The missile men

June 27, 2015 03:23 am | Updated 08:22 am IST

Tennis' "Big Four" pose together in London in 2010.

Tennis' "Big Four" pose together in London in 2010.

On grass, there is no greater weapon than the serve. It’s boom-boom time for the big servers at SW19, as players like Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic have shown. Presenting some ‘top guns’ who are likely to cause a flutter or two even if they don’t go the distance the way Becker, Sampras or Ivanisevic did...

Milos Raonic (7)

Best Wimbledon performance: Semifinal, 2014

Overall aces: 4242

On grass: 532

On grass in 2015: 76

Career tie-breaker record: 144-96 (60 %)

The 6’5’’ tall Canadian is, undoubtedly, one of the best servers in the world today, and takes great pride and confidence from his most potent weapon. “My serve takes me a long way. If you look at results, numbers besides names, then my serve has carried me a pretty long way,” he said after losing to Gilles Simon at Queen’s recently. In 2014, he not only reached the semifinals, but also hit the most number of aces (164) at The Championships. However, against the top players — the ones with searing returns — he is likely to struggle, given his not-so-quick movement around court.

Kevin Anderson (14)

Best Wimbledon performance: Fourth round, 2014

Overall aces: 3790

On grass: 573

On grass in 2015: 106

Career tie-breaker record: 157-137 (53 %)

The South African made waves on the grass of Queen’s Club last week, smacking 106 aces to kickstart his preparation for Wimbledon. His booming serve will test the skills of every opponent in the first week of a Major and earn him mounds of free points. But the second week brings with it the best returners of the game and the South African lacks other weapons to trouble them. Also, his poor second-serve winning percentage (53 % to 75 %) makes him vulnerable to a top 10 player.

John Isner (17)

Career-best ranking: 9, April 2012

Best Wimbledon performance: Third round, 2014

In 2014: Third round

Overall aces: 6734

On grass: 791

On grass in 2015: 71

Career tie-breaker record: 296-179 (62 %)

He is American men’s tennis’ lone-ranger. He carries his nation’s hopes, both on the ATP Tour and the Davis Cup. But for a torch-bearer he has a pretty ordinary record – just one Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance all his life. In a sense, Isner, a regular in the ATP top-20, is the embodiment of what a one-dimensional game can achieve. He has an enviable career tie-break record, which probably flows from having a big serve, but in an era where defence and return-games are paramount, a game, heavily built on serve, can only take thus far.

Ivo Karlovic (25)

Best Wimbledon performance: Quarterfinal, 2009

Overall aces: 9613

On grass: 1808

On grass in 2015: 163

Career tie-breaker record: 376-349 (52%)

If John Isner is arguably this generation’s best tie-break player, Ivo Karlovic, who at 211 cm is the Tour’s tallest player, is the quintessential under-achiever. Like Isner, Karlovic has a very good first serve. But his return-game doesn’t come close to even Isner’s. Most of his matches are shootouts. He recently fired 45 aces past Tomas Berdych in three sets at Halle. But in his next match against Roger Federer, when it mattered the most, he lost in two tie-break sets. He will always be the dangerous floater, capable of an upset or two and nothing more.

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