© Ben Solomon

Novak Djokovic is seeking his second Western & Southern Open title this week.

New Look: Djokovic's Stunning Second-Serve Success

Big Three lead the way in key serving metric

When we compare first serve and second serve performance, it is fundamentally an apples to oranges comparison.

‘First serve points won’ only includes first serves that land in, while ‘second serve points won’ includes serves that land in and out. If you evaluate apples to apples by excluding double faults and only count second serves that land in the court, you gain an even greater appreciation for World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in this specific area of our sport.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the Top 10 from the 2019 season on hard courts sees Djokovic leading the elite group of players with a lofty 66.4 per cent points won from second serves made. The other three players to all post above the 60 per cent threshold were Rafael Nadal (63.4 per cent), Roger Federer (62.7 per cent), and Daniil Medvedev (60.9 per cent).

The complete list of Top 10 players is below, including second serve performance with and without double faults.

Second Serve Performance: Top 10 On Hard Courts In 2019

Rank Player Second Serve Win %
(excluding double faults)
Second Serve Win %
(including double faults)
1 Novak Djokovic 66.4% 59.4%
2 Rafael Nadal 63.4% 58.7%
3 Roger Federer 62.7% 58.8%
4 Daniil Medvedev 60.9% 54.3%
5 Alexander Zverev 59.1% 46.4%
6 Dominic Thiem 58.9% 53.9%
7 Gael Monfils 58.8% 50.9%
8 Stefanos Tsitsipas 58.2% 54.3%
9 Matteo Berrettini 57.8% 53.9%
10 David Goffin 56.3% 50.9%

When you include double faults when examining second serves, Alexander Zverev sits in 10th place in this list at 46.4 per cent. Two hundred and three double faults heavily weigh down his win percentage. But with double faults removed, Zverev’s second serve flourishes and he moves all the way up to fifth place in the grouping of Top 10 players.

This new metric provides a more focused way to evaluate second serve performance. Zverev’s second serve offers a very robust win percentage of 59.1 per cent without the double faults. It’s not universally his second serve and the shots that immediately follow that need improvement. It’s simply getting more second serves in the court.

It’s interesting to see Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils and Stefanos Tsitsipas all grouped together so closely in the 58 percentile range in terms of second serves made win percentage. Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin are not far behind.

Second serve performance, and double faults, were an influential factor in deciding the 2019 Western & Southern Open final between Medvedev and Goffin. Medvedev won 7-6(3), 6-4, winning 63 per cent (17/27) of second serve points, while yielding just one double fault. Goffin committed seven double faults in the final, winning just 44 per cent (16/36) of second serve points.

If you subtract double faults from both players, Medvedev won 65 per cent of second serve points and Goffin won a healthy 55 per cent. By having a double fault filter on second serves, you identify that Goffin’s second serve woes didn’t occur when he hit it in. The problem was not hitting it in enough.

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