PDA

View Full Version : How does Grafs serve compare to players of today?


liuxuan
Oct 24th, 2006, 01:11 PM
In her day, Steffi's serve was one of the most formidable out there, she could rely on it to hold on rare occasions when teh rest of her game wasnt in full flow and it helped her dominate at Wimbledon.

How does it compare to the likes of Sharapova's, Justines, petrova's and the rest of todays like Dementievas:wavey: :p

What was her fastest serve speed compared with everyone else? and was she as consistently fast, or well placed?

I remember the Wimbledon Final when she played against Lindsay. She really wasnt playing that well due to her thigh injury, and Lindsay was playing brilliantly, but Steffi still only got broken once each set.

spencercarlos
Oct 24th, 2006, 01:15 PM
In her day, Steffi's serve was one of the most formidable out there, she could rely on it to hold on rare occasions when teh rest of her game wasnt in full flow and it helped her dominate at Wimbledon.

How does it compare to the likes of Sharapova's, Justines, petrova's and the rest of todays like Dementievas:wavey: :p

What was her fastest serve speed compared with everyone else? and was she as consistently fast, or well placed?

I remember the Wimbledon Final when she played against Lindsay. She really wasnt playing that well due to her thigh injury, and Lindsay was playing brilliantly, but Steffi still only got broken once each set.
Steffi of 1999 did not serve the way she could in her peak years.

Slumpsova
Oct 24th, 2006, 01:22 PM
as weak as Elena Dementieva.

Steffica Greles
Oct 24th, 2006, 01:34 PM
In terms of speed (Graf regularly reached 110 mph) and placement, it compares very well. It would still be one of the best. However, I do have some concerns.

Graf's serve was hit from a very high altitude, such was the height of her toss. It resulted in quite a high bounce, but with a slight kick. I think most of today's players would struggle to return it - at least for half a season.

Yet her serve actually disadvantaged her against Seles because the height over the net and the bounce gave Seles more time to launch her body weight into returns. Many players return like Seles in today's game; not quite as well, but in the same aggressive style. I do wonder whether Graf's technique would be easily read nowadays.

MrSerenaWilliams
Oct 24th, 2006, 01:50 PM
I think Serena showed how formidable her serve was against Steffi in their two matches, and Serena's serve has only gotten better. So I mean, I think that 1999 Steffi's serve would be around top 15ish. Peak Steffi would be around top 8. Although, it was her forehand and fitness that kept her @ the top, so why are we comparing serves?

alfajeffster
Oct 24th, 2006, 02:14 PM
In terms of speed (Graf regularly reached 110 mph) and placement, it compares very well. It would still be one of the best. However, I do have some concerns.

Graf's serve was hit from a very high altitude, such was the height of her toss. It resulted in quite a high bounce, but with a slight kick. I think most of today's players would struggle to return it - at least for half a season.

Yet her serve actually disadvantaged her against Seles because the height over the net and the bounce gave Seles more time to launch her body weight into returns. Many players return like Seles in today's game; not quite as well, but in the same aggressive style. I do wonder whether Graf's technique would be easily read nowadays.

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you on this one, Steffica Greles. While Steffi did have an unusually high ball toss (like Lendl), she actually jumped up off the court and had such impeccable timing so as to be able to hit the ball on its way down, and usually at just the right moment. What this did in comparison to other servers who it the ball at or near the apex was impart slight spin from the ball falling down into the strike position, rather than Graf having to impart the spin with her service motion. She had a relatively flat serve compared to other great servers (Serena), but the motion and point of impact was so fast in the wrist snap that it made her direction more difficult to read. Martina Navratilova summed up Graf's service a couple of years ago by saying that Steffi basically batters you with pace and great placement (as opposed to spin variety, which Serena does better than anyone else when she's on). Monica Seles (and Mary Pierce and Lindsay Davenport at times) had a better time returning Steffi's service because the trajectory of the bounce didn't vary all that much. It's very much like good pitching in baseball- Steffi had the Nolan Ryan fastball and great and mostly unreadable placement and consistency. Like so much else about her game, it's not something that can really be taught. Her serve was basically a variation on her forehand.

MrSerenaWilliams
Oct 24th, 2006, 02:19 PM
great post

manu32
Oct 24th, 2006, 06:40 PM
so elegant.....

LH2HBH
Oct 24th, 2006, 06:57 PM
She's not cookin' em at 115 but they were effective.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yhl1lUI3Fgo

LDVTennis
Oct 24th, 2006, 07:38 PM
It's very much like good pitching in baseball- Steffi had the Nolan Ryan fastball and great and mostly unreadable placement and consistency. Like so much else about her game, it's not something that can really be taught. Her serve was basically a variation on her forehand.

To add to what Alpha said:

From a technical standpoint, Graf's impeccable control and placement on the serve were the result of serving very much like the top men do. In other words, she didn't so much serve with her arm fully extended as she served with an arm that seems bent at the elbow as her shoulders rotate over the ball. This type of motion gave her amazing leverage at the top of the service motion and accounted almost entirely for the precision of her serve.

I tend to disagree with Alpha somewhat on how flat Steffi's various serves were. Her best serve to the AD court was the Twist serve out wide. The spin on that serve is a combination of top spin and slice, top spin to make it kick and slice to take it out wide. This serve was practically indefensible. And, Steffi hit this serve better than anyone in the history of the game.

To the Deuce court, Steffi hit two kinds of slice serves. The first was a more conventional one that landed short in the box and curved out wide; the second one was a ball that she placed in the right corner of the box and that tended to skid through its bounce. While technically the second serve could be described as a flat serve, an examination of the technique that produced it often revealed that Steffi in hitting the ball would slightly come around the outside of the ball.

The only serve that Steffi didn't hit much at all --- I've only remarked on a few instances --- is the topspin serve to the center of the court. When going to the center, she usually preferred to hit flat.

With today's technology, Graf would certainly have as fast a serve as any of the top women. She had better technique and leverage than many of them. A lighter, more powerful racquet would simply have enhanced that advantage. But, even without knowing how many more mph she might have hit, this much is certain. Her ability to serve to the extremes (outwide and down the T) is sill largely unmatched in today's game.

terjw
Oct 24th, 2006, 08:08 PM
When Steffi played Jana Novotna in the Wimbledon final 1993, both players were serving pretty well every first serve at a bit over 90 mph. Not bad in those days.

j-fan
Oct 24th, 2006, 09:25 PM
To add to what Alpha said:

From a technical standpoint, Graf's impeccable control and placement on the serve were the result of serving very much like the top men do. In other words, she didn't so much serve with her arm fully extended as she served with an arm that seems bent at the elbow as her shoulders rotate over the ball. This type of motion gave her amazing leverage at the top of the service motion and accounted almost entirely for the precision of her serve.

I tend to disagree with Alpha somewhat on how flat Steffi's various serves were. Her best serve to the AD court was the Twist serve out wide. The spin on that serve is a combination of top spin and slice, top spin to make it kick and slice to take it out wide. This serve was practically indefensible. And, Steffi hit this serve better than anyone in the history of the game.

To the Deuce court, Steffi hit two kinds of slice serves. The first was a more conventional one that landed short in the box and curved out wide; the second one was a ball that she placed in the right corner of the box and that tended to skid through its bounce. While technically the second serve could be described as a flat serve, an examination of the technique that produced it often revealed that Steffi in hitting the ball would slightly come around the outside of the ball.

The only serve that Steffi didn't hit much at all --- I've only remarked on a few instances --- is the topspin serve to the center of the court. When going to the center, she usually preferred to hit flat.

With today's technology, Graf would certainly have as fast a serve as any of the top women. She had better technique and leverage than many of them. A lighter, more powerful racquet would simply have enhanced that advantage. But, even without knowing how many more mph she might have hit, this much is certain. Her ability to serve to the extremes (outwide and down the T) is sill largely unmatched in today's game.

Wow, great technical analysis. What is your analysis of the serves of todays top players - Mauresmo, JHH, and Sharapova?

Be very interest to know.

alfajeffster
Oct 25th, 2006, 03:24 PM
...I tend to disagree with Alpha somewhat on how flat Steffi's various serves were. Her best serve to the AD court was the Twist serve out wide. The spin on that serve is a combination of top spin and slice, top spin to make it kick and slice to take it out wide. This serve was practically indefensible. And, Steffi hit this serve better than anyone in the history of the game...

I guess I've always thought of using the word "twist" to describe a serve as the traditional "American Twist", which, to my knowledge, was first brought into play by the great Davis Cup players like Tony Trabert and Vic Seixas and others during the early and mid-50s. It is hit with more spin and in the opposite direction than Steffi's serve in the ad court tailing out wide and up the box. She hit it with a slight bit of side spin almost as if it were a directional lefty brushing the ball, which is very difficult for a right handed player to pull off in the ad court with pace- again, incredible timing, and amazing that she basically perfected it as a serviceable weapon, and I'd have to agree with you- no one did it better. From what I've seen, Margaret Court (a natural lefty serving right-handed) occasionally scored with it, but no where near as regularly as Graf.

KimC&MariaSNo1's
Oct 25th, 2006, 03:37 PM
if it was at its best when she was winning slams then it would be Top 10 without a doubt her placement and accuracy was great

alfajeffster
Oct 25th, 2006, 03:52 PM
if it was at its best when she was winning slams then it would be Top 10 without a doubt her placement and accuracy was great

I think Steffi's serve (and game for that matter) was at its best in the 95-96 seasons. She had hit bigger serves before then, but by that stage of her career, she had a more complete game than ever before, and was actually setting up more than just her forehand winners with her service placement, and had quite a few more, shall we say, less mobile two-handed backhand opponents with which to expose lack of court coverage as a viable strategy in her arsenal. She had one of the best serves of all time, all things considered- and most definitely top 4 or 5 as far as effectiveness. LDV is right, she served more like Ivan Lendl than any of the women around her or women playing todays game.

Kunal
Oct 25th, 2006, 03:52 PM
she'd still be up there

spencercarlos
Oct 25th, 2006, 04:22 PM
She's not cookin' em at 115 but they were effective.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yhl1lUI3Fgo
She could not because Racket tecnology then.
Notice how a 36 year old Brenda Schultz is able to break the record for the fastest serve in 2006, don´t tell me that Brenda´s phisical peak is in 2006..

spencercarlos
Oct 25th, 2006, 04:24 PM
I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you on this one, Steffica Greles. While Steffi did have an unusually high ball toss (like Lendl), she actually jumped up off the court and had such impeccable timing so as to be able to hit the ball on its way down, and usually at just the right moment. What this did in comparison to other servers who it the ball at or near the apex was impart slight spin from the ball falling down into the strike position, rather than Graf having to impart the spin with her service motion. She had a relatively flat serve compared to other great servers (Serena), but the motion and point of impact was so fast in the wrist snap that it made her direction more difficult to read. Martina Navratilova summed up Graf's service a couple of years ago by saying that Steffi basically batters you with pace and great placement (as opposed to spin variety, which Serena does better than anyone else when she's on). Monica Seles (and Mary Pierce and Lindsay Davenport at times) had a better time returning Steffi's service because the trajectory of the bounce didn't vary all that much. It's very much like good pitching in baseball- Steffi had the Nolan Ryan fastball and great and mostly unreadable placement and consistency. Like so much else about her game, it's not something that can really be taught. Her serve was basically a variation on her forehand.
If Monica was able to reach she ball, she could return any serve with ease, but don´t forget Steffi would ace her here and there even on clay.

rjd1111
Oct 25th, 2006, 05:28 PM
In terms of speed (Graf regularly reached 110 mph) and placement, it compares very well. It would still be one of the best. However, I do have some concerns.

Graf's serve was hit from a very high altitude, such was the height of her toss. It resulted in quite a high bounce, but with a slight kick. I think most of today's players would struggle to return it - at least for half a season.

Yet her serve actually disadvantaged her against Seles because the height over the net and the bounce gave Seles more time to launch her body weight into returns. Many players return like Seles in today's game; not quite as well, but in the same aggressive style. I do wonder whether Graf's technique would be easily read nowadays.

I could find no evidence of graf serving at 110 mph. I did find an article
where they had a serving competion that she was in. Graf didn't win.
The girl who won clocked 103 mph. Is there a link?

spencercarlos
Oct 25th, 2006, 05:57 PM
I could find no evidence of graf serving at 110 mph. I did find an article
where they had a serving competion that she was in. Graf didn't win.
The girl who won clocked 103 mph. Is there a link?
Steffi indeed has served more than 103 MPH that´s for sure

spencercarlos
Oct 25th, 2006, 06:01 PM
I could find no evidence of graf serving at 110 mph. I did find an article
where they had a serving competion that she was in. Graf didn't win.
The girl who won clocked 103 mph. Is there a link?
you got your link :p
http://www.tennisserver.com/WTA/WTA_7_3_95.html

MistyGrey
Oct 25th, 2006, 06:27 PM
Steffi served a 109 serve against Chanda Rubin in the Lipton final in 1996. I recorded a clip from Trans World Sport that showed that serve. I'll try to find it.

Rollo
Oct 25th, 2006, 06:59 PM
She could not because Racket tecnology then.
Notice how a 36 year old Brenda Schultz is able to break the record for the fastest serve in 2006, donīt tell me that Brendaīs phisical peak is in 2006..

Exactly. You always have to allow for the difference in eras. I'd expect Graf's first serve to be as good as ANYONE around today-and just as fast.

The second serve is a different matter. Graf's was good, but Serena has the best second serve of any woman ever because she can put topspin on it consistently as all the top men do.

terjw
Oct 25th, 2006, 07:22 PM
Steffi served a 109 serve against Chanda Rubin in the Lipton final in 1996. I recorded a clip from Trans World Sport that showed that serve. I'll try to find it.

That is interesting - but I still don't think a one off serve is the best way to assess how good it was. What she served like most of the time has got to be far more important than the odd 100+ mph bomb. I can't actually remember her being timed at under 90 mph at Wimbledon from 1993 onwards. But there obviously must have been some times. I just remember she was really consistent with the speed at just over 90. Pretty rare it was that much faster and very rare to the extent I can't remember that she was any slower.

Kemper
Oct 25th, 2006, 09:44 PM
In terms of speed (Graf regularly reached 110 mph) and placement, it compares very well. It would still be one of the best. However, I do have some concerns.

Graf's serve was hit from a very high altitude, such was the height of her toss. It resulted in quite a high bounce, but with a slight kick. I think most of today's players would struggle to return it - at least for half a season.

Yet her serve actually disadvantaged her against Seles because the height over the net and the bounce gave Seles more time to launch her body weight into returns. Many players return like Seles in today's game; not quite as well, but in the same aggressive style. I do wonder whether Graf's technique would be easily read nowadays.

Actually 110 or 112 mph was Graf's record, IIRC. But she often had a first serve average of more than 100 mph which was a lot in the early/mid 90ies. And she was able to hit 70 % first serves during matches which is very rare in today's game.

And I have read somewhere that 10 or 15 years ago they had different radar guns which measured the speed some feet after the ball had left the racket resulting in slightly slower speed numbers than today.

BTW, I don't think that Steffi's point of impact was higher than other player's (her high toss notwithstanding). A relatively high point of contact is necessary for a fast serve. Otherwise Coetzer would have had one of the most dangerous serves ..... ;)

Kemper
Oct 25th, 2006, 09:47 PM
I think Serena showed how formidable her serve was against Steffi in their two matches, and Serena's serve has only gotten better. So I mean, I think that 1999 Steffi's serve would be around top 15ish. Peak Steffi would be around top 8. Although, it was her forehand and fitness that kept her @ the top, so why are we comparing serves?


Serena plays a completely different racket than Steffi.
Steffi had a smaller one, good for control.
Serena's wide-body racket gives her additional speed but makes it far more difficult to keep the ball within the lines. Just watch her unforced error ratio (even during her peak time!).

MistyGrey
Oct 25th, 2006, 10:01 PM
That is interesting - but I still don't think a one off serve is the best way to assess how good it was. What she served like most of the time has got to be far more important than the odd 100+ mph bomb. I can't actually remember her being timed at under 90 mph at Wimbledon from 1993 onwards. But there obviously must have been some times. I just remember she was really consistent with the speed at just over 90. Pretty rare it was that much faster and very rare to the extent I can't remember that she was any slower.

It wasnt a one off serve. Most of the times Steffi's average serve speed was in the 100-105 range, (example 96 USO final, 96 Wim F etc)

alfajeffster
Oct 26th, 2006, 03:40 PM
While I don't have the actual numbers crunched, Steffi would regularly hover around the 107mph range on her first serves, and had a very good first service percentage right throughout her career. There are (and were) players with harder first serves, but none with the consistency or placement Graf displayed. If all a pitcher has is a fastball right down the pike (Capriati comes to mind), it doesn't take long before the opponent gets onto it and starts hitting it with regularity. Something else to consider is she was around, and observed for so many years, and yet her peak serving came relatively late (95-96) in her career because she kept fine tuning the serve. Nothing drastic, and no really major racquet changes, just good and productive craftwork on the service.

Warriorroger
Oct 27th, 2006, 01:25 AM
A while ago I read that the way they measured the speed of service was different than they do know, the article implied that you could add a a couple of miles to the serves of the 90s and compare them to today. You can see it as weel, you see Dementieva sometimes hit an over 100 mph, and compare to a Grag 90 mph, Graf's looks much faster.

Warriorroger
Nov 13th, 2006, 06:21 PM
agreed :)