Want To Be Like Djokovic? Master Your Second Serve
Which component of our game is most closely linked to becoming a Top 10 player?
The ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS, powered by the Infosys Information Platform, track six Serve categories, three Returning, and four Under Pressure areas of our game. This Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis focuses on how many in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings in the 2016 season, and also the first month of 2017, featured in the Top 10 in each of those categories.
The winner was Second Serve Points Won.
Six of the Top 10 players in the world during this period also featured in the Top 10 in Second Serve Points Won. The leaders were Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who both won 56.4 per cent, followed by Stan Wawrinka (56.3 per cent), Milos Raonic (55.3 per cent), Kei Nishikori (55.3 per cent), and Marin Cilic (54.8 per cent).
It appears that the age-old adage that you are only as good as your second serve really holds true under a statistical microscope. It was a three-way tie for the next best category, with Service Games Won, Return Games Won and Deciding Sets Won all featuring five of the Top 10 players in the world from the 2016 season.
Interestingly, the three lowest totals were Average Aces Per Match, Average Double Faults Per Match and Tie-Breaks Won, which all had just two Top 10 players in the Top 10 of their specific list. No player featured in the Top 10 in all 13 statistical categories, but Djokovic, who finished last season ranked No. 2, performed the best. He appeared in the Top 10 in eight of the 13 categories.
Novak Djokovic 2016 Season
|Second Serve Points Won||1st||56.4%|
|Second Serve Return Points Won||1st||58.5%|
|Deciding Sets Won||2nd||88.9%|
|First Serve Return Points Won||2nd||34.7%|
|Return Games Won||3rd||34.5%|
|First Serve Percentage||9th||65%|
|Service Games Won||9th||86.2%|
The beating heart of Djokovic’s game clearly centers around second serves, as he finished No. 1 in Second Serve Points Won (56.4 per cent) and No. 1 in Second Serve Return Points Won (58.5 per cent). Taking that a step further, Djokovic actually fares better returning his opponent's second serve than he does when the point starts with his own second serve. That’s also a clear message for players at all levels of the game: During practice, reduce the baseline grinding and spend more time developing these two key “first-strike” elements.
Rafael Nadal was the second best performer, appearing in the Top 10 in seven statistical categories, including No. 1 in First Serve Percentage (70.4 per cent), First Serve Return Points Won (35.5 per cent), and Return Games Won (40.8 per cent).
Raonic was next best, appearing in six Top 10 categories, leading the Top 10 in First Serve Points Won (80 per cent) and Service Games Won (90.6 per cent).
Nishikori and Federer appeared in four Top 10 ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS, while Wawrinka, Cilic and Gael Monfils were in three. Tomas Berdych made two, and Dominic Thiem reached one – second best in the Top 10 in Deciding Sets Won at 87.5 per cent.
The breakdown of these numbers clearly shows that you don’t need to be good at everything you do on a tennis court, but you must have multiple weapons to reach the elite level.