© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

His opponents lean one way, but Novak Djokovic surprises them with a second-serve ace the other way.

Surprise! How To Hit A Second-Serve Ace Like Djokovic

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how the Serbian hits the most second-serve aces

Want to sneak in a second-serve ace against your next right-handed opponent? Down the T in the Ad court is your hot spot.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of 222 second-serve aces by the current Top 10 against right-handed opponents identifies that surprising to the forehand return is the most popular strategy used, with down the T in the Ad court attracting almost half of them.

The data set comes from ATP Masters 1000 events from 2011-2019 and the Nitto ATP Finals.

Second-Serve Ace Direction vs. Right-Handed Opponents

  • 47%: Ad court T - to the forehand return

  • 37%: Deuce court wide - to the forehand return

  • 10%: Deuce court T - to the backhand return

  • 6%: Ad court wide - to the backhand return

Overall, 84 per cent of second-serve aces were directed to the opponent’s forehand return side, with the majority of those occurring down the T in the Ad court.

Novak Djokovic led the pack, with both the total number of second-serve aces (58) and also the most down the T in the Ad court, with 40. The Ad court T aces accounted for 69 per cent (40/58) of the Serb’s second-serve ace total, and 100 per cent of his second-serve aces in the Ad court, with none coming out wide.

2019 Year-End Top 10: 2nd Serve Ace Total & Direction

 

Deuce T

Deuce Wide

Ad T

Ad Wide

TOTAL

R. Nadal

2

10

5

2

19

N. Djokovic

1

17

40

0

58

R. Federer

5

13

26

5

49

D. Thiem

2

9

2

1

14

D. Medvedev

7

8

8

2

25

S. Tsitsipas

0

3

2

0

5

A. Zverev

2

5

10

0

17

M. Berrettini

1

0

0

0

1

R. Bautista Agut

0

4

4

0

8

G. Monfils

3

13

7

3

26

TOTAL / %

23 (10%)

82 (37%)

104 (47%)

13 (6%)

222 (100%)

Roger Federer knows a thing or two about hitting aces, as he currently sits in third place overall with career total aces (first & second) at 11,299. Federer, like Djokovic, hit more than half (26/49) of his second-serve aces down the T in the Ad court, surprising his right-handed opponents, who would have been expecting the traditional kick serve into the backhand body-jam location.

Gael Monfils went against the grain (but still to the forehand), hitting most of his second-serve aces (13) out wide in the Deuce court. Rafael Nadal also hit the majority of his second-serve aces (10/19) there as well, which is understandable as a left-handed server dipping into his secondary pattern.

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Daniil Medvedev, who before 2018 had not won a Masters 1000 match, now has 25 second-serves aces to his credit at this level, with 16 coming against the forehand return, and nine against the backhand return.

Second-serve aces are part risk, part bravado and mostly about winning the all-important guessing game about serve direction.

Editor's note: Craig O'Shannessy is a member of Novak Djokovic's coaching team.

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