© Getty Images

Among the best hard-court returners of all-time, Novak Djokovic stands at the top.

The Best Hard-Court Returner Of All-Time Is...

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows where Djokovic and Murray rank among the best hard-court returners of all-time

Who is the best hard-court returner of all-time?

Our sport is currently in the “Golden Age of the Returner”, and with the Western & Southern Open, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 hard-court tournament, taking place this week, the discussion is a timely one.

Specific categories like this began being recorded in 1991, but the ingredients for this recipe have always been predicated on a quick split step, a short backswing, leaning on the return and delivering the ball back to the server with interest.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis reveals that current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic actually takes the honours in this area, with World No. 2 Andy Murray hot on his heels.

Almost nothing separates Michael Chang and Andre Agassi for third and fourth on the list, with Stefan Edberg surprisingly coming in fifth place.

Other notables in the Top 10 include Jimmy Connors at seventh, Lleyton Hewitt at eighth, Guillermo Coria at ninth and David Ferrer rounding out the Top 10. Overall, fewer than three percentage points separate the Top 10 in this specific return category.

Top 10 Hard-Court Returners

 No.   Player   Return Game Winning Percentage 
 1   Novak Djokovic  32.6%
 2  Andy Murray   32.4% 
 3  Michael Chang  32.2%
 4  Andre Agassi  32.2%
 5  Stefan Edberg  31.2%
 6  Christian Bergstrom  30.4%
 7  Jimmy Connors  30.3%
 8  Lleyton Hewitt  30.1%
 9  Guillermo Coria  30%
 10  David Ferrer  29.8%

Focus: Djokovic and Murray

Djokovic has won 33 per cent of his return games on hard courts in his career, powering the Serbian to two US Open titles and six finals. He has won a commanding 84 per cent of his hard-court matches in his career and is currently 33-2 on hard courts in 2016.

Hard Courts: Return Games Won and Category Ranking

 Year  Djokovic  Murray
 2015  36.9% (1st)  31.9% (2nd)
 2014  34.2% (1st)  32% (2nd)
 2013  34.3% (1st)  33% (2nd)
 2012   36.6% (1st)  32.4% (2nd)
 2011   41% (1st)  37.2% (2nd)
 2010   31.8% (1st)  31.5% (3rd)
 2009  29.8% (2nd)   35% (1st) 
 2008   27.3% (7th)  30.2% (3rd)
 2007  28.7% (4th)   31.5% (3rd)
 2006   Not Ranked   32.6% (1st)

The Infosys Information Platform identified that Murray has led the ATP Stats LEADERBOARD in return games won on hard courts two times, 2006 and 2009. Djokovic has been at the top of the tree for the past six years, with Murray taking the second spot in five of them.

Return prowess on hard courts is about precise execution from the returner, immediately creating pressure on the server, especially with depth, direction and power. Players at all levels of the game can copy the simple, high percentage technique and tactics of Djokovic and Murray to help break serve more often in their own matches.

More stories like this in: