With Wimbledon just around the corner I wanted to write something about women’s tennis and the developments that I have seen over past few years in terms of power, accuracy and variation on the serve and groundstrokes. I have been planning to write about this since Wimbledon 2021 and have been too busy until now to put on paper and finish. I hope you find it interesting.
The saying I use on many occasions in my tennis work is that “the obvious is often the greatest secret!” To me it is obvious that over the past 10 years the level and the depth of women’s tennis has improved so much especially in terms of overall power and accuracy and especially in how hard all of the top female players are hitting the ball on the serve and the groundstrokes. This is quite obvious to me but I am not sure that this has been recognized and acknowledged by enough people in international tennis.
When I was at the ITF as Director of Development, I was overall in charge of Junior tennis and so I saw firsthand the trends in 14 and under, 16 and under and 18 and under tennis and the developments in hitting power and racket speed off the ground. I attended the world junior team finals on a regular basis and I especially noticed that the speed and accuracy of the first and second serve among the best 14 and under and 16 and under female players was improving year on year. At the 2017 Junior Wimbledon I watched and took videos of some of the best girls and saw them hitting very hard first serves and even more impressive was that they were hitting very heavy attacking second serves with good variation and with the ability to make the ball break out to the backhand on second serve whenever they wanted. Previously a lot of the second serves of the best female players broke to the forehand (except for Serena Williams and Sam Stosur and some lefties like Kvitova) and for me this was a big change to see occurring gradually over time.
I am attaching here a video of the first serve of the junior Wimbledon winner that year, Iga Swiatek, and you can see the power created from her leg drive on the serve.
There were many other junior girls that year serving big that year with a lot of variety on the first and second serve.
For me an objective indication of this increase in the overall power of the women’s game can be seen in the service speed as this can be measured. Last year at Wimbledon I watched a lot of women’s matches as one of our female Kazakh players reached the last 16 in singles and I was very impressed with the power and speed generated, and the accuracy. The match of Rybakina versus Sabalenka featured very good serving, both first and second serves, and I videotaped some of the serves which are attached to this article and then was curious after the match to get the statistics.
The first and second serve speed was as follows (attached):
Here are some videos I recorded at that match.
I was impressed with the speed of first and second serves and I was curious about how this speed of first and second serves compared with the men. I watched the men’s final and afterwards I got the statistics of the match. It was interesting to compare the number one male player, Novak Djokovic, with the service speeds of the two girls. I know that Djokovic does not have the hardest first serve among the men and is more known for his accuracy and his mixing of the direction but at the time he was the number one in the World in a year when he reached 4 Slam singles finals, winning three of them.
The stats for serving from the men’s Wimbledon final is below:
As you can see, the girls were very close to him in terms of first serve speed and were well ahead of him in average second serve speed- 95 MPH (153 KPH) and 91MPH (147 KPH) for Rybakina and Sabalenka compared to 88 MPH (142 KPH) for Djokovic. Of course, they are not serving as fast as Berretini but if you had said 10 years ago that a large number of top female players would be serving as fast as the number one male player in the world, you would have been laughed at.
Now there have been a number of female players over the past 20 years that were recorded serving fast first serves but usually they came in isolation with one or maybe two players serving big at any one time but there was certainly not the depth in the women’s game in terms of serving speed, accuracy and variation that we see today.
- Sabina Lisicki served 131 MPH (210 KPH).
- Venus Williams served 129 MPH (207 KPH).
- Ivana Joravic served 128 MPH (206 KPH).
- Serena Williams served 128 MPH (206 KPH)
- Caroline Garcia and Brenda Schultz served 126 MPH (203 KPH)
- Anne Lena Groenfeld served 125 MPH (201 KPH).
Today we see a very different situation with many players in the top 100 serving very fast first serves and very heavy and variable second serves. Even among some of the women not serving so hard on the first serve (like Ons Jabeur (top speed 116 MPH (186 KPH); 104 MPH (167 KPH) average and Iga Swiatek (114 MPH (183 KPH) top speed; 103 MPH (166 KPH) average), they are hitting heavy first and second serves and mixing a lot the direction of the second serve. They also have the ability to kick the second serve out to the backhand side when needed to prevent the opponent from attacking them.
Here are the figures for the women players in the top 20 with the fastest serve speed (showing fastest 1st serve MPH/KPH and average 1st serve speed MPH/KPH) recorded at the 2021 US Open or 2021 Cincinnati:
Sabalenka- 124 MPH (200 KPH) and 110 MPH (177 KPH)
Pliskova- 120 MPH (193 KPH) and 107 MPH (172 KPH)
Sakkari- 120 MPH (193 KPH) and 105 MPH (169 KPH)
Osaka- 125 MPH (201 KPH) and 105 MPH (169 KPH)
Rybakina 124 MPH (200 KPH) and 110 MPH (177 KPH)
Gauff 123 MPH (198 KPH) and 108 MPH (174 KPH)
Giorfi – 119 MPH (192 KPH) and 108 MPH (174 KPH)
Badosa- 121 MPH (195) and 102 MPH (164 KPH)
The main point of this article is to say that over the past 10 years, women’s tennis has moved to a much higher level in terms of power and the accuracy of the first and second serve and it is obvious that this has happened on the groundstrokes too. It’s a very exciting time for women’s tennis and I really enjoy watching women’s tennis today and I like that at the major singles events there are usually 10-15 players that could potentially win the singles.
As the old Virginia Slims tennis circuit slogan used to say……………Women’s tennis……You’ve come a long way Baby!!