won (36.87%)
  • 2nd - Second Serve Return Points Won (54.33%)
  • 3rd - Second Serve Points Won (55.95%)
  • 21st - First Serve Points Won (72.75%)

Alcaraz is winning an eye-opening 36.87 per cent (924/2506) of first-serve return points from 51 matches this season. He is the only player on the ATP Tour to break through the 35 per cent threshold in 2023. The four players who have won north of 34 per cent are:

Carlos Alcaraz - 36.87%
Novak Djokovic - 34.47%
Francisco Cerundolo - 34.36%
Daniil Medvedev - 34.22%

Alcaraz’s first-serve return win percentage so far in 2023 is the highest since 2012, when Rafael Nadal won 37.84 per cent. Spanish players have dominated this specific stat since official match statistics were first recorded in 1991. Spanish players to finish year-end No. 1 in this category include Nadal (2005, 2008, 2014, 2016-19), David Ferrer (2015), Fernando Vicente (1999), Alex Corretja (1997), Carlos Costa (1996) and Javier Sanchez (1993).

A secret to Alcaraz’s success in winning points against first serves may very well be his adaptability to find the sweet spot of where to stand based on the surface he is playing. The following data comes from the Infosys ATP Stats Second Screen. 

Alcaraz: Average Contact Point Behind Baseline vs. First Serves

Queens - Grass Court
Final vs. De Minaur = 1.84 m
SF vs. Korda = 1.48 m 
QF vs. Dimitrov = 1.29 m
R16 vs. Lehecka = 1.16 m
R32 vs. Rinderknech = 1.69 m
Average = 1.49 m

Indian Wells - Hard Court
Final vs. Medvedev = 1.52 m
SF vs. J. Sinner = 1.49 m
QF vs. F. Auger-Aliassime = 1.54 m
R16 vs. J. Draper = 1.73 m
R32 vs.T. Griekspoor = 1.84 m
R64 vs. T. Kokkinakis = 2.18 m
Average = 1.71 m

Madrid - Clay Court
Final vs. Struff = 5.0 m
Semi vs. Coric = 5.77 m
QF vs. Khachanov = 4.26 m
R16 vs. Zverev = 4.74 m 
R32 vs. Dimitrov = 4.01 m
R64 vs. Ruusuvuori = 5.26 m
Average = 4.84 m

Alcaraz made contact just 1.49 metres on average behind the baseline against first serves to take the title at Queens. He adjusted further back to win on hard courts at Indian Wells, averaging 1.71 metres behind the baseline. He then moved more than double that distance further back to take the title in Madrid, making contact an average of 4.84 metres behind the baseline.

Alcaraz’s clean, simple, and ruthlessly efficient technique is ideally suited to return powerful first serves. His court savvy also helps him find the bliss point of where to stand.

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