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View Full Version : Adjusting Grip, Not Swing, for Serve


TimothyO
10-04-2011, 05:20 PM
When using a continental grip, especially when tired, I sometimes put balls into the net. Yes, I fail to fully stretch and take the ball fully extended. On the other hand, I manage to generate tons of spin so when I do execute properly the ball stays in and takes a nice, energetic leap towards the baseline (when practicing serves I play a game with myself...a double fault at any time gives the game to my imaginary opponent...four serves without a double fault and I win the game...balls may not bounce more than once after the service box and before hitting the fence...I usually win such sets 6-1 or 6-0 when fresh).

But I'd like to make my basic serve stroke a little more fool proof as I can be a foolish player when tired or under pressure!

So tonight, during an extended hitting session and after having also hit serves earlier in the day, I grew tired and tweaked my grip. Magic happened.

I tweaked my grip to something between full continental and eastern/noob serve grip according to many. Suddenly, no matter how tired or nervous, I could simply toss the ball, swing up, turn my shoulders, and the ball went in with incredibly high precision and good pace. Even better, the consistency was amazing...I just couldn't double fault. Shot after shot went in simply by changing the angle on the rkt head slightly.

Questions for the experienced TT serve gurus from this 3.0 noob: what are the potential problems with this approach?

I'm happy being 3.0 player aspiring to be a 3.5. Given my available time, age, and lack of cartiledge in my left knee I don't know that I will ever reach 4.0+. So at 3.0/3.5 will something less than a full conti suffice if I can be very consistent and hit hard, low, "fast" serves? No idea as to actual speed but they're hitting deep in the service box, staying well below knee height, and hitting close to the back fence. Tonight my opponent's returns were primarily block backs that popped up since he was forced to take them so low.

Also, any arm health issues with grip less than full conti? It feels great tonight and I was hitting with one of my 300s strung with VS/RPM strung at 56/53.

It just seems easier to tweak my grip slightly than to try to maintain a PERFECT swing path and perfect continental grip no matter how tired or nervous. Your advice?

LeeD
10-04-2011, 05:24 PM
If you're happy with the conti/efh grip, use it.
I suspect that if you went to the courts tomorrow, that serve will not go in anywhere near the consistency of today.

TimothyO
10-04-2011, 05:30 PM
Why is that LeeD?

Again, I can be very consistent with full conti...except when I get tired/nervous. Was very tired tonight, my back hurt, and my ankle hurt. Towards the end of the evening I just couldn't keep it together and then I made this tweak.

BTW...I saw a video of you hitting and hobbling around with your bad ankle. You inspire me! I have my first match of the season on Thursday night and have been worrying about my ankle. I can get around better than you were in that video so maybe I'll be ok! :) Your determination is very impressive!

dozu
10-04-2011, 05:33 PM
Conchita Martinez uses a FH flavor of the conti for serves... it works fine.

at 3.0-3.5, consistency is everything, even if you lack speed on the serve, if you can dink it in every time, you are good.

TimothyO
10-04-2011, 05:49 PM
Thanks Dozu, that's reassuring! It's definitely not a dink, at least by 3.0/3.5 standards. Stays low and zippy rather than the typical 3.0 floater. Tonight when returned I was presented with easy ducks which were fun to put away.

I'm hitting again in the morning. Will see how much more power I put on it when fresh.

LeeD
10-04-2011, 05:50 PM
As is changing anything in any sport, a one time improvement usually just means you were lucky that day, and the following weeks or even years can oftentimes be very frustrating, to expect to find that "instant" success again.
I do hope it works for you, but reality is, we are in a constant state of flux, and duplicating anything we've done well in the past is precarious adventure.

TimothyO
10-04-2011, 06:14 PM
Well, maybe it's all still new enough to me that change will be easy! :)

6-2/6-4/6-0
10-04-2011, 06:21 PM
Boris Becker used a forehand grip like you describe and he seemed to have a pretty solid serve. I use that grip with a Becker-like motion and it works quite well for me (learned to play tennis by watching videos - he had the best serve at the time, also tried Edberg and Mac's serves, Becker style had the best variety and efficacy). Use what works for you. If you can still spin the ball effectively when you want to, then don't worry about it. You can probably crush it when hitting flat with that grip...

corners
10-05-2011, 01:41 AM
Boris Becker used a forehand grip like you describe and he seemed to have a pretty solid serve. I use that grip with a Becker-like motion and it works quite well for me (learned to play tennis by watching videos - he had the best serve at the time, also tried Edberg and Mac's serves, Becker style had the best variety and efficacy). Use what works for you. If you can still spin the ball effectively when you want to, then don't worry about it. You can probably crush it when hitting flat with that grip...

I was a Becker mimic as a kid too. Easternish grip works fine, and some say is easier on the rotator cuff. But Lee might be right too, although I hope he's not Timothy and you continue to easily serve a high percentage. Good luck.

papa
10-05-2011, 04:13 AM
So much of the serve is dependent on the toss - when it works everything seems to fall in place for most. I like it when players fool around with the grip - really makes the server a better player when they understand the effects of slightly different grips.

dozu
10-05-2011, 04:24 AM
As is changing anything in any sport, a one time improvement usually just means you were lucky that day, and the following weeks or even years can oftentimes be very frustrating, to expect to find that "instant" success again.
I do hope it works for you, but reality is, we are in a constant state of flux, and duplicating anything we've done well in the past is precarious adventure.

I like this constant flux concept... tennis actually aint bad... there is a lot of margin for error, well, maybe except the serve where the target box is only about 1/4 the size of a rally shot...

now, if we start talking about constant flux in golf, that will get interesting when 1 degree of 'flux' causes a 20 yard difference.

Ramon
10-05-2011, 05:11 AM
Becker had a great serve with an easternish grip. I notice he used his knees and his back more than most people to generate spin and power, so that might have compensated for the grip in some ways.

At 3.0/3.5 you'll probably see more eastern grips on the serve than continental. So staying with your competition on the serve is not an issue. If that "flux" someone mentioned earlier starts to work against you and you start missing serves, you might want to experiment with going back to continental to get more topspin.

6-2/6-4/6-0
10-05-2011, 06:22 AM
The knee bend on the Becker serve seems to be the really important part to me. I had both shoulders rebuilt about 10 years ago, and while I had a great, highly pronating serve (a la Edberg) previously, now that motion causes great pain. I ended up going back to the Becker style serve (that I had used before the Edberg style serve as a young junior) and found more power, better spin, and a lot less pain in the shoulder during and after a match.

Everything you do in a stroke plays into it's success. Changing a grip will not necessarily make it much better or much worse unless other factors in the stroke (rhythm, weight transfer, acceleration, racket path, etc.) are such that the change in grip maximizes or minimizes the potency of all the other elements of the stroke.

If changing the grip has made a great deal of difference to your serve, it may be that you mechanics favor that grip and that using it going forward will be of benefit. It may have been a fluke. The only way to know is to continue using it and see. Just because you have trouble one day or another doesn't mean that you should abandon the new grip if you have reason to believe that it works better with your serve motion.

Practice it, play it, see how you do. Good luck.

TimothyO
10-05-2011, 07:32 AM
Hit with it this morning while fresh. While still more pop than my full continental serve compared to a full continental I didn't like it as much when "fresh" (good call LeeD).

Full continental puts so much spin on the ball my opponent commented on it this morning. With the old full C serve I won four points in a row with a combination of aces and extreme forced errors (barely got the racquet on my serve and sent it flying into the next court). Only double faulted twice when I tried to go towards Eastern (hit long both times).

One thing I did do this morning was focus really hard on getting into a deeper knee bend with the racquet as far down my back as possible. Even as play continued for two hours maintaining that "back scratch" discipline helped me maintain my consistency as fatigue and/or nerves set in. I think it forced my to maintain a proper "hitting up" swing path whereas when I get tired or nervous my path gets lazy and hit too forward instead of up (if that makes sense).