Risk And Reward Of High-Power Serving

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers looks at how the biggest servers balance risk vs. reward

Aces and double faults. High risk and high reward jump right out at you to begin a point in tennis.

These two specific ways a point can be constructed are best understood when you compare them to each other, because after all, they both end the point before it really gets started.

The ace king of our sport is 6’11” (211cm) Croatian Ivo Karlovic, who has smashed 10,624 aces in just 552 matches. His serve is a massive weapon. He's averaged more aces per match, 23, in the past 52 weeks than any other player. But those free points have come at a price paid for in double faults.

Karlovic has averaged four double faults per match in the past 52 weeks, and while that number may seem high, it’s really the ratio between aces and double faults that best explains overall performance in this key strategic area.

For example, Karlovic averages nearly six aces for every double fault he hits. That’s an outstanding return on investment any way you want to slice it.

In the past 52 weeks, John Isner has averaged fewer aces than Karlovic, with 21 a match. But he has also averaged fewer double faults, about two a match. This all adds up to a very impressive ace/double fault ratio for Isner, about 10 aces per match for every double fault.

ATP #NextGen star Nick Kyrgios is one of the game’s biggest servers, averaging almost 13 aces a match so far in his emerging career. To give that some perspective, that’s a better career average than big-serving icons Andy Roddick (11.6 aces/match), Greg Rusedski (11.0 aces/match) and even Pete Sampras, who averaged 10.6 aces per match.

Kyrgios has averaged about four aces per double fault so far in his career, which is almost the same as former World No. 1 Roger Federer.

The Swiss star averages exactly four aces for every double, with 7.6 aces and only 1.9 double faults per match. Rafael Nadal averages even fewer double faults, at only 1.5 per match, but his ace total reaches only 2.9 per match.

Big-serving Australian Sam Groth has averaged the most double faults in a match in the past 52 weeks at a little more than five per per match. But that elevated total is counter balanced with an average of more than 15 aces per match, delivering a ratio of nearly three aces per double fault.

Other notable players with a very high ratio of aces to double faults in the past 52 weeks are Bernard Tomic (5.2), Marin Cilic (4.8), Viktor Troicki (4.6), Kevin Anderson (4.4) and Milos Raonic (3.8).

At the elite ranking level, the ace-to-double-fault ratio is also a healthy one. Current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is averaging 3.1 aces per double fault in the past 52 weeks, while World No. 2 Andy Murray is almost identical at exactly three aces per double fault.

Aces and double faults will always to be an integral part of our game. Getting the mix just right is a key component of any winning game plan.

Top 10 Career Best Ace-To-Double-Fault Ratio

For every double fault the below players hit during their careers, they hit the following number of aces:

 No. Player Ace-To-Double-Fault Ratio
 1 John Isner  7.3
 2 Ivo Karlovic 6.2
 3  Andy Roddick 5.8
 4 Milos Raonic 5.0
 5 Bernard Tomic 4.8
 6  Ivan Ljubicic 4.7
 7  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4.1
 8 Marat Safin 4.0
 9 Roger Federer 4.0
 10 Nick Kyrgios 3.9
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