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View Full Version : All Spin, All the Time (Serving Advice Sought)


asked_answered
10-04-2011, 07:50 AM
So, my first and second serves always spin in, and I had a lesson last week to help me learn to hit a flat first serve. Despite practicing it almost every day since the lesson, I'm still spinning virtually every serve I hit. I would really appreciate any suggestions on how to correct my spinniness (and anything else that looks suspect, of course). A link to a video of my serving practice from this morning, which involved some deliberate spin serves on my part, is below:

The video is shot half at a distance to show ball placement and half closer to show my service motion. Thanks very much in advance!

BaboFan
10-04-2011, 08:11 AM
Lovely view and place for us to see thanks for that but I can't see the ball really well. It looks like a good serve though. There is nothing wrong with a spin serve its great for placement.

LuckyR
10-04-2011, 08:12 AM
I guess I don't understand your question. Clearly you have a honed lefty slice (that likely gives many righties problems). You are trying to learn a flat serve. Great. You aren't hitting any in your video. So are you saying that your instructor has failed to teach the flat serve to you? Or that despite his instruction you prefer lefty slice?

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 08:16 AM
Thanks very much for your comments, BaboFan! (Sorry about the ball visibility. It was early the morning with less than ideal lighting conditions.)

Regarding my issue, I love my spin serve for a second serve (or a change of pace on my first serve), but I would like to be able to boom a first, flat serve, too.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 08:19 AM
Sorry I wasn't clear, LuckyR. I meant to say that I am having trouble with the mechanics of the flat serve my instructor showed me. I'm trying to implement them, and I'm failing. So, I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong and hoping it shows up in the video.

BaboFan
10-04-2011, 08:23 AM
Your welcome!
But that serve is good. You are doing what I call warm up or light serving yet the ball has a lot of action as well as speed. Pace isn't there but you light serving.

However about flat serves your mechanics are fine. It should be the same for all serves. But toss the ball in front of you more and hit down and thru the ball. Don't go all the way across the ball but forward and thru. Its more practice and repetition we can't help anymore than we've said.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 08:28 AM
Thanks, BaboFan! I'll work on those elements. I think the spin serve mechanics are so hardwired for me that I'm not realizing that my body is just moving like it always moves, even when I'm trying to move in a different way.

Limpinhitter
10-04-2011, 08:38 AM
So, my first and second serves always spin in, and I had a lesson last week to help me learn to hit a flat first serve. Despite practicing it almost every day since the lesson, I'm still spinning virtually every serve I hit. I would really appreciate any suggestions on how to correct my spinniness (and anything else that looks suspect, of course). A link to a video of my serving practice from this morning, which involved some deliberate spin serves on my part, is below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJeqYebDnmk

The video is shot half at a distance to show ball placement and half closer to show my service motion. Thanks very much in advance!

And you're complaining? The more spin the better! Forget about hitting a flat serve. It's not a winning approach. No pro hits flat serves. If you want more power, employ more upper body rotation in to your service motion. From what little I could see, it's mostly an arm serve.

pvaudio
10-04-2011, 08:44 AM
The issue isn't that he's not doing a flat serve, the issue is that he's effectively pushing the ball into the court. No one expects you to spin your serves like Federer, but you do need a lot more racquet acceleration. We will need a shot from literally the opposite end of the court: slightly in front of you, against the fence. Or, to make that simpler, position it at the right net post (the one you face while serving) and angle the camera towards you. It allows a 3/4 view of your body mechanics. If you have time, then a full rear view would be the last piece. Until then, there's not much to go off! Good luck man :)

pvaudio
10-04-2011, 08:47 AM
And you're complaining? The more spin the better! Forget about hitting a flat serve. It's not a winning approach. No pro hits flat serves. If you want more power, employ more upper body rotation in to your service motion. From what little I could see, it's mostly an arm serve.This is like people saying voltage cannot kill you, it's the current. What he means is that every serve, flat or not, has some spin on it. It just has to because of biomechanics, strings, the weather, etc. The trajectory for a slice, kick, topspin and a flat serve are all mutually exclusive. They're all different and all must be hit differently as his coach told him. If you focus on hitting a flat serve, then you'll end up with a flat serve. The fact that the serve has rotation on it is a consequence of nature and nothing more. :)

rkelley
10-04-2011, 08:50 AM
So, my first and second serves always spin in, and I had a lesson last week to help me learn to hit a flat first serve. Despite practicing it almost every day since the lesson, I'm still spinning virtually every serve I hit. I would really appreciate any suggestions on how to correct my spinniness (and anything else that looks suspect, of course). A link to a video of my serving practice from this morning, which involved some deliberate spin serves on my part, is below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJeqYebDnmk

The video is shot half at a distance to show ball placement and half closer to show my service motion. Thanks very much in advance!

Hard to tell exactly, but it looks like you're allowing your left (racquet hand) shoulder to come through too much during the swing. If you're using a continental grip (which you appear to be and of course should be using) then if the racquet side shoulder comes through too much it will be really hard to hit the ball without slicing it. Watch some youtube videos of pros serving. Look at where their racquet shoulder at impact. You should see that it's somewhat behind, maybe just even with the non-racquet shoulder. The racquet shoulder is also above the non-racquet shoulder so that your racquet arm isn't really coming straight up from your shoulder but rather it's a bit more out to the side but you body is tilted to the non-racquet side so that you arm, relative to the court, is point up. This position actually protects your shoulder/rotator cuff as you serve.

I also noticed that your racquet-side leg falls through right after you hit. I think this another symptom of the racquet side shoulder coming through too much.

You definitely want to drive the racquet-side shoulder up at the ball, but you want the racquet to whip around into the ball right at impact. You don't want your shoulder to push the racquet through the contact zone.

Does that make any sense?

rkelley
10-04-2011, 08:57 AM
And you're complaining? The more spin the better! Forget about hitting a flat serve. It's not a winning approach. No pro hits flat serves. If you want more power, employ more upper body rotation in to your service motion. From what little I could see, it's mostly an arm serve.

It's true that a good "flat" serve (the ones the pros hit at 130 mph) actually has quite a bit of topspin on it, but generally it doesn't slice. It goes straight and the topspin makes it kick up some. A hard, flat-ish serve, especially with good placement, is a great weapon.

The OP serve is always slicing. I think there are form changes that he can make that will help him get more racquet head speed for both a "flat" serve and a slice and top/slice serves.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 09:37 AM
I'm not complaining, Limpinhitter, just trying to add the shot to my arsenal per the suggestion of the instructor. Thanks very much for the tip regarding upper body rotation!

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 09:40 AM
Thanks very much for the racquet acceleration tip and camera angle suggestions, pvaudio! I'll try and get some video to supplement what I posted originally.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 09:43 AM
Your advice does make sense, rkelley. I just need to figure out how to reduce that shoulder through-motion. I'll watch some pro videos, then see if I can make some of what I see happen on video happen on the practice court. Thanks very much!

LeeD
10-04-2011, 11:41 AM
You're just arming your serves, at maybe 60%.
If you want a flatter ball, swing faster, pronate much more, be prepared for the ball going more to your left. Adjust your target as needed.

TennisCJC
10-04-2011, 11:43 AM
I don't hit many flat serves but the best analogy I've heard is to slap the ball with your hand. For slice or top serves, you brush L to R for righty server. For flat, racket goes up toward contact with leading edge and then pronate so you slap the ball flat on with the string bed - no brushing action. I actually use a very small L to R action in that I do follow thru to the R of contact slightly - this adds some spin for safety.

Another way to say the same thing is for slice you are swinging toward the net post. For kick, you are swinging toward the side fence. For flat, you are swinging at the direction the ball will travel. Again, I actually swing out and thru just a few degrees to the R of the direction the ball will travel.

So slap it out and straight thru the direction you are aiming. Go slightly to the R (for righty) to add a bit of spin to the flat serve.

LeeD
10-04-2011, 11:48 AM
You're concise with your explanation, but why don't you adjust for OP being a lefty?

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 12:27 PM
Thanks for the tips, LeeD!

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 12:41 PM
Thanks very much for the tips, TennisCJC!

Limpinhitter
10-04-2011, 01:24 PM
I'm not complaining, Limpinhitter, just trying to add the shot to my arsenal per the suggestion of the instructor. Thanks very much for the tip regarding upper body rotation!

I just want to make sure you understand that you really don't want a truly "flat" serve. As a practical matter, the margin for error would be so low that you wouldn't get enough of them in for it to be practical unless you hit softly enough for gravity to pull the ball in to the court.

Having said that, the most effective way to adjust the amount of spin on your serve is the same for any shot - adjust your swing path and racquet face angle at contact. The more glancing a blow, with the sharpest racquet face angle at contact, will result in the most amount of spin. Conversely, if you hit more directly through the ball with a more flush racquet face at contact, you'll impart less spin.

So, how do you adjust your swing path? One way is to adjust the way you "return" from your UBR that I talk about. Assume that if your chest is facing the target that it is at 0 degrees from the target line. Ideally, when the toss is at its peak, and you are completely coiled up and ready to unload, your chest should be approximately 120-130 degrees from the target line, with your shoulder blades visible to your opponent. (If your back is flush to the target line, that would be 180 degrees). If you return all the way back to the point that your chest is at about a 20-30 degree angle from the target line at the point of contact (not quite facing the target), you are likely to hit more directly through the ball. You are also likely to generate tremendous power from all of that UBR before contact. However, if you delay your "return" so that your chest is about 70-80 degrees from the target line at contact (exactly sideways to the target line would be 90 degrees), and your spine is properly tilted back, your swing path will be moving more upward at contact and you are likely to hit a more glancing upward blow imparting more spin.

Obviously, these numbers and the effect on spin will vary from player to player.

I hope this explanation is comprehensible.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 02:12 PM
It is comprehensible and appreciated, Limpinhitter. Thanks very much!

toly
10-04-2011, 02:34 PM
Despite practicing it almost every day since the lesson, I'm still spinning virtually every serve I hit. I would really appreciate any suggestions on how to correct my spinniness.
About flat serve you can read http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=5276723#post5276723.

Limpinhitter
10-04-2011, 02:39 PM
It is comprehensible and appreciated, Limpinhitter. Thanks very much!

Glad to hear it. I like to analogize a tennis serve serve to a baseball pitch. There's a lot to learn from pitching technique. Since you're a lefty, check out the tremendous UBR and leg drive of Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDgMXFBHLP0

Here's an old grainy video of Neale Fraser vs. Rod Laver in the 1960 Wimbledon final. Both have great lefty serves with big turns. It's hard to tell them apart in this old video, but, Fraser's serve has a noticably bigger turn and is simply one of the great lefty serves of all time. You can tell Laver modeled his serve after his elder countryman Fraser. It starts with Laver serving. Fraser's serve begins at about 1:10:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0-6cRPqA8g&NR=1

LuckyR
10-04-2011, 04:12 PM
Sorry I wasn't clear, LuckyR. I meant to say that I am having trouble with the mechanics of the flat serve my instructor showed me. I'm trying to implement them, and I'm failing. So, I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong and hoping it shows up in the video.

I get it now. I disagree with some of the advice you are getting. It is true that if you get more racquet head speed that the pace of your slice will improve, but it will just be a faster slice (which can be a great serve) but it isn't a "flat" serve.

If you are after a flat serve you will have to hit the ball... flat. That is with the racquet head perpendicular to the direction the ball is struck. This is a different motion than your honed slice. Of course if you just want a slice with more pace, then just increase the acceleration through the ball with your current motion.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 04:34 PM
Thanks for the link to the flat serve thread, Toly!

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 04:35 PM
My instructor analogized the serve to a baseball throw, too, Limpinhitter. Thanks very much for the links to the pitching footage and the Laver-Fraser match!

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 04:41 PM
Thanks for that point, LuckyR! I agree that the motion is different, just from observing serving (and pitching via Limpinhitter's link). I just have to figure out how to make that motion work. I practiced again today, increasing my upper body coil, and I got a lot more power (and less accuracy) in my slice/kick serves, as a result, but my serve still wasn't flat, except maybe once or twice. I videoed the serving, but I haven't looked at it yet or edited it for upload. I do know from the very high number of purely crappy serves that it's going to be painful to watch. :)

LeeD
10-04-2011, 04:44 PM
Any time you adopt a new anything, it takes TIME and practice before you can implement the new idea.
If it was as easy as you think it should be, it's be called "kiteboarding".
If it was as easy as you think it should be, you'd have incorporated it already!
Progression is a series of rises and falls, with each set of rises hopefully rising beyond the falls.

Caesar
10-04-2011, 04:49 PM
This is like people saying voltage cannot kill you, it's the current. What he means is that every serve, flat or not, has some spin on it. It just has to because of biomechanics, strings, the weather, etc. The trajectory for a slice, kick, topspin and a flat serve are all mutually exclusive. They're all different and all must be hit differently as his coach told him. If you focus on hitting a flat serve, then you'll end up with a flat serve. The fact that the serve has rotation on it is a consequence of nature and nothing more. :)
I agree that every serve has a bit of spin on it naturally, but I do think there is merit to the idea that trying to hit a flat serve is overrated (for left-handers, at least). I'm a lefty, and my stock serve is a slice. Not an extreme slice, but a slice nonetheless.

It's better than a real flat serve, because (a) the spin gives it greater stability/accuracy, and (b) the lefty slice is very difficult for most players to deal with. The loss of pace is pretty minimal and it's great to either go wide to their backhand, or jam the body - which are my two standard moves off the first serve.

I generally only use the bomb flat serve when I want to go wide on the left side of the service box to keep them honest. It's useful, but definitely my least used (and least effective) first serve variation.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 04:52 PM
Oh, I know learning to hit a flatter serve is going to take time and lots and lots of practice, LeeD. My problem is that I don't seem to be doing it at all, and I can't practice it, if I'm not doing it.

As for the increased power and consequently decreased accuracy of my spin/kick serves, I'm not surprised at all. I've always known that would happen, when I tried it, but I've been able to get away without it up until now. (I'm a 3.5) Since I want to play at a 4.0 level, I need to make all of my serves more powerful. That will involve lots of time and crappy serving during that time.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 04:57 PM
I don't expect to rely on a flat serve for the reasons you described, Caesar, but I want to be able to do it on command to punish opponents who cheat over, in anticipation of my slice serve. For instance, if I can pound a couple serves down the T in a row, it will increase the effectiveness of my slices by forcing opponents to position themselves close enough to the T to cover my flat serves. At least that's the idea. :)

Caesar
10-04-2011, 05:24 PM
The thing about a first serve is that if you can hit it with pace and place it fairly accurately in the box, you're pretty much set. You can slice it all day or hit it flat all day - it doesn't matter. The point is that you have a quick serve and your opponent doesn't know where it's going to land. That automatically puts you on the front foot.

Personally, if I were you at this point, I'd just go with what's natural for my first serve (being your slice) and concentrate on getting it as grooved as possible. If you have a hard and accurate first serve that you can put where you want in the service box, you're going to win a lot of free points.

Sure, it might mean that you don't hit down the T in the ad court much, but does it matter? I'd say no. Not for the time being, anyway. It's a luxury you can add later.

You're worried about the guy cheating across. At least in the interim, try jamming his body more with your existing slice. A lefty's body serve is very underrated because the natural instinct of the righthander is to back away and hit a forehand - but the lefty slice comes with him. If he wants to hit a good shot, he needs to come across the ball and hit a backhand. Throwing darts like that at him regularly should make him think twice about cheating too far across for the wide serve.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 05:39 PM
Thanks for the suggestions, Caesar! I definitely want to be able to place my first serve wherever I want it. Right now, I tend to serve into the body for the reason you described and also because I'm not going to miss wide that way. At this point, I'm determined to learn the flat serve because I like a challenge, even if the benefits are not great. The side benefit, though, of seeking to learn it is that a lot of the advice received here has spurred me to increase the effectiveness of my already-effective slice/kick serve.

asked_answered
10-04-2011, 09:22 PM
I looked at the video of my second set of first serve attempts, and they didn't look much different than the original set of serves I posted. So, I just need to keep practicing. Thanks again for all of the advice, folks!

mightyrick
10-05-2011, 04:41 AM
That's a nice view at dusk.

Other than that, was there anything else going on? I certainly couldn't see anything. :)

asked_answered
10-05-2011, 05:44 AM
It was actually just after dawn, mightyrick. I thought the video camera would be able to handle the low lighting better. Heh.

asked_answered
10-05-2011, 06:35 PM
By the way, the tennis pro who was working with me on my serve said I should model it after the serve of Richard "Pancho" Gonzalez. Here's a video of some of his serves:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyhFo3hvGPI

Limpinhitter
10-05-2011, 07:14 PM
By the way, the tennis pro who was working with me on my serve said I should model it after the serve of Richard "Pancho" Gonzalez. Here's a video of some of his serves:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyhFo3hvGPI

One of the all time great serves. Pancho had a very simple motion, but, it was extremely efficient and he also had a huge, huge internal shoulder rotation and forearm pronation and wrist release that was perfectly timed to come together and snap at contact. Stan Smith had a similar service motion and technique.

Here's some great footage of Pancho beating up on Ken Rosewall. Check out the view of Pancho's serve at :26 seconds. Stop the video at each stage of the serve to get an idea of what's really going on. You'll have to go through that serve a few times because you won't be able to stop it very accurately to all the positions and fully appreciate what Pancho is doing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2rydnvswts

asked_answered
10-05-2011, 07:31 PM
I was looking at the video earlier, Limpinhitter, and I completely agree that the serve at :26 seconds is great to freeze and watch. Thanks very much!

asked_answered
10-11-2011, 11:48 AM
I've been practicing my serve almost every day since my 9/28 lesson, and my instructor saw me hitting yesterday and told me that my serve had improved. He also said that I don't need to worry about hitting a pure flat first serve but to focus instead on hitting a flatter slicing or kick first serve, which he said I am now doing. That made me feel better about my trouble hitting pure flat serves. Between the mechanics he showed me in my lesson and the help received here, I think my serve is on its way to becoming much more effective. Thanks, folks!

(I'll really see how my serve is working tonight, during my USTA league singles match.)

LeeD
10-11-2011, 01:27 PM
A short cut is always nice.
I suspect your coach just wants to make instant progress, so he and lots of folks here say to "don't use a flat first serve".
Well, guess what? You don't have to if you don't want to. Just like avoiding a half volley, or overhead, you can choose what you want to practice.
The THREAT of a flat fast serve is what makes your opponent stand waaay back, allowing your slice and twist serves to move him off the court.
No flat first, no threat.
Whatever, practice what you want.

sunof tennis
10-11-2011, 02:15 PM
One of the all time great serves. Pancho had a very simple motion, but, it was extremely efficient and he also had a huge, huge internal shoulder rotation and forearm pronation and wrist release that was perfectly timed to come together and snap at contact. Stan Smith had a similar service motion and technique.

Here's some great footage of Pancho beating up on Ken Rosewall. Check out the view of Pancho's serve at :26 seconds. Stop the video at each stage of the serve to get an idea of what's really going on. You'll have to go through that serve a few times because you won't be able to stop it very accurately to all the positions and fully appreciate what Pancho is doing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2rydnvswts

You actually have a nice fluid service motion. I quoted this because of the notation of shoulder rotation in Pancho's serve. Looks like you could use some more shoulder and hip rotation which will give you more pace without swinging any harder.

asked_answered
10-11-2011, 05:53 PM
Well, LeeD, my instructor didn't tell me that I shouldn't develop a flat serve, just not to worry about the fact that it's taking me a while to hit the serve consistently. I am hitting flat serves, just not often. I really want to be able to hit a flat serve when appropriate.

And I don't believe in short cuts for tennis. :)

asked_answered
10-11-2011, 05:55 PM
Thanks, sunof_tennis! I'm definitely working on adding rotation to my serves.

asked_answered
10-11-2011, 06:06 PM
My first league match attempting to implement my new serve elements didn't go well tonight. (I lost the match 1-6, 2-6.) I missed a lot more first serves than normal and double faulted much more than normal. But at least my serves were coming across the net (or smacking into it) with a lot more power. Heh.

Back to the practice court for me.

TennisCJC
10-13-2011, 10:01 AM
One of the all time great serves. Pancho had a very simple motion, but, it was extremely efficient and he also had a huge, huge internal shoulder rotation and forearm pronation and wrist release that was perfectly timed to come together and snap at contact. Stan Smith had a similar service motion and technique.

Here's some great footage of Pancho beating up on Ken Rosewall. Check out the view of Pancho's serve at :26 seconds. Stop the video at each stage of the serve to get an idea of what's really going on. You'll have to go through that serve a few times because you won't be able to stop it very accurately to all the positions and fully appreciate what Pancho is doing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2rydnvswts

Geez, I forgot how arkward Rosewall's serve was. Pancho has a smooth great serve, but Rosewall looked almost like a rec player. I saw Rosewall play in a Senior tourney about 10 years past his prime and his serve had that same slow deliberate look that you see in the video. He was consistent and placed it but it looked like work for him. Pancho looks fluid, smooth, natural - like it comes easy to him. Rosewall was a natural lefty who learned to play right handed - that may explain the less fluid service stroke. It might also explain Rosewalls great backhand.

Sorry to get off track but that video brought back memories.

Mike Hodge
10-19-2011, 06:52 PM
So, my first and second serves always spin in, and I had a lesson last week to help me learn to hit a flat first serve. Despite practicing it almost every day since the lesson, I'm still spinning virtually every serve I hit. I would really appreciate any suggestions on how to correct my spinniness (and anything else that looks suspect, of course). A link to a video of my serving practice from this morning, which involved some deliberate spin serves on my part, is below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJeqYebDnmk

The video is shot half at a distance to show ball placement and half closer to show my service motion. Thanks very much in advance!

Here are a couple resources I'd recommend: Jim McLennan's Essential Tennis Instruction, Building the Serve from the Ground Up and Mastering the Kick Serve.

And the the Magic Moves of the Serve by Brent Abel. Both have clips on You Tube you can sample. Focus on being loose to get the racquet drop and the pace will come, IMO.

asked_answered
10-19-2011, 07:03 PM
Thanks for the suggestions, Mike!

Limpinhitter
10-19-2011, 07:24 PM
Geez, I forgot how arkward Rosewall's serve was. Pancho has a smooth great serve, but Rosewall looked almost like a rec player. I saw Rosewall play in a Senior tourney about 10 years past his prime and his serve had that same slow deliberate look that you see in the video. He was consistent and placed it but it looked like work for him. Pancho looks fluid, smooth, natural - like it comes easy to him. Rosewall was a natural lefty who learned to play right handed - that may explain the less fluid service stroke. It might also explain Rosewalls great backhand.

Sorry to get off track but that video brought back memories.

Here's another view of Rosewall's serve at about 1:20:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txaztRVQC94

Limpinhitter
10-19-2011, 07:39 PM
Deleted for mootness!