©

ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot presents an Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of what shot helped 2017 Grigor Dimitrov soar all the way to third in the year-end ATP Rankings last season. Photo: Peter Staples/ATP World Tour

The Sure Way Dimitrov Used To Climb The ATP Rankings

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how improving your second-serve return game can boost your ATP Ranking

You can draw a straight line between rising up the ATP rankings and improving your second-serve return.

The first serve is always an asset for players because of the raw power, but win percentages surrounding second serves can easily flip into the liability column, especially against a good returner.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the best returners from the 2017 season shows that the second-serve return can evolve into a bigger weapon than the second serve itself.

You May Also Like: This Part Of Chung's Game Is Nearly Top 10 Already

For example, Grigor Dimitrov won 48.2 per cent (1033/2142) of his second-serve return points in 2016 from 65 matches. Everything under 50 per cent sits in the liability column, and this was not an obvious strength of the Bulgarian’s game two seasons ago, when he finished No. 17 in the 2016 year-end ATP Rankings.

But fast forward to 2017 and Dimitrov surged all the way up to No. 3, winning 52 per cent (1092/2101) of second-serve return points from 68 matches. He was 34th best on tour in 2016 in this specific category, and he moved up to ninth best last season.

2017 Season: Top 10 Second-Serve Return Points Won

Ranking

Player

Second-Serve Return Win Percentage

Points Won

Total Points

1

Diego Schwartzman

56.13%

1213

2161

2

Rafael Nadal

55.63%

1289

2317

3

Roberto Bautista Agut

54.13%

1187

2193

4

Richard Gasquet

54.08%

776

1435

5

David Goffin

53.91%

1343

2491

6

Hyeon Chung

53.37%

697

1306

7

Pablo Carreno Busta

53.01%

994

1875

8

Fernando Verdasco

52.49%

897

1709

9

Grigor Dimitrov

51.98%

1092

2101

10

Lucas Pouille

51.56%

924

1792

Diego Schwartzman, the 25-year-old Argentine, finished first on tour in 2017 with second-serve points won, at just over 56 per cent. The only other player to be above 55 per cent was World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who won 55.6 per cent of his second-serve return points.

Roberto Bautista Agut and Richard Gasquet were both above 54 per cent, while David Goffin, Hyeon Chung and Pablo Carreno Busta were all north of 53 per cent.

Rounding out the Top 10 in this category were Fernando Verdasco, Dimitrov and Lucas Pouille. Overall, there were 24 players on tour that were able to generate a winning percentage returning second serves.

The ideal target with this specific shot is right down the middle of the court at the server. Big shots go to big targets, and aggression with second-serve returns is more about power, spin and depth, than direction hitting away from the server.

It’s a pretty clear lesson. Improve your second-serve return, and see your ranking improve.

More stories like this in: