Federer Breaking Serving Records: Is the Calendar Slam in Play?

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New data shows that Roger Federer is breaking records with the way he’s winning in 2018–both other players’ records and his own, according to match data from the ATP.

At the age of 36, Federer has put up numbers that make a conversation about the calendar year Grand Slam not only something to consider, but rather a must-have discussion.

Just to be clear:  The “Calendar Slam” is winning all four Majors in a single year. Federer added his 20th career Grand Slam title in January at the Australian Open–one down, three to go for the Swiss superstar.

The last man to win the Calendar Slam was Rod Laver, Federer’s Australian friend and mentor, who has been here at Indian Wells, front and center in the Fed box.

The thing is, Federer’s not just winning any old way–he’s doing it by pulling away in one particular area of the game:  his serve.

Let’s paint a picture. Take that Starbucks Grande Latte you’ve just finished. Place it anywhere in the service box. Out wide perhaps.

If your life depended on knocking over that cup with a single serve, who would you get to do it?

There’s only one choice, really.

The following is a look at the numbers behind Federer, the guy who hits spots with his serve better than anyone else on the planet.

Service Games

So far in 2018, Roger Federer’s serve has only been broken ten times in 196 service games. That means he’s winning a stunning 95% of his service games. (The data is according to statistics provided on the ATP website.)

By way of comparison: Statistically, the greatest server in tennis is Ivo Karlovic, with a career-best winning percentage of 92% of service games won.

The Swiss is blowing the doors off Karlovic this year with 95%. Even Federer’s own career service-game winning percentage is 89%. He’s crushing that as well.

Service Points Won

In addition, Federer’s service points won are up from his career pace, according to the ATP.

For his lifetime, Fed stands at 69% of service points won. This year?  Up six percentage points, to a jaw-dropping 75%.

And when Federer gets the momentum of a lead in a service game, you can pretty much lock it. The opponent, statistically speaking, is toast.

Second Serve

In the sport of tennis, two men stand atop the second-serve mountain: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Nadal holds the current career best of 57% of second serve points won, and edges Federer in that category by one one-hundredth of a point.

Imagine winning 57% of your (weaker) second serve points. That would be nirvana.

Well, this year Roger Federer is shattering nirvana by winning 63% of his second serve points in 2018.

To state what is mostly known to fans of this sport: The Swiss doesn’t dominate the serve with power. His current velocity is comparable to what it’s always been. For example, this year’s average first serve speed at the Australian Open was 117 mph–the previous year’s was 116. Federer’s serve speeds are good, but not insane. He’s generally doesn’t show up among the Top 20 fastest servers in the world.

He does it by hitting his spots.

Clay Court Season

In order for Federer to win the Calendar Slam, he’s got to play the French Open, right?  He skipped it last year to focus on healing and resting his body.

He said Wednesday that he still hasn’t made up his mind about the clay court season, insisting that clay court king Rafael Nadal’s hip injury will not impact his decision about the French.

Nadal’s thumbs up swimming video posted on social media–a sign that his recovery is going well–went viral.

Game on. Rivalry on.

Nonetheless, with so many men’s stars out of the game battling injuries, a chance at the French Open title is an opportunity not to be missed for Federer.

The challenge of the clay surface is mitigated when someone is serving as well as Federer is right now.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Two issues –

    1) clay will damage his back, no matter how great his serve is,
    2) the three best returners (Djokovic, Murray, Nadal) aren’t in play.

    Whilst I honestly think that Federer would be beating them on merit, given how he’s playing, his service statistics are still perhaps burnished by issue 2.

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