What is an Ace in Tennis? The Complete Definition

Having a good serve in a tennis match is one of the most powerful weapons available to you. As a serving player, you start and control the point and can dominate the point from the outset with a good serve. In this article, we cover what an ace is and who some of the top servers in the professional game and the records they hold.

A tennis ace happens when a player hits a legal serve with the ball which lands in the receiving player’s service area and the opponent does not touch the ball with their racket (or even their body!). When this happens the server then wins the point straight away. It is known as the perfect serve and the easiest way to win the point.

In most cases, an ace happens on a player’s first serve as the serve normally has more power on it. In order to hit an ace it is imperative to have good control and be accurate to hit areas your opponent can’t reach easily.

what is an ace in tennis

Where Does the word Ace come from?

So here is some tennis history! We understand it comes from Middle English to determine the marking of ‘one unit’. It has been used in a sporting context since the early 19th Century and used in a tennis setting towards the end of the same century.

Can You Hit an Ace on the Second Serve?

Absolutely. It is less common to hit an ace on a second serve, there is a risk of a double fault which means the tennis ball is normally hit with more caution, less pace and more spin. There are some players who do go for broke on their second service from time to time (most notably Nick Kyrgios).

Who Holds the Record for Most Aces?

There are many different records for the greatest number of aces held by professional players, both current and former.

Here we look at some of them;

  • Most aces outright – John Isner holds the record for most aces on the ATP tour. As of August 2022 he has served an amazing total of 13, 960 recently overtaking the great Ivo Karlovic.
  • Most aces in a match – John Isner served 113 in his singles match during his record-breaking match at Wimbledon in 2010 with Nicolas Mahut
  • Most aces in a tournament – John Isner served 214 aces during the 2018 Wimbledon Championships
  • Fastest ace – Australian Sam Groth clocked up an incredibly fast serve at 163.7mph in 2012 in Busan, South Korea to hold the official record.
  • Most aces in a Grand Slam final – Roger Federer served an amazing 50 aces in the 2009 Wimbledon final.
  • Most aces in a season – Goran Ivanišević served 1,447 aces in 1996, sharing the record with Ivo Karlovic.
  • On the WTA tour Serena Williams holds the record for the most aces in a tournament with 102 made during the 2012 Wimbledon Championships.
  • Karolina Pliskova is the only player on the WTA to break 500 aces in a season during the 2015 – 2016 season.

Who is Regarded as the Best Servers in Professional Tennis?

A question that will always create much debate. John Isner holds the record for most aces, just behind him Ivo Karlovic. Both have effortless actions and being 6’10 and 6’11 respectively the ball comes down from an incredible height as they are tall players. Combined pace, height and depth this gives them some of the best serves of all time.

Goran Ivanisevic had a wonderfully simple, left-handed service action that regularly came down at over 130mph and earns him a place on this list. American player Reilly Opelka is not far behind them in terms of efficiency and has an incredibly dangerous serve. US open winner Andy Roddick developed one of the fastest serves early in his career that won him many matches in his career.

It is not all about power though, both Pete Sampras and Roger Federer possessed some of the most accurate, and graceful, serving we have seen, hitting all corners of their opponent’s service box with apparent ease.

Our personal favorite has to be Nick Kyrgios, his service action is simple, repeatable and fast to incredible effect.

On the WTA tour it is hard to look past Serena and Venus Williams in our opinion. Both brought extra pace, power and intensity to the women’s game and this included the serve. So far in 2022 Caroline Garcia holds the current record for most aces with 345.

Can you Hit an Ace During a Rally

In short, yes you can. If a player hits a shot during a rally that passes an opponent without them being able to touch it then this can be classed as an ace. You can also hit a return ace off your opponent’s serve as example.

Final Thoughts

Hitting an ace is the best way to win a point in tennis. It is fast, your opposing player does not touch the ball and you expend little energy. In order to hit an ace on a regular basis you need power, consistency and accuracy both on your service and also in a rally. The surface of a court will have an impact on how easy it is to hit an ace. Take the Grand Slam tournaments as example and you’ll note the quicker surfaces at the Australian Open and US Open mean there are more aces each year. The grass courts of Wimbledon favor aces if conditions are right and the French Open clay is slow which makes it much harder to do.

A professional tennis player will spend a huge proportion of their training time just serving balls into different areas of the opponent’s court. This is the only way to get better and consistent. Even if you do not hit an ace, by practicing hitting different areas of your opponent’s service box, using different speeds and different spins on your serve, you will no doubt put your opponent under pressure with your serve.

Wishing you many aces in your matches at your tennis club!

David Harris

David is the founder and chief writer at Tennis Pursuits. A tennis fanatic, David has extensive experience of the game and has reviewed 100s of products to date. He is passionate about helping others on their tennis journey.

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