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Tsitsipas Serve: Critically Flawed or Critical Difference that Works?

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  • Tsitsipas Serve: Critically Flawed or Critical Difference that Works?

    I'm curious what TPN readers think of ESPN commentary on Stefanos Tsitsipas's serve.

    Short version: ESPN showed Tsitsipas's "service toss cluster" during his 5 set win over Nadal in the Aussie quarters. It is less a "cluster" than a 4 foot long arc of alternatives.

    I've never seen anything like that on the pro level (in my backyard, yes, the pro level no). Brad Gilbert said it was bad because opponents can read where he is going to serve. I don't have a dog in this fight, but Rafa certainly couldn't read the Greek's serve, in part because he can hit multiple serves on out of many (all?) locations. Later when I asked BG directly online he seemed more concerned with velocity, saying he should just toss at 12 o'clock and go for big serves.

    Here are a few images that might help catalyze a discussion. First, a 51 inch toss "cluster"

    image_941.jpg

    Suggestion: Before prejudging him, let's look at the results. I've sorted this ATP serving ranking table on "Percent of Service Games Won", and Tsitsipas comes in at 86.5%, which ranks an excellent 9th in the world. Is this indicative of a serve that needs change?

    On the other hand, his first serve points won is 29th (third column), which argues that, with his power, he could earn more free points.

    Note: Tsitsipas has NONE of the second serve inconsistencies that sometimes plague Zverev and Rublev. So, his toss variations do NOT make him inconsistent. In fact, Tsitsi ranked 5th in second serve points won, ahead of Djokovic. His first serve percentage is in mid 60s, like most of the non-7-footers that have good serves.

    Hmmm. I can't seem to get this one to show at a larger size, so here's a link in case:
    https://www.atptour.com/en/stats/lea...ormerNo1=false

    image_942.png

    And I'll throw these in, all taken from AO's Infosys Court View. You can see that Tsitsipas can hit all four corners with first and second serves and he can hit most every variety of serve: Fast, slice, kick. In particularly, Tsitsipas got a shank return from Rafa on a kicker in the front half of the box at 93 mph that bounced so high and hard that Rafa leapt to reach it and couldn't. The only people I can think of, off hand, that could hit that serve are Isner, Opelka, and young Milos.

    This first image shows Tsitsipas's first serve locations for the entire match. The subsequent images show serves with location, path, type of spin, length of the resulting rally, and velocity.

    image_943.png
    image_944.jpg
    image_945.jpg
    Last edited by jimlosaltos; 03-07-2021, 09:53 AM.

  • #2
    And some more examples, all from AO21/Infosys.

    So, we have a 130 mph flat up the T, slice short and wide at 118 mph, Ace up the T 126 mph with slice, and a 121 mph kicker, short and wide to the Ad court.

    Only thing I don't see here is an underhand serve <g>.



    image_945.jpg
    image_946.jpg
    image_947.jpg
    Last edited by jimlosaltos; 03-07-2021, 09:45 AM.

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    • #3
      Let's add a link to see his serve, this is a good 8 minute highlight video from the Tsitisipas-Rafa quarter in Melbourne, AO21
      https://youtu.be/9bAH7BSQIR0

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      • #4
        I guess his toss locations is not something anyone would want to mimic, kind of like the Medvedev forehand, but obviously, as the stats you present point out, it works for him. And that forehand leaning service grip is also not textbook. He tends to fall to left, which at times gets him in trouble when his opponent makes a solid return to his forehand. He has seemed to have gotten past his double fault issues he had at pressure times in matches.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by stroke View Post
          I guess his toss locations is not something anyone would want to mimic, kind of like the Medvedev forehand, but obviously, as the stats you present point out, it works for him. And that forehand leaning service grip is also not textbook. He tends to fall to left, which at times gets him in trouble when his opponent makes a solid return to his forehand. He has seemed to have gotten past his double fault issues he had at pressure times in matches.
          Hard to argue with results. Like Medvedev, whom you cite, I enjoy watching players that break out of the cookie-cutter mode and try different things.

          You mentioned his service grip. I believe his forehand grip is also old-school and that helps him, much like Fed's, play balls on the short hop and fits his offensive game.

          Let's see if I can find this. And upload it <g>. Rally hit points from his win over Rafa. Set 3 only. ESPN.


          Attached Files
          Last edited by jimlosaltos; 03-07-2021, 10:49 AM.

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          • #6
            Great find Jim. I really don't know what to make of it other than even if you know where the serve is going, if hit hard enough and located in the right spot still can be tough to handle.

            Kyle LaCroix USPTA, PTR
            Delray Beach
            SETS Consulting

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            • #7
              I wonder if he changes the tosses intentionally and what the variation in width is compared to other top players?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
                I wonder if he changes the tosses intentionally and what the variation in width is compared to other top players?
                I'd bet money Tsitsipas's toss spread is deliberate and, like his retro grips, something his father developed to help his aggressive, offensive game. Never heard anyone ask, though.

                Service toss clusters on first serve for both Fed and Novak are (from memory) about 7.9 inches. Only a 43 inch difference from Stephanos !

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
                  I wonder if he changes the tosses intentionally and what the variation in width is compared to other top players?
                  johnyandell...is there any archive of the Stefanos Tstisipas serve on the site?
                  don_budge
                  Performance Analysthttps://www.tennisplayer.net/bulleti...ilies/cool.png

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                  • #10
                    Gonna look thru our footage and see

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                    • #11
                      I think this is one of those just because you can doesn't mean you should situations.

                      If he has all the power/spin/location of an elite server, why is he languishing in 37th place in aces per game?

                      Is it because the serve is readable, or his patterns are predictable? How much of his w% is due to the game he is backing up the serve with?

                      Also W/R/T the toss inconsistency causing double faults, it's not the toss that causes it, the toss inconsistency is a symptom of nerves and the nerves are what causes the double faults. If a player with good feel was calm and relaxed and someone told him to toss the ball wherever and hit it in with spin he certainly could.

                      Gulbis can hit all 4 corners at 130mph with a toss 2' behind his head, but if I am playing a match and the other guy catches his toss because it goes 2' behind his head I take a big step in because I know he is nervous.

                      J

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jimlosaltos View Post

                        I'd bet money Tsitsipas's toss spread is deliberate and, like his retro grips, something his father developed to help his aggressive, offensive game. Never heard anyone ask, though.

                        Service toss clusters on first serve for both Fed and Novak are (from memory) about 7.9 inches. Only a 43 inch difference from Stephanos !
                        Is it possible the varianance in toss spread is because Tsitsipas's height of ball contact allows him to try and hit a straighter and flatter flight path serve in the corners? This camera angle (hard to find that angle footage in slo motion to capture both toss & player) shows him hitting a shallow, wide serve near the alleyin the deuce court and a shallow,wide serve near the alley in the ad court. The ball flights seems to have little side curve in the air and kind of flat. Both are hit from an extreme toss location. A flatter serve could explain the retro grip.

                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFOOUDSTt6k

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by J011yroger View Post
                          I think this is one of those just because you can doesn't mean you should situations.

                          If he has all the power/spin/location of an elite server, why is he languishing in 37th place in aces per game?

                          Is it because the serve is readable, or his patterns are predictable? How much of his w% is due to the game he is backing up the serve with?

                          Also W/R/T the toss inconsistency causing double faults, it's not the toss that causes it, the toss inconsistency is a symptom of nerves and the nerves are what causes the double faults. If a player with good feel was calm and relaxed and someone told him to toss the ball wherever and hit it in with spin he certainly could.

                          Gulbis can hit all 4 corners at 130mph with a toss 2' behind his head, but if I am playing a match and the other guy catches his toss because it goes 2' behind his head I take a big step in because I know he is nervous.

                          J
                          Don't claim to know the answers, but I'd note Tsitsipas hits heavy, kick frequently and ranks 5th on ATP in service games won. I think he'd prefer that stat over aces. But one can argue if he hit more aces he might win even more games! But this is definitely a tactical choice by Tsitsipas and his father
                          Apostolos Tsitsipas.
                          Last edited by jimlosaltos; 03-08-2021, 10:33 AM.

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                          • #14
                            Let me try again to post this table and try for a larger size by converting the graphic to a .jpg.

                            I think we have it!

                            P.S. For anyone that might care, the forum software can load .PNGs, but resizes them to thumbnails that can't be enlarged. Converting to . jpg's seems to do the job.

                            Again, this is the ATP sites service ranking, sorted on the "% Service Games Won" stat, with my annotations for ST's rank in each.

                            TsitsiServeRank.jpg
                            Last edited by jimlosaltos; 03-08-2021, 01:20 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by doctorhl View Post

                              Is it possible the varianance in toss spread is because Tsitsipas's height of ball contact allows him to try and hit a straighter and flatter flight path serve in the corners? This camera angle (hard to find that angle footage in slo motion to capture both toss & player) shows him hitting a shallow, wide serve near the alleyin the deuce court and a shallow,wide serve near the alley in the ad court. The ball flights seems to have little side curve in the air and kind of flat. Both are hit from an extreme toss location. A flatter serve could explain the retro grip.

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFOOUDSTt6k
                              Thanks for sharing the great video. Tsitsipas was, what, 19 yo there? Love the low angle, really get a feel for the velocity and hop off the court that can seem routine on TV.

                              Comment

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