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View Full Version : Service motion: with & without ball it's completely different


stephan_58
01-12-2012, 06:15 AM
I've got a sort of strange question about my service motion. Why is it that when I'm just going through the motion without a ball, my motion seems to be pretty much flawless with all the common threads but as soon as I take a ball, I just can't help myself but fall back into old habits? I just can't, for the life of me, do the same motion that I'm able to do without that yellow fuzzy thing. I think if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to do exactly the same motion but include a ball, I'd be dead soon after... ;-) I just can't wrap my head around the reason for this. All the good elements, like leading with the hips/pronation/low to high elbow etc., they seem to be gone as soon as I step onto a tennis court.

Does it have something to do with the toss? is it too high/low so that my body can't go through the motions naturally? Please help me solve this mystery that's been puzzling me for a while... :confused:

LuckyR
01-12-2012, 07:06 AM
IMO most would agree with you about there being a difference between the service motion with and w/o using a ball. But I would say that my motion is better with a ball and off timing without one. Why? Because I learned that motion on a court, with a ball. Doing it without a ball is foreign.

spaceman_spiff
01-12-2012, 07:18 AM
It's your toss.

Your practice swing is free of any complications and assumes the ball is in the right spot. When you throw an actual ball into the mix, if it's not in the right place, your body will adjust so that you actually hit the ball (regardless of whether the technique is correct).

Chances are, if you were to do your perfect practice swing with your current ball toss (as if the two were not connected), you'd end up missing the ball completely or hitting it nowhere near the service box.

Fix your toss. Once you get the ball in the right spot and start your swing at the right time, your body will do the rest naturally (assuming you really do have the technique down). If in doubt, video yourself and take a good look at what you're really doing on your serves. The problem should become clear.

stephan_58
01-12-2012, 07:24 AM
And I'd say that's the way it should be, so I'm kinda bummed I just can't get there for some reason. Last year I spent countless hours alone on the court (with my camera) trying to fix things using a ball. I guess something in my head is keeping me from doing it. Also I've been practicing with a coach the last few months, I'm seeing progress in all areas except the serve. He keeps telling me to pronate, stay behind the baseline longer etc. I completely understand all of it, yet I just can't incorporate any of it into my motion. Strange, strange.

rkelley
01-12-2012, 07:27 AM
It's your toss.

Your practice swing is free of any complications and assumes the ball is in the right spot. When you throw an actual ball into the mix, if it's not in the right place, your body will adjust so that you actually hit the ball (regardless of whether the technique is correct).

Chances are, if you were to do your perfect practice swing with your current ball toss (as if the two were not connected), you'd end up missing the ball completely or hitting it nowhere near the service box.

Fix your toss. Once you get the ball in the right spot and start your swing at the right time, your body will do the rest naturally (assuming you really do have the technique down). If in doubt, video yourself and take a good look at what you're really doing on your serves. The problem should become clear.

Agreed - it's the toss. I've experienced what the OP said too. And once you start adjusting for the bad toss it's hard not to keep doing all the adjustments with your body even when the toss gets into the right place.

I've done a drill where I swing without a ball a couple of times, taking care to move my tossing arm like I'm really tossing and picturing the ball in the perfect place. Then I'll just toss the ball to that perfect place a couple of times. Then I put them together and serve. Rinse and repeat many times. It's kind of tedious and boring, but it has helped me in getting my good, non-ball service motion together with a good toss.

stephan_58
01-12-2012, 07:27 AM
^
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That post was in reply to LuckyR's post, sorry, I can't edit it.

rkelley
01-12-2012, 07:28 AM
And I'd say that's the way it should be, so I'm kinda bummed I just can't get there for some reason. Last year I spent countless hours alone on the court (with my camera) trying to fix things using a ball. I guess something in my head is keeping me from doing it. Also I've been practicing with a coach the last few months, I'm seeing progress in all areas except the serve. He keeps telling me to pronate, stay behind the baseline longer etc. I completely understand all of it, yet I just can't incorporate any of it into my motion. Strange, strange.

You're doing the right things. You'll get it.

stephan_58
01-12-2012, 07:35 AM
LOL someone posted in between again, I should use the quote feature more, sorry guys :P

I think you guys are both right with the problem being my toss, as it's pretty bad indeed. Most of the time it's too far to my left which, I think, messes up my whole motion. I have to concentrate on hitting the ball (which could be anywhere) instead of not worrying and just hitting. I guess I should put more emphasis on getting that darn toss right before I start adjusting to the current, messy version.

Thanks for the tips so far!

spaceman_spiff
01-12-2012, 07:51 AM
The next time you go to practice serves, don't think about your technique. Just focus on your toss.

Visualize the spot in the air where you want the ball to be and focus entirely on tossing the ball smoothly to that spot. Once the ball is in the air, just swing freely.

Once you can consistently toss the ball to the right spot, you'll start serving more consistently.

goeblack
01-12-2012, 08:39 AM
I had the same problem and still do at times. Here is what I have done that has really helped me.
This sounds strange but, Do Not think about the toss. Think about the motion. Keep the motion even if you whiff the ball. No matter how many times you mishit the ball, keep the motion. Eventually the toss will find its way to your motion.
I sure I will get some flack on this one but it worked for me.

maxpotapov
01-12-2012, 09:41 AM
I had the same problem and still do at times. Here is what I have done that has really helped me.
This sounds strange but, Do Not think about the toss. Think about the motion. Keep the motion even if you whiff the ball. No matter how many times you mishit the ball, keep the motion. Eventually the toss will find its way to your motion.
I sure I will get some flack on this one but it worked for me.

This might definitely work! In perfect world, focusing on the process not on results can fix any problem with technique.

I would also suggest to take a deeper look into how you actually look at/watch the ball when you serve. And then try to experiment: start the toss with closed eyes or looking sideways, try to capture the moment of impact etc. etc.

rkelley
01-12-2012, 10:00 AM
I had the same problem and still do at times. Here is what I have done that has really helped me.
This sounds strange but, Do Not think about the toss. Think about the motion. Keep the motion even if you whiff the ball. No matter how many times you mishit the ball, keep the motion. Eventually the toss will find its way to your motion.
I sure I will get some flack on this one but it worked for me.

I've done this too. I think it's another good way to get the good motion wedded with a good toss.

tennis-player
01-12-2012, 10:52 AM
It's your toss.


YEP, what he said.

If my toss is flawless, my serve is great. If I am chasing my toss, well, then my serve is sucky.

stephan_58
01-12-2012, 10:44 PM
I had the same problem and still do at times. Here is what I have done that has really helped me.
This sounds strange but, Do Not think about the toss. Think about the motion. Keep the motion even if you whiff the ball. No matter how many times you mishit the ball, keep the motion. Eventually the toss will find its way to your motion.
I sure I will get some flack on this one but it worked for me.

I'm definitely gonna give this a try the next time I'm on my own (I'm a little hesistant trying this while hitting with a friend, for obvious reasons ;) ). This sounds like it could solve my problem. Just ignore that ball, no matter where it is, just do my usual motion. Maybe my toss will even fix itself after 100 mishits, who knows.

Will report back! Thanks!

jk816
01-13-2012, 07:10 AM
It's your toss.

Your practice swing is free of any complications and assumes the ball is in the right spot. When you throw an actual ball into the mix, if it's not in the right place, your body will adjust so that you actually hit the ball (regardless of whether the technique is correct).

Chances are, if you were to do your perfect practice swing with your current ball toss (as if the two were not connected), you'd end up missing the ball completely or hitting it nowhere near the service box.

Fix your toss. Once you get the ball in the right spot and start your swing at the right time, your body will do the rest naturally (assuming you really do have the technique down). If in doubt, video yourself and take a good look at what you're really doing on your serves. The problem should become clear.

Like other posters I agree your toss is a major factor in this; another possible factor is habits in hitting the ball into the court, which seems to affect some peoples motions for some (mental) reason. Some pros may have you try serving while facing away from the net (into the back screen or fence) to remove any habitual tendencies built from serving while facing into a court. Once you get a consistent toss, if you still have problems you could try serving into the back fence and see if your stroke problem is still there.

charliefedererer
01-13-2012, 01:58 PM
LOL someone posted in between again, I should use the quote feature more, sorry guys :P

I think you guys are both right with the problem being my toss, as it's pretty bad indeed. Most of the time it's too far to my left which, I think, messes up my whole motion. I have to concentrate on hitting the ball (which could be anywhere) instead of not worrying and just hitting. I guess I should put more emphasis on getting that darn toss right before I start adjusting to the current, messy version.

Thanks for the tips so far!

Only with practice will the toss get better.

But perfect practice is more likely to lead to perfect results.

Check out this video from Brent Abel that emphasizes tempo. To have a consistent toss you need to bring your arm up at the same speed every time, and continue bringing up at the same speed even after release. [I think you were actually getting pretty good at this already in your May video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDSva9EbgPY .]
Tennis Serve Tossing Motion Tempo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeZp90h-Ar8&feature=relmfu


Next, watch the pros.
They bring their arm up in the same direction, time after time. (Most bring their arm up parallel to the baseline, with the arm moving ever so slightly back to front to get the ball out front for a first serve, and just straight up to get the arm over their head for their second serve.)
"Watch how Federer, Murray, Hass, Hewitt, Davydenko, Safin, Tsonga all make the same move when tossing the ball. Keys to a good toss: Upper body turn during the backswing, hang on to the ball by the finger tips, follow through after releasing the ball." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF-UaRUd6k&feature=related

Notice the emphasis of "turning away from the ball" or coiling, at the same time they are bringing the arm up. [You don't do this well in May.]

Also notice that they are bending their knees more than you did as they continue to bring the ball up, and up and up after release - you can't coil effectively is you are not bending your knees at the same time.
(And starting with the knees slightly bent and continuing to bend them more as you bring your arm up and up and up actually helps let you keep your balance, as you concentrate your body mass lower.)

[Another aspect you see Roger Federer do is toss the ball as if holding it like an "ice cream cone". You don't have to do it that way, but it lets your hand/wrist stay relaxed as you bring the ball up - otherwise you are straining by supinating your forearm more and more to keep the ball pointed up when tossing it "from the palm of your hand" method.
Tennis Serve Toss - How to Hold the Ball http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8kynEzufNE&feature=related ]



The path the ball takes through the air is like an upside down J - hence the term ''the J toss".
Sampras J toss clip http://web.archive.org/web/20071023184108/www.operationdoubles.com/sampras_serve3.gif

This is the path that beginning physics students learn in projectile motion:

https://sites.google.com/site/anakamilledianamario/ProjectileMotion01-large.gif

You toss anything up [and with the exception of tossing exactly straight up] it goes up and comes down in a "J" or "parabolic" shape.


But you don't have to know anything about physics for a perfect toss every time.

For a perfect toss every time, you just have to:
1. Bring it up at the same speed every time
2. Toss from the shoulder - no wrist or hand flip
3. Release the ball at the same spot every time
4. Coil as you bring the ball up, and keep your tossing hand straight up so you remain balanced under the ball into your trophy position. (If you get out of balance and start leaning the ball will no longer be coming down in the right spot for you.)

More on 3. Release the ball at the same spot. That point of release always has to be at a point just above having your arm out level if you want the ball to come back to your optimal strike point.

http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/dynamic/00506/AVN_EYEONTHEBALL_506606f.jpg


If you really concentrate on practicing that release point, as well as the same tempo and body movements serve after serve, soon you'll be able to serve "with your eyes closed" just like Fed:
Amazing Roger Federer Serve while eyes are closed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpyDxn4sH7E

[Actually serving with your eyes closed is not as fantastic as it first sounds - Jim McLennan of TennisOne recently did it in a serving DVD and recommended it as a way of demonstrating to yourself that you really have your tempo and toss release point down pat.]

goeblack
01-13-2012, 04:33 PM
Yes, when I am serving really good, I actually do not see the racket contact the ball. By dropping the head a little early, there is a lot of weight transferred forward which result in a lot of extra speed.
You toss, you know, then it is just do not look anymore.

charliefedererer
01-13-2012, 09:57 PM
I didn't mean to imply that not looking at the ball should be a habit.

Actually the best way to toss is to look at target area, and toss into it. It's pretty amazing how the eyes/brain/tossing muscles all coordinate to put that ball right there.

(I suppose it's okay to peek a few times to be sure your release is indeed just above shoulder height. But after that, always make it a habit to be looking at the target site for the ball strike, and the ball should appear right there.)

stephan_58
01-16-2012, 09:26 AM
@charliefederer

Wow, thanks so much for your extensive post! I haven't been able to really think about it as I've been snowboarding the last few days. But I'll definitely have a good look again when I have the time the next weekend and then hopefully go out and practice! :)