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View Full Version : Best method of completely changing my serve?


limitup
10-03-2011, 07:56 PM
After putting it off for far too long, I've finally decided I'm going to bite the bullet and try to correct a few fundamental flaws in my serve. This basically means starting from scratch with a new motion.

I've heard somewhere that it takes 30,000 reps of a new stroke to "master" it and fully cement the muscle memory in place so the stroke because natural and you don't have to think about it. Sounds like a lot, but probably about right.

Problem is, how do you go about completely changing a shot while you still need to play? It's not like I can take 3 months off to just practice my serve every day. Even if I hit 100 practice serves a day that is only 3,000 a month, so it would take 10 months of hitting 100 every single day to reach 30,000.

I've never had arm, elbow or shoulder problems ... is there any benefit to hitting lots more in a shorter period of time to speed up the process? I mean I could hit 500 serves a day (spread out over at least 2 sessions) and my arm would be fine. Is there benefit in doing this?

Curious, especially from any coaches out there, what is the "recommended" way to overhaul a stroke while you still need to keep playing matches??

My serve has a few fundamental problems that have kept me at the 4.0 level far too long. I've had enough and I will do anything to fix it.

Limpinhitter
10-03-2011, 08:30 PM
Amir75 says it takes about 5,000 repetitions to groove in a new stroke. I think that's probably a little on the high side. The key, however, is to video your serve practices to make sure you are doing what you think you are doing.

In terms of your approach, I would recommend 100 serves every other day, but, not on days that you play a match. If you hit 300 serves per week, in 10 weeks you've hit 3,000 serves. That should be enough to use your new serve competitively, even if you haven't perfected it yet. But, there's no reason to ever stop practicing your serve. It's the most important shot in the game. You should spend more time on your serve than any other shot, as long as you play competitive tennis, IMO.

limitup
10-03-2011, 09:12 PM
I guess my big problem is that after making some changes and hitting about 500 serves "the new way", I found it quite difficult to both switch back to my old serve the next day for my match and then switch back to the new way again a few days later to practice. Maybe I'll get used to it, but it seems like the constant switching back and forth will be an issue. Unfortunately I'm not just talking about a few small tweaks lol

Limpinhitter
10-03-2011, 09:17 PM
I guess my big problem is that after making some changes and hitting about 500 serves "the new way", I found it quite difficult to both switch back to my old serve the next day for my match and then switch back to the new way again a few days later to practice. Maybe I'll get used to it, but it seems like the constant switching back and forth will be an issue. Unfortunately I'm not just talking about a few small tweaks lol

WHAT? NO, NO NO, NO! It is an issue! If you want to learn a new serve, you have to let go of the old serve. You're just making it harder to learn your new serve by reverting back to the old serve for match play. My advice is to make a clean cut from the old serve and stick with the new serve 100%.

Chas Tennis
10-03-2011, 09:20 PM
I have the same issue now.

I tried two years ago to find a pro to take a lesson specifying "pronation" as what I wanted in one/few private lessons. One pro was not too clear discussing and was not interested in giving a lesson because he was busy. The other was recommended by the club manager for my "pronation" lesson. He did not teach any arm rotation but a wrist snap method.

The physics of pronation thread earlier this year was a revelation to me and made me a believer in internal shoulder rotation (ISR). I did not want to practice until I understood the timing of both upper arm internal shoulder rotation (ISR) and forearm pronation before impact. I'm stuck because I can't find pronation for certain in my high speed videos of serves and I'm not practicing anything until I know how ISR & pronation are timed. I'm not sure there is any pronation before impact in a high performance serve. I would need to see it in high speed videos. ISR is very easy to spot in all high speed videos. ? You could also get hurt trying ISR if not done properly.

Good to read this very general reference on the biomechanics of the serve and ISR.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2577481/

Get a high speed video camera. My videos show internal shoulder rotation occurs mostly in about 30 more or less milliseconds. Standard 30 fps samples only every 33 milliseconds meaning that you can never really see what is going on but you can deceive yourself.

BaboFan
10-03-2011, 09:24 PM
I say insteadvof creating a new motion fix yours. You put all that time into it anyways make it better. If you will cahnge it, make it simple.

When I coach juniors I tell them to throw a bucket of balls with a baseball throw. Then I take a whip out and have them snap with it. Lastly I make them imagine a pendulum. Your arm is the pendulum. I have them keep their arm straight in the take back but have them drop it back like a pendulum. On their serve I have them maintain this momentum, this weight, and make them loop it. That backscratcher is important too. Its the snap of the whip so loop to the backscratch then snap. All at the same time your body should begin with its weight on the front foot in which you can.lift your back foot easily. On the take back your weight should transfer to the Backdoor. Then on the backsracth you will be coming in and jumping into the ball and into the court.

My two cents.

Drop Snot
10-03-2011, 09:46 PM
I did it. My first serve was flat and I held the the racket like a frying pan. My second was a very easy bump in. My goal was to develop a reliable serve with a lot of spin. It took me 6 months but now I have a very reliable second serve that I use for both my first and second serves. Now I'm going to work on flattening it out and getting more pace and that will be my first serve. To get where I am my winning percentage dropped way off but now its coming back. I think it was well worth the effort because my serve now has lots of room to grow whereas my old serve was very limited and one dimensional.

zapvor
10-04-2011, 04:51 AM
so to OP first why dont you post a vid so we can take a look. 2nd, to really change your serve motion i suggest getting a good coach that will really work with you to fix whatever issues you are having. my new coach i got this summer fixed my serve in less than 3 lessons! (i am keeping him to myself)

fuzz nation
10-04-2011, 06:13 AM
I have the same issue now.

I tried two years ago to find a pro to take a lesson specifying "pronation" as what I wanted in one/few private lessons. One pro was not too clear discussing and was not interested in giving a lesson because he was busy. The other was recommended by the club manager for my "pronation" lesson. He did not teach any arm rotation but a wrist snap method.


Appreciate the success you're finding, but I'm inclined to caution you against fixating on the action of pronation/ISR without focusing more on the components of your serve that make it happen. Unless you elbow yourself in the stomach when you try to hit the ball, the good news is that you've got some pronation happening in your serve. If you can keep after the racquet position, swing path, tempo, and synchronization of the kinetic chain you call upon to drive your serve, that pronation will be a happy result of the essentials in your serve that "make it go".

fuzz nation
10-04-2011, 06:30 AM
After putting it off for far too long, I've finally decided I'm going to bite the bullet and try to correct a few fundamental flaws in my serve. This basically means starting from scratch with a new motion.

I've never had arm, elbow or shoulder problems ... is there any benefit to hitting lots more in a shorter period of time to speed up the process? I mean I could hit 500 serves a day (spread out over at least 2 sessions) and my arm would be fine. Is there benefit in doing this?

Curious, especially from any coaches out there, what is the "recommended" way to overhaul a stroke while you still need to keep playing matches??


The problem is that you're not starting from scratch. You've got to un-learn your old serve and then get after your new motion until it's ingrained and reliable. From the sound of things, you've had enough with that old serve. COOL!!! Jump in with both feet and understand that you've got to see some short term setbacks in order to progress. You've got to get worse in the short term to get better in the long term.

If you can expect/understand that this process has to happen, that can make it easier to live with your serve unravelling for a while. When you can interpret that mess as evidence that your serve is changing, it can be a lot less frustrating while you rebuild that shot.

The serve is maybe twice as complex as the other shots we hit. Messing with any piece can throw a wrench at the whole thing. If you haven't taken a lesson, you may be missing out on some good direction. A trained eye should be able to spot the rights and wrongs in your motion and guide you toward the serve you're after. Remember that we rarely know what we don't know until some illumination comes along.

dozu
10-04-2011, 06:32 AM
any1 too sheepish to post a video does not deserve any help.

Limpinhitter
10-04-2011, 08:34 AM
any1 too sheepish to post a video does not deserve any help.

I don't agree. There are many possible reasons why someone who asks for help doesn't post a video. In this case, perhaps the OP doesn't want or need advice on technique, only on how to manage his transition - which is what he asked for.

Even if a poster is too "sheepish" to post a video, as long as they understand that the quality of the advice given is circumscribed by the information provided, he/she is entitled to your best effort, if you make one at all.

Nellie
10-04-2011, 08:50 AM
You can learn a new service motion if you commit to it. The key is lose bad habits while practicing the new good habits, and in my opinion, the best way to accomplish this is to break down the parts of the serve motion and to correctly practice each portion of the correct serve. For example, serve from your knees to stay sideways and starting from the backscratch to get the shoulders turned.

Also, practice slowly with a lot of emphasis of good form (not to improve power, getting through numbers of repetitions, etc.). Think of being really smooth. Look at pros practice and see how relaxed they are while practicing.

While serving (with correct form) a lot is good, lots of repetition with bad form is not, obviously.

Chas Tennis
10-04-2011, 09:40 AM
................................ the good news is that you've got some pronation happening in your serve.

Using internet definitions for pronation and internal shoulder rotation -

I'm still not sure that considerable pronation occurs before impact - I need high speed video evidence.

Internal shoulder rotation (ISR) on the other hand is easy and natural as high speed videos of many of my friends & pros have shown. ISR is unknown to most servers because it is too fast to see by eye - 3 hundredths of a second for a pro - and most videos of the serve are taken at 30 fps. What a colossal and misleading effort taking 30 fps video of serves is! Years of TW posts...... In high speed video of my serve the ISR is puny and probably not well timed. I'm researching the timing with this assumption - the angular velocity of the upper arm (IRS) has to be already high before impact - but impact could still be early after acceleration. Pronation on the other hand is much harder to see in my high speed videos at 240fps because it involves a more subtle motion that is hard to see on videos without arm markers. With the poor video information so far, I still suspect that most pronation occurs in the follow-through, well after impact. [Wrist bands with logos can be used as markers in high speed videos to show wrist position.]

It would be useful for the OP and anyone else to get a high speed video of their serve before practicing.

rufusbgood
10-04-2011, 10:52 AM
so to OP first why dont you post a vid so we can take a look. 2nd, to really change your serve motion i suggest getting a good coach that will really work with you to fix whatever issues you are having. my new coach i got this summer fixed my serve in less than 3 lessons! (i am keeping him to myself)

Here is a video of zapvor serving (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEC_CYcB7fA&NR=1) from his recent thread dated 9/19/11. Anyone interested in hiring his coach?

limitup
10-04-2011, 10:57 AM
^^^ LOL that's mean :)

Thanks to all who posted meaningful replies.

I'm just trying to figure out how to make the transition without pis sing off and losing all of my hitting partners and opponents!

If I just switch cold turkey to my new serve it will be ugly, for awhile. Seriously, my guys won't want to hit with me any more.

I could take a month or so off and do nothing but serve, which I might have to do, I'm just trying to avoid that.

dozu - have you ever posted a helpful reply on TW anywhere? Ever?? As Limpinhitter pointed out, I didn't ask for serving tips in my OP. And even if I did, I wouldn't take any from you lol

zapvor
10-04-2011, 11:22 AM
Here is a video of zapvor serving (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEC_CYcB7fA&NR=1) from his recent thread dated 9/19/11. Anyone interested in hiring his coach?

what do you think of the serve?

zapvor
10-04-2011, 11:23 AM
^^^ LOL that's mean :)

Thanks to all who posted meaningful replies.

I'm just trying to figure out how to make the transition without pis sing off and losing all of my hitting partners and opponents!

If I just switch cold turkey to my new serve it will be ugly, for awhile. Seriously, my guys won't want to hit with me any more.

I could take a month or so off and do nothing but serve, which I might have to do, I'm just trying to avoid that.

dozu - have you ever posted a helpful reply on TW anywhere? Ever?? As Limpinhitter pointed out, I didn't ask for serving tips in my OP. And even if I did, I wouldn't take any from you lol

so basically like 99% of posters you arent going to post a vid. got it.

limitup
10-04-2011, 01:55 PM
so basically like 99% of posters you arent going to post a vid. got it.

So basically I'll assume that English isn't your first language since you have no clue what this thread is about. Got it.

gregor.b
10-04-2011, 02:11 PM
To the OP,there is a 1% rule in tennis.DO NOT try to change everything in one go.Try to change 1 thing at a time.If you have 3 or 4 issues you can smooth them out gradually and it is much easier to concentrate on 1 small thing in your motion than several things.

zapvor
10-04-2011, 02:13 PM
So basically I'll assume that English isn't your first language since you have no clue what this thread is about. Got it.

lol i see you are changing the subject now that you are caught red handed. doesnt bug me its your serve that's going to suffer not me

rufusbgood
10-04-2011, 10:46 PM
I'm just trying to figure out how to make the transition without pis sing off and losing all of my hitting partners and opponents!

If I just switch cold turkey to my new serve it will be ugly, for awhile. Seriously, my guys won't want to hit with me any more.

I could take a month or so off and do nothing but serve, which I might have to do, I'm just trying to avoid that.



If you go ahead with overhauling your serve I think you can well expect that all your worst fears will be realized. You are going to be lost for a while. Resign yourself to it. It happens pretty quickly too. At first, as you try to do things differently, your body is going to fight you. It's going to seem ridiculous. You will be trying to do something that seems simple enough and find you have absolutely no control of your own body. Like it has a mind of its own. If you persevere, eventually you will take control though. And that will be the end of your old serve. Bye-bye. Gone.

When you reach this stage, you are no longer a creature of habit. The good news is that the bad habit is gone. The bad news is you don't have any good habits either. The cool thing about this stage is that you can experiment with all sorts of nuances to see what effect they have on your overall delivery. You're kind of like a blank slate. Let's see, when I toss do I want my palm facing the sky or the fence? Do I want to start with the racquet pointed toward the opponent or the net post? Do I get more power when my arms go up together or apart? Should I start out with my wrist deviated, flexed, both?

I decided to change my serve (home grown and funky) after about 25 years of playing. I think it's probably about 4 years now and I am still experimenting. I still don't have a serve I don't have to think about.

Earlier this summer we had a lot of rainy days. The park I play at has the option of locking the tennis courts if there are puddles. Depends on who is working that day I guess. So I ended up practicing my serve a lot at the handball courts which are always open. Just trying to make the motion more automatic with endless repetition. Based on my experience, I'd caution you against trying to save time like this. The upshot of this intensive practice was a pretty severe case of golfer's elbow. I ended up spending the rest of the summer serving side arm.

Ultimately, while it's been a long and frustrating journey, I think it's the right way to go. Even though I don't have a serve that's second nature to me, my repertoire is much larger. For instance, if you asked me to serve with an abbreviated motion 5 years ago, I don't think I could do it. If you asked me to start my service motion like Sampras with my left forefoot off the ground, I would probably have fallen over.

So, anyway, I wish you luck with it. Maybe you can find a hitting partner who likes it when you toss and re-toss and re-re-toss. BTW, serving side arm is legal. :)

user92626
10-05-2011, 06:38 AM
I'm just trying to figure out how to make the transition without pis sing off and losing all of my hitting partners and opponents!

If I just switch cold turkey to my new serve it will be ugly, for awhile. Seriously, my guys won't want to hit with me any more.

I could take a month or so off and do nothing but serve, which I might have to do, I'm just trying to avoid that.


OP,

It's erroneous to think that while you're learning a new, correct server, your winning percentage will go down or you'll become so off with your serve, especially your current, old serve is already wrong in the first place.

I speak from my own experience. I change and practice my serve for better almost constantly, while play sets as well. All in all my winning percentage goes up as far as serve goes. The key is you need to understand all the foundations solidly enough, even if you can't perform them all or at high effectiveness. This brings up a second key. Don't think a new serve as ...be all or end all or in any absolute term. There are many degrees in between. You can still learn/practice/use in games a correct motion and contact that you do at a slower pace. You won't get a 80mph serve but you are still very much in the correct path and your winning percentage won't necessarily suffer. It could even get higher depending on how bad /wrong your old serve was and/or how correct you could perform the new serve. Again, the keyword here is correct serve. Time and practicing just provides you familarity that won't break down at high speed. That's all.

dozu
10-05-2011, 06:50 AM
easy solution - focus on 2nd serves when you hit with a partner... should be mostly spin serves that will make in the box and make the practice interesting for both.

if you can hit all 2nd serves with correct pronation, and the ball has the right flight path, then you can add 1st serves to the practice.