Roger Federer is serving fewer aces than he was a year ago at Wimbledon, according to data from IBM.
This year, through the quarterfinals, he has 42 aces.
At the same point in 2018, he had 64. He has played the same number of sets– exactly 17 sets through the quarterfinals in each of the past two years.
What does it mean? Let’s dive deeper.
His 2019 ace total is an average of 2.5 aces per set. On its face, it seems un-Federer-like. The GOAT is a guy whose serve is his stock-and-trade. In 2018, his average was 3.8 per set.
Oh, but the grass is slower at Wimbledon this year, you say? A slower court gives the returner more time to wind up and fire his return. That logically would lead to fewer aces.
Ok, so let’s check another apples-to-apples comparison, which would be Halle. Federer did us the favor of making it to the final of Halle in both 2018 and 2019, so that we can derive an excellent comparison. He also played the exact same number of sets each year– 12. The GOAT’s consistent like that–thanks, Rog.
According to ATP Tour data from Infosys, in 2018 at Halle, Federer averaged 3.7 aces per set (44 aces), which is stunningly close to what he did at Wimbledon that year. What about now? This year he dropped to 2.8 aces per set (33 aces) at Halle. He’s definitely down in the ace category, no doubt about it.
The question is, does it matter?
What does it mean?
If you’re a Federer fan and you’re optimistic, you say look– the grass is playing like clay this year– of course aces are down. But let’s keep in mind who his next opponent is: clay-court maestro Rafael Nadal. If the Wimbledon grass is playing like clay, look out below, here comes Rafa.
The obvious question is why. Are Federer’s serve speeds down? A glimpse: In his last three matches, Federer’s average first serve speed is 115 mph (186 km/h). According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Federer generally averages 129 mph. (208 km/h).
Sometimes aces are referred to as “free points” or “easy points.” Some players rely on them as breathers. For Federer, is a drop-off of over one ace per set a big deal?
Consider the tight contests that Federer and Nadal have played— often coming down to single points.
Knowing how far back Nadal stands on returns, if Federer wants more aces, maybe he should try an underarm serve.
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