Re: Why are so many players' fastest serves set at the French Open?
It's because the balls at French Open are smaller and faster than balls used at other tournamnets.
Before the 2002 season ITF decided to make the balls for hardcourt and grass 7% bigger and slower, but not for French Open. The balls at French Open is even smaller than balls used at other red clay tournaments.
ITF's reason for changing the balls for 2002 was that especially the male players was starting to make too many aces and the receiver had almost no time to react.
The 7% bigger and slower balls gave the receiver 10% more time to react.
ITF said an ace should be something like a penalty kick in football, that's only a rare happening. But nobody lifted an eyebrow when someone like the 193 cm tall Greg Rusedski made 20 aces in a match.
But the women's game had also become much more about power with for example both Williams sisters dominance and a lot of power hitters.
Despite the changes the game is still more about power than ever, but I guess that's just a natural development like any sport where each generation gets stronger and the play gets faster and more powerful.
There's still people hitting tons of aces in the men's game, most of them are very tall players like Ivo Karlović (208 cm), Sam Querrey (198 cm) and John Isner (206 cm). These players normally doesn't have as good movements as smaller players, so they are not dominating everyone else despite tons of aces.
The different ball sizes and the fact that the grass courts at Wimbledon has also been made slower means that's there's less difference between the game speed at the 4 slams than there used to be. And there's not as big a difference between clay and grass court specialists as there used to be. It's harder to serve and volley now when the Wimbledon balls and grass courts both have been made slower.
The surface doesn't affect the measured service speed of course, other than they use the surface to jump off from when they serve, but I doubt that makes any measurable difference in service speed. The service speed is only a top speed measured before the ball hits the ground and not an average speed before the receiver hits the ball. So the speed after the serve hits the ground doesn't affect the measured service top speed, but it still affect how long a player have to react, as clays slows down the serve much more than grass.
So the main reason they serve fast top speeds at French Open is simply because of the smaller balls.
One of the Danish Eurosport commentators (a former ATP player) mentioned a number of times during French Open and Madrid Open that they use smaller and faster balls at French Open. But I guess commentators in many other countries haven't talked about this fact, because the question about fast serves has been asked a number of times before in this forum during the FO.
Madrid Open is also a bit faster than tournamnets played at sea level because of the 667 m (2,188 ft) elevation of Madrid, which makes the air thinner and the balls fly faster than at sea level, the commentator was also talking about this.
The temperature and humidity also affects ball speed.
Last edited by stangtennis; Jun 11th, 2010 at 09:50 PM.