Is it important to have a high 1st service percentage? Should your first serve really go in 70% of the time, like Pancho Gonzales (Arthur Ashe’s coach) said? Is a high 1st service percentage the half work to win a match? We’re going to try to answer that, using match statistics from previous matches.
When you take a look at Fig 1, you won’t see big differences in the scatter between women who won there match and women who didn't.
There are women who lost there match even when they achieved a 1st service percentage of 70% or higher. Melinda Czink, for example, lost her match to Meng Yaun with 4-6 2-6, even after gaining a 1st service percentage of 83,61% (Australian Open, 2006). So a high 1st service percentage doesn’t guarantee you a victory.
On the other side, there are women who had a 1st service percentage less than 50% and still won there match. Fabiola Zuluaga had a 1st service percentage of 37,93% against Ashley Harkleroad, but won her match with 6-0 3-0 ret. (US Open, 2005). So a low 1st service percentage doesn’t always imply a big loss.
Does this mean that Pancho Gonzales was wrong? Does the first service percentage not matter? Off course not, who am I to deny mister Gonzales words.
First of all, when you take a look at Fig 2, you’ll see that only 28,57% of the women won their match when they had a 1st service percentage between 0%-48%. So it’s not impossible to win a match when your 1st service percentage is less than 48%, but it’s more difficult. Optimally, as a female professional tennis player your 1st service percentage has to be higher than 48%. The win/loss percentage for the 1st service percentage between 50%-51%, doesn’t confirm my hypothesis. Is this coincidence? Is this because the number of data is still too low? Or are there other reasons? Difficult to say. Therefore let us say that it’s better for a female professional tennis player to have a 1st service percentage higher than 51%.
Further is it not inconceivable that a good first service percentage helps women with an efficient first serve. Fig 3 confirms our hypothesis. If you win more than 70% of the points with your first serve, than it’s better to have a high first service percentage (> 60%). If you win 50%-70% of the points with your first serve, it’s also better to have a service percentage higher than 50% (like I said before). If you win less than 50% of the points with your first service, the first service percentage doesn’t really matter, you’re going to lose anyway...
Also, if you have an inefficient second serve, intuition would say that a high first service percentage is necessary to increase your chances. In Fig 4 you see that this is true if you win between 30% - 40% points with your second serve. I you win less points, a high first service percentage doesn’t really matter.
In short, a high first service percentage doesn’t guarantee you a victory. But on the other side, a low service percentage makes it a more difficult to win the match. A female professional tennis player should aim a first service percentage higher than 51%. If she wins with her 1st service more than 70% of the points, a first service percentage higher than 60% almost guarantee a winning. If the second serve does not very well, a high first service percentage could increase the chances.
My excuses, I didn't get these images uploaded so I had do do it otherwise.
This is based on data of 757 women's matches of 12 tournaments (Us Open 05 (partly), Zurich Open 05, Kremlin Cup 05, Masters 05, Hopman Cup 06, Australian Open 06, Medibank International 06, Toray Pan Pacific Open 06, Open Gaz de France 06, Proximusdiamondgames 06, Cellular South Cup 06, Dubai Duty Free Women's Open 06.) So these conclusions aren't maybe suitable for different surfaces like grass or clay. Also are these conclusions disputable for professional men's tennis players.
Please help me to collect the statistics, see here
. This way I get a bit more time to process the data and to make analysis like this
. Matches from the Nasdaq Open, WTA Bausch & Lomb Championships, Family Circle Cup and current tournaments aren't filled in the data collector yet. If we split up the work, it doesn't take that long... Thx!
Here a small overview for the current top 10. It's too soon to make some conclusions, but it gives an image...
1. Amélie Mauresmo
2. Kim Clijsters
3. Maria Sharapova
4. Nadia Petrova
5. Mary Pierce
6. Lindsay Davenport
7. Justine Henin-Hardenne
8. Elena Dementieva
9. Patty Schnyder
10. Svetlana Kuznetsova