How Federer Uses New Balls To His Advantage On Hard Courts


New balls, please…

With the Australian Open on the horizon, an Infosys ATP Insights deep dive of serve performance with new balls over the past five seasons uncovers how players take advantage of the fresh, faster balls on hard, grass and clay courts.

Serving With New Balls – Holding Serve 2015-2019

 Surface  Player  Service Games Held %
 Grass  Milos Raonic  100%
 Hard  Roger Federer  94.58%
 Clay  John Isner  95.24% 

1. Roger Federer Leads On Hard Courts
Breaking Roger Federer’s serve on hard courts when he is serving with new balls is an almost insurmountable task. Federer has lost serve only 11 times out of 203 service games on hard court in the past five years when serving with fresh balls. Overall, John Isner has won the most service games on hard with new balls with 214 service games, while Dominic Thiem has played the most, with 233 service games.

The five best performers holding serve with new balls on hard (minimum 20 attempts) in the past five seasons:

1. Roger Federer = 94.58% (192/203)
2. Ivo Karlovic = 94.01% (157/167)
3. Nick Kyrgios = 93.79% (166/177)
4. Reilly Opelka = 93.24% (69/74)
5. John Isner = 92.24% (214/232)

2. Milos Raonic Is Perfect On Grass Courts
In the past five years, Milos Raonic has played 43 matches on grass and served with new balls 64 times. He has impressively won every one of those service games. Overall, Raonic has won 70 per cent (49/70) of his matches on grass throughout his career, proving to be his most successful surface. Surprisingly, he has not yet won a grass-court event, but was a finalist at Wimbledon and Queens in 2016, and Stuttgart in 2018.

The five best performers holding serve with new balls on grass (minimum 20 attempts) in the past five seasons:

1. Milos Raonic = 100% (64/64)
2. Ivo Karlovic = 98.31% (58/59)
3. Matteo Berrettini = 95.45% (21/22)
4. Kevin Anderson = 94.92% (56/59)
5. Marin Cilic = 94.74% (54/57) 

3. John Isner Surprises On Clay Courts
You would not naturally think of the 34-year-old American Isner as a leader in clay-court performance metrics, but his form is unsurpassed on the surface with new balls, holding serve 95.24 per cent (60/63) of the time. In fact, Isner’s hold percentage on clay with new balls is better than on grass or hard.

John Isner Winning Percentage Holding Serve With New Balls (2015-19)

 Surface  Winning Percentage
 Clay  95.24% (60/63)
 Grass  92.59% (50/54)
 Hard  92.24% (214/232)

The five best performers holding serve with new balls on clay (minimum 20 attempts) in the past five seasons:

1. John Isner = 95.24% (60/63)
2. Kevin Anderson = 93.75% (45/48)
3. Hyeon Chung = 91.43% (32/35)
4. Steve Johnson = 91.07% (51/56)
5. Juan Ignacio Londero = 89.47% (34/38)

Serving with new balls offers a distinct advantage for the server. Breaking it down by the surface helps identify which players naturally perform better on which surface.

Source ATP World Tour

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