Serving For The Match? No Problem For Top 10

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers looks at how the Top 10 handle five serving situations

The server has to factor in a kaleidoscope of different scenarios when attempting to hold serve in a match. The point, game and set scores are constantly in motion, as are the variety of serve strategies such as location, power and spin.

This week’s Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis focuses on five specific serving scenarios for the Top 10 players from the 2016 season, uncovering exactly where they rise to the occasion.

The five serve scenarios:

  1. Overall win percentage.

  2. Serving with new balls.

  3. Holding serve immediately after breaking.

  4. Serving for the set.

  5. Serving for the match.

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1. Overall Win Percentage: Top 10 Average = 86%

The Top 10 averaged holding serve 86 per cent of the time in 2016, with Milos Raonic leading the charge at 90 per cent, while Rafael Nadal was the lowest of the group at 81 per cent. Interestingly, Novak Djokovic is the only player on the list who boasts his highest winning percentage of the five specific scenarios in this overall, generic category.

Percentage of Holding Serve in Five Scenarios For The Top 10 In 2016

 #  Player  Overall Win Percentage   Serving With New Balls  After Breaking Serve  Serving For Set  Serving For Match
 1  Andy Murray  85%  84%  85%  88%  86%
 2   Novak Djokovic  86%  84%  85%  84%  81%
 3  Stan Wawrinka  86%  85%  91%  90%  91%
 4  Milos Raonic  90%  90%  95%  94%  86%
 5  Kei Nishikori  84%  86%  86%  92%  89%
 6  Gael Monfils  84%  89%  87%  92%  97%
 7  Marin Cilic  88%  83%  90%  84%  91%
 8   Rafael Nadal  81%  79%  79%  82%  86%
 9  Dominic Thiem  83%  84%  85%  88%  92%

 Roger Federer  90%  90%  90%  100%  94%
   AVERAGE  86%  85%  87%  89%  89%

2. Serving With New Balls: Top 10 Average = 85%

It turns out that serving with new balls does not offer the Top 10 any advantage at all. In fact, their holding percentage dropped from 86 per cent to 85 per cent when they served with new balls. Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka exactly mirrored the one per cent drop in performance, while Marin Cilic dropped a hefty five percentage points, from 88 per cent to 83 per cent. Frenchman Gael Monfils went the other way, jumping five percentage points, from 84 per cent to 89 per cent.

3. Holding After Breaking Serve: Top 10 Average = 87%

The Top 10 rose one percentage point above normal following a break of serve, with Raonic and Wawrinka both leaping five percentage points. These two players really capitalised on breaking serve, reminding us of the old tennis saying that a break is not a break until you hold in the very next game.

4. Serving For The Set: Top 10 Average = 89%

Former World No. 1 Roger Federer led the charge in 2016 in this category, holding serve 100 per cent of the time when serving for the set. It was the only perfect mark scored by any Top 10 player in any of the five categories. Kei Nishikori also enjoyed great success here, posting an eight percentage-point jump from his regular holding percentage of 84 per cent, up to 92 per cent.

5. Serving For The Match: Top 10 Average = 89%

This is where Dominic Thiem found his mojo, jumping nine percentage points from his season average, moving from 83 per cent to 92 per cent. Only Monfils (97 per cent) and Federer (94 per cent) posted higher numbers serving it out than the 23-year-old Austrian.

Holding serve brings many moving parts to the table, and we can clearly see that the elite players seize their opportunities in a variety of different situations.

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