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View Full Version : A Question for Experienced Tennis Instructors


Puma
02-10-2009, 11:16 AM
I have been wondering for sometime why in the tennis world there seems to be no one who is recognized as a "Tennis Serve" guru or teacher.

The reason I ask this is in golf, in the last say 25 years with the advancement of technology, there have been a handfull of instructors who have done quite well teaching "technique" in golf. If you watch golf today, generally speaking, most all of the guys swings are very similar. Why? Because of the learing curve of what and how power, control and consistency was developed. This was learned by the use of high speed cameras, examining what was going on in the swing and learning this and then teaching it.

Why isn't this going on in tennis. Look at Sampras serve. How much better can a serve get? Why is he for the most part not "the" model most young students try to copy. I know physique properties that one must have. But, still I would think one would want to copy his motion.

I know in golf it is quite well known that a persons body should be in a certian position at a certain point in the swing. We know ideal impact position and we know how to get there from the top. And we know how to get to a postion in the top to get to a position going down. Why is this not so in Tennis?

Puma
02-10-2009, 11:23 AM
At least here on the boards guys are still arguing about what grip to use for a serve. However, there is little discussion on the benifits of a deep racket drop and how to develope this. And it seems that for juniors, what ever you teach in the beginning should enhance their chances of having a deep racket drop. But, look on the tennis tour these days. Look at the top ten. There are several different approaches to serving, platform vs. pinpoint, body angle toward the court, ball toss height, racket arm motion and placment, and the list goes on.

These subtle "style" difference use to be prevelent on the golf tour as well. But as time goes on, more and more golfers seem to be adopting very similar styles whereas to the novice golf veiwer they all look quite the same.

But tennis on the other hand, there seem to be many different styles or approaches to the service motion.

Any one care to comment on any of this?

CoachingMastery
02-10-2009, 12:05 PM
I believe that many know how to teach the serve effectively. Hence the serve is a weapon for most skilled players who took lessons.

However, I would argue that there are "Serve Gremlins" who THINK they know how to teach the serve and fail miserably with most students. The problem with recreational players is that they often think it is their own fault, not the fault of the instructor, if they can't get their serve to be a weapon.

There are actually a number of pros that I know who teach the serve in such a way that prevents students from learning:

1. they teach eastern forehand grips
2. they teach a low toss or too high of a toss
3. they use obscure examples of people who were more the exeception than the rule in terms of serving well
4. they teach stepping in with the back leg during the swing

All of these tend to contribute to poor swing patterns.

junbumkim
02-10-2009, 12:10 PM
I have been wondering for sometime why in the tennis world there seems to be no one who is recognized as a "Tennis Serve" guru or teacher.

The reason I ask this is in golf, in the last say 25 years with the advancement of technology, there have been a handfull of instructors who have done quite well teaching "technique" in golf. If you watch golf today, generally speaking, most all of the guys swings are very similar. Why? Because of the learing curve of what and how power, control and consistency was developed. This was learned by the use of high speed cameras, examining what was going on in the swing and learning this and then teaching it.

Why isn't this going on in tennis. Look at Sampras serve. How much better can a serve get? Why is he for the most part not "the" model most young students try to copy. I know physique properties that one must have. But, still I would think one would want to copy his motion.

I know in golf it is quite well known that a persons body should be in a certian position at a certain point in the swing. We know ideal impact position and we know how to get there from the top. And we know how to get to a postion in the top to get to a position going down. Why is this not so in Tennis?

The last paragraph in your post says it all. Even in tennis, racket has to be a certain position at a certain time, which is very important. Players find out motions that allow them to get into this positions and stick with them.

I am not too familiar with the golf, but I am sure there are variations in how they swing in terms of who transfers their weight more effectively and who swings the club much faster and so on.

Puma
02-10-2009, 12:25 PM
I guess I am not implying that there is no one who can teach good technique. I realize that is not the case.

I guess what i am asking is, in golf the many variances in swing styles are beginning to disapear. No longer are there players like Trevino with his unique style. Or like Couples with is very upright swing plane and extreme grip that produced a cut or fade. We see fewer and fewer really fast motions like Nick Price. All these funny swing nuances seem to be going away in golf. I think it has to do with golf instruction.

In tennis we see many different variations of the serve motion. I am not saying that they are not effective. It just seems that there might be an optimum motion or something like that.

junbumkim
02-10-2009, 12:46 PM
The same trend is in tennis was well.

You see a lot of variations within motions and styles, but we don't see extreme techinques as much.

We rarely see someone with Jim Courier's backhand or with extreme western grip like Thomas Muster. Also, we don't see a player hitting forehands like Stefan Edberg or John McEnroe.

aimr75
02-10-2009, 12:51 PM
I guess what i am asking is, in golf the many variances in swing styles are beginning to disapear. No longer are there players like Trevino with his unique style. Or like Couples with is very upright swing plane and extreme grip that produced a cut or fade. We see fewer and fewer really fast motions like Nick Price. All these funny swing nuances seem to be going away in golf. I think it has to do with golf instruction.

There is however the Stack And Tilt golf swing which is a very different way of hitting the ball.. Aaron Baddeley uses it. But yeah, overall, the style of swings are looking more similar.. there will always be slight variations, but the thing that is and has always been consistent among top golfers is the position at contact point

LeeD
02-10-2009, 02:20 PM
Simple explanation... besides I once played low 90's golf...
In golf, the ball is not moving, and you get to place it as low or high as you want.
In tennis, you have to live with your tennis ball toss, so you bring in a whole slew of variables in timing, placement, heights, and location. Those 4 things change the whole equation.

Puma
02-10-2009, 04:08 PM
There is however the Stack And Tilt golf swing which is a very different way of hitting the ball.. Aaron Baddeley uses it. But yeah, overall, the style of swings are looking more similar.. there will always be slight variations, but the thing that is and has always been consistent among top golfers is the position at contact point

True for sure....

LeeD, What you describe has no bearing on what I am talking about. In golf, you do get to tee, but you play it as it lies after that. In either golf or tennis you would teach a technique assuming good ball position whether it be on a tee or the results of a proper toss location. Bad tosses and bad lies really dont come into play with a teaching strategy.

LeeD
02-10-2009, 04:13 PM
"bad tosses and ....."
Do you even PLAY tennis?
You are all theory, no practical application.
Try looking at vids of EVERY top 50 pro. You will see at least 25 completely different styles, preps, toss's, swings, and stances.
You know that, hence this thread.
Don't discount what I say, because I play tennis.

Uthree
02-11-2009, 04:00 AM
True for sure....

LeeD, What you describe has no bearing on what I am talking about. In golf, you do get to tee, but you play it as it lies after that. In either golf or tennis you would teach a technique assuming good ball position whether it be on a tee or the results of a proper toss location. Bad tosses and bad lies really dont come into play with a teaching strategy.

Puma, I don't think your question has been answered satisfactorily yet. I'm not sure why.

Moz
02-11-2009, 04:06 AM
In my experience most coaches cannot teach the serve properly. Most seem to lack the vision and conviction to be definitive about what they want to see. For too long they have been making money giving people vague pointers and then latching on to one of these pointers when they coincide with a good serve.

In fact, most coaches seem to just go through the motions of coaching during a session.

It seems to me that of all the strokes the serve is the one that would benefit most from video analysis. It amazes me that so many coaches don't integrate video into their coaching more.

Puma
02-11-2009, 05:03 AM
"bad tosses and ....."
Do you even PLAY tennis?
You are all theory, no practical application.
Try looking at vids of EVERY top 50 pro. You will see at least 25 completely different styles, preps, toss's, swings, and stances.
You know that, hence this thread.
Don't discount what I say, because I play tennis.

Yes I do play tennis...

You have no idea if I am all theory or practical application, you have no way of knowing this.

Yes, there are many variances with even the top 50 pro tennis players, hence this thread.

I didn't discount what you said because you play tennis, I discount what you said because a bad toss or a bad lie is not something that defines a technique that is considered a standard for either sport. Thus, a bad toss or either a bad lie is not a simple explanation, sorry.

Nellie
02-11-2009, 05:43 AM
I have a couple of thoughts:

1) "ideal" tennis technique often depend on a person's physiology. For example, a taller player can hit more downward at serves and still clear the net, whereas a shorter player need to hit the ball up and over the net.

I am not an expert in golf, but it seems to be that a taller player, like Tiger, would have a different swing path from shorter players.

2) Tennis is played on different surfaces, so different techniques are often advantegeous depending on the particular surface. Note, for example, that Nadal changed his forehand to use less topspin on hardcourts. However, as grass slows/become increasingly less common, I see less differences. Essentially, everyone is becoming a powerbaseliner.

In some ways, I find golf to be similar in that players that hit a lower drive tend to do better on windy courses.

3) At the same time, I do think that much of tennis technique is becoming uniform. For example, if you look at the serves of Sampras and Roddick, they look about as different as can be. However, much of the difference is in the preparation. If you look at period between the racquet going back and contact, their serves are remarkably similar. I think that if you look at most pros, with the exceptions of a few outliers, their techniques are very similar. I think that with the growth of video training, you are having kids trained from a young age with similar strokes. In my opinion, that's why many of the younger male players, even shorter ones, like Gasquet at 5'11", can hit 135+MPH on their serves.

4). I think that you cannot no longer look at players and recognize where they are from. There was a time when coaching varied by country/area. For example, Austrailians had a certain game. Now, you look at a guy like Djokovich, and he hits strokes like Agassi.

Tomek_tennis
02-11-2009, 05:56 AM
I think, that there are such people:
- great technical server: Ivanisevich
- good video and coach: Nick Bollettieri - Sonic serve
- biomechanics of tennis serve: Daria Kopsic
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsMLFFfrhDI

What abour "regular" coaches. Well, I had few of them. But I have never thrown a ball (rugby or any other) during serve practice. I never worked on furthering shoulder rotation or hip action. Techniclly I got to 160-170km/h and that's where it stopped. With proper tools I could get to that number earlier and get past it. Now, I use modern tools that teach proper biomechanics first. But what do other coaches do? Guess....

CoachingMastery
02-11-2009, 05:57 AM
While we can all identify differences in the stroke "personality" as well as situational and surface needs for a different swing, every pro swings within a general foundation that is far different than what we see among the diversity within the typical recreational/club player.

The fact is, you can teach exactly the same swing dynamics to 1000 players and no two players will play exactly alike. Players develop idiosyncracies and personality traits within their foundation which usually contribute to the player's foundation as it fits within their perception of strength and flavor.

However if you let those same 1000 players learn the game within the context of "what feels comfortable, familiar and natural" you will end up with 1000 players who each have a different playing foundation and subsequently be subject to having to change this flawed foundation at some point because they discover that while they learned to "get the ball in the court" with some 'natural-feeling' technique, they discover that those methods fail to allow for more effective shot making and skilled play becomes impossible.

No different than people who learn to do anything skillfully: there is a foundation that anyone who knows the sport well can recognize and is taught. Tennis is about the only sport that promotes patterns that ARE NOT recognized as "skilled" just so that the student either "experiences some level of success" (no matter how rudementary that success may be), and so that they can "play tennis" fast (no matter how simpleton that play may be considered.)

Puma
02-11-2009, 06:59 AM
I have a couple of thoughts:

1) "ideal" tennis technique often depend on a person's physiology. For example, a taller player can hit more downward at serves and still clear the net, whereas a shorter player need to hit the ball up and over the net.

I am not an expert in golf, but it seems to be that a taller player, like Tiger, would have a different swing path from shorter players.

2) Tennis is played on different surfaces, so different techniques are often advantegeous depending on the particular surface. Note, for example, that Nadal changed his forehand to use less topspin on hardcourts. However, as grass slows/become increasingly less common, I see less differences. Essentially, everyone is becoming a powerbaseliner.

In some ways, I find golf to be similar in that players that hit a lower drive tend to do better on windy courses.

3) At the same time, I do think that much of tennis technique is becoming uniform. For example, if you look at the serves of Sampras and Roddick, they look about as different as can be. However, much of the difference is in the preparation. If you look at period between the racquet going back and contact, their serves are remarkably similar. I think that if you look at most pros, with the exceptions of a few outliers, their techniques are very similar. I think that with the growth of video training, you are having kids trained from a young age with similar strokes. In my opinion, that's why many of the younger male players, even shorter ones, like Gasquet at 5'11", can hit 135+MPH on their serves.

4). I think that you cannot no longer look at players and recognize where they are from. There was a time when coaching varied by country/area. For example, Austrailians had a certain game. Now, you look at a guy like Djokovich, and he hits strokes like Agassi.

Good stuff....So I gather that indeed the techniques we see in tennis are becoming more uniform. You made a good point here. Many of the spanish players are performing quite well on hard courts now even with the exclusion of the exeptional Nadal.

Uthree
02-11-2009, 01:54 PM
The best players normally have the best techniques. Like Rafa & Federer would have to have better shots than lower ranked players. So I think many of the variations in technique are deficiencies.

Maybe golf has less variations because there is one basic swing whereas in tennis there are so many different shots you can have one weaker shot and get away with it.

Also players can cover one deficiency in a shot if the rest of the technique is good. Like the Samprass serve where the feet position is not ideal but still has a great serve. I would prefer the Ivanisovic serve feet position. So I wouldn't use only Samprass as the model. If you want a model you could use a composite of the of the better servers.

Puma
02-11-2009, 04:28 PM
The best players normally have the best techniques. Like Rafa & Federer would have to have better shots than lower ranked players. So I think many of the variations in technique are deficiencies.

Maybe golf has less variations because there is one basic swing whereas in tennis there are so many different shots you can have one weaker shot and get away with it.

Also players can cover one deficiency in a shot if the rest of the technique is good. Like the Samprass serve where the feet position is not ideal but still has a great serve. I would prefer the Ivanisovic serve feet position. So I wouldn't use only Samprass as the model. If you want a model you could use a composite of the of the better servers.

Could you explain what you mean by Sampras' feet position? Cuz I don't know.

junbumkim
02-11-2009, 06:23 PM
Could you explain what you mean by Sampras' feet position? Cuz I don't know.

There really is nothing wrong with Sampras' feet position. A lot of players have their feet pararllel to the baseline.

Feet positions, how they take their racket back, and so on, these are all different variations of style. What is important is that important elements of techniques are present in these different styles.

Roddick has probably one of the ugliest serve motions, but it is techniquely sound and is highly effective. His backhand is simply, not very pretty, but is not so strong probably due to some technical flaw in the swing.

Uthree
02-12-2009, 02:32 AM
Could you explain what you mean by Sampras' feet position? Cuz I don't know.

I like the concepts of models and if there was to be a model I would say a stance that is more open than than the Sampras serve is most effective. Yes, not easy to justify in a few words and my friends think it is a bit wacko, however over time tennis theory has evolved closer to a model type theory. I don't know if that means anything.

Puma
02-12-2009, 06:03 AM
I like the concepts of models and if there was to be a model I would say a stance that is more open than than the Sampras serve is most effective. Yes, not easy to justify in a few words and my friends think it is a bit wacko, however over time tennis theory has evolved closer to a model type theory. I don't know if that means anything.

Yeah it does...Thanks

LeeD
02-12-2009, 07:57 AM
More open than Sampras's ???
I find the closed stance, not including McEnroe's completely closed service stance, the best for providing lots of spin in addition to pace.
TonyRoche used to have open stances, lefty, big serve, but big stiff guy.
He's about the only good serving pro with a straight or open stance.
I watch the top 50, look at their stances, and decide about 45 degrees CLOSED is the best overall for all situations for most players.

troytennisbum
02-12-2009, 09:40 AM
The best players normally have the best techniques. Like Rafa & Federer would have to have better shots than lower ranked players. So I think many of the variations in technique are deficiencies.


That's not completely true.
Many of these top tier pros don't necessarily have "better technique" then lesser ranked pros or even some collegiate players. Rather, many of these top tier pros are simply born with greater physical/neurological gifts that cannot be learned.

For instance, one of the reasons why Rafa is so tough is because he is blessed with incredible speed and has amazing court coverage. This is not a special "technique" that he is using...it is simply a physical gift that he has been blessed with.

I think many pros and collegians nowdays use very similar, fundamental techniques in their strokes. Hence, the different degrees of success they have is not due to "variations in technique". Rather, the best pros like Rafa and Fed. enjoy more success simply because they have more natural born talent then everyone else.

EOM.

Uthree
02-12-2009, 01:14 PM
From my own logic & optimism I would like think the best players have better technique and it is not just their greater gifts.
Maybe you have seen reseach on top pros compared to college players?

troytennisbum
02-13-2009, 08:16 AM
From my own logic & optimism I would like think the best players have better technique and it is not just their greater gifts.
Maybe you have seen reseach on top pros compared to college players?


Well first off, I would never say that ANY elite athlete in any sport is the best "just" because of "their greater gifts." Obviously hard work, determination, and proper training are always essential for any of these guys to succeed.

However,
in a sport like basketball, there is no denying that guys like Kobe and M.J. can do things on the court that cannot be learned. Tennis is no different. Fed. and Rafa. can do things on the court that simply cannot be learned.

I suppose the "research" I have seen would simply be this. In any sport if you take, say 1000 atheletes and give them the exact same training, techiniques, instruction, motivation, etc, etc. there will always be one or two guys who can simply do it better then everyone else. It's not because they employ some "special technique", it's simply because they have more talent.

In tennis these days, many, many professional players (and even some top tier collegiate players) go through the exact same tennis academies/systems, are taught the same techniques by the same coaches, employ the same training methods, etc. etc. Hence, "variation in talent" plays a larger role than "variation in technique" in explaining their different degrees of success.

I don't mean to burst your optimism. However, I cannot deny the obvious that life is not fair. Some people will always be better at somethings than others no matter what.

EOM.

zapvor
02-13-2009, 09:34 AM
I guess I am not implying that there is no one who can teach good technique. I realize that is not the case.

I guess what i am asking is, in golf the many variances in swing styles are beginning to disapear. No longer are there players like Trevino with his unique style. Or like Couples with is very upright swing plane and extreme grip that produced a cut or fade. We see fewer and fewer really fast motions like Nick Price. All these funny swing nuances seem to be going away in golf. I think it has to do with golf instruction.

In tennis we see many different variations of the serve motion. I am not saying that they are not effective. It just seems that there might be an optimum motion or something like that.

thats what makes it fun. the idea of serve is to get it in the box. there are many ways to do that. its personal style. to copy sampras is nice, but why? it may not even be possible. besdies it would become boring if evryone had teh same serve.