What if, during the 2009 IAAF world Championships, Usain Bolt had broken the 100 meter dash record in his quarterfinal heat? Then broken it again in the semifinal? And then again in the medal race?
It would be crazy to think an athlete could ratchet up the strength while not sacrificing the stamina to keep increasing his output and distancing himself from history.
And yet on May 9, 2012, that’s exactly what professional tennis player Samuel Groth did.
The 6-foot-4 (1.94 m) Australian put his impressive frame (93 kg/210 lbs) to good use as he muscled cannon serve after cannon serve at opponent Uladzimir Ignatik that day. Groth had drawn the Belarusian in a second-round match of an ATP Challenger event in Busan, South Korea, probably not knowing he would rewrite record books when he packed his racket bag earlier that morning. For by the end of the day, Groth drew not only Ignatik, but also the reigning record holder for the fastest tennis serve on record: Ivo Karlovic of Croatia.
Just over a year earlier, Karlovic rifled a 251 km/h (156 mph) serve in doubles action at the 2011 Davis Cup. In Busan, his record would fall to Groth. Then fall again. And again.
In total, Groth notched serves at the blistering speeds of 253.5 km/h (157.5 mph), 255.7 km/h (158.9 mph), and the eventual record holder at an ear-bending 263 km/h (163.4 mph). As one would suspect, the record serve went unreturned for an ace.
Here is a graphic showing how Groth's mega-serve compares to the fastest deliveries in other sports:
(CLICK IMAGE ABOVE FOR LARGER VERSION)
Original GWR illustration/Jon Addison
In the end, Groth’s hammer serve couldn’t take him much further. He still lost the match to Ignatik, 6-4, 6-3. And the 25-year-old’s career has not amounted to much in terms of worldwide tennis achievement. He owns a career record of just 2-3 at Grand Slam, ATP Tour, and Davis Cup-level matches and has never climbed above 189 in the ATP singles rankings.
But nobody can take Groth’s epic day in Busan. And for a man who has predicated his career on making a tennis ball move in a blink, we can be sure he hopes this record actually lasts much longer.
Comments below may relate to previous holders of this record.