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View Full Version : Starting in backscratch position


lawrence
10-25-2009, 04:19 AM
This would look very awkward, but has anyone experimented with starting in a backscratch position before even tossing? I mean this as in, having your elbow raised up, and your hand with the racket hanging loose off that, just in a waiting position ready to swing.

I'd assume you'd lose a tiny bit of acceleration from the whole drop-from-the-L-position, but for beginners who arm the ball and don't have the basics down couldn't this be an interesting way to teach them?

It's kind of like how Will from FYB demonstrates the topspin serve, he strips out all the beginning of the serve just to show how your arm should be when it's ready to strike etc.

tennis_pr0
10-25-2009, 06:18 AM
This is not a way to ever teach a beginner the serve. Starting from the back scratch position will do nothing other than confuse the heck out of you. The serve comes in steps (progressions), and one thing will naturally lead to another. The "back scratch" is a very confusing concept, and I don't think Will elaborates enough on it. The back scratch is never something you are suppose to think about when serving - it will come naturally if your form is correct throughout your serve. Also, "back scratch" is not actually a back scratch, some people get the idea in their heads that the racquet is actually suppose to touch their backs, this is not true. The racquet is simply suppose to drop behind their body.

My suggestion to you is to learn the basics of the serve - ready position, down together up together motion, trophy pose, weight transfer, follow through, etc, and I guarantee you if you video tape yourself serving, you will see the racquet drop behind your head. Like I said, it comes naturally with good form and is not something you should consciously be thinking about when serving. Also, the reason Will demonstrates this with his kick serve analysis is because he wants his students to know what it feels like swinging up high on the ball to create topspin, but I don't think he would ever use this demonstraton when just explaining the serve. If you watch his 7 steps to the serve, try to just forget about the part where he talks about the back scratch.

mtommer
10-25-2009, 10:32 AM
This is not a way to ever teach a beginner the serve.

I've known many people who learned this way. It's not about learning racquet drop. It's about learning swing timing to the ball and getting used to hitting a ball from a typical serve type position. There are so many steps in a serve that you don't want a beginner "thinking" about their serve. You just want them to serve. As they progress, they'll get better.

goober
10-25-2009, 11:15 AM
This would look very awkward, but has anyone experimented with starting in a backscratch position before even tossing? I mean this as in, having your elbow raised up, and your hand with the racket hanging loose off that, just in a waiting position ready to swing.

I'd assume you'd lose a tiny bit of acceleration from the whole drop-from-the-L-position, but for beginners who arm the ball and don't have the basics down couldn't this be an interesting way to teach them?

It's kind of like how Will from FYB demonstrates the topspin serve, he strips out all the beginning of the serve just to show how your arm should be when it's ready to strike etc.

Jay Berger reached top 10 with a serve that started out in the backscratch position.

Only vid I could find of him after a quick search. Watch the first 5 seconds.

http://www.ina.fr/sport/tennis/video/I05307271/tournoi-de-roland-garros-jouons-sous-la-pluie.fr.html

GuyClinch
10-25-2009, 01:52 PM
Its an awkward way to learn. Try throwing a ball from that position and it feels weird.

xFullCourtTenniSx
10-25-2009, 02:03 PM
This would look very awkward, but has anyone experimented with starting in a backscratch position before even tossing? I mean this as in, having your elbow raised up, and your hand with the racket hanging loose off that, just in a waiting position ready to swing.

I'd assume you'd lose a tiny bit of acceleration from the whole drop-from-the-L-position, but for beginners who arm the ball and don't have the basics down couldn't this be an interesting way to teach them?

It's kind of like how Will from FYB demonstrates the topspin serve, he strips out all the beginning of the serve just to show how your arm should be when it's ready to strike etc.

You have no idea how much I hate dealing with people who do this for their serve, especially once it's stuck in there! Oh God... It's terrible.

I have a friend who does this, and his service speed maxes out at around the 90s. Granted he doesn't have that much racket head acceleration to begin with, but this technique definitely isn't helping.

People who do this don't get a feeling of how to drop the racket and swing up in one smooth motion. It's not just a little acceleration, it's a LOT.

And people teach this to beginners and leave them like that, which is totally wrong! If you're going to do that, then just teach them to swing into the ball from the trophy position! It's not even remotely hard. Just have them toss, get into the trophy position, then swing at the ball.

luthertn
10-25-2009, 02:35 PM
I saw a USTA tennis player have that serve. Usually i think its weird to have that pre for a serve but this guy i saw a walnut creek country club playing in the "future tennis player "something like that ..I drop my mouth open..that guy mad it look soo good , I believe his serve was in the 100mph but the other thing made him good was he was 2hand forehand and 2 handback hand...i was watching his match the whole time he played ...it was AMAZING

SystemicAnomaly
10-25-2009, 11:18 PM
Its an awkward way to learn. Try throwing a ball from that position and it feels weird.

Throwing a ball would not apply unless you are trying to throw that ball nearly straight upward (75-90 degrees) rather than throwing a ball at 30 to 45 degrees. Try throwing (used or old) racquets instead. If you throw the racquet at a 30-45 degrees, you will not get much of a racquet head drop.

However, if the racquet is thrown upward at a much steeper angle (75-90 degrees), a suitable racquet drop if usually achieved. This says a lot about the difference between throwing a ball and throwing a racquet up to contact the ball for a tennis serve.


This is not a way to ever teach a beginner the serve...

I've had a considerable amount of success teaching a progressive serve sequence starting out with the "racquet drop" or "scratch" serve. (I prefer to refer to this as a "shoulder scratch" serve or scratch serve rather than a "back scratch" serve). When players attempt to "scratch the back", they tend to position the elbow too high. When starting from the scratch position, the serving elbow should be even with, or slightly lower than, the rear shoulder.

When learning the "scratch" serve, the ball toss should not be too low. I suggest tossing the ball a bit higher than the server can reach with their extended arm + racquet. This way, when other elements are added to the service motion, the toss will be high enough to accommodate these other elements.

While learning the "scratch" serve, I will also have the student performing shadow serves starting from the racquet in a "trophy position". When performing these practice serves, the student must achieve a decent racquet drop. Once the "scratch" serve is mastered", we move on to an actual "trophy serve " -- the arm + racquet starts in the trophy position prior to tossing the ball. If the student does not get a proper racquet head drop with the "trophy serve", we will go back and do more shadow serves (no actual ball toss). In some cases, we may even got back to the "scratch" serve for a short time.

Once the trophy serve is mastered (with a good racquet drop), other elements can be added. This can include some sort of racquet prep (takeback) motion or more knee bend. Lately, I've been encouraging students to try an abbreviated racquet prep or a hybrid racquet prep rather than a full classic (Sampras-like) motion. With the latter, students tend to rush the motion in an effort to quickly get to the trophy or scratch position. Another problem is that players will have hitches in the motion than can take a long to correct. With the abbreviated or hybrid motions, the learning curve is usually much quicker for most students.

Before I started using the progressive approach described above, players would struggle for quite a long time with hitches in the motion or an inadequate racquet head drop. Some players would take months (or never) develop a decent racquet head drop if they tried to learn the serve with all the elements presented at the beginning.

SystemicAnomaly
10-26-2009, 02:50 AM
There is one important step I teach before the scratch position serve -- and that is the ball toss. The ball toss instruction involves learning a proper serving stance as well as several other elements. A proper toss height is stressed. The arm must extend upward so that the hand follows the ball after the ball release -- it extends so that tossing arm goes vertical and stays there (long enough to catch the ball). Weight shift, shoulder tilt, torso rotation and a slight-to-moderate knee bend are also part of the toss instruction. I'll also encourage a hip push forward so that the archer's bow is achieved.

For novices, I'll spend part of 1 or 2 sessions developing a fairly consistent toss before attempting the "scratch" serve. By having the student "catch" the toss with a fully extended arm, they'll have a decent toss that they can use for a 2nd serve. I do not allow novices or intermediates to serve with a FH grip. They must use a continental or semi-continental and develop consistent spin (2nd) serve before ever working on a flat serve. I've had a very high success rate teaching this progression that starts with the toss and the "scratch" serve.

gzhpcu
10-26-2009, 03:43 AM
Jay Berger reached top 10 with a serve that started out in the backscratch position.

Only vid I could find of him after a quick search. Watch the first 5 seconds.

http://www.ina.fr/sport/tennis/video/I05307271/tournoi-de-roland-garros-jouons-sous-la-pluie.fr.html

Weird about Jay Berger, is that he starts in the backscratch postion, but then goes to the trophy position and then back to the backscratch position. So it is not really starting in the backscratch position...

LeeD
10-26-2009, 08:44 AM
C'mon guys....
For years, JuanIgnacioChela, ranked in the top 20 in Men'sPro like 5 years ago, did that on every serve. He was coming off injury, but still, could serve easily over 120mph on the first serve.
Now he changed back to normal, and his serve is maybe 125.
You do what it takes to figure out the conti grip pronation and swing. Some people DON'T need to start like this, as they naturally adapt to the pronation. Some people don't get it, and need it broken down into the simple most form.
DEPENDS on who's doing the hitting.

SystemicAnomaly
10-26-2009, 12:16 PM
Except for the toss, everything prior to the trophy isn't of earth-shattering importance. It is more a matter of personal preference. That is why we see all sorts of variations on 3 or so different basic racquet takebacks. Even the portion of the serve from the trophy to the scratch position is not as important as developing a good racquet drop and the upward swing from that scratch position.

Bungalo Bill
10-26-2009, 06:59 PM
This would look very awkward, but has anyone experimented with starting in a backscratch position before even tossing? I mean this as in, having your elbow raised up, and your hand with the racket hanging loose off that, just in a waiting position ready to swing.

I'd assume you'd lose a tiny bit of acceleration from the whole drop-from-the-L-position, but for beginners who arm the ball and don't have the basics down couldn't this be an interesting way to teach them?

It's kind of like how Will from FYB demonstrates the topspin serve, he strips out all the beginning of the serve just to show how your arm should be when it's ready to strike etc.

It is one of the practice drills for beginners learning to hit a serve in a Continental grip.

The serve motion should be a continuous motion that allows the arm to use this energy flowing through the body from the gorund so it can accelerate. The less you use the kinetic energy that is capable, the more you have to use muscle or force to get the racquet going as quickly.

The serve motion should be thought of in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.