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Homey
02-03-2009, 05:57 AM
Need help guys with improving the serve. The serve is probably the weakest part of my game. It is not necessarily a "liability", but it is also not a weapon.

I have tried to incorporate more knee bend. I have also tried to toss the ball up higher. Many times I have too low of a toss and it causes me to rush my swing.

Here are some short videos of my serve.

Deuce court Front view
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtFKh0JU8hg

Ad court Front view
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X8D4_3yHFI

Side view
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP92SkG_J38

I feel like I don't get my shoulders rotated AWAY from the net before I hit the ball. Also, I don't feel like I get in the trophy pose. Should my racket be up in a higher position before I start my swing?

Your help is greatly appreciated!!!!!

Here is my serve from a while back, if you want to see it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeBv3eccx-E
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C50j18mT27A

Indiana Puffed
02-03-2009, 06:22 AM
I think you have a lot of good things going on in your serve, and with a few adjustments will see vast improvement.

A couple of suggestions from me:

The toss - I get the impression you are throwing the ball up and then continuing to reach up (to acheive a trophy pose.) Try releasing the ball later and let momentum take the ball up in the air. The ball will be placed nicely in the air, and your arm will be where you want it to be.

Grip looseness - how loose is your hand on the grip? It looks from the video like you hold it a little firm, which in turn will make you muscles the serve more, thus decrease speed. It may restrict pronation too. I get the impression you don't have a proper pronation follow through, but it is hard to tell from those vids. The looser the grip the better.

Good luck.

Djokovicfan4life
02-03-2009, 06:40 AM
When I look at your serve I see a poor toss, crappy leg drive, and a low contact point, along with plenty of good things as well.

The toss: you are tossing the ball with a bent arm that stays perpendicular to the net, more or less. The ball should be tossed with your arm parallel to the baseline and released at the 2:00 position on an imaginary clock, like this:

http://virtualtennisacademy.com/cms/serve.php/234/roddick_serve_toss_release_point.gif

Yes, you are bending your knees just fine. However, it's the way that you are choosing to use them that is killing your power. You bend, then rise, then begin your forward swing. That negates all the potential energy that you could be storing up in your body by means of the kinetic chain because you are essentially falling into the serve. Refer to the video below for a great reference. You can't serve any bigger than this! :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmmSMJhIUqU

Now I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I have a Karlovic-esque serve, hahahaha! What I can tell you is that by modeling my serve after his I've experienced a more efficient weight transfer up AND into the ball. Remember, your legs should also bring yourself forward into the court as well as thrusting upwards as well. You can simply check where you're landing in the court for an easy checkpoint for this concept. Karlovic has the most efficient serve on tour in the sense that he can absolutely blast his serve up into the 140 range and still look as though he's loose as a goose all the while. This is key to a great serve as well, effortless power than won't take a toll on your body in the long run.

Obviously different things work for different people but I can tell you that Karlovic's technique did NOT come naturally to me at first and now it feels oh, so right. Just take that for what it's worth. The power of muscle memory should never be underestimated. Player's tend to say things like "I just do what feels comfortable", or "I just do what works for me", when the sad reality of the whole thing is, their work ethic and technique alike are most likely terrible. End of story.

Don't prescribe to the natural nincompoops united, it will just lead to trouble. Find a tour level player with a similar looking serve to yourself and work on your ability to spot and correct errors through your own analysis. It's very important that you learn how to help yourself as well, you know.

Work on staying down longer and only begin to straighten the legs as you begin your forward swing. The actual swing, mind you, is just fine. So that's great news in the sense that you are now free to focus on these issues without unnecessary distractions. Once you master this you will also be taking the ball at a higher point of contact, meaning that you can really smack the sucker without fear of netting the ball.

I've found that far too much emphasis is placed on the upper body in tennis instruction, which is totally understandable. But by working the technique from the ground up you can learn to achieve effortless power, spin, and placement on your serve.

Best of luck to you,

Matt

Nellie
02-03-2009, 07:20 AM
I second Djokovicfan4life's comments - What I see in your motion is an imitation of a professional service motion, but the timing is off. Try tossing a little higher so that your motion can slow down. I feel like you need to delay the opening of the shoulders and the
leg extension, because it looks to me that you are losing all of the energy (kind of like taking a big windup, stopping your arm, and then restarting the arm motion to weakly complete the serve. In your mind, think of maximizing your arm speed after contact so that you are accelerating and hitting through the ball.

In practice, it may feel like you are swinging low and wide right before your shoulders, legs, and pronation drive the racquet back to the ball at the last second. I like other advice I have read regarding swinging with a rope to see how it moves during your service motion to see where you have hitches.

Djokovicfan4life
02-03-2009, 07:27 AM
I second Djokovicfan4life's comments - What I see in your motion is an imitation of a professional service motion, but the timing is off. Try tossing a little higher so that your motion can slow down. I feel like you need to delay the opening of the shoulders and the
leg extension, because it looks to me that you are losing all of the energy (kind of like taking a big windup, stopping your arm, and then restarting the arm motion to weakly complete the serve. In your mind, think of maximizing your arm speed after contact so that you are accelerating and hitting through the ball.

In practice, it may feel like you are swinging low and wide right before your shoulders, legs, and pronation drive the racquet back to the ball at the last second. I like other advice I have read regarding swinging with a rope to see how it moves during your service motion to see where you have hitches.

It's amazing, when I clicked on that link I could've sworn it was my brother serving! Remarkable how they both had the same exact issues, no? We're working on this by means of learning the proper trophy position though. He'll get it soon enough as well. :)

P.S. Yeah, after rewatching your vid I think you need to learn a proper trophy pose, like this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6E3vPigzxI

And before you ask, no, you don't have to be that flexible to do this. :)

Here are the specific reference points you should achieve in your preparation:

1. Both arms fall and then rise again during the toss, essentially at the same time.

2. Racquet back with your hitting palm facing the ground. Left arm pointing skywards.

3. Trophy pose and maximum knee flexion achieved at the apex of the toss. Wrist should be in a neutral position right now with a loose grip.

4. Profit.

Matt

Sublime
02-03-2009, 08:03 AM
I feel like I don't get my shoulders rotated AWAY from the net before I hit the ball.

This is what I noticed as well, your shoulder rotation is all off for a continental grip. If you're serving with an eastern forehand, it's fine, but as many long threads in this forum have stated, EFH grip on a serve is not fine :)

In the trophy pose, your shoulders should be 45 degrees to the baseline. So that your shoulders (from above) are pointing at the net post. You can shadow this anywhere there's a line on the ground, it's actually a lot further around than you think it is. Check out the Sampras video Djokovicfan posted and see how your opponent can see his entire back?

At contact, your chest is facing the net... this is an EFH technique and is wrong for a continental grip. At contact you should be roughly 45 degree's to the baseline... chest facing the net post. You need continue to rotate through so that as you follow through you will be roughly facing the net.

Now to go from trophy shoulder position to contact shoulder position you need kind of send your shoulders into a cartwheel. Shoulder over shoulder. You can see all this in that great sampras clip Djokovicfan posted. This motion is the key to transferring energy from your legs to your arm.

In the process of getting this down you'll realize you need a higher toss, different ball placement, etc... I'd focus on your shoulders and let the rest of it come together though.

Sublime
02-03-2009, 08:07 AM
Karlovic has the most efficient serve on tour in the sense that he can absolutely blast his serve up into the 140 range and still look as though he's loose as a goose all the while. This is key to a great serve as well, effortless power than won't take a toll on your body in the long run.

If I was 6'10" 230lbs my serve would look effortless too :)

To me it looks like he's leaving a lot of power on the table, but who am I to question the technique of a 140mph server :)

LeeD
02-03-2009, 08:57 AM
Everyone above has good tips...
I'd like to expound on the prep/trophy position.
You PUSH your swing thru, as opposed to SWINGING your racket thru the service motion.
Think of your trophy position as a slight hesitation, racket arm BACK, then explode up and forwards with the elbow leading the charge, the wrist last to come thru.
You seem to be trying to get the racket face thru too early, causing a slow moving swing and ball speed.
Think of leading your serve swing with your elbow ahead of the rest of the arm and racket. The elbow near the top of the stroke is the PIVOT point for the lower arm and racket to follow thru, getting the whiplash effect for a fast swing.

Homey
02-03-2009, 09:02 AM
I couldn't find anything concerning using a rope to simulate a swing.

Can you send me a link about this.

Would you say my toss is more about 12:00 instead of 2:00??

Thanks guys for all your help!!!!

LeeD
02-03-2009, 09:08 AM
My take on the rope...
Get a piece of rope maybe 4' long. Not thread, but rope like 1/2" diameter, smaller is OK, bigger is better up to 1" diameter.
Practice your serve motion with this rope. Let it dangle down to begin, but the swing should generate a higher pitched "WHOOSH" as you swing thru. That helps get the WHIP effect you need to a faster rackethead speed.

plumcrazy
02-03-2009, 09:56 AM
You look a little stiff. Try to loosen up. Get a little more leg bend and really loosen up your arm and wrist. Use your hitting arm like a whip. My serve starting getting better when I had more rotation in my shoulders,core and hips. I try to feel like my back is facing towards the net right before I jump and hit the ball. I feel the most important thing in a serve, atleast my serve, is my wrist snap. When I snap my wrist, it feels like I get 90% of serves in at a good pace. Focus on that wrist snap!!!!!!!!!!!!

Djokovicfan4life
02-03-2009, 09:57 AM
If I was 6'10" 230lbs my serve would look effortless too :)

To me it looks like he's leaving a lot of power on the table, but who am I to question the technique of a 140mph server :)

I know that you're kidding here, but I'll just say this anyway. There's a heck of a lot more to the guy's serve than pure height, believe me. The fact that he looks so relaxed is essentially the reason why he gets such serious pace using very little energy. Hence my reasoning for using him as an ideal server to model, rather than simply a tall, lanky doofus.

Matt

Sublime
02-03-2009, 09:58 AM
You PUSH your swing thru, as opposed to SWINGING your racket thru the service motion.

I agree! This is another huge shift from the eastern forehand to continental. Eastern is almost all your shoulder and arm, pushing the racket through contact. Continental is the legs, transferring to the shoulder, which initially drags the arm towards contact, then whips it at contact.

LeeD
02-03-2009, 10:02 AM
I hate to think of wrist snap.
Rather, a twisting pronation is a better term for the pivot between the arm and the rackethandle.
"wrist snap" for me, is something you do with an eastern forehand serve, meaning you use some active muscle, rather than a freeswinging pivot motion.

LeeD
02-03-2009, 10:04 AM
Legs...
Honestly, I don't use my legs at all on a serve. I'm 59 and 11.5 months, so my legs are shot like decades ago. Some spectators mentioned I barely leave the ground on a first serve.
But a 110 mph serve is within reason, as is a really high bouncing twist or topspin serve. Just gotta move into the service motion, twist, and use the whippy motion.
The alternative to decaying physical skills is.....

Sublime
02-03-2009, 10:11 AM
I know that you're kidding here, but I'll just say this anyway. There's a heck of a lot more to the guy's serve than pure height, believe me. The fact that he looks so relaxed is essentially the reason why he gets such serious pace using very little energy. Hence my reasoning for using him as an ideal server to model, rather than simply a tall, lanky doofus.

Matt

I'm actually not kidding... watching his serve in that clip made me think that he's using an EFH grip. Then I looked at this photo: http://www2.tennisserver.com/images/photofeed/2007/legg-mason/070804/Roddick-Karlovic/Legg.Mason-20070804-4410.jpg

I think he is. Being 6'10" he doesn't need nearly the spin that a 6'0" guy does. His contact point is over a foot higher than the 6 footer.

junbumkim
02-03-2009, 10:22 AM
It sort of reminds me of Roddick's serve. A little bit jerky. But the motion is pretty consistent, which is a good sign.

Your toss is pretty consistent so I don't know if I would advise you to change it. You can try other methods that other people suggested, but I prefer to work with what you have. And what you have is clearly NOT wrong since it does produce consistently correct result.

The toss is high enough, but I don't think you are timing your serve very well, that's why you are probably making the contact low.

Try to lean slightly more forward (more weight on your left leg), and push off your left leg into the court more. Incorporate more hip stretch as well.

W Cats
02-03-2009, 10:38 AM
Good comments on shoulders and toss from previouw posters.

However i'm going to go out on a limb and disagree with the need to delay of leg extension. To my eyes his leg extension is already too delayed for his current service motion. His contact point is reached well after his body is rising or at the peak for that matter. His contact is at a point in which his body is on it's way down. Therefore ground reaction force has been cancelled out and it's just gravity and some forward motion that makes any contribution to impacting the ball.

W Cats
02-03-2009, 10:41 AM
Good comments on shoulders and toss from previouw posters.

However i'm going to go out on a limb and disagree with the need to delay his leg extension and advocate extending sooner. To my eyes his leg extension is already too delayed for his current service motion. His contact point is reached well after his body is rising or at the peak for that matter. His contact is at a point in which his body is on it's way down. Therefore ground reaction force has been cancelled out and it's just gravity and some forward motion that makes any contribution to impacting the ball.

W Cats
02-03-2009, 11:05 AM
My Bad. Never mind about the term "ground force reaction". I don't think it applies here as he is not touching the ground. Duh.

I still think he should extend into the contact point rather than fall into it.

Homey
02-04-2009, 05:57 AM
Hey guys,

I had a practice match last night. I tried to implement just a FEW things at a time.

I really worked on a smooth TOSS of the ball. Not a THROW. That allowed my non racket hand to keep going up and to stay up.

I also worked on keeping my back more towards the target longer.

Let me tell you these two things make a marked improvement in my consistency. I was amazed at just those two things helped so much in such a short time.

It also helped my timing which allowed me to explode up into the ball.

I will keep implementing more changes, and practice, practice, practice.

Thanks again!!

Tomek_tennis
02-04-2009, 06:47 AM
Have you got a coach? In one lesson, good coach could show you proper mechanics of the serve and some exercises to hardwire them...
Few thing you can start doing now:
- toss witha straight arm
- push your front hip into the court, instead of going down so low (like Ivanisevich did)
- slow down your toss
- check some huge servers "trophy position" (I like Ivanicevish) and serve from this potion.
- work on getting into "trophy position" without actually serving.

yellowoctopus
02-04-2009, 10:50 AM
Have you got a coach? In one lesson, good coach could show you proper mechanics of the serve and some exercises to hardwire them...
Few thing you can start doing now:
- toss witha straight arm
- push your front hip into the court, instead of going down so low (like Ivanisevich did)
...

Finally, someone mention the hip. I just started reading throught this thread and found that a lot of people referred to the trophy pose but none have point out the hip part.

To the OP: Being able to push your 'hip into the court', as Tomek_tennis nicely described it, will give you the bow or arch in your body that, once it is uncoiled, will spring your upper body upward and into the court, resulting in a faster racquet head speed, which in turns will enable you to generate more pace and spin on your serve. This, to me, is the most significant improvement you can make in your service motion at the moment.