#5 Serve Situations

 2012 U.S. Open Analytics 

Here’s the numbers that matter for the entire tournament.


 Men Aces = 2421 

 Men Double Faults = 1222 

 Ratio: 66.4% Aces to 33.6% Double Faults 

 1st Serves In = 58.4% 

 1st Serve Points Won = 71.8% 

 2nd Serve Points Won = 51.9% 

 Break Points Saved = 61.3% 

 Service Games Won = 79.1% 

MENWonTotalWinning %
1st Serves Made16,97129,03858.4%
1st Serve Points Won 12,18616,97171.8%
2nd Serve Points Won 6,26312,06751.9%
Break Points Saved 1,5102,45361.3%
Serve Games Won3609456279.1%


 Aces = 668 

 Double Faults = 906 

 Ratio: 42.4% Aces to 57.6% Double Faults 

 1st Serves In = 60.5% 

 1st Serve Points Won = 63.1% 

 2nd Serve Points Won = 45.5% 

 Break Points Saved = 52.2% 

 Service Games Won = 64.0% 

WOMENWonTotalWinning %
1st Serves Made10,21116,86260.5%
1st Serve Points Won 6,44610,21163.1%
2nd Serve Points Won 3,0306,65145.5%
Break Points Saved 1,0141,94052.2%
Serve Games Won1,6472,57364.0%

 Getting out of a 0-40 jam can win you the match right there 

The ATP have just started releasing some data on exactly this scoring scenario – and also some numbers from 15-40 down. The information from the following tables was released on the ATP website on October 6, 2015, and required a minimum of 5 holds for the 0-40 category, and a minimum of 15 holds for the 15-40 category.

Getting out of 0-40

PlayerHolds from 0-40Times Down 0-40%
Ivo Karlovic 81747
Denis Istomin71839
John Isner82138
Sam Groth51436
Roger Federer 61735
These are some pretty remarkable numbers from the best in the business at getting out of a jam. The top 5 players averaged getting out of 0-40 right around 40% of the time. That’s a testament to hitting spots, and staying mentally tough in a game. The important thing to remember when you are down 0-40 is that you are still the person hitting the serve – you still have the biggest weapon in the point in your hand.

Getting out of 15-40

PlayerHolds from 0-40Times Down 0-40%
Ivo Karlovic 273969
Milos Raonic 173253
John Isner224351
Vasek Pospisil183946
Roger Federer 173746
Kei Nishikori276045
TOTAL / AVERAGE12825051%

Well there you have it. When the best players in the world are down 15-40, they still basically have a 50-50 chance of holding serve. I LOVE those numbers! In your mind you can create a scenario where the opponent (returner) is going to play one tight point, and give you that one. Now you need to make a good serve on the other one to gain control. And just like that, you are back to even footing at deuce.

Major Moments to get out of a 0-40 jam.

2013 Australian Open – Djokovic d Murray  6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2

0-0 2nd Set

Murray had a golden opportunity to go up a set and a break against Djokovic when he had him down 0-40 in the first game of the 2nd set. Murray got a look at two second serves on the three break points but made one backhand error and Djokovic twice finished at the net to successfully navigate the most crucial time of the match.

2014 Australian Open – Wawrinka def. Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3

5-3 First Set

Wawrinka came back from 0-40 to take the opening set in a bizarre manner. Nadal got a look at three consecutive second serves but could not find the court with any of his returns. Nadal missed his fourth consecutive return off a first serve at deuce then Wawrinka hit an ace out wide to clinch the set. Five consecutive points in a crucial stage of a Grand Slam final and Nadal didn’t put a ball in the court. Wawrinka then broke Nadal to love in the opening game of the second set with an extremely short-angled, laser backhand return winner off a first serve. Wawrinka then held for 2-0 and with Nadal serving at 40-15 the complexion of the match immediately shifted from the pleasure of Wawrinka’s shot making to the pain shooting in Nadal’s back.

2012 Rome Nadal def. Djokovic 7-5, 6-3 

1-0 Second Set

A major turning point in the match was when Nadal escaped from a 0-40 hole in his first service game of the second set.  It was a golden opportunity for Djokovic to get back on serve at the start of the second set but Djokovic could never get ahead on any of the break points to hurt Nadal. Not being able to convert the break points hurt Djokovic emotionally, as he showed much more frustration during the match than we have become accustomed to seeing from the world #1.

Nadal’s strength in this specific area of saving break points invites the question: how is that he only won 53% of total points (76 to 67), 64% of total serve points but was able to win 86% (6 of 7) of his points facing break point on his serve? Is the answer in the physical realm – maybe better tactics, maybe better shots or maybe just plain lucky? The better answer is that Nadal is #1 in the world on clay because he is the toughest mentally on the demanding surface.

2013 US Open – Nadal def. Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1

4-4 Third Set

Nadal won 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 with the turning point coming back from 0-40 on his serve at 4-4 in the third set to steamroll eight of the last nine games of the electrifying final. Nadal was a breath away from a two sets to one deficit but proved unbreakable in the pivotal nine and a half minute game to regain the momentum that he had emphatically lost 77 minutes earlier when Djokovic broke him for the first time at 2-3 in the second set with a mind-blowing 54 shot, 78 second rally on break point. At 4-4 in the 3rd set the drama skyrocketed when Nadal fell behind 0-40. He hit a half-volley forehand winner from the baseline that saved the first break point. Djokovic’s best chance to break came at 15-40 as he made Nadal hit five slice backhands in the rally and had an opportunity to approach but didn’t. He ended up dumping a forehand in the net chasing his favorite strategy hitting wide in the Ad court to Nadal’s forehand. At 30-40 Nadal hit a 125mph ace right down the middle – his only ace for the entire match. It was clutch time and Nadal went and grabbed the match back as it was perilously close to slipping away.

 2013 Roland Garros Final: Serena Williams def. Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4 

For Serena Williams the perfect point is one that does not really exist at all.

Williams is changing the way the game is played by playing bigger than anyone on the men’s or women’s tour to begin the point. She literally seeks to end the point before it starts with an ace, return winner or huge groundstrokes. Williams fired 29 winners to Sharapova’s 11 in the final, including 11 forehand winners and 10 aces. For Williams, her greatest asset is her serve. She finished ranked first in the tournament for aces hit with 41. That’s 17 more than Sharapova, who finished a distant second with 24.

To give that perspective, only four players in the men’s draw hit more aces than Williams’ 41 for the fortnight and the men’s champion, Rafael Nadal only managed 29.
  • Serena’s fastest serve for the tournament was 124mph, which was exactly the same as the fastest serve Nadal hit in the men’s final and faster than anything David Ferrer could manage.
  • Williams hardly ever double faults. She hit 10 for the entire tournament, while Sharapova hit 30. Nadal with 12 and Ferrer with 22 are once again statistically inferior.
  • In the final Williams only lost seven points total on her first serve and eight on second serve. Sharapova won one out of 10 points when she returned Williams’ first serve with a backhand.
  • Her six aces in the second set were all hit down the middle with five in the deuce court to Sharapova’s backhand and one in the Ad court to her forehand.
  • At 6-4, 5-4 40-15 Williams took the title with an ace down the middle to win her second Roland Garros title and 16thGrand Slam title overall. It’s hard to beat what you can’t touch.

 2013 Wimbledon Rd 3: Bernard Tomic def. Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (5) 

Bernard Tomic had a big third round win on Center Court.

Serve location played a huge part in his victory.

  • Tomic had a fantastic day serving, hitting 19 aces and only one double fault.
  • He is is averaging 78% first serves in for the tournament after making 81% against Gasquet. That’s 6% higher than anyone else still alive in the men’s draw in the 4th Rd.
  • Tomic favors serving out wide to Positions 1 & 8 to begin the point so he can immediately hurt the opponent to the open court or cunningly play behind them.
  • He served 37 serves out wide in the deuce court compared to 26 down the middle and 48 out wide in the Ad court compared to only 19 down the middle.

 2013 Wimbledon Qtr: Jerzy Janowicz def. Lucas Kubot 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 

Big guys are going to serve a lot more down the middle than the rest of us.

Andy Roddick was a good example of this – he loved the T. Jerzy is another kind of player who you need to cover down the middle of the court first.

  • Jerzy hit 30 aces – 19 were bullets straight down the pipe.
  • For the match Janowicz served 37 first serves down the middle, 21 out wide and 12 at the body. Normal for his style.
  • The reality is that if he is able to land his 140mph bomb anywhere in the service box there is a very good chance it’s not coming back.

 Rafael Nadal lifetime at Roland Garros 

  • Nadal has served 148 aces and only 71 double faults in eight years for a better than two to one ratio in this critical first-strike area.
  • Not once did he serve more than four double faults in a match, and only once did he reach double figures (10) in aces.
  • The key to Nadal holding serve is all about getting his first serve in, which he averages 70% of the time. Nadal has made 3379 of 4771 first serves and won 72% (2407) of those points lifetime at Roland Garros.
  • Nadal’s second serve stats are equally impressive as he has won 58% of second serve points (807 of 1392) which make it almost impossible to break him.

 Player Focus – Serena Williams 

Serena Williams returned to Wimbledon in 2013 as the defending singles and doubles champion on the back of one of the best serving performances the tournament has ever seen.

The raw power of her serve was a devastating weapon that produced 102 aces in her seven singles matches which was exactly triple the amount (34) that Sabine Lisicki hit to get second place in total aces.

Lisicki lead the tournament in doubles faults with 29 but Williams only hit 10 – including five matches with either zero or one double fault. The comparison between the two best women’s servers for the tournament shows Williams is in a league of her own. Williams’ massive ace court even topped the men, with Philipp Kohlschreiber leading the way with 98 aces. The two men’s finalists in Roger Federer (71 aces) and Andy Murray (90 aces) were not in the hunt either with the same amount of matches.

A closer analysis of Williams’ serve patterns at Wimbledon last year reveals the spots that she likes to target the most to hit her aces.

Serena Williams Ace Location

RoundOpponent Total Deuce Wide Deuce Middle Ad MiddleAd Wide
3Zheng 2335105
4Shvedova 123531
5Kvitova 131732
6Azarenka 247485
7Radwanska 175741

Williams clearly likes to take quickest way home by targeting the middle serve when going for aces. Williams hit an identical amount (33) in the deuce and Ad courts down the middle, which equaled almost two thirds (64.7%) of her ace total. Williams even delivered four aces on second serves throughout the fortnight.

Williams was tied with Lisicki with the fastest serve in the women’s draw at 120mph which helped Williams finish first in first serve points won for the tournament at 80%. Comparing players that played more than one match, Williams led second serve points won at 59%.

Even more impressive than how hard Williams hits her serve is her ability to hit her spots (Table 2). In the deuce court Williams’ primary serve was out wide but her higher winning percentage was down the middle. In the Ad court Williams serves almost double the amount of her serves down the middle but has a slightly higher winning percentage out wide.

Serena Williams Serve Location – Made & Winning Perecentage  

LocationDeuce Wide Deuce Body Deuce Middle Ad Middle Ad Body Ad Wide
Total Won7246073042
Total Made9346991450
Winning %77%100%86%80%0%84%

Williams’ serve at Wimbledon was incredible in every way. In the final against Radwanska she hit four aces to win a game in the middle of the decisive third set. You can’t break what you can’t touch.

 2013 Istanbul: Jelena Jankovic def. Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-3 

Jelena Jankovic has a new friend.

Jankovic has straightened the kinks out of her serve motion and molded a weakness of her game into something strong and dependable.  What used to make crowds gasp now makes crowds woo.  Jankovic’s motion is now much more fluid and delivers easy power and better location. It is pleasing to the eye and has better height, rhythm and pop. It looks like she wants to hit it – like it’s the ally she wants standing by her side when the going gets tough under the bright lights of center court.

  •  Jankovic made 55% (37/67) of first serves and won 70% (26/37) of them.
  • The news gets better on second serves where she won 53% (16/30) of points – a full 10% higher than Azarenka did with 43%.
  •  Jankovic had 23% of all serves unreturned while Azarenka only had 12%.
  •  Jankovic did not serve an ace but more importantly only committed three double faults (Azarenka had seven).

This was as good a result Jankovic has had in the past three and a half years and it didn’t take her long to glow and give credit to her new friend in her post-match press conference. She finished her opening sentence with “…I think the difference today was that I was serving much better,” she said. “I was able to hold serve and stay focused when I was serving and I waited for my chances to break.”

She summed it up two sentences later with “Gave me a lot of confidence. It’s a great win for me.” May have well said it’s a great win for US.

Jankovic went on to add “I think every year the game changes and I’m trying to add new things to my game. I think I have improved a lot, and especially on my serve, you know. You know, my serve was so much weaker in the past. And even when I was No. 1 in the world I was great off the ground but sometimes the serve would let me down. But now it’s, you know, a big improvement.”

Jankovic also explained how she gained extra belief with her serve when she was introduced to the crowd before walking on the court. “I didn’t even know I was the second one – when they introduced me on the court, they said I was the second player with the most aces or something like that. What was that? Some kind of statistic like that. I was like, really? I felt I was Karlovic, you know.” It’s not every day anyone on the planet gets to feel like Karlovic.

Knowing you are going to hold is making Jankovic a more solid competitor once the point develops. Jankovic only committed 13 unforced errors for the match while Azarenka coughed up 40. It must be pointed out that Azarenka was not at her best and uncharacteristically missed a lot of routine targets. But credit must go to Jankovic for forcing her to play bad which can all be traced back to the pressure of Jankovic’s service games.

Go Do This

Making 60% 1st serves is very attainable at all levels of the game. 

Win 70% 1st serve points by a combo of hitting your spots really well and power of 1st serve. 

Win 50% second serve points. Calling it a wash is really a win. Reduce double faults & jam the backhand.

Save 60% of your break points. Run your primary patterns of play on the points that matter the most.

Win 80% of your service games. You are going to average getting broken once a set. Don’t meltdown when it happens.