A post in KRG came up recently that featured the venerable former pro @Egan Inoue , along with the familiar claim that he owns the title of ‘fastest ever recorded racquetball hit” at 191mph.
Except … the “proof” of that claim is basically word-of-mouth lore that has persisted over the years, without anyone providing a place where said MPH was measured or who actually measured it.
Over the years, as I’ve done thousands of hours of research in our sport, reviewed old magazines for results. As i’ve done this, I’ve kept a collection of MPH claims and competitions, and I figured this was as good of a time as any to put these down in a post for reaction in one place.
I’m going to order these claims in order of “highest MPH claimed” down to lowest, and for each claim I’ll list the source and the validity.
– 210MPH Backhand by Sudsy Monchik :
Source of claim: hyperbole in a Head advertisement.
likelihood of truth: doutbful.
Notes: Sudsy has some verified readings further down, which are 25% lower than a 210mph backhand claim. He had a great backhand, no doubt. 210? no.
– 200mph serve by Scott Reiff at a pro stop in Atlanta in the early 1990s.
Source of claim: unknown
likelihood of truth: doubtful.
Notes: Reiff is known as a power hitter from back in the day, but is not really in the same class as the other players listed here.
– Cliff Swain in the 191-192 range on his serve
Source of claim: internet lore
Likelihood of truth: doubtful
Notes: Cliff appears several times here, with lower verified readings; read on.
– Egan Inoue: 191mph
Source of claim: this is oft-repeated claim of fastest ever recorded speed is essentially internet lore
Likelihood of truth: doubtful
Notes: Even though this is the number that most people repeat, I have my doubts. We all just saw the link to the Inoue-Doyle 1990 final, where the two players were playing with probably 20″ racquets and, well, anyone who’s seen modern racquetball could see that their serves were nowhere near as fast as what we see today.
– @Brian Baker; claims 190-192.
Source of claim: Baker himself in a discussion in 2013 on the old 40×20 forum.
– Likelihood of truth: maybe? still no verification.
Notes: Baker was pinged on the discussion and chimed in with what seemed like credible details. He seemed quite confident and exact in his MPH capabilities. He also claimed to have played with Fredenberg and thinks he’s a tick ahead of the big Texan. However, this 190 figure is 20 mph higher than Fredenberg recorded when on a gun in a public setting … which doesn’t seem credible.
A copy of the discussion is here. Still isn’t really “proof” in as much as we have eyewitnesses or an official event, but this is more believable than the records above it to me right now.
– Brian Fredenberg: claimed 186-187
Source of Claim: unknown, perhaps Baker
Reliability: not that reliable
Notes: See below for more verified claims about Fredenberg.
– 180mph: Egan Inoue
Source: internet group
Notes: An author in a thread claims to have “seen” a gun register 180 but no higher. Not from Egan himself so a non 1st party claim.
– Sudsy Monchik: forehand “more than 180mph” as per 5/31/99 Sports Illustrated article
– Source: SI article 1999:
Reliability: weak (despite being claimed in SI, there’s not a source given)
Notes: the way the article is written, it seems like this is more lore than fact.
– Cliff Swain: Head Racquetball advertisement claims his serve in the 180+ range:
Notes: lots of “i heard he hit…” with the guys from the mid 1990s, which is weird because it’s not like radar guns didn’t exist at that time.
– Jeff Conine: 182 at an exhibition in Missouri?
Source: a direct claim made here: https://groups.google.com/forum/…
Notes: this is significantly higher than a verified, published reading noted further below. seems unreliable.
– Egan Inoue: during exhibition 170-175 range, 179 in Houston at Nationals in late 1980s
Reliability: we’re closer to what I think is reasonable for Inoue.
– Fredenberg: 171
Source: 2002 US Open had a gun on players for $1000 (Eddie Meredith running it). Each got 5 hits and here’s how it went:
– Reliability: solid
– Notes: this is the first set of readings I really trust. This is from a published competition run by a trusted source. Fredenberg came in on top, followed by two known big-hitters in Walters and Mitch. Kane a tick below, which, if you’ve seen both Mitch and Kane on the court at the same time isn’t out of the realm of possible.
– Jeff Conine: serve once clocked at 162mph
Source: Racquetball magazine feature Sept/Oct 1993
Notes: this seems more in line with what he could do, as opposed to claims of 180+ made above.
– Mitch Williams: 160-162 at Arlington regionals event
Source: personally verified; hardest ever seen on a radar gun. I measured him myself. (I hit it 133 in the same competition as a point of comparison, a decent figure for a low-open player, but well below the 140-range we generally see pros hit today at a minimum, or the 150 range we generally see harder hitters.
– Reliability: 100%
– notes: Mitch was by far and away the crispest, hardest hitter on the east coast during the 2000s. I measured plenty of other hard hitters who were in the low 150s and he was a clear step ahead.
Spalding Power-Serve contest
source: Nov/Dec 1995 Racquetball magazine
1. Sudsy Monchik: 164mph
2. John Ellis: 161mph
3. Tim Doyle: 157mph
4. Andy Roberts: 156mph
5. Cliff Swain: 153mph
6. Luis Vogel: 145mph
6. Woody Clouse: 145mph
8. Tony Jelso: 142mph
Notes: perhaps the best source of comparison for players in the mid 1990s. This was a verified sponsored competition with published results in Racquetball Magazine. 22″ racquets were available by 1995 (the current 22″ max length rule was adopted officially by USAR in 1996 and remains the rule today).
Honestly, I have a really hard time believing any number above Fredenberg’s 171 figure.
With the exception of Baker, there’s not a player on this list i have not personally witnessed hit. And nobody comes close to what I saw Fredenberg do on the court in Houston one year in the early 2000s at Nationals.
With all due respect to everyone else, these claims of 190mph with a 21 inch racquet and substandard string, as compared to 22″ racquets a decade later with better string and more reliable rubber seems ridiculous.
Also there’s this: to believe that no one has approached Inoue’s 190 claim in the last 30 years, given the fact that Athletes evolve and equipment improves is laughable. Odds are today’s big hitters (Jake, Moscoso, Montoya, Garay, and Kane) are right where yesteryear’s big hitters (Inoue, Conine, Doyle, Swain, and Monchik) were. Right in the 160 range, maybe a tick higher one day to the next.
So, anybody got what they think is irrefutable evidence of a different n umber for a different player? I’d love to hear it.