In the mid-1980s, a young German player named Boris Becker made a name for himself. As a 17-year old, he surprised the world by winning at Queens Club using a powerful serve and volley style of game.
He then confounded the pundits by going on to replicate that success a couple of weeks later at Wimbledon as the unseeded German won the first of his three Wimbledon titles in 1985.
That win, combined with improvements in technology and the development of players overall fitness and strength helped user in a new era at Wimbledon, when players that could serve fast and also volley the ball well at the net, would be at a big advantage over more traditional, touch and feel or baseline players.
Not all Wimbledon champions following on from Becker fitted the mould of a typical serve and volley player, Andre Agassi certainly didn’t, but a good number of players that did win Wimbledon, or at least reach the final did. Pete Sampras, Mark Phillippousis, Goran Ivanisevic, Richard Krajicek and Roger Federer all certainly are fine exponents of serve and volley tennis (and more besides).
In the past two years, we have both Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic reach the final, both of whom possess huge serves and whose games are particularly well adapted to grass, although it is interesting that both lost in their respective finals, Andy Murray beating Raonic while Cilic lost last year to Roger Federer.
With this being a trait peculiar to men’s grass court tennis in particular, the women’s game does see big servers have an advantage, but their relative lack of power and strength compared to male players makes a big serve less advantageous, who are the big serve and volley players that could make an impact at Wimbledon 2018 in the men’s draw?
Serve and Volley Specialists at Wimbledon 2018
Looking through the men’s seedings and there are a number of players who possess a big first serve, as well as fine skills at the net to put away any returns. Although it is worth noting that some of the names on this list have a far stronger all-round game than others. Their highest ever recorded serve speed is shown in brackets.
- John Isner (253 kmh)
- Milos Raonic (250 kmh)
- Feliciano Lopez (244 kmh)
- Juan Martin del Potro (240 kmh)
- Marin Cilic (235 kmh)
- Stan Wawrinka (234 kmh)
- Grigor Dimitrov (233.4 kmh)
- Roger Federer (230 kmh)
Of course, there is a big difference in the all-round game of eight-time Champion Roger Federer compared to John Isner, or indeed many of the other players on the list, and that does have to be taken into account when judging whether Federer is truly a serve and volley specialist (and I, personally, would argue that he is not).
What is clear is that three of the last four male Wimbledon finalists are on this list and that all of these names have enjoyed deep runs into the tournament in recent years, although perhaps tellingly, only Roger Federer on the list has actually won it.
So if there is a conclusion we can draw from this, it is that players with a big serve (and who usually follow up that with a volley at the net) do tend to get through the early stages of Wimbledon, but they don’t tend to win it.
So perhaps the question should be, what in addition to a big serve does Roger Federer possess that makes him so special as a Wimbledon champion?
The Federer enigma
There is absolutely no doubt that when it comes to the grass court championships at Wimbledon, Roger Federer is without doubt the finest exponent of the game. The Swiss legend has racked up eight title victories over the years and in his last win in 2017, he went through every round of the tournament without losing a set, a feat only achieved once before by Bjorn Borg back in 1976.
However, what was remarkable about Federer’s record last year was that he achieved that at the age of 35 years old, which is regarded as almost ancient in the modern tennis industry. Borg, in contrast, was just 20 when he won Wimbledon without dropping a set.
Of course, it is testament to Roger Federer’s fitness that the now 36-year-old keeps himself in such fine shape that he is able to outlast much younger opponents on the grass courts, occasionally in very warm conditions. There’s no doubt that the Swiss legends scientific approach to his fitness, and his decision to not play the French Open, thus saving his energy to focus on Wimbledon, served him supremely well last year (and will likely do the same this).
However, being fit and well rested does not mean you win matches at Wimbledon against the world’s best players and biggest servers, so what else is their with Federer that marks him out as a true genius of the sport?
And in my view, it is not Federer’s serve which is his most potent weapon, but his ability to return even the best serves of other players that marks him out as a true genius of the game.
Alongside flawless technique, Federer’s ability to react to even the most powerful serves is incredible. Not only that, but he can often return them with equal velocity and in such a position that the server has little to no time to react to his second shot. If Federer does not win the point outright on his return, then his return is usually of such quality that he is at a big advantage for the rest of the point, which his natural talent and genius usually turns into a positive.
In essence, Federer’s ability to use a players powerful first serve, against the server himself, is what makes him such a threat at Wimbledon and the Swiss legend has been doing it for years and in truth, he stands a great chance of doing it again at Wimbledon 2018.
Will Federer make it nine at Wimbledon 2018?
After sitting out the French Open again this year and looking sharp in warm up, I would certainly back Federer to earn his ninth Wimbledon title in 2018. He may be 36, but when he is at his best, there is simply nobody anywhere near his standard on a grass court still. You can back Federer to win Wimbledon now at 7/4 with Bet365 Sport.