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sstchur
10-30-2009, 10:31 AM
My service motion is alright. I'm one of those people who everyone "thinks" has a great serve when they watch me warm up, b/c my form is good and I look like I know what I'm doing.

And without "tooting my own horn" too much (b/c I have plenty to say about my inability to server well also), I think it's fair to say that my service motion is quite good (technically). During a private lesson with one of the club pros, I was even told "Service motion looks great. Sky is the limit for your serve with a bit of practice."

But that was a year ago, and I haven't reached the sky. There are several problems, not the least of which is that I have about 5 very minor variation on my motion (be it toss, or knee bend, or stance, or what have you). I tend to try out little variations when one thing isn't working well. I suspect this is not helping my consistency at all.

But what I really wanted to ask the forums and see if anyone had any advice, was about pinpoint vs platform when serving.

I have always done pinpoint for absolutely no reason at all, other than that it happens naturally, without thinking about it. I've tried a few times (but never really committed) to do the platform stance, but never felt super comfortable.

I wonder though, if I should give it a real shot? It seems like platform encourages more knee bend and more back bend (b/c without that, I cannot seem to keep my balance with the platform stance).

With pinpoint, I hardly need to bend my knees at all and I can still maintain my balance.

Whenever I try platform, in order to keep my throwing shoulder up and my arm extended, I have to bend my knees and arch my back so much that my back is /almost/ towards the net. If I don't do this, I can't really keep my shoulder up and maintain my balance. I don't know if this is normal or not.

Pinpoint seems to really help me maintain balance throughout the motion, but I've heard a lot of people say that the pinpoint stance is just unnecessary motion that gets in the way of the serve.

I'm not a very tall guy, and I hit a hard flat first serve (which is not a high percentage combination I know). So I think I need to figure something out which is going to really contribute to my consistency.

Any suggestions welcome. And I'd be specifically interested to hear from those of you who favor platform over pinpoint (or vice versa) and your reasons why.

volusiano
10-30-2009, 11:30 AM
It's interesting when you say you can't keep your balance with the platform stance, because your feet are further apart in the platform stance compare to pinpoint. You must be doing something wrong with the platform stance in this case.

If you find that pinpoint stance works better for you, I'd just stick with it because you're supposed to be able to jump up to the ball more easily with it to give it more pace. That's the main reason why pinpoint stance servers chose this stance, at the expense of a little more complicated timing. But if this complication is not an issue for you and in fact more natural, then I don't see why you need to switch to pf.

sstchur
10-30-2009, 02:19 PM
It's interesting when you say you can't keep your balance with the platform stance, because your feet are further apart in the platform stance compare to pinpoint. You must be doing something wrong with the platform stance in this case.

If you find that pinpoint stance works better for you, I'd just stick with it because you're supposed to be able to jump up to the ball more easily with it to give it more pace. That's the main reason why pinpoint stance servers chose this stance, at the expense of a little more complicated timing. But if this complication is not an issue for you and in fact more natural, then I don't see why you need to switch to pf.

Yeah, I don't know what it is. With platform, I can't really remain "upright" (if that makes any sense). I can't remain "tall", I'm like, falling forward or to the side or something, which I why I say that it promotes knee and back bend (as that helps me maintain balance). To some degree, it also promotes my propelling myself into the court, which I guess is a good thing, but it all feels so awkward that I've never been able to develop any consistency in hitting that way.

Another question: is it generally considered best practice to keep your throwing arm totally straight when tossing the ball? I think I tend not to do this, but I have my arm a little bent. Perhaps it contributes to some inconsistency in my tossing.

tricky
10-30-2009, 02:25 PM
Another question: is it generally considered best practice to keep your throwing arm totally straight when tossing the ball?Yes, but the way to do that is to let the tossing arm drop before raising it. This helps with the windup as well. If you find yourself needing to toss with a bent arm, then you have a balance issue, which affects the whole serve. Which goes to the main topic of this post . . .

One guiding principle with service mechanics is balance. Your center of gravity should be in front of you during the toss and the windup. That is, your weight should start moving toward the court as soon as you initiate the toss, and it should continue moving forward as you complete the windup. The above is what facilitates your kinetic chain. Not just in terms of power, but keeping your toss and your windup connected with each other. In other words, balance is key for consistency in both serve form and result

Most people lose their balance at some point in the toss (and thus the windup.) Some people, before they toss the ball, their weight is already well on their front foot. (Common mistake, esp. with people learning pinpoint style.) As a result, they start to rock backwards as they begin the toss. Other people, as they release the ball lean backwards as a counterbalance for their tossing arm. This breaks the kinetic chain and at least temporarily their serve is out of sync.

The advantage with the pinpoint serve is that the shifting of the back foot will always right your balance and move your weight into the court. Even if you have incorrect balance earlier in the serve, you usually can recover by the time you're ready to hit the ball. Even if you have a hitch, you can still have a pretty good serve. However, the hitch is still there, and so the toss and windup will always be slightly or greatly out of sync. This leads to some inconsistency in your form, foot faults, and a ceiling put on your pace, spin, and placement.

The disavantage with the platform stance is also a significant advantage. If you have that hitch, you'll know by the way you land. Then you can work on fixing that. However, in your case, because you already have a good pinpoint serve, you may want to continue working on that.

Below is a checklist for balance. It's more applicable to platform serves, but you can use it with pinpoint as well.


1) Do you feel your lower back straining or "compressed" in your windup?
2) Do you feel your weight shift to your back foot at any point in the toss or windup? How about when the ball is at its highest point?
3) Does your trunk open up before the racquet drop?
4) Do you feel like you self-consciously "create" a trophy pose? Do you lift the forearm into the trophy pose?
5) Do you "pause" at any part of your windup or takeback?
6) Do you feel like you have to self-consciously rotate your forearm for the racquet to hit the ball?
7) Do your hips move closer to the net?
When you land, does your front foot land into the court?
9) When you land, does your right foot kick up?
10) When you land, is your right foot almost square with the net and not pointing at the right side fence?
11) When you land, is your trunk bending to the left?

Generally, if you say "yes" to any of questions 1-6 or "no" to questions 7-11, there is probably a balance issue.

sstchur
10-30-2009, 02:34 PM
Yes, but the way to do that is to let the tossing arm drop before raising it. This helps with the windup as well. If you find yourself needing to toss with a bent arm, then you have a balance issue, which affects the whole serve. Which goes to the main topic of this post . . .

One guiding principle with service mechanics is balance. Your center of gravity should be in front of you during the toss and the windup. That is, your weight should start moving toward the court as soon as you initiate the toss, and it should continue moving forward as you complete the windup. The above is what facilitates your kinetic chain. Not just in terms of power, but keeping your toss and your windup connected with each other. In other words, balance is key for consistency in both serve form and result

Most people lose their balance at some point in the toss (and thus the windup.) Some people, before they toss the ball, their weight is already well on their front foot. (Common mistake, esp. with people learning pinpoint style.) As a result, they start to rock backwards as they begin the toss. Other people, as they release the ball lean backwards as a counterbalance for their tossing arm. This breaks the kinetic chain and at least temporarily their serve is out of sync.

The advantage with the pinpoint serve is that the shifting of the back foot will always right your balance and move your weight into the court. Even if you have incorrect balance earlier in the serve, you usually can recover by the time you're ready to hit the ball. Even if you have a hitch, you can still have a pretty good serve. However, the hitch is still there, and so the toss and windup will always be slightly or greatly out of sync. This leads to some inconsistency in your form, foot faults, and a ceiling put on your pace, spin, and placement.

The disavantage with the platform stance is also a significant advantage. If you have that hitch, you'll know by the way you land. Then you can work on fixing that. However, in your case, because you already have a good pinpoint serve, you may want to continue working on that.

Below is a checklist for balance. It's more applicable to platform serves, but you can use it with pinpoint as well.

Thanks! This is very helpful. One thing that definitely jumps out at me from your comments is the "start to rock backwards as they begin the toss." I think I do this.

I generally start with my right toe pointed towards the net post and most of my weight on that foot. I'm slightly bent forward at this stage. I begin to toss and can feel that most of my weight is in my front leg (quad) as my serving arm loops down and then up (with my racquet head pointed towards the sky). At that point (ideally), the ball is in the air and I'm bending/coiling in preparation to launch myself up and get the ball at its highest point.

As I write this, I realize it's quite difficult to describe one's service motion. I should really take a video of it as some point.

tricky
10-30-2009, 02:52 PM
I generally start with my right toe pointed towards the net post and most of my weight on that foot. I'm slightly bent forward at this stage.

Is the weight on the heel or balls of your right foot? If it's on the heel, then I might know where your hitch is coming from.

sstchur
10-30-2009, 03:01 PM
Is the weight on the heel or balls of your right foot? If it's on the heel, then I might know where your hitch is coming from.

Well, initially, my weight is on the ball of my foot. But at that point, I am sort of bent forward at the waist (just a little) with my arms generally limp and relaxed hanging down in front of me. As I get ready to serve, my weight shifts almost completely to my back leg, my arms come down slightly and then up (my front foot sort of rocks back on the heal) and I being to toss and my racquet arm loops around and then up.

tricky
10-30-2009, 03:13 PM
As I get ready to serve, my weight shifts almost completely to my back leg, my arms come down slightly and then up (my front foot sort of rocks back on the heal) and I being to toss and my racquet arm loops around and then up.

Oh okay. Yeah, that's the hitch I was looking for.

What happens is that, in your windup, your trunk starts to fall backwards (creating a pronounced trunk lean.) This leads to your hips jutting out a little to act as a counterbalance. Initially, you may notice that your front knee is straining a little. Then, as you shift your back foot forwards, this starts to gets corrected. Your windup may have a pretty strong backwards lean, but not a lot of knee bend. You may feel like your trunk is launched forward as you hit through the ball, but that your legs are a little stiff as they come off the ground.

Does this sound accurate?

sstchur
10-30-2009, 03:18 PM
Oh okay. Yeah, that's the hitch I was looking for.

What happens is that, in your windup, your trunk starts to fall backwards (creating a pronounced trunk lean.) This leads to your hips jutting out a little to act as a counterbalance. Initially, you may notice that your front knee is straining a little. Then, as you shift your back foot forwards, this starts to gets corrected. Your windup may have a pretty strong backwards lean, but not a lot of knee bend. You may feel like your trunk is launched forward as you hit through the ball, but that your legs are a little stiff as they come off the ground.

Does this sound accurate?

If I understand what you're describing, then I think it is pretty accurate.

When you say "hips jutting out a little", do you mean that sort of "bow-and-arrow" effect? I've heard people talk about that before. I thought it was a good thing, as it helps with power?

I haven't noticed knee strain I don't think (though as a possibly relevant side note, I do sometimes get considerable pain in the elbow of my serving arm, which 3 different physical therapists have told me is definitely not tennis elbow -- and the pain is ONLY when I serve).

My wind up definitely doesn't have much knee bend (unless I do it consciously, but I really have to think about it -- it doesn't come naturally).

sstchur
10-30-2009, 03:19 PM
If I understand what you're describing, then I think it is pretty accurate.

When you say "hips jutting out a little", do you mean that sort of "bow-and-arrow" effect? I've heard people talk about that before. I thought it was a good thing, as it helps with power?

I haven't noticed knee strain I don't think (though as a possibly relevant side note, I do sometimes get considerable pain in the elbow of my serving arm, which 3 different physical therapists have told me is definitely not tennis elbow -- and the pain is ONLY when I serve).

My wind up definitely doesn't have much knee bend (unless I do it consciously, but I really have to think about it -- it doesn't come naturally).

Maybe I will try to post some still photos, or a video or something at some point.

tricky
10-30-2009, 03:30 PM
When you say "hips jutting out a little", do you mean that sort of "bow-and-arrow" effect? Yeah, like if you were aiming with a bow, you lean back and let the hip jut out to keep your balance. A lot of people do that, but that's actually not correct.

Basically the sequence should go as follows for the toss and windup.

You can shadow this before trying on a court.


1) You're bouncing the ball. At this point, you just want to mentally ready the serve.

2) You bring your left arm and racquet together.
2a) Ideally, you want to take your left arm and bring it under the racquet arm. This improves the syncing between toss and windup.
2b) You want to move your hip away from the court (or ball.) Specifically, if you're serving from ad court, you move the right hip. If you're serving from deuce court, you move the left hip.

3) You let the tossing arm drop to separate tossing arm and initiate toss.
3a) Letting the tossing arm drop is ideal for a traditional windup. If you execute an abbreviated serve, you wouldn't let the tossing arm drop.
3b) As the tossing arm drops, follow/aim at the ball with the same hip you used in step 2b)

4) The ball is tossed, and your windup continues.
4a) As you toss and release the ball, let the hip follow/aim continue to aim at the ball. This is more a visualization technique that ensures a continuous windup with your weight moving into the court.
4b) You'll notice that your hips move toward the court.
4c) You'll know your knees bend forward into the court. Not a lot of knee bend per se, but more than what you're getting and naturally.

5) Let it rip.

sstchur
10-30-2009, 05:47 PM
If I understand what you're describing, then I think it is pretty accurate.

When you say "hips jutting out a little", do you mean that sort of "bow-and-arrow" effect? I've heard people talk about that before. I thought it was a good thing, as it helps with power?

I haven't noticed knee strain I don't think (though as a possibly relevant side note, I do sometimes get considerable pain in the elbow of my serving arm, which 3 different physical therapists have told me is definitely not tennis elbow -- and the pain is ONLY when I serve).

My wind up definitely doesn't have much knee bend (unless I do it consciously, but I really have to think about it -- it doesn't come naturally).


Ok, thanks for the tips. I'm going to have to re-read this with more attention to detail. I'm still going to try to snap some photos or a video or something which might help you see exactly what I might be doing wrong.

Also, do you know of any videos of anyone (pros or non-pros) that have a good service motion to watch, just for analysis? Federer's serve is just beautiful, but he uses that platform stance, so I tend not to try to copy him. I usually try to carefully watch the pros that use pinpoint.

sstchur
10-30-2009, 08:57 PM
Bear in mind that these photos and videos were taking in my living room, which is tiny, and that I was trying to make sure I didn't hit any furniture with my racquet, so the service motion in the videos is not, I don't think, as fluid or "free" as it would be if I had plenty of room and didn't have to worry about banging into something.

Also, the stills look a little awkward I think, partly because I was attempting to hold each "phase" of the motion while my wife took the photo for me. Holding those position is not necessarily easy or comfortable, since you're normally moving (and pretty quickly) through the entire service motion.

Anyway, with my "I feel like an idiot and please don't bother saying anything unless you have something constructive to say" disclaimer out of the way, here you go:

http://www.stchur.com/personal/tmp/serve/

moopie
10-30-2009, 10:14 PM
Just curious... do you know which leg is your dominant leg?
Have you ever surf/skate/snowboarded? Which foot was in front?

sstchur
10-30-2009, 10:33 PM
Just curious... do you know which leg is your dominant leg?
Have you ever surf/skate/snowboarded? Which foot was in front?

My dominant leg would have to be my right, but I base this just on the fact that I am right-handed. If I were to kick something, I would use my right leg, so I'd say I'm "right-footed" as well.

I've never surfed, never snowboarded, never skateboarded, so I'm afraid I can't offer much there. Well, come to think of it, I did try to skateboard a little when I was younger, my left leg would have been in front.

Incidentally (and for what it's worth), I have never actually be taught a service motion. When I was young (maybe 8, 9, 10 years old), I was taught (at a club) basic forehand, bankhand and volleys. But I was never taught how to serve. I just sort of... served. I'd watch the pros on TV, and I just sort of tried to do what I saw.

That very well might be a part of why most of my game is reasonably sound, but the serve seems to come and go in waves.

tricky
10-30-2009, 10:38 PM
Federer's serve is just beautiful, but he uses that platform stance, so I tend not to try to copy him.

Actually not a huge fan of Federer's serve as a model. It's a beautiful, simple motion. However, people misread his trophy pose, and then they mimic a "touchdown" sign in order to get it. At that point, they half-ruined their service motion.

I usually try to carefully watch the pros that use pinpoint.

Probably Hewitt and Safin. Keep in mind, though, that there's two different variations of pinpoint stance serves. One involves the feet lining up in a horizontal line (I know Goran and Safin do this.) The other involves one foot behind the other (Murray.) There's mechanical reasons why the feet placements differ, and so you want to be really careful and look at the service model that matches what YOU do with your feet.

Working off the first video clip. Let me know if you want me to look at a particular clip or anything. Yeah, pretty much why I hate that rocking serve stuff. :D

0:00-0:01: Your left arm is together with racquet. You now rock backwards.

Observation: So the key thing here is that all your weight on your back heel. Your trunk is leaned back, your legs are leaned back. Your counterbalance is your arm and your racquet. Effectively, your center of gravity is behind you, around your buttocks. This will cause problems in the next part . . .

0:01-0:02: You separate service arm and you're about halfway through the service motion, such that your racquet is now parallel with the gruond

Observation: As soon as you separate the arm from the racquet, you lose that counterbalance. Now, instead of your hips coming forward as they should, your lower back tries to straighten up. The problem there is that it does not contribute to the windup. It's a "correction" your body makes, so that your CoG (center of gravity) can finally move forward in the next part.

Now, during this part, you also start taking the racquet back. Because your weight isn't actually moving forward, you're actually "raising" the racquet away from the body. Your shoulder isn't loaded at this point. In addition, your tossing arm gets "scrunched up." Imagine tossing while you're trying to straighten your back. Your tossing arm, which needs to toss the ball in front of you, has to compensate in some way. To do that, it ends up bending.

0:02-0:03 You've release your serve, and your arm goes into the racquet drop.

Observation: So, at this point, you're bringing your hips foward into the court. Now, technically, this also isn't correct, because your hips is really bending "to the side" in order to create forward momentum. You're not really loading the chain properly. However, by virtue of doing this, you're able to toss the ball into the court and you can kinda launch your trunk forward and get some pace into the ball. It's not the correct way to go, but it'll get the job done. :D

So one thing to look at: You may have noticed that both your hips and trunk open up well before you reach your racquet drop. That means the cartwheel motion is not executing correctly. If you were serving out on court, you probably would have landed with your right foot kicked up toward the right side fence, and slightly off balance.

0:03-0:09 You execute your upward swing.

Observation: The upward swing is open too early, so if you were to follow through, you'll notice that your pronation may be unstable or something that you have to manage or control. In any case, it probably feels added on.

sstchur
10-30-2009, 10:52 PM
Actually not a huge fan of Federer's serve as a model. It's a beautiful, simple motion. However, people misread his trophy pose, and then they mimic a "touchdown" sign in order to get it. At that point, they half-ruined their service motion.



Probably Hewitt and Safin. Keep in mind, though, that there's two different variations of pinpoint stance serves. One involves the feet lining up in a horizontal line (I know Goran and Safin do this.) The other involves one foot behind the other (Murray.) There's mechanical reasons why the feet placements differ, and so you want to be really careful and look at the service model that matches what YOU do with your feet.

Working off the first video clip. Let me know if you want me to look at a particular clip or anything. Yeah, pretty much why I hate that rocking serve stuff. :D

0:00-0:01: Your left arm is together with racquet. You now rock backwards.

Observation: So the key thing here is that all your weight on your back heel. Your trunk is leaned back, your legs are leaned back. Your counterbalance is your arm and your racquet. Effectively, your center of gravity is behind you, around your buttocks. This will cause problems in the next part . . .

0:01-0:02: You separate service arm and you're about halfway through the service motion, such that your racquet is now parallel with the gruond

Observation: As soon as you separate the arm from the racquet, you lose that counterbalance. Now, instead of your hips coming forward as they should, your lower back tries to straighten up. The problem there is that it does not contribute to the windup. It's a "correction" your body makes, so that your CoG (center of gravity) can finally move forward in the next part.

Now, during this part, you also start taking the racquet back. Because your weight isn't actually moving forward, you're actually "raising" the racquet away from the body. Your shoulder isn't loaded at this point. In addition, your tossing arm gets "scrunched up." Imagine tossing while you're trying to straighten your back. Your tossing arm, which needs to toss the ball in front of you, has to compensate in some way. To do that, it ends up bending.

0:02-0:03 You've release your serve, and your arm goes into the racquet drop.

Observation: So, at this point, you're bringing your hips foward into the court. Now, technically, this also isn't correct, because your hips is really bending "to the side" in order to create forward momentum. You're not really loading the chain properly. However, by virtue of doing this, you're able to toss the ball into the court and you can kinda launch your trunk forward and get some pace into the ball. It's not the correct way to go, but it'll get the job done. :D

So one thing to look at: You may have noticed that both your hips and trunk open up well before you reach your racquet drop. That means the cartwheel motion is not executing correctly. If you were serving out on court, you probably would have landed with your right foot kicked up toward the right side fence, and slightly off balance.

0:03-0:09 You execute your upward swing.

Observation: The upward swing is open too early, so if you were to follow through, you'll notice that your pronation may be unstable or something that you have to manage or control. In any case, it probably feels added on.

Thanks. It's a lot of information to digest.

As for the variations on pinpoint: I find that I most often take a little bit of a step with my back (right) foot and bring it up to the baseline (actually, I need to be careful about foot fault in this case). That is more natural for me than actually "sliding" my back foot up to be parallel with my left foot.

But I'm not sure of what advantage either variation may have.

In terms of your feedback:

"So the key thing here is that all your weight on your back heel. Your trunk is leaned back, your legs are leaned back. Your counterbalance is your arm and your racquet. Effectively, your center of gravity is behind you, around your buttocks. This will cause problems in the next part . . ."

Where should my weight be at this point? I can't possibly keep my weight mostly in front and yet still manage to toss the ball and get into trophy pose. I'm a little confused as to exactly what I should change/focus on in this part?

I'll leave it at that for now (one thing at a time I figure).

tricky
10-30-2009, 11:18 PM
Where should my weight be at this point? I can't possibly keep my weight mostly in front and yet still manage to toss the ball and get into trophy pose. I'm a little confused as to exactly what I should change/focus on in this part?

First thing is to take out the rocking motion all together. Maybe, you can add it back later.

When you bring your left arm under the racquet, you want to move your hip away without using your lower back. When you're done, you will notice that your center of gravity is actually in front of your hips, not behind you.

Now, as you initiate your tossing motion (by letting the left arm fall), watch the ball through the whole motion. You'll notice that, instead of your lower back straightening up, your hip now wants to move forward. Keep trying this part until you notice this.

If this is all working, your tossing arm will straighten.

As you complete the toss, continue following and aiming the ball with your hip. Watch how your weight transfers forward and your windup goes. Also, notice your service motion and how your shoulder feels.

moopie
10-31-2009, 12:14 AM
My dominant leg would have to be my right, but I base this just on the fact that I am right-handed. If I were to kick something, I would use my right leg, so I'd say I'm "right-footed" as well.

I've never surfed, never snowboarded, never skateboarded, so I'm afraid I can't offer much there. Well, come to think of it, I did try to skateboard a little when I was younger, my left leg would have been in front.

Incidentally (and for what it's worth), I have never actually be taught a service motion. When I was young (maybe 8, 9, 10 years old), I was taught (at a club) basic forehand, bankhand and volleys. But I was never taught how to serve. I just sort of... served. I'd watch the pros on TV, and I just sort of tried to do what I saw.

That very well might be a part of why most of my game is reasonably sound, but the serve seems to come and go in waves.

Interesting... I ask because I'm in the same boat. I'm right handed and very right leg dominant. I often experiment with platform stance but to no success. To serve platform your left leg has to be able to support and balance much of your weight, as well as push upwards. That just seems too hard to do with the weaker leg.

Anyways... all this is just to say... if your right leg is stronger, I think you should stick with pinpoint. :)

sstchur
10-31-2009, 08:40 AM
Interesting... I ask because I'm in the same boat. I'm right handed and very right leg dominant. I often experiment with platform stance but to no success. To serve platform your left leg has to be able to support and balance much of your weight, as well as push upwards. That just seems too hard to do with the weaker leg.

Anyways... all this is just to say... if your right leg is stronger, I think you should stick with pinpoint. :)

Oh! This is a really interesting observation because I've actually noticed that I have this tendency to try to generate most of my power (by pushing with my legs) from my right leg. This does indeed (now that I think about it) feel like part of the reason that platform is never comfortable -- my right leg (the powerful one) is too far back and can't do the amount of work I want it to do, so that job shifts to the left leg, which doesn't seem to be able to handle it very well (both in terms of power and coordination). But I suspect, this is a big part of what I'm doing wrong with platform -- I'm thinking that maybe my balance is /supposed/ to be on my stronger leg. Hmm..

Interesting.