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8th July, 2016.
I've spoken a lot on Twitter about the requirements to win a Grand Slam, effectively doubting the chances of big servers to win Grand Slam titles.
History, and logic, are both against serve orientated players. History, as shown below, looks unfavourably on players with mediocre return games, whilst logic is also worth considering - for a big-server to win a Grand Slam, they not only need to win a TON of key points (and more than their opponent), but they are almost always on court for longer than their rivals, because it takes them longer to win sets, as their sets are frequently won by less dominant margins than return orientated players.
The table below illustrates the winners of Grand Slams since 2009, and their hold/break stats for the preceding year, across all surfaces:-
What is evident here?
Only on three occasions of the 30 Grand Slams sampled, did a player with below 114.0% combined hold/break win the title - Stan Wawrinka in 2014 and 2015, and Marin Cilic in 2014. It's reasonable to say, as the betting markets indicated, that these were something of a shock.
Something else apparent is that Grand Slam winners need to have a solid serve at least - all winners had an 81.0% service hold or greater in the preceding year - at least several percent above the ATP Tour all-surface mean.
However, perhaps the most obvious statistic is the percentage that the Grand Slam winner broke their opponents in the previous year - Wawrinka at 20.7% in 2014 was the lowest percentage.
Therefore, if we are looking to 'build' a regular Grand Slam contender, we'd be requiring them to fit into the following data-set:-
1) Hold/break percentage combined of 114.0%+
2) Service hold percentage above 81.0%
3) Breaking opponents above 20.7%
If we look at the statistics of current top ten in the preceding year on the ATP Tour, we can see which players fit into this bracket:-
In total, there are four - the old guard/elite. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. These players have won 26 of the last 30 Grand Slams, and it's absolutely no surprise whatsoever, when you consider they fit these requirements for every metric, even at this stage, when Federer and Nadal are arguably in decline.
Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet fitted into two of the three criteria, whilst Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem were able to just cover one metric - the service hold requirement. It's worth noting, however, that using 2016 data that Thiem easily fits into the return requirement as well, and isn't that far from the 114%+ hold/break requirement either.
Raonic in particular is so far behind on return that it would take a huge change in his return abilities to regularly threaten to win Grand Slams - it's not impossible for him to win a Grand Slam, but he's going need to win so many key points, and for his main rivals to underperform, for him to do so...