What Is An Ace In Tennis?

An ace in tennis is a serve that goes unreturned and results in a direct point for the server. It is one of the most thrilling shots in tennis, as a blistering ace can change the momentum of a match in an instant. Though simple in concept, mastering the ace serve requires tremendous skill, precision, and practice.

Let’s explore what exactly makes a tennis serve an ace, how players like Serena Williams and Roger Federer have set awe-inspiring ace records, and how you as a player can improve your own ace count through serve mechanics, strategy, and technology.

Whether you are a recreational player looking to impress teammates or a competitive athlete gunning for aces during matches, this guide will give you new insights on harnessing the ace, one of tennis’ most potent weapons.

Definition of a Tennis Ace

For a serve to be awarded as an ace, several criteria must be met:

  • The ball must land within the service box boundaries diagonally across the net from the server. If any part of the ball touches the line, it is considered good.
  • The ball cannot be touched by the returner’s racket. Even slight contact eliminates the possibility of an ace.
  • The serve must happen before the point officially begins. Once the point is underway, no aces can be scored.

Essentially, an ace happens when the serve sails past the returner for a clean winner. Since it occurs before the start of the point, an ace results in an automatic and unanswerable point for the server. It is one of the most risk-free ways to capture a point in tennis.

The two serve areas where aces can happen are typically called the “ad court” (left side of each service box) and the “deuce court” on the right. Varying placements and angles to both courts is key for the best servers.

Why Aces Matter in Tennis?

Though a singular ace may seem insignificant, they can dramatically impact several aspects of a tennis match:

  • Win “free points”: Aces allow players to capture points rapidly without extended rallies or effort. This allows preservation of energy across long matches.
  • Apply score pressure: By holding at love or 15 during service games, players pressure opponents to keep up, often forcing risks.
  • Maintain control: Aces help assert dominance and control over service games and keep opponents off-balance.
  • Bolster confidence: Landing multiple aces can rapidly boost a player’s self-assurance and belief in their game plan.

The greatest servers in tennis history like Serena Williams, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer have all leaned heavily on their aces during the most crucial moments of major tournaments. Their ace counts demonstrate the effectiveness of their world-class serves.

Let’s examine some of the incredible ace records that have been set over the decades of tennis history.

Notable Tennis Ace Records

Aces have been tracked as an official statistic since the early 1900s, providing a remarkable glimpse into the evolution of the serve across eras of the sport. Here are some of the most astounding ace records ever achieved:

Record Category Record Holder(s) Ace Count
Most Aces in a Match (Men’s Singles) John Isner 112 aces
Most Aces in a Match (Women’s Singles) Serena Williams 27 aces
Most Aces in an ATP Season John Isner 1,260 aces (2015 season)
Most Aces in a WTA Season Serena Williams 491 aces (2013 season)
Career ATP Aces Leader Ivo Karlović 13,728+ career aces*
Career WTA Aces Leader Serena Williams 1,830+ career aces*

*As of August 2023. Ace leaders are still active players.

As the table shows, John Isner holds the remarkable men’s record for most aces in a singles match with 112, while Serena Williams holds the women’s match record with 27.

In terms of season-long ace counts, no one has topped Isner’s 1,260 aces in 2015 or Serena’s 491 in 2013. These stats demonstrate the incredible consistency and serving skill needed to lead the ace count across an entire ATP or WTA season.


Finally, the current career ace leaders highlight how aces accumulate over time and remain crucial for players across eras. Croatian star Ivo Karlović has amassed over 13,700 aces with his towering 6’11” frame, while Serena has hit 1,830+ aces using her powerful smooth service motion.

These records provide motivating targets for competitive players today looking to maximize their own ace totals and serving effectiveness. However, aces aren’t reserved only for pros – with the right techniques and tactics, recreational players can certainly ace opponents with greater frequency during casual matches.

Related Article: Top 22 Best Young Tennis Players To Watch

How Can You Hit More Aces?

Though genetics play some role, aces are also very much a product of mechanics, strategy, and technology:

Improve Your Serve Speed

The faster you can hit serves with topspin or slice, the less reaction time opponents have. Physical training for power and optimizing service motion are key.

Target Opponent Weaknesses

Study patterns in where rivals struggle returning. Aim serves strategically to forehands, backhands, mid-high, wide, etc. based on weaknesses.

Develop a Repeatable Toss

An inconsistent toss leads to timing errors. Toss the ball to the identical spot and height before each serve.

Use Radar Guns

Tracking serve speed over time allows measurement of improvement. Radar guns provide hard metrics to base changes on.

Analyze Video

Record service motions to analyze and refine. Check for form errors leading to slower serves.

Practice Racket Flexibility

Generating “whip” by bending the racket head increases speed. Strengthen wrist and forearm flexibility.

With dedication and smart practice, nearly any player can hit faster serves and more aces. Next, let’s examine some ace-producing serving strategies.

Tactical Tips for More Aces

Skilled servers mix up their placement and speed to keep opponents guessing. Here are some ace-generating service tactics:

  • Hit hard slice serves wide to the ad court. The sideways spin pulls them farther out wide.
  • For a surprising ace down the T, use a flat or kick serve up the center. Vary speed and location.
  • Big servers often go for flat heat near the sidelines that barely catch the line. Risky but effective.
  • Topspin kick serves out wide are difficult to return due to their unusual bouncing pattern.
  • After several hard serves, try a slower off-speed ace to catch opponents leaning the wrong way.
  • Following big serves with up-the-middle kickers is an advanced one-two combination.

The very best servers are able to seamlessly mix ace placements, speeds, spins, and patterns to maximize uncertainty. Creativity, analytics, and execution are required to truly master the ace serve.


What is an ace in a tennis game?

An ace in tennis is when the serve goes untouched for a point. It happens before the ball is even in play.

How do you get a ace in tennis?

You can get an ace by serving fast or placing well to go past the returner. Mixing up speed, spin and location helps too.

Why is it called an ace in tennis?

It’s called an ace because it’s the highest unreturnable serve, like an ace in cards. It’s the best serve you can hit.

How many aces are in a tennis match?

The number of aces varies, but top players average 5-20 aces per match typically. Records over 100 aces exist.

What is 0 points called in tennis?

Love or zero is what a 0-point score is called in tennis. It comes from the French word for egg, “l’oeuf”, sounding like love.

Who has the most aces in history?

Ivo Karlovic holds the ATP record with over 13,700 career aces so far. He has the height at 6’11” for dominant serves.

Conclusion: The Ace as a Tennis Weapon

This deep dive into the ace serve has hopefully provided new insights into this devastating tennis weapon. To quickly recap key takeaways:

  • An ace occurs when a serve sails untouched for a point before the ball is in play.
  • Top players utilize aces to capture easy points and apply score pressure.
  • The ace records across history demonstrate how impactful serves are.
  • With training and strategy, any player can significantly improve ace counts.
  • Mixing up serve placement, speed, and spin is crucial for more aces.

While aces may seem relatively simple compared to groundstroke rallies and net play, they require incredible physical capabilities, technical development, analytics, and mental focus to execute at the highest levels.

It is no surprise that iconic players like Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Pete Sampras have invested so heavily in honing their serve as a differentiating factor throughout their careers.

Hopefully this guide has provided a useful introduction to the ace serve. Whether trying to sneak in an ace to impress friends or competing for ATP records, the principles remain the same.

Unwavering ball toss consistency, high serve speeds, unpredictable placements, and a dose of calculated boldness to go for the lines. With the right foundation and training, a world-class ace serve could be closer than you think.

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