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Forbin
11-11-2009, 07:04 PM
I would greatly appreciate any tips to improve the consistency of my serve. I'd be especially grateful for a handful of tips I can implement during my next practice session.

I'm attempting topspin serves just to get the ball in play, but I'm still hitting about a third of them into the net, and about half of them out. This video shows the best I could manage.

http://vimeo.com/7558834

I'm definitely doing something different each serve, because they're all coming out different.

I think I need to aim my toss over my head more for topspin serves. Does that sound right? Should I be tossing the ball with a more right-to-left arc?

From reading the boards for a couple months, I've found the community here enthusiastic and helpful. Thanks in advance.

Kenny022593
11-11-2009, 07:37 PM
i am probably not the best person to be giving advice but i saw that your weight didn't really shift at all. it looked like your weight stayed on your front foot the whole time during your serve. also, are you using the conti grip?

Ripper014
11-11-2009, 07:49 PM
If you are just trying to get the ball in play... then try this. It is an odd thing for beginners but try it.

Your best serves are not bad... not perfect but thats ok. To hit a topspin serve you are trying to generate spin over speed.. so what I would like you to try is to bring the ball in closer to your body (don't throw it so far out)... in other words the ball will be over you head. What you want to do is to strike up on the ball.... like you are going to skin an orange... don't worry so much about hitting the ball forward, you want to hit up. Now... looking at the ball from behind... strike the ball from the 7 o'clock position through to the 1' o'clock position. When the ball is leaving your racket it should be going up... not down, spin will bring the ball back into the court.

Now here is the rub where most people go wrong... if you are missing long... you need to hit it harder to generate more spin to get the ball down. Remember we are trying to peel the fuzz off the ball. If you want more pace you can toss the ball more forward into the court.

It is a lot easier to demonstrate and explain in person... but I hope you get the gist of it. I am sure through some trial and error you will get the idea.

Geezer Guy
11-11-2009, 07:54 PM
That's not bad for a new player. The more serves you hit the more fluid it should become. Right now the wind-up is a bit awkward, but lots of people have a bit of hitch in their motion.

I'd say two things you could improve is to keep your left arm up a bit longer, and (more importantly) it looks like you're trying to slow down your racquet too soon after impact. Hit up and through the ball and just let the racquet wrap around your body. Concentrate on getting good racquet-head speed and getting lots of spin on the ball. Also, (guess this is a third thing) have a loose wrist and arm as you hit the serve.

coyfish
11-11-2009, 08:11 PM
You have to swing harder for more power but you are on the right track. You need to move forward though. You are a bit off balance which is made obvious when you flail your right foot around after impact. You want to jump into your serve or at least move forward after the ball. That way your weight is behind the ball instead of to the left.

Also your prep is a bit weird. You bend your knees more before you serve than you do when your loading you weight.

tennis_balla
11-11-2009, 09:24 PM
I only watched your video once but here are some of the things I noticed right away.

What you do fairly well is keeping your left hand straight while you toss, which is a good thing. I also noticed your toss was pretty good and at about the right spot for a topspin serve. Its always difficult on here cause I don't get to see you serve from different angles.
Anyways, if you pause your serve at contact you'll notice the extreme angle of your shoulders and how much your left shoulder drops. You mentioned a lot of your second serves end up going into the net, this is why.
Your left shoulder drops because your left arm comes down way too much, on a second serve you should be going up after the ball even more then on a first serve to generate that spin, yet what you do is come down on it. It starts at your feet yes but more importantly at your shoulders to go up after the ball. The way I see it is you're waiting for the ball to come down rather then go up after it and accelerate into the ball.
If you have any questions let me know and I'll try and describe it better and show you come videos if needed.

Solat
11-11-2009, 09:58 PM
if you want a topspin serve you need to adjust your ball toss further left. You are opening your chest up too much which is causing you to come around the ball rather than up the back of it, this results in more of a sliec serve, you see it more easily on the FH side.

Your left arm is falling down to the left hand side which is opening your body up and causing your balance to fall that way too, hopefully by adjusting the toss and trying to keep your shoulders side on for longer (L arm stays up after the toss) you should be able to minimise this

you could certainly turn your grip a little further round toward the top of the racquet, this will help to impart more spin.

Ken Honecker
11-12-2009, 12:22 AM
It bothered me when you slid your back foot forward then swung up at the ball. You don't want to be shuffling your feet like that and I am sure it is taking away a lot of power from your stroke.

Forbin
11-12-2009, 05:49 AM
Thanks for all the responses. I will try to respond one at a time.

i am probably not the best person to be giving advice but i saw that your weight didn't really shift at all. it looked like your weight stayed on your front foot the whole time during your serve. also, are you using the conti grip?

I am using continental grip. Is an eastern BH grip suitable for a beginner?

I used to rock back on my heels, but someone told me I should stay on my toes. I feel more balanced this way, but I don't feel like I'm shifting my weight back as much. Should I go back to rocking on my heels?

If you are just trying to get the ball in play... then try this. It is an odd thing for beginners but try it.

Your best serves are not bad... not perfect but thats ok. To hit a topspin serve you are trying to generate spin over speed.. so what I would like you to try is to bring the ball in closer to your body (don't throw it so far out)... in other words the ball will be over you head. What you want to do is to strike up on the ball.... like you are going to skin an orange... don't worry so much about hitting the ball forward, you want to hit up. Now... looking at the ball from behind... strike the ball from the 7 o'clock position through to the 1' o'clock position. When the ball is leaving your racket it should be going up... not down, spin will bring the ball back into the court.

Now here is the rub where most people go wrong... if you are missing long... you need to hit it harder to generate more spin to get the ball down. Remember we are trying to peel the fuzz off the ball. If you want more pace you can toss the ball more forward into the court.

It is a lot easier to demonstrate and explain in person... but I hope you get the gist of it. I am sure through some trial and error you will get the idea.

Thanks Ripper.

In my mind, that's exactly what I'm trying to: swing up and fast. I can definitely feel that I'm not swinging fast enough, but I'm going to keep that image in my mind. (see next)

That's not bad for a new player. The more serves you hit the more fluid it should become. Right now the wind-up is a bit awkward, but lots of people have a bit of hitch in their motion.

I'd say two things you could improve is to keep your left arm up a bit longer, and (more importantly) it looks like you're trying to slow down your racquet too soon after impact. Hit up and through the ball and just let the racquet wrap around your body. Concentrate on getting good racquet-head speed and getting lots of spin on the ball. Also, (guess this is a third thing) have a loose wrist and arm as you hit the serve.

Thanks Geezer Guy. You know, now that you mention it, I concentrate on swinging fast until contact, and I think I'm instinctively stopping at that point.

I will definitely concentrate on loosening my arm and letting it swing through, and see if I get any improvement.

You have to swing harder for more power but you are on the right track. You need to move forward though. You are a bit off balance which is made obvious when you flail your right foot around after impact. You want to jump into your serve or at least move forward after the ball. That way your weight is behind the ball instead of to the left.

Also your prep is a bit weird. You bend your knees more before you serve than you do when your loading you weight.

I definitely felt weird falling left after my serve. I don't think I was was putting any effort into controlling my landing, so I will make a point of it next time.

Do you recommend I bend my knees less before the windup? More when shifting forward?

I only watched your video once but here are some of the things I noticed right away.

What you do fairly well is keeping your left hand straight while you toss, which is a good thing. I also noticed your toss was pretty good and at about the right spot for a topspin serve. Its always difficult on here cause I don't get to see you serve from different angles.
Anyways, if you pause your serve at contact you'll notice the extreme angle of your shoulders and how much your left shoulder drops. You mentioned a lot of your second serves end up going into the net, this is why.
Your left shoulder drops because your left arm comes down way too much, on a second serve you should be going up after the ball even more then on a first serve to generate that spin, yet what you do is come down on it. It starts at your feet yes but more importantly at your shoulders to go up after the ball. The way I see it is you're waiting for the ball to come down rather then go up after it and accelerate into the ball.
If you have any questions let me know and I'll try and describe it better and show you come videos if needed.

Thanks tennis_balla. I had not even thought about this while serving that day.

I have read other threads on this forum that suggest a shoulder-over-shoulder, cartwheel motion on the serve. Is this accurate? Is it not true just for topspin serves?

if you want a topspin serve you need to adjust your ball toss further left. You are opening your chest up too much which is causing you to come around the ball rather than up the back of it, this results in more of a sliec serve, you see it more easily on the FH side.

Your left arm is falling down to the left hand side which is opening your body up and causing your balance to fall that way too, hopefully by adjusting the toss and trying to keep your shoulders side on for longer (L arm stays up after the toss) you should be able to minimise this

you could certainly turn your grip a little further round toward the top of the racquet, this will help to impart more spin.

That sounds like good advice. In fact, that sounds like what Wil said in the FYB video comparing kick serves to flat serves.

So I have to focus more on keeping my left shoulder up, keeping my body from opening up to early, not opening up as much, correct?

Solat, is this advice specific to topspin? Would it apply if I were trying a flatter serve?


It bothered me when you slid your back foot forward then swung up at the ball. You don't want to be shuffling your feet like that and I am sure it is taking away a lot of power from your stroke.

When experimenting with my stance, I felt more balanced starting with my feet apart, but more comfortable hitting the ball with my feet closer together. After looking it up, I found that you can do this with "hybrid stance."

I guess I'm doing it wrong. How should I do it? Or should I switch to platform or pinpoint?

So far, I have a checklist of changes to make:
- move grip towards Eastern backhand: optional for more spin
- rock back more before toss?
- bend knees less before toss?
- toss further left, over my head? (I've gotten differing advice here)
- keep left (toss) arm up longer
- bend knees more?
- don't drop left shoulder as much
- open chest later
- don't open chest as much
- swing faster with looser hand and wrist
- don't decelerate; follow through across body
- land forward, not to left

Boy, that seems like a lot. I'll see how much I can remember to do. At a minimum, I'm going to focus on the items in bold, because multiple posters have emphasized it.

If you're interested, I'll try to post another video when weather and injuries permit.

Thanks again for all your help. Further feedback is appreciated.

Solat
11-12-2009, 06:24 AM
opening up the body on a flat serve is ok so long as it isn't pulling you off course of the direction of the serve. Maximising the rotational components is important in gaining power, however it should be linked to whole motion not its own entity

Nellie
11-12-2009, 06:46 AM
Good comments above-

from a technical standpoint, you are dropping the left arm too early and too much. The left arm, after the toss, more folds into the body than drop to the side.

Your contact point, now, is parallel to your body (relative to base line) and to your right side. So you are getting a lot of slice. Try moving the toss more forward and to the left (between your head and the intended target).

Your timing is off with regard to the knee bend, toss, and arm motion. Your knee bend is now artificial - you bend, unbend, toss, and hit. so the legs are not doing anything for you except wasting energy. You should toss, bend, start the arm back, and go forward (with the arm), come up (at the knees), and rotate (at the shoulders) at the same time so that all of those forces combine at contact.

you should feel like your are swing well right of the ball when the shoulder rotation and wrist bring the racquet back to the ball.

You are falling to the left - away from the direction of contact - note, for example that your racquet is finishing to your right. The correct form is to finish with the racquet to your left so that your weight is moving up and into the serve. It will feel like you are doing a cart wheel in the direction of the serve.

Do not worry about topspin for now - too much to work on while you are still developing your flat/slice serve.

mike53
11-12-2009, 06:50 AM
I'm definitely doing something different each serve, because they're all coming out different.


A consistent toss is the first order of a consistent serve. In your mind's eye, see yourself contacting the ball a couple inches higher.

Forbin
11-12-2009, 08:58 AM
opening up the body on a flat serve is ok so long as it isn't pulling you off course of the direction of the serve. Maximising the rotational components is important in gaining power, however it should be linked to whole motion not its own entity

Good comments above-

from a technical standpoint, you are dropping the left arm too early and too much. The left arm, after the toss, more folds into the body than drop to the side.

Your contact point, now, is parallel to your body (relative to base line) and to your right side. So you are getting a lot of slice. Try moving the toss more forward and to the left (between your head and the intended target).

Your timing is off with regard to the knee bend, toss, and arm motion. Your knee bend is now artificial - you bend, unbend, toss, and hit. so the legs are not doing anything for you except wasting energy. You should toss, bend, start the arm back, and go forward (with the arm), come up (at the knees), and rotate (at the shoulders) at the same time so that all of those forces combine at contact.

you should feel like your are swing well right of the ball when the shoulder rotation and wrist bring the racquet back to the ball.

You are falling to the left - away from the direction of contact - note, for example that your racquet is finishing to your right. The correct form is to finish with the racquet to your left so that your weight is moving up and into the serve. It will feel like you are doing a cart wheel in the direction of the serve.

Do not worry about topspin for now - too much to work on while you are still developing your flat/slice serve.

A consistent toss is the first order of a consistent serve. In your mind's eye, see yourself contacting the ball a couple inches higher.

All your responses have been very helpful, but it brings up something that's been confusing me for some time now. Can someone clarify?

Is a "flat" serve a flat "topspin-slice" serve I've been reading about?

I've been trying to serve with more topspin because I've read and been told that this is safer and increases the chance of landing in the box.

However, the posts in this thread suggest that I have a more fundamental problems: I'm dropping my shoulder and hitting too flat, down into the net.

Instead of hitting a "topspin serve," as a beginner, should I be focusing on hitting a flat serve (which still has topspin) while focusing on other fundamentals like dipping my left shoulder less, and developing a consistent toss?

Ripper014
11-12-2009, 09:10 AM
You cannot hit a ball with absolutely no spin... but a flat serve is pretty much as close as you can. Think of it this way... think of the ball as a clock again... you are going to hit it right at the back where the hands on an analog clock would be. I hope I am not dating myself and you know what an analog clock is. :) I have a neighbour who could only read a digital one until recently.

As for your topspin serve... you are hitting up on the ball (kind of), but you are hitting the ball too much in the forward direction. I want you not to try and propel the ball forward as much as generate spin in the upward direction. Like I said it is hard to explain with being there... but through trial and error... I think you will see through the results and understand what I am trying to tell you.

Once you get it, then you can tinker with how much forward momentum you want to but on the ball. It becomes a tactile thing...

Maybe initially try swinging upwards as hard as you can... hitting as little of the ball you can, remember from 7 o'clock through 1 o'clock and don't have the ball to far forward in your toss... you want it tighter to your body. If you want more pace on the ball move it more forward in front of you... but start with it close until you get the concept of spinning your serve. It will feel strange but remember you are not trying to hit the ball forward... we are concentrating on hitting up.

One last tip... try to go after the ball... meaning do not let the ball come to you... try and hit the ball at the highest point you can reach...

mike53
11-12-2009, 10:40 AM
Instead of hitting a "topspin serve," as a beginner, should I be focusing on hitting a flat serve (which still has topspin) while focusing on other fundamentals like dipping my left shoulder less, and developing a consistent toss?

Stick with what you've got so far and build your consistency on that.
As a beginner, I first tried to get a flat serve (which I copied from a tall player) and I was frustrated to tears. Being shorter rather than taller, the margin of error for the flat serve was way too small for me and I couldn't get 50% of them in. Catching on to the topspin slice and hitting up the back of the ball was the single most important skill that moved me into being an intermediate.

Nellie
11-12-2009, 06:00 PM
You can get a more thorough explanation, but I think it is easiest to understand the various spin serves by thinking of your serve motion and the point of contact. As a righty:

A). If you hit up at the ball from the bottom left, the ball will bounce up and to the right (American twist). This will happen when you toss to your left and keep the swing path parallel to the baseline

b) if you hit up at the back of the ball, the ball will bounce straight up (a topspin serve). This will happen when you toss above your head and keep the swing path parallel to the baseline

c) if you hit up at the ball from the bottom right, the ball will bounce up and to your left (topspin slice). This will happen when you toss to your right and use a swing path at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the serve. This is pretty much the serve that you hit, and I would encourage you to continue to hit because it allows you to hit harder when you want (just toss more forward for a "flatter" serve with less spin). With the topspin slice, try to get a lot of spin on the ball. don't try to hit the ball, but instead think of brushing on the side. You will feel like you are going to hit with the edge of the racquet. If you hear a "swish" at contact instead of a pop, you are doing a good job.

As another suggestion, think of moving up and through the strike zone with the left hip, instead of rotating with the right leg. You will get a lot more pop.

Forbin
11-12-2009, 08:59 PM
You cannot hit a ball with absolutely no spin... but a flat serve is pretty much as close as you can. Think of it this way... think of the ball as a clock again... you are going to hit it right at the back where the hands on an analog clock would be. I hope I am not dating myself and you know what an analog clock is. :) I have a neighbour who could only read a digital one until recently.

As for your topspin serve... you are hitting up on the ball (kind of), but you are hitting the ball too much in the forward direction. I want you not to try and propel the ball forward as much as generate spin in the upward direction. Like I said it is hard to explain with being there... but through trial and error... I think you will see through the results and understand what I am trying to tell you.

Once you get it, then you can tinker with how much forward momentum you want to but on the ball. It becomes a tactile thing...

Maybe initially try swinging upwards as hard as you can... hitting as little of the ball you can, remember from 7 o'clock through 1 o'clock and don't have the ball to far forward in your toss... you want it tighter to your body. If you want more pace on the ball move it more forward in front of you... but start with it close until you get the concept of spinning your serve. It will feel strange but remember you are not trying to hit the ball forward... we are concentrating on hitting up.

One last tip... try to go after the ball... meaning do not let the ball come to you... try and hit the ball at the highest point you can reach...

I'm definitely old enough to read a clock face. I'm almost flattered, but you probably just can't see my wrinkles because of the blurry, ancient DV camera. :)

When I went to record this video, I actually went out with only two ideas in mind: swing fast and up, and toss the ball over my head.

The sad thing is, I thought I was doing it. It felt like I was tossing the ball more over my head than I previously had, and I thought I was swinging pretty fast. But when I look at the video, it doesn't look like the way I envisioned. I guess that's why you record yourself.

I'll keep that in mind next time I go out to hit topspin serves. But for now, I'm going to work on the serve I'm hitting, which apparently isn't a topspin serve.

Stick with what you've got so far and build your consistency on that.
As a beginner, I first tried to get a flat serve (which I copied from a tall player) and I was frustrated to tears. Being shorter rather than taller, the margin of error for the flat serve was way too small for me and I couldn't get 50% of them in. Catching on to the topspin slice and hitting up the back of the ball was the single most important skill that moved me into being an intermediate.

You can get a more thorough explanation, but I think it is easiest to understand the various spin serves by thinking of your serve motion and the point of contact. As a righty:

A). If you hit up at the ball from the bottom left, the ball will bounce up and to the right (American twist). This will happen when you toss to your left and keep the swing path parallel to the baseline

b) if you hit up at the back of the ball, the ball will bounce straight up (a topspin serve). This will happen when you toss above your head and keep the swing path parallel to the baseline

c) if you hit up at the ball from the bottom right, the ball will bounce up and to your left (topspin slice). This will happen when you toss to your right and use a swing path at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the serve. This is pretty much the serve that you hit, and I would encourage you to continue to hit because it allows you to hit harder when you want (just toss more forward for a "flatter" serve with less spin). With the topspin slice, try to get a lot of spin on the ball. don't try to hit the ball, but instead think of brushing on the side. You will feel like you are going to hit with the edge of the racquet. If you hear a "swish" at contact instead of a pop, you are doing a good job.

As another suggestion, think of moving up and through the strike zone with the left hip, instead of rotating with the right leg. You will get a lot more pop.

Okay then, that's an epiphany. When I try to hit a "safe" topspin serve, apparently it's just coming out as an even more erratic topspin-slice serve. In that case, I will go back to improving my topspin-slice serve.

I still think most of the advice on this thread will help with that, so I'll try to incorporate it next time I go out. Thanks, mike, Nellie, and all.

Geezer Guy
11-13-2009, 09:12 PM
... The sad thing is, I thought I was doing it. It felt like I was tossing the ball more over my head than I previously had, and I thought I was swinging pretty fast. But when I look at the video, it doesn't look like the way I envisioned. ...

Nellie has a lot of good comments on serves.

Couple of months ago my wife purchased some tennis lessons for me as a gift. I went to one of my favorite pro's and said I wanted to work on my serve. He said OK, we went out to the court and I hit a few warm-ups, and he said "Let me see your flat serve." I hit some flat serves down the tee. "Let me see your slice." I hit some slice serves out wide to the duece court. "Let me see your topspin serve." I hit a few topspin serves. I was serving well that day. I was thinking - what's he going to improve? "Well?" I asked. He say's "Well Geezer - those all look the same to me."

papa
11-14-2009, 04:44 AM
First try to master the release (toss). Most new players want to flick the ball up from about mid chest height and as a result the ball placement is all over the place.

- keep the hand in a natural position around 45% to the ground
- keep the little finger off the ball
- don't hold the ball very tight
- make sure the ball isn't going any faster after release than before
- move the arm so that the ball goes in the same path before release as it does after release
- release the ball as high as possible by merely opening your fingers like a flower

Try this a few times and then we can move on to the other aspects of the serve.