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Professional tennis players have been serving with ever increasing velocity over the past several decades, with the fastest of them topping out at 150 miles per hour, but is possible to go even faster? WIRED examines why the 160-mph serve is almost impossible.


''If you have someone with nearly perfect technique, which Andy Roddick does have, and you add height to it and the technique is maintained, then you're just gong to increase serve speed.''

— Mark Kovacs, sports scientist

Player height is one of the key factors determining the top speed possible on serves. Sports scientist Mark Kovacs, who works with some of the hardest hitters in the world, explains that tall players have longer levers so they can store energy over a greater amount of time and it allows them to cement their forces over a greater distance.

Can the fastest tennis serves exceed 160 miles per hour

Players 6-foot-7 and above also enjoy a height advantage from a geometry standpoint, as they are actually able to hit down on the serve, while shorter players are still hitting the ball slightly upward.


Guinness World Records recognizes 6-foot-4 Australian Sam Groth as having the fastest ever serve — an ace recorded at 263 km/h (163.4 mph) in 2012 — while the ATP has 6-foot-10 American John Isner with their official record at at 253 km/h (157.2 mph).