Monfils, Medvedev Play The Percentages On Return

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers takes a look at the best perfomers in returning first and second serves

Gael Monfils and Daniil Medvedev have manipulated time and distance on a tennis court to their advantage to lead the ATP Tour in Returns Made in the past two seasons.

Most players traditionally prefer to stand slightly behind the baseline to return first serves and inside it to attack second serves. Monfils and Medvedev are not the norm. They take up residence far behind the baseline to return serve, which reduces the effect of the power of the serve and increases their time to get better prepared and return the ball back into play.

Different strokes for different folks.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of first and second serves returned back in play finds Monfils leading the First Serves Returned table and Medvedev topping the Second Serves Returned list. The data set includes players that competed in a minimum of 25 matches on Hawkeye courts at ATP events in 2018 and 2019.

Monfils put an impressive 75 per cent of first serves back in play. A mark considerably greater than the 67.5 per cent average of the 37 players that qualified for the analysis. There were eight players overall who made north of 70 per cent of their first serve returns, with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Medvedev hot on the heels of Monfils’ Tour-leading average. The leading 10 players in the data set are in the table below.

2018-19 First Serves Returned Infosys LEADERBOARD

Rank Player First Serve Returns Made
1 Gael Monfils 75.0%
2 Rafael Nadal 72.7%
3 Roger Federer 72.1%
4 Daniil Medvedev 72.0%
5 Taylor Fritz 71.6%
6 Alexander Zverev 70.9%
7 Stan Wawrinka 70.5%
8 Hubert Hurkacz 70.1%
9 Denis Shapovalov 69.8%
10 David Goffin 69.7%

Medvedev topped the table for Second Serve Returns In, putting almost nine of every 10 second serve returns back in the court. Medvedev moved up from fourth best in the First Serve Returns leaderboard to top the Second Serve Returns chart, putting 89.7 per cent of second serve returns back in play. The data-set average was significantly lower at 83.3 per cent. Roberto Bautista Agut, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev all made their way high up the list of the leading 10 players returning second serves back in play.

2018-19 Second Serves Returned Infosys LEADERBOARD

Rank Player Second Serve Returns Made
1 Daniil Medvedev 89.7%
2 Roberto Bautista Agut 87.8%
3 Novak Djokovic 87.1%
4 Alexander Zverev 86.9%
5 Rafael Nadal 86.8%
6 Fernando Verdasco 86.6%
7 Milos Raonic 86.4%
8 Andrey Rublev 85.6%
9 Gael Monfils 85.2%
10 Alex de Minaur 85.1%

Standing up in the court to return serve allows the returner to rebound the serve back quickly, which takes time away from the server and increases the likelihood of a Serve +1 error. Standing further back, like Monfils and Medvedev prefer to do, allows more time to hit the maximum amount of returns back in play to begin the point. This is just another layer of our sport where players seemingly step 'out of the box' with a strategy to enhance their specific game style.

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