This past week has been filled with amazing matches, the WTA in Singapore and the ATP in Basel and Valencia. The match between Roger Federer and Ivo Karlovic was not one of them, in fact I found myself bored during this match. It wasn’t that the players were having bad days or it was a lopsided match. The problem was Karlovic was serving big. In fact too big for my liking.
There is a difference to me between big serving and good serving. The big servers blast high speed bombs one after the other and win numerous points without ever hitting a forehand or backhand. Think Karlovic, John Isner and Milos Raonic. These players have weak return games and do not do well in long rallies that require a variety of shots. Players like this just want to get the set to a tiebreak where they figure the odds are in their favour.
So why was I bored? In the three sets that Karlovic and Federer played Ivo hit 33 aces. The minimum number of points in a game is 4, this means that karlovic served 8 games worth of aces. He served 15 total games during the match. So basically he aced his way through half of his service games. Probably less than two seconds for each point. No return of serve, no ground strokes, no approach shots no volleys no overheads….nothing. I wanted to watch tennis. I wanted to watch Federer make a solid return and then watch the construction of the point. I wanted to see how Federer’s opponent would handle his lethal forehand or perhaps a slice backhand. I wanted to see Federer charge the net and end the point with a touch volley. But on those 33 points all I got to see was Federer turn away and walk over to prepare to try to return the next serve.
In contrast Federer is what I would call a good server. His serve may not break speed records but it’s placement in the service box is precise. It is also reliable, how many time have you seen him get out of trouble by a beautifully executed serve? And rarely does he double fault in those critical moments, something which cost Karlovic points at crucial times during the match.
So an accurate serve with good pace to set up the point in my view is more exciting and intriguing than a big serve which to me is just a big bore.