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Andy Murray became the year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings largely because of his return of serve.

Is The Return Of Serve Tennis' New Superpower?

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how Murray, Djokovic have dominated with their return, not their serve, in recent years

Has the return overtaken the serve as the most dominant shot in tennis?

Andy Murray’s 2016 ascension to year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings followed the recent blueprint that supremacy in returning, not serving, helps elevate you to the top of the mountain in the modern game.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of year-end No. 1 players clearly shows that the recent superpower in our sport is the return of serve.

In 2016, Murray had the second best ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS Return Rating, powered by the Infosys Information Platform, of any year-end No. 1 during the past 26 years, since 1991. On the serving side of the equation, Murray wasn't even in the same ballpark, dropping all the way to 22nd best.

The past six year-end No. 1 players have delivered the top six ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS Return Ratings among year-end No. 1s since 1991. That’s simply astounding, and resonates loudly about where today’s players create their edge.

What will make your jaw drop even farther is that the serve performances from the 2011-2016 year-end No. 1s are nowhere to be found in the top six ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS Serve Ratings. In fact, there is only one in the top 11, which is Novak Djokovic’s 2015 season, coming in at seventh best.

Year-End No. 1s Since 1991: Top Six Return Ratings Leaders

 No.   Year  Player  Return Rating
 1   2011  Novak Djokovic  180.3
 T2  2016  Andy Murray  172.2
 T2   2012  Novak Djokovic  172.2
 4    2013  Rafael Nadal  169.7 
 5  2015  Novak Djokovic   169.2
 6   2014  Novak Djokovic  169.1

Year-End No. 1s Since 1991: Top Six Serve Ratings Leaders

 No.   Year  Player   Serve Rating
 1   2003  Andy Roddick  299.9
 T2   2009  Roger Federer  296.3
 T2   1997  Pete Sampras  296.3
 4   1996  Pete Sampras  295.5
 T5   2010  Rafael Nadal  294.4
 T5   2004  Roger Federer  294.4

Murray’s stand-out 2016 season was the second highest in return games won by a year-end No. 1 at 36.7 per cent. Djokovic’s 2011 season has the distinction of finishing first in this category, at 38.8 per cent.

Murray’s 2016 season finished fifth overall in second-serve points won at 56.4 per cent and also fifth best since 1991 in break points converted at 45.3 per cent.

The prototype of the elite player in our sport has evolved. The serve will always be a major component, but for the past several seasons, the No. 1 player in the world has simply reigned supreme with their return.

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