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spacediver
01-06-2010, 12:22 PM
This is a question that has been bugging me for a while. I'll try to be as clear as possible.

The ideal form for a flat powerful serve requires the player to harness her body so as to generate maximum racquet head speed, using the kinetic chain. At the moment of contact, all the limbs have acquired full extension (with the possible exception of the wrist which may be snapped forward) and there is something aesthetically balanced about the final form. It is a visual expression of the release of stored power and it is hard to imagine how to improve upon this form.

What interests me is that the form that produces the maximum power also produces the most accurate serve! I'm talking about accuracy along the vertical axis (one can simply turn one's body to the left or to the right before serving to adjust horizontal aim).

Now is this a coincidence? My understanding is that for a flat powerful serve there is only about a foot or so margin of error over the net above which the ball will go long.

Did people design the dimensions of the court/net with the ideal serving form in mind? Did the dimensions of the court evolve once the form began to become refined?

Or is there something else to this story.

Put another way, suppose now that the dimensions of the court have changed so that the service box is closer or farther away from the server. How would someone adjust their form in order to still remain accurate and powerful? Does it all come down to how much one snaps their wrist (wrist flexion)?

LeeD
01-06-2010, 04:18 PM
The ideal form for a first flat serve is very hard to replicate under match conditions, much easier to replicate when you are loose and having fun.
The hardest servers seem to tune out pressure, from the opponent, from within, from the crowd, from inside.
Most can't get their fast ones in better than 50%, so it's not a science, it's more an art form.
As for height control accuracy, that's the hardest part, to time the pronation and the whip effect from a decellerating elbow to a accelerating racket head.

papa
01-06-2010, 05:05 PM
Well, I think the margin of error is a lot more than a foot. Height of the server, jump or point of contact, gravity and spin are the major factors to be considered.

To illustrate my point, I use a racquet with a string attached to the middle of the stringbed. I have the server extend the racquet to the highest point at their serving position. Without having the player do any jumping I just extend the string over the net to the service box. Unless your about 6'4" this point will fall "beyond" the service line so gravity and spin become the most important elements. Most players don't realize that they cannot just hit the ball flat and have it fall in - this margin, even for tall players, is very, very small. So most flat serves are hit with spin to increase this margin to an acceptable figure.

paulfreda
01-07-2010, 12:28 AM
A server can adjust depth by adjusting the toss.
Higher and/or more towrad the back fence => deeper
Lower and/or more forward toward the net => shorter

So changing court dimensions would not be a problem for most players.

papa
01-07-2010, 06:07 AM
A server can adjust depth by adjusting the toss.
Higher and/or more towrad the back fence => deeper
Lower and/or more forward toward the net => shorter

So changing court dimensions would not be a problem for most players.

I think I know where your going with this but I wouldn't buy into the theory that this is anywhere near a "standard" which should be applied. Toss height is more associated with serving motions/timing than anything else.

LeeD
01-07-2010, 07:47 AM
I'm with Paul here. I can change my serves to go shorter or longer at will. I just can't get it to go in first time every time with full swingspeed under match conditions.
As for margin for error. I seriously think, for a 5'11" player (me) with a 7'4" maximum reach, the strikepoint is in the low 9' range. Very little margin for error, and adding any spin just slows down the speed of the first flat. As such, without a surplus of ball speed, I'd think my margin for error is well less than 10", much less on wide flat serves.
The "surplus" I'm talking about is the difference between a easily returnable 105 mph first flat compared to a much tougher 120 first flat.

Kick_It
01-07-2010, 09:29 AM
I see two things here:

1) Accuracy - for me the primary determination for Serve placement is placement of the toss for the various targets. I basically have one toss for my 1st serve which is slightly different from my 2nd serve.

If my 1st serve toss is off and I don't correct it, to me, whatever form I have is pretty irrelevant; I probably won't hit whatever 1st serve target if the toss is off by a decent amount. Fortunately my 2nd serve has a decent margin of error...

2) Form - for me proper form makes more of a determination of how hard I can hit my 1st serve. By form I mean knee bend, springing into the court, and footwork, etc.

Good Luck! K_I

papa
01-07-2010, 01:49 PM
As for margin for error. I seriously think, for a 5'11" player (me) with a 7'4" maximum reach, the strikepoint is in the low 9' range. Very little margin for error, and adding any spin just slows down the speed of the first flat. As such, without a surplus of ball speed, I'd think my margin for error is well less than 10", much less on wide flat serves.


So, if I understand this correctly, your vertical lift/jump is about 18"?

Seems like a lot for any player but for someone in their 60's that's incredible. Certainly wish I could do that. If your striking the ball at the service line at a vertical height of 9' you should have more than 10" margin of error. Depending on speed, even if its in the low 100's, gravity does play a factor - 32 ft per second. You would be striking the ball approx. 14-16" above your max. reach without any jump factored in.

My ability to figure some of these things out leaves a lot to be desired but I would think a ball hit even at 120 MPH would drop a few inches due to gravity alone by the time it reaches the service line. I also wonder if its even possible to hit a flat ball without some spin - I would think its not possible but don't know for sure.

xFullCourtTenniSx
01-07-2010, 03:44 PM
Have you seen Murray's serve practice video? You should...

I think ideal tosses are more important than ideal form. Sadly I'm more gravitated towards the latter. :oops:

xFullCourtTenniSx
01-07-2010, 03:57 PM
So, if I understand this correctly, your vertical lift/jump is about 18"?

I thought the same at first, but you misunderstand him.

Stand straight up and reach your arm as high as you can. You should get at least a foot and a half of extra reach. Mine's roughly 18" if I were to guess. If you add hops to that, I can get at least 6" of air. So 5'10" - 70"+18"+6"=94" - 7'10" During serve, it drops to 3"-4" at highest, though I'm trying to relax my motion, resulting in 1"-2" of height, with an extra 27" of reach with a racket. Subtract roughly 4 inches for contact height and we get:

70"+18"+23"+1"=9'4"

O.O Dang! Never knew I made contact that high... Oh wait... I forgot to subtract a few inches for topspin component. If we assume I make contact at a 30 degree angle (with the racket), then we lose about a foot of contact. So 8'4" is the resulting contact height. The math's a bit off... I think the real number is somewhere in the upper 8' range...

Zachol82
01-07-2010, 04:21 PM
This is a question that has been bugging me for a while. I'll try to be as clear as possible.

The ideal form for a flat powerful serve requires the player to harness her body so as to generate maximum racquet head speed, using the kinetic chain. At the moment of contact, all the limbs have acquired full extension (with the possible exception of the wrist which may be snapped forward) and there is something aesthetically balanced about the final form. It is a visual expression of the release of stored power and it is hard to imagine how to improve upon this form.

What interests me is that the form that produces the maximum power also produces the most accurate serve! I'm talking about accuracy along the vertical axis (one can simply turn one's body to the left or to the right before serving to adjust horizontal aim).

Now is this a coincidence? My understanding is that for a flat powerful serve there is only about a foot or so margin of error over the net above which the ball will go long.

Did people design the dimensions of the court/net with the ideal serving form in mind? Did the dimensions of the court evolve once the form began to become refined?

Or is there something else to this story.

Put another way, suppose now that the dimensions of the court have changed so that the service box is closer or farther away from the server. How would someone adjust their form in order to still remain accurate and powerful? Does it all come down to how much one snaps their wrist (wrist flexion)?

Can't answer the questions involving the dimensions of the court, but for flat serves and accuracy...

It really depends on your physical make-up as well. If you're not tall enough, you can't hit a 100% flat serve successfully.

"The form that produces the maximum power produces the most accurate serve" doesn't really make sense for me. Your form on a slow, medium, or fast-paced serve should be EXACTLY THE SAME, if you're going for the same type of serve. You change the pace of the ball by how quickly you snap your body and wrist, nothing else should be different. Generally, people's second serve is different from their first because they're using a different type of serve altogether, not a slower version of the first serve.

As for myself, I never use a flat serve unless I plan to go 100% power with it. Trying to slow down my flat serve only messes with my accuracy simply because I don't follow through right. I use a kick serve or a slice serve for my second since those serves have a higher chance of landing in the service box.

papa
01-07-2010, 04:29 PM
I thought the same at first, but you misunderstand him.

Stand straight up and reach your arm as high as you can. You should get at least a foot and a half of extra reach. Mine's roughly 18" if I were to guess. If you add hops to that, I can get at least 6" of air. So 5'10" - 70"+18"+6"=94" - 7'10" During serve, it drops to 3"-4" at highest, though I'm trying to relax my motion, resulting in 1"-2" of height, with an extra 27" of reach with a racket. Subtract roughly 4 inches for contact height and we get:

70"+18"+23"+1"=9'4"

O.O Dang! Never knew I made contact that high... Oh wait... I forgot to subtract a few inches for topspin component. If we assume I make contact at a 30 degree angle (with the racket), then we lose about a foot of contact. So 8'4" is the resulting contact height. The math's a bit off... I think the real number is somewhere in the upper 8' range...

Well ok, but your hand overlaps the racquet with your grip so the strike area is only about 12-14 inches above where you hand would otherwise reach without jumping. People never seem impressed with my math skills.

xFullCourtTenniSx
01-08-2010, 12:31 AM
Well ok, but your hand overlaps the racquet with your grip so the strike area is only about 12-14 inches above where you hand would otherwise reach without jumping. People never seem impressed with my math skills.

Okay... Still mid to upper 8' range... :/

ManuGinobili
01-08-2010, 01:20 AM
Getting off track guys lol

This is a question that has been bugging me for a while. I'll try to be as clear as possible.

The ideal form for a flat powerful serve requires the player to harness her body so as to generate maximum racquet head speed, using the kinetic chain. At the moment of contact, all the limbs have acquired full extension (with the possible exception of the wrist which may be snapped forward) and there is something aesthetically balanced about the final form. It is a visual expression of the release of stored power and it is hard to imagine how to improve upon this form.

What interests me is that the form that produces the maximum power also produces the most accurate serve! I'm talking about accuracy along the vertical axis (one can simply turn one's body to the left or to the right before serving to adjust horizontal aim).


Totally logical.
I'll assume the server use the visualization tool, since most players use that anyway.
When she visualizes herself serving, she is most likely - and should be, lol- visualizing herself serving in the best possible form right? And of course she must also visualizes the ball hitting a certain target....

So when the player executes that form (toss is included for simple sake) perfectly, no matter a power or spin serve, the ending should also be like the ending in the visualization, which means the ball hits the intended/perfect target.

Makes sense?

I'm also assuming the servers in your study have enough experience to think of a realistic and highly probable target...

ManuGinobili
01-08-2010, 01:22 AM
Did people design the dimensions of the court/net with the ideal serving form in mind? Did the dimensions of the court evolve once the form began to become refined?


Court dimensions were standardized in 1877 and have been the same since, so I don't think people had the "ideal serving form" in mind lol. Remember it was just a game of flick and bounce (like recreational badminton with a bounce) back then, while our game is the results of years of participated knowledge and scientific research... plus a little graphite love

spacediver
01-08-2010, 12:35 PM
Perhaps my initial assumption about ideal form producing the maximum power needs revisiting.

Let me try a different question. Suppose an experimenter asked a professional tennis player to serve a ball at a number of different targets along a vertical line. During each serve, the tennis player recruits maximal muscle fibre activation and harnesses the kinetic chain as efficiently as possible.

Would there be one particular target that allows for the highest racquet speed?

e.g. suppose that one of the targets was straight up into the sky - it is clear that the ball won't be hit with that much power - so right here we have evidence that the power of the serve varies as a function of target location. I'm interested in the nature of this function - is there a maximum value?

(of course this function interacts with the height and limb proportions of the server).

Bungalo Bill
01-08-2010, 01:25 PM
:cry::shock::cry::shock:

LeeD
01-08-2010, 02:35 PM
That's a strange question, supposing the serve target is straight up in the sky.
Why not ask about ideal forehand technique if the target is straight up at the sky?
And what's the idea volley form if the target is straight up at the sky?
:confused::confused:

papa
01-08-2010, 03:07 PM
Bet nobody can serve a ball straight up, try it and see if you can.

spacediver
01-08-2010, 06:44 PM
That's a strange question, supposing the serve target is straight up in the sky.
Why not ask about ideal forehand technique if the target is straight up at the sky?
And what's the idea volley form if the target is straight up at the sky?
:confused::confused:

I'm not interested in the ideal form for serving up at the sky.

The point of the question is to illustrate that serving power varies as a function of the position of the target along the vertical line. In the absurdly extreme case (aiming up at the sky), the maximum power able to be derived is most certainly lower compared with aiming at a more conventional point, such as in the regular service box.

My question is whether there is a point, or a range, at which power output is maximized.

bhupaes
01-08-2010, 07:35 PM
^^^ Of course there is. You only have to solve a partial differential equation, with probably 20 variables, including things like what you ate for breakfast and how much you slept the previous night and how much alcohol you consumed the last couple of days... and I don't even want to hazard any guesses about initial conditions... :)

spacediver
01-08-2010, 08:06 PM
yes you could in theory derive it mathematically, but I'm wondering if the history of tennis experience has led to any conclusions on the matter.

For example, we have learned a few optimal ways to develop power through forehands and backhands, and we didn't arrive at the prescriptions solely through mathematical analysis, but rather through experience and trial and error, coupled with good biomechanical insight.

My question is whether we have any insight into the range of targets at which serves produce maximum power.

I'm curious to see how that range of targets compares to the actual legal service targets.

Zachol82
01-08-2010, 09:04 PM
Bet nobody can serve a ball straight up, try it and see if you can.

I can underhand serve straight up at the sky. It's actually a great strategy!

Heard of that old serve and volley? Well, if you serve straight up at the sky, that gives you way more than enough time to get to the net. Heck, you can probably walk to the bench, grab a drink, then walk toward the net and still be there before the ball lands in the service box. It's also great for practicing your returns on overheads too!

papa
01-09-2010, 05:34 AM
I can underhand serve straight up at the sky. It's actually a great strategy!

Heard of that old serve and volley? Well, if you serve straight up at the sky, that gives you way more than enough time to get to the net. Heck, you can probably walk to the bench, grab a drink, then walk toward the net and still be there before the ball lands in the service box. It's also great for practicing your returns on overheads too!

That's good.

papa
01-09-2010, 05:51 AM
My question is whether we have any insight into the range of targets at which serves produce maximum power.

I'm curious to see how that range of targets compares to the actual legal service targets.

This might be a good question but not quite sure what you mean.

The velocity or speed of a propelled object (ball) decreases due to air friction. However, if an object was propelled downward with little/no force however, the speed would increase because of gravity - from a tennis standpoint, this would not be that much of a factor.

Also the further a object (ball) travels from the propelling source (the racquet) the greater the variance becomes where it lands.

Anyone who has ever shot a 45 cal pistol (army type) can attest to the fact that the bullet goes all over the place and its difficult to even hit a garage door from 100 yards.

LeeD
01-09-2010, 07:43 AM
300' shots with .45 are possible, with the target the size of a human.
My old BobChow modified NationalMatch easily hit black bullseyes at 125' with a standard 25' pistol target.
My Behlert's did slightly worse, but with an aluminum Combat frame as the basis.
Even stock AMT's with minor trigger work hit inside 9's with a pistol target set and 125'.
Trick is the setup has to be tight and lubbed, 4.5lbs trigger, sharp sights, and a steady weaver or mod weaver stance.
I don't think I ever shot worse than 5's with a stock NEW .45 of any make....at 125' using standard pistol targets. This after running thru over 15,000 rounds, of course. Most accurate loads would be Hornady flatpoints with 3.6 grams Bulleye loaded into fairly new cleaned cases. That's a light load, used only for target practice with clean lubbed guns, some with light recoil springs.

ManuGinobili
01-09-2010, 08:20 AM
^^^ Of course there is. You only have to solve a partial differential equation, with probably 20 variables, including things like what you ate for breakfast and how much you slept the previous night and how much alcohol you consumed the last couple of days... and I don't even want to hazard any guesses about initial conditions... :)

....as expected of Paes aka greatest serve ever

travlerajm
01-09-2010, 09:50 AM
To answer the question of the OP:

I believe the optimal angle for maximum power is more downward than the almost horizontal angle required to hit a hard flat serve over the net.

It is easy to show yourself that you can hit a more relaxed, more powerful shot when you aim downward (as on an overhead).

Also, I find that I can serve harder (not necessarily better) when I toss a little bit to the right rather than directly in front. This allows me to take better advantage of the optimal power angle. However, I don't toss out to the right for most serves because the contact point is lower and the ability to add topspin is lower.

Pitchers in baseball sometimes use an arm angle more to the right to add more power and take better advantage of the optimal power delivery angle. Randy Johnson for example. In baseball, the downside to a lower delivery point with less topspin is not as big a deal because there is no net to clear.

LeeD
01-09-2010, 01:48 PM
??
Randy is a lefty, and his sidearm delivery is out left.
He's had shoulder problems, so sidearm is the only way he can throw hard.
You, as a rightie, toss out right somewhat because your shoulders are located on your right shoulder.
Tossing over your head is hard on your serving shoulder, just like twist serves. Ask any old fart tennis player.
An overhead delivery in baseball is normally easy for batters to pick up. Even short pitchers like Lincicum toss slightly over their right shoulders, to get a side component.
RandyJohnson's pitches drop fast for the speed of the ball, making it hard to hit. Overhead pitchers with backspin keeps the ball moving straight, easy for batters to pick up. Side component allows the ball to have "movement".

spacediver
01-10-2010, 09:10 AM
To answer the question of the OP:

I believe the optimal angle for maximum power is more downward than the almost horizontal angle required to hit a hard flat serve over the net.

It is easy to show yourself that you can hit a more relaxed, more powerful shot when you aim downward (as on an overhead).


interesting. I guess that means that tall players have yet another advantage - not only do they have more margin of error, a higher bounce, and more racquet head speed due to longer limbs, but they may also be able to derive more racquet head speed since they can aim at a more downward angle.

One question - you say that a hard flat serve requires an almost horizontal angle - are you suggesting that the angle that the ball travels at it leaves racquet (tangent to the parabolic arc of its trajectory) is almost 90 degrees - i.e. parallel to baseline??