Tennis – Five Fastest Recorded Serves of All Time

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With tennis back on centre stage this week with the French Open underway, we take a look at the five fastest recorded serves of all time.

Milos Raonic prepares to serve at the Miami Open.

A powerful serve is one of the most dangerous weapons in tennis, and over the last few decades, it has become an increasingly important part of a player’s arsenal.

Throughout tennis history, big-serving players have had advantages. Way back in the 1920s, Bill Tilden’s unprecedented powerhouse serve saw him win ten major titles, and in the 70s, Stan Smith rose to the top of the rankings and won two Grand Slam crowns in part due to his awesome serve.

The 1980s marked a real turning point, though, with the introduction of oversized racquets, made from graphite rather than wood. This saw players such as Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic make their mark in the 90s, and as the technology continues to improve, the serves keep getting faster.

The fastest tennis serve ever recorded is an astonishing 263.4 km/h (163.7 mph) in 2012 by Sam Groth. Unfortunately for the Australian, that record is not recognised by the ATP as it came at a Challenger event, and they do not formally recognise speeds set at that level due to lack of uniformity, availability, and calibration of radar guns. Groth can take some comfort in the fact ATP-approved equipment was used on that day, and other data gathered appeared within a normal range.

For the purposes of this top five, we’ll stick to ATP recognised serves, so Frenchman Albano Olivetti, who managed the second-fastest serve ever recorded, also misses out.

John Isner – 2016 Davis Cup

American John Isner holds top spot in fastest every recorded serves with an astonishing 253.0 km/h (157.2 mph) at the Davis Cup in 2016.

Isner’s effort came in the USA’s 3-1 first-round win over Australia in his victory over Bernard Tomic. Isner also beat Groth during the tie as the USA produced an upset, but they then lost to Croatia in the next round.

Ivo Karlovic – 2011 Davis Cup

American John Isner holds top spot in fastest every recorded serves with an astonishing 253.0 km/h (157.2 mph) at the Davis Cup in 2016.

Isner’s effort came in the USA’s 3-1 first-round win over Australia in his victory over Bernard Tomic. Isner also beat Groth during the tie as the USA produced an upset, but they then lost to Croatia in the next round.

Andy Roddick – 2004 Davis Cup

There must be something about the Davis Cup, and monstrous serves as Andy Roddick completes the top three, with his fastest recorded serve coming in the team competition. The American was predominantly a serve-and-volley player, and that helped him win the US Open in 2003, as well as reaching three Wimbledon finals.

Roddick clocked a speed of 249.4 km/h (155.0 mph) in the semi-finals of the tournament as the USA overcame Belarus. The Americans lost the final to Spain, however, with a young Rafael Nadal claiming a four-set win over Roddick.

In the same year, Roddick hit the fastest serve ever recorded at Wimbledon, a record which stood until 2010. The current Wimbledon record for the fastest serve of 238.2 km/h (148 mph) was set in 2010 by the American Taylor Dent. 

Milos Raonic – 2012 SAP Open

Canadian Milos Raonic is technically level with Roddick, having set the same speed in the semi-finals of the 2012 SAP Open in his win over Ryan Harrison. Raonic went on to win the tournament, beating Denis Istomin in straight sets in the final. We’ve decided to put Roddick ahead of him in the list; however, given his best effort came eight years earlier.

Ryan Harrison – 2013 Western & Southern Open

American Harrison set a speed of 244.6 km/h (152.0 mph) at the Masters 1000 Western & Southern Open in 2013. Harrison, who had taken a wildcard entry, hit his effort against David Ferrer, but he still ended up falling to a defeat in three sets to the Spaniard.

Spain’s Feliciano Lopez hit a serve recorded at the same speed the following year at Queen’s Club, but missed out on our top five as the Western & Southern Open is the bigger tournament as the 2014 Aegon Championships was an ATP World Tour 250 series event.

Gareth has been writing about a variety of sports for many years and for a number of publications. Tennis football and the NBA are particular favourites, but Gareth has wide-ranging interests across the sporting spectrum.

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