Why Massu's Second-Serve Return Is Still First Class
Nicolas Massu’s stunning second-serve return benchmark has now stood the test of time for 16 straight seasons.
An Infosys Insights deep dive analysis from 1991-2019 into the single season record for second-serve return points won finds Massu at the top of the tree, winning an astonishing 60.68 per cent of second-serve return points in 2003. Massu, from Chile, currently coaches world No. 4, Dominic Thiem.
Massu’s dominant 2003 season included taking two ATP Tour titles in Palermo and Amersfoort. He also finished runner-up at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome, in addition to Bucharest and Kitzbühel. Massu’s ATP Ranking dropped as low as No. 105 in March 2003, but he finished that season strongly at No. 12. His career-best ranking of No. 9 came in early 2014.
It’s interesting that players in the current era that excel at returning second serves, such as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Diego Schwartzman, have not yet been able to put up big enough numbers to challenge Massu’s record.
In fact, only Novak Djokovic, in 2016, features in the leading eight seasons of second-serve return points won since 1991, when statistics were first recorded in our sport.
Andre Agassi has finished the season first in second-serve return points won more than any other player on Tour, achieving the coveted honor six times. Significantly, the American is the only player besides Massu to breach the vaunted 60 per cent threshold in a season, winning 60.06 per cent in 1993. In fact, Agassi holds down second, third and fourth positions from 1991-2019.
Nadal has finished the season first in second-serve return points won five times, with the first coming in 2005, where he won 56.62 per cent of his second-serve return points. Fast forward to the 2018 season and Nadal once again finished first in this specific category, winning 56.59 per cent.
Three other Spaniard’s have also finished first in this category, with David Ferrer topping the list three times in 2006, 2007 and 2013. The other two Spaniards to lead the single season list in second-serve return points won were Alberto Berasategui in 1997 (58.36%) and Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2001 (55.31%).
The 2019 season leader was Diego Schwartzman, winning 56.05 per cent of second-serve return points. He also took top honours in 2017, winning slightly more at 56.13 per cent.
Too often we presume that players in the current decade naturally outperform players from the previous decade. Not in this case, as Massu’s record from 2003 just survived another season.
Season Leader: Second- Serve Return Points Won 1991-2019
|2001||J. Carlos Ferrero||55.31%|