Groth and Olivetti Top Guns of Fast Serve

by John on August 11, 2012

Australian Sam Groth (left) and Frenchman Albano Olivetti (right) share more than adjacent rankings on the ATP computer. Groth, No. 257, and Olivetti, No. 258, merely happen to have the two biggest serves in men’s professional tennis, but that fact remains largely unknown except by tennis aficionados. Both are journeyman, competing for the most part in far away places before sparse crowds in the minor leagues of men’s tennis — the ATP Challenger and ITF Futures circuits. Still, when Groth, a rugged 24-year old, bombed an other-worldly 163-mph serve at a Challenger tournament in Busan, South Korea in May, word spread like wildfire. The existing mark for fastest recorded serve was 156 mph, set by Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic in a Davis Cup match in March of 2011. Groth also had serves of 159- and 158 mph in the match. Most Challenger tournaments don’t even employ radar guns, but fortunately for Groth, Busan did. The ATP doesn’t officially recognize service speed records because of variance in radar guns, but confirmed that the measuring equipment and data collected in South Korea checked out. So official, or unofficial, Groth has got the record. “Sam is no stranger to big serving, as he has had fast serves recorded previously in his career, and most of the tour know of his serve,” said Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen, who played doubles against Groth at Busan. “I almost had my manhood compromised on a (Groth) body serve in doubles. Thank God for my racket and jedi-like reflexes.” Nielsen is no slouch, as he partnered with Jonathan Marray to win the Wimbledon doubles title this year. Olivetti, a 6-foot-8, 229-pound giant, also has surpassed Karlovic’s standard — twice in fact. The 20-year-old Frenchman blasted a 160-mph serve at the Bergamo Challenger in February and had a 158-mph bomb at the Segovia Challenger last year. Olivetti qualified at Marseille for his first Tour level appearance earlier this year and knocked out Mardy Fish in the second round before losing to Michael Llodra in the quarterfinals. “He probably has one of the hardest serves I’ve ever played against,” Fish said. On the Tour, Canadian Milos Raonic’s 155-mph rocket at San Jose is the fastest serve this year. Monster serves, like prodigious home runs in baseball, clearly generate buzz in the stands and bragging rights in the player’s lounge.


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