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Number of aces seems to be talked about a lot when discussing matches. "Nah, he didn't serve well today, didn't hit a single ace." While serve is more than just speed but also about placement, spin, disguise etc.

I was wondering:
Are there any great servers who have a surprisingly low ace count in their matches?
Or any crappy servers who somehow always manage a couple of aces in their matches?

Basically my question is: does more aces always equal a better serve?
 

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Are there any great servers who have a surprisingly low ace count in their matches?

Basically my question is: does more aces always equal a better serve?
I don't know if their ace count is low enough to qualify but Kohlschrieber and Dolgopolov always come to mind as great servers who don't ace as much.
 

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An unreteturnable serve is as good as an ace because the opponent can't get the ball back into play if it's unreturnable so basically an ace is just something even better but consistency on unreturnable serves is better than a few aces.
 

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Obviously percentage of service games won is the true measure of serve quality: Karlovic 92%, Isner 92%, Federer 89%.
Nope, I would say it is a measure but definitely not the "true measure" like you seem to say. In his best years, Rafa Nadal was very hard to break on clay, does not mean his serve was among the best.
Aces + unreturned serves - double faults, is the best measure.

Also, a player who hits a lot of aces, will also hit a lot of unreturned serves (simple logic), so the aces alone are a good metric.
 

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To some extent, the OP has answered his own question. There are other factors that define a good serve. Maybe, in the context of such a question, we should not consider the second serve at all. After all, it is obvious that the ace-count on second serves is not a good measure of the over-all second-serve quality. On the first serve, though, typically the players aim for aces, so my guess is that the number of aces is a decent measure of first serve quality. On the other hand, as pointed out already, an unreturned serve is as good as an ace. Still, I would expect that the number of un-returned serves has a good correlation with the number of aces, so by itself, this observation does not disprove aces as a key metric for the first serve.

If we are trying to find players with good first serves, that does not necessarily hit so many aces, we should perhaps look at the vanishing breed of serve- and volleyers. A kick-serve out wide in the add court can likely give an easy return when approaching the net. A player like Thiem (although not your typical serve- and volleyer, obviously) often uses this to great effect on clay. Going for a hard body-serve is another option that is likely to give you an easy volley, but not an ace. Roddick, back in the day, often used body serves to mix things up, although he most often stayed back. While he hit many aces anyway, using the body serve decreased his ace count but likely increased his overall serving efficiency (since he exposed the returner to more variation).

My guess is that there are good examples of players fitting OP:s description, where the ace-count and quality of serve are badly correlated, but I need to think a bit more to come up with some names. Kohlschrieber and Dolgopolov (as mentioned by bilentsob) might be viable suggestions, but I guess there could be even more striking examples.
 

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You can make some reasonable assumptions about effectiveness of serve alone:

Any player who is capable of serving 20 aces over 3 sets is a strong server. Any player who can exceed 20 aces in 3 sets (like the 30s and even 40s) is a supremely good server - Ivo, Isner and Kyrgios at times come to mind. Raonic and Anderson can also fit in this category, or at least behind these guys. 10-20 aces over 3 sets is good serving performance. <5 aces, moderate to standard serving performance. So for the extremely good servers, the correlation of ace count and serve strength is warranted.

Height of player: It goes without saying that being over 6 ft 3 offers some advantages to the serve. Raonic, Zverev, Cilic, Anderson, Querrey and of course the ones mentioned above prior.

You can also measure % points won on serve. This will vary between players. Some players who don't have particularly strong serves may be winning high % of first serve pts based on their followup to the serve or groundgame. But averages win. For a very good server, you expect them to win >75% of their first serve pts, even as far at 85% for very strong servers.

Over long term, yes aces does give a good indication of serve quality but it's not everything as mentioned. I remember Kei served 24 aces in 4 sets against Tomic at Wimbledon, even more aces than Tomic managed against him, but that was obviously a one off thing.
 

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They are a decent measurement, but I think it's possible to be more accurate. IMO the FS% should be included, players that go for the lines do obviously hit more aces but have a lower percentage than players that aim for a higher FS% instead, even if both have a comparable service strength.

Should be possible to use the general aces -> FS% correlation to get a pretty good rating for a players serve after putting in both numbers.
 

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They are a decent measurement, but I think it's possible to be more accurate. IMO the FS% should be included, players that go for the lines do obviously hit more aces but have a lower percentage than players that aim for a higher FS% instead, even if both have a comparable service strength.

Should be possible to use the general aces -> FS% correlation to get a pretty good rating for a players serve after putting in both numbers.
For Isner and Ivo though their first serve percentages can remain very high over long periods because they have an easier view of the service box and the trajectory.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Verdasco and Monfils come to my mind as players who have the potential to blast serves over 200 km/h, but most of the time just roll them in.
 

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Number of aces seems to be talked about a lot when discussing matches. "Nah, he didn't serve well today, didn't hit a single ace." While serve is more than just speed but also about placement, spin, disguise etc.

I was wondering:
Are there any great servers who have a surprisingly low ace count in their matches?
Or any crappy servers who somehow always manage a couple of aces in their matches?

Basically my question is: does more aces always equal a better serve?
Number of aces is primary criteria.
Few aces here and there randomly is not difficult to achieve and most pro's will have few during match.

But we are talking about huge weapon service - one by which player can steady serve aces almost with ease, to any side or position and without much visible effort.

The real secret of such serve is unreadability... by that opponent is always one step short and in wrong position... unable to react and close on it. Such serve needs big mental strength.

Very small number of people have such serve and is among most difficult things to be learned in tennis.
 

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You can make some reasonable assumptions about effectiveness of serve alone:

Any player who is capable of serving 20 aces over 3 sets is a strong server. Any player who can exceed 20 aces in 3 sets (like the 30s and even 40s) is a supremely good server - Ivo, Isner and Kyrgios at times come to mind. Raonic and Anderson can also fit in this category, or at least behind these guys. 10-20 aces over 3 sets is good serving performance. <5 aces, moderate to standard serving performance. So for the extremely good servers, the correlation of ace count and serve strength is warranted.

Height of player: It goes without saying that being over 6 ft 3 offers some advantages to the serve. Raonic, Zverev, Cilic, Anderson, Querrey and of course the ones mentioned above prior.

You can also measure % points won on serve. This will vary between players. Some players who don't have particularly strong serves may be winning high % of first serve pts based on their followup to the serve or groundgame. But averages win. For a very good server, you expect them to win >75% of their first serve pts, even as far at 85% for very strong servers.

Over long term, yes aces does give a good indication of serve quality but it's not everything as mentioned. I remember Kei served 24 aces in 4 sets against Tomic at Wimbledon, even more aces than Tomic managed against him, but that was obviously a one off thing.
I'm impressed you managed to get Nishikori into a thread with this title.
 

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First serve won % and second serve won % are the most important indicators- Aces are a neat way of showing the ease at which you can use your serve.
 

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First serve won % and second serve won % are the most important indicators- Aces are a neat way of showing the ease at which you can use your serve.
Yeah, 1st serve won % is a very good indicator. It takes into account aces, unreturned serves and 3-5 shot rallies (won due to advantage in point after a very good serve).

1. Karlovic 82.8 %
2. Ivanisevic 82.5 %
3. Krajicek 81.4 %

When it comes to 2nd serve won % the problem is that there are a lot of long rallies after it so great baseliners are rewarded. It's not the best indicator alone (i.e. Nadal is the leader in this stat).

Service points won % is probably the best single indicator (it takes into account 1st serve %, 1st serve won % and 2nd serve won %) but I realize that it takes into account longer rallies as well.

1. Karlovic 72.6 %
2. Isner 71.6 %
3. Raonic 71.5 %

Some combination of service points won % and aces per match is probably the best.

1st serve % * 1st serve points won % could be good as well (it eliminates most of long rallies but unfortunately also quality of 2nd serve).
 
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