A warning about practicing your serve.

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by lendl1986, Sep 13, 2011.

  1. lendl1986

    lendl1986 Rookie

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    I had been hitting buckets of balls for 1 - 1.5 hours at a time, often swinging with full strength over a period of 2-3 weeks, every other day.

    Shoulder felt a bit sore, but I ignored it. After a 10 min. session a week ago, the shoulder becamse so painful I stopped.

    It's in a sling now and I can't type or use a mouse for more than 10 min. without taking a break. This is affecting my work.

    So, if you're going to work on your serve:

    1. Limit to 30 minutes at a time.
    2. Ice your shoulder afterward.
    3. If you feel any pain in your shoulder, just stop.

    We've all played through tennis elbow, sore feet, sore muscles, etc., but shoulders are pretty serious business, as I'm learning now.
     
    #1
  2. scotus

    scotus Legend

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    That's too much practice.

    But the advice you offered, while helpful, is insufficient.

    Serious tennis players must work the opposing muscles to prevent muscle imbalance. In order to avoid damage to the rotator cuff, the muscles that pull together the bottom of the scapulae must be strengthened.

    Since you wear a sling, I suppose you will be seeing a physio? S/he will tell you all about the rehab work you need to do.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2011
    #2
  3. fRa

    fRa Rookie

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    It's a good thing you listened to the pain in your shoulder. I was in the situation as you about 7 months ago or so. Practicing serves a lot and probably arming the serve to get that extra power... My shoulder was painful but I kept playing.

    After a while the pain stopped and while performing an inside out forehand, I dislocated my shoulder. It came out of nowhere...

    I was in a sling for 6 weeks and didn't play tennis for about 2 and half months.
     
    #3
  4. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Dont' scare me, man. :) I just served 150 balls in 50 minutes today!

    When you server (before you got in this state), did you feel any restriction in the shoulder? Any noticeable forced pressure?

    I have no idea whether I serve correctly or not. All I know is I try to stay relaxed and increase rackethead speed as much as possible.
     
    #4
  5. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Guess you missed all the threads about serve practice.
    Most agree it's 15 warmups at 60%, then no more than 50 hard flat first serves, that many seconds, and back to groundies..
     
    #5
  6. lendl1986

    lendl1986 Rookie

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    I felt no restriction while on the court.

    Off the court, I felt a dull pain in the shoulder that would last a few hours.

    After a serving session 4 days ago I felt a little pain that day.

    Starting the following morning, I've been in constant pain unless laying down.

    So it may not go bad all in one painful moment. It just creeps up on you.
     
    #6
  7. TaihtDuhShaat

    TaihtDuhShaat Semi-Pro

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    Also make sure your racquet is not too heavy and HL for your serve. When I had my racquet up to 380g, 7 pts HL, I was getting shoulder pain from serve practice. Now at 363g, 4.5 pts HL, the racquet swings nicely through the follow-thru with no shoulder pain. It might take some experimenting with weight and balance. I learned that less HL racquets are much easier to serve with.
     
    #7
  8. pvaudio

    pvaudio Legend

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    I promise you that it's either technique, equipment or muscle weakness. I practice serves at 1.5hr blocks all of the time. I also tore my rotator cuff 5 years ago. Not a twinge of pain ever. I redid my entire motion and beefed up the shoulder. It honestly hurts more if I reach for my seatbelt too quickly. Point is, look at your motion, make sure if you're using poly that it's not dead, and do rotator cuff and shoulder exercises. It makes a huge difference. :)
     
    #8
  9. BirdWalkR

    BirdWalkR Rookie

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    What kind of exercises can you do? any you can do without going to the gym super often?
     
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  10. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Talking about technique, isn't the serve motion the same as throwing an American football? You can throw it as hard as you can/your strength allows as long as you don't somehow over-extend, overstretch your shoulder, correct?
     
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  11. Chenx15

    Chenx15 Banned

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    OP, how long have you been playing?

    there was a time when i practiced my serves for one month straight one hour a day and did not experience any pain and the quality was pretty good were reaching the back fence easily and some kick on it. a proper serve should not feel any pain at all.

    on another instance I practiced for 20 minutes one time and my groove was off and the lateral side of my arm was killing me and my serves were only clearing the baseline by a foot. i stopped for a few minutes and just decided to spin the ball, after 5 minutes pain was off and got the proper groove back.

    if you feel pain, it's mostly bad technique.
     
    #11
  12. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Shoulder risks of poor technique

    FYI

    Here's some information about the impingement danger in serving. If your shoulders are not properly positioned you are taking a risk according to these videos.

    another recent thread
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mrfeihung View Post
    ........... I would stick to this technique but it ended up putting a lot of stress on my shoulder. ........................................

    Be very careful with new motions and shoulder pain. This video warns of shoulder impingement issues caused by not orienting the shoulders properly while internally rotating the shoulder.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTRvxaBMh8s&feature=related
    At the beginning he mentions that the rotator cuff muscles rotate the arm. To be clear the internal shoulder rotation that powers the serve is produced mainly by the lat and pec muscles as you can check by searching the internal shoulder rotation muscles.

    For more details on shoulder injuries and conditioning this Todd Ellenbecker video is excellent:
    http://www.tennisresources.com/index.cfm?Rotator
    Type in Rotator in the SEARCH box.
    Or direct -
    http://www.tennisresources.com/inde...&basicsearch=1&ATT=&LineNbr=1&StartRow=1&ts=1
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
    #12
  13. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    Also, when you're just practicing serve. I'd focus more on motion, technique, and contact point. Not so much on "let's see how hard i can smack it!" So serving practice should not be THAT stressing to the shoulder. Having said that, there should be a limit to how many balls you serve. But that's different for different people I think. For me, I cap it at about 200 balls on any given day.

    Not to mention, I think serves is more about your feet and core. The arm is just there to transfer the energy/momentum to the ball (much like any other stroke in tennis). Which is why your motion, core and leg strength are more important.
     
    #13
  14. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    There is NOTHING in life you can do at 100% for longer than 40 minutes that won't hurt you in the long run.
     
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  15. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    I actually really agree with Lee here!

    -Fuji
     
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  16. Bergboy123

    Bergboy123 Semi-Pro

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    I agree with what people say about technique here.

    But also what I find very helpful when I practice my serve for long periods of time as I have been this past week is to work up in terms of physical difficulty.

    I start with second serves because they are the least demanding on my shoulder and body. Then I progress to slice, then to kick, then to flat where I really whack the ball. I think the kick serve might actually be harder on the shoulder just because of the positioning of the toss, but I still prefer to have flat serves last.
     
    #16
  17. samster

    samster Legend

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    Words of wisdom.
     
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  18. eliza

    eliza Rookie

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    see how much we need our senior experts? REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT!!!
    and for females, I would go 5-10 less...
     
    #18
  19. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    I'm not a female, but I do go around 10 less. I rather dislike practicing serving, or should I say, over practicing it. It puts a lot of strain on my body to serve at my max capacity over and over. I can hit 2nd serves all day without much issue, but really going for bombs I do it less then 5 times during practice, and never back to back. I just can't handle it! (It's different in a game situation where there is at least 45 seconds to 2 minutes between each of my serves.) :)

    -Fuji
     
    #19
  20. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    my shoulder's been killing me this whole summer. i might have to go lefty soon
     
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  21. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    Have you been over working your shoulder in either practice or too many matches?

    -Fuji
     
    #21
  22. ryu1revline

    ryu1revline New User

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    Hi Lendle,

    You may not agree now, but this is a good thing for your tennis game because the body is exposing a large flaw in your technique. You will need to rework your serve to generate that power from your hips, legs, chest, arms, back, and shoulder equally.

    When I hurt my shoulder many years ago, it caused me to re-think the way I had been muscling the ball, and out of those ashes came a very loose and much more powerful serve.

    Also, it would help to tone down the pace on the practices. :)
     
    #22
  23. UCSF2012

    UCSF2012 Hall of Fame

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    My serve practice sessions go 1.5 -2 hrs with no hint of shoulder problems. I have had a dislocated shoulder in the past, and it has nothing to do with serve sessions going long. (well, sometimes)

    My guess is you either 1) lift weights or 2) lead up your rackets with LOTS of lead. Of the two, lifting weights is the more deadly one. Once you recover, you have to strengthen your shoulder muscles. In particular, you have to work on your rotator cuff muscles. (My PT gave me a couple exercises to do, but I can't really explain them in words. Google it.) The rotator cuff muscles are the main muscles keeping the humerus in the socket. The stronger those muscles, the less likely it is to dislocate.
     
    #23
  24. danno123

    danno123 Rookie

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    I played a guy with shoulder problems last year. He started out ok but by the end of the match was serving underhand. I offered to stop the match and reschedule but he insisted on continuing. I haven't seen him around the courts since and I think he might have given up the game. After that match I did some research on tennis shoulder injuries and found this article:
    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/phys-ed-how-to-fix-a-bad-tennis-shoulder/

    Right now my serve is definitely the "low hanging fruit" of my game. It's the area of my game that I could most easily improve and win more points. But I'm old, so I'm taking my time and limiting practice sessions to twice a week and doing resistance band exercises for my shoulder. In a couple of weeks I might work up to 3 practice sessions a week.
     
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  25. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I tend to agree. Serve practice should be limited and focused.

    I think that if you are practicing your serve, a casual observer ought to be able to watch you and say, "She's working on *that.*"

    In other words, I think a lot of people go out and hit a bunch of serves with no purpose. I think it is easier to limit the number you hit if you have a specific thing you are trying to learn or correct. And if you have a limit, you are less likely to hit bad tosses and thereby "waste" a serve.

    My absolute limit highest I've done is 150 serves, but I think that is excessive. More typical is one hopper of 75. If I haven't fixed it by then, I probably won't fix it and am just grooving bad technique.
     
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  26. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    Google rotator cuff exercises. You can do them with low weights and it only takes maybe 15 minutes a week. They work.
     
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  27. dman72

    dman72 Hall of Fame

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    I thank the stars that I have bulletproof shoulders. I actually feel that I do more damage practicing my second serve (topspin) than with my flat serve because it doesn't feel as smooth. I think part of it is that I have been doing dumbell military presses since I was...14? ..so I think most of my muscles in that area are solid. My elbow, wrist, or bicep will start to hurt long before my shoulder does, and by then I've probably hit about 140 serves which is stupid anyway.

    In the OPs case I would completely stop serving for at least a week, maybe 2, and research research research rotator cuff exercises and therapy..and start doing them immediately....don't just go ice and heat because while it will heal, the underlying problem will only resurface...if you can afford it go to a physical therapist, do so.

    This is what I did when I had my only bought with tennis elbow 2 years back (poly strings with no dampener "experiment" :( stupid ass )..I rush ordered a flex bar and started doing tyler twists and I was cured in a few days....and it was so bad I couldn't even grip a racquet at that point.
     
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  28. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    #28
  29. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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  30. CDestroyer

    CDestroyer Professional

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    You guys with sore shoulders are arming your serves. Keep that shoulder loose so you can get maximum velocity and angle with pronation.

    Also lift weights.
     
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  31. JRstriker12

    JRstriker12 Hall of Fame

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    Don't need a gym just some rubber tubing or those stretchy yoga bands - wouldn't cost more than $10:

    Here are some good shoulder injury prevention movements for the shoulder: http://www.varietytrainer.com/shoulder-complex-exercises-to-prevent-injuries/


    At the very basics, internal and external rotation are a must - this from a tennis player who separated his shoulder (playing soccer) a few years ago.
     
    #31
  32. odessa

    odessa New User

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    what i find pretty hard when people try to train their serves with really old flat balls. That is asking for trouble.
     
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  33. lendl1986

    lendl1986 Rookie

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    #33
  34. Laver777

    Laver777 Rookie

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    wow, 1hr+??!!! thats no wonder you had a sore shoulder. i practice no more than 20mins a few times a week. you really shouldnt need to ice anything unless youre a pro training for a slam. even then they would be conditioned enough not to need icing. i use most of my training for the gym which is where i get my best results from if ive put the effort in there. when i practice its really just to work on something i struggled on in a match and to keep my touch and feel there.
     
    #34
  35. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    I video taped myself and you are correct in my case. Now that I'm focused on getting my arm in the back scratch position each time, all is right with the world again.
     
    #35
  36. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Your serve has a bent elbow at impact, improper technique.

    I was able to stop one of your frames around ball impact. You have a large angle at your elbow.

    All the high performance serves on the internet show a straight arm and if the view point is right an angle between the straight arm and the racket. Search and stop frame at contact.

    I don't know medicine so see a Dr. Don't play. If you powered the internal shoulder rotators with the arm and racket bent you can tear a tendon in your elbow. If you have a pain on the inside of your elbow have a Dr look at you for golfer's elbow. I had a golfer's elbow injury.

    This thread has discussions and illustrations of the proper angle between the arm and racket. Check the Toly replies.

    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=370729
     
    #36
  37. eliza

    eliza Rookie

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    Oh, Oh, guilty!!

    I did not know we were still TEACHING the "scratch your back" position, little passe', is not it?
     
    #37
  38. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    what trouble is there with old balls?

    My serve technique must agree with me or something because I have always tried to serve harder and harder and I still feel OK.
     
    #38
  39. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    When practicing serves, I get caught in the bad habit of trying to hit my fastest serves regardless of court, temps, balls, or condition of balls.
    Trying to smack serves in 52 degree foggy weather, dead 7 month old Dunlops, and little warmup is a formula for disaster. I can try harder and harder until something snaps, but the ball is never going anywhere.
    Then one day every 5 years, the weather cooperates, it's 80 degrees and windless, my body is actually almost working, I have new Wilson's, I actually hit a few warmups, and my serves almost go decently. Maybe about 20 mph faster and with a much higher bounce.
     
    #39
  40. Chenx15

    Chenx15 Banned

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    i was about to mention that as well. your elbow is bent my friend. maybe you can try a higher toss because your toss may be too low and is not giving you enough time to **** in properly and your getting the ball low so you bend your forearm.
     
    #40
  41. martini1

    martini1 Hall of Fame

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    You don't swing your arm nearly as hard with the football. And if I understand it correctly you don't have a lot of shoulder turn with the football compared to serving. A bad follow thru may also pull stress on your body, while with the football you got nothing on your hand to hinder your follow thru....
     
    #41
  42. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Thanks, your answer is very informative. More questions :)

    For shoulder turn:
    Imagine there's a line drawn from left to right shoulder, how should this line align in relation to the upper arm line at contact point, and at the end of the follow-through?

    Where should I aim to end my follow through?
     
    #42
  43. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    Most agree Fed has a pretty classic swing.

    This view shows the shoulder angles:

    [​IMG]

    It is clear the shoulder over shoulder "cartwheel" is mainly in the vertical plane, as was emphasized in this video:

    Preventing Rotator Cuff Injury: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTRvxaBMh8s







    [​IMG]

    Fed (pic 10 above) doesn't finish with his upper arm going actually up, as well as his elbow pointing as far up as Sampras. Heck, no one does. But the end result of full pronation is still seen in pic 10 with the thumb and racquet pointed straight down.



    If you are not pronating fully, you may want to try this drill:

    Pronate: http://www.active.com/tennis/Articles/5-Steps-to-a-Supersonic-Serve.htm?page=2
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011
    #43
  44. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Just to make sure nobody confuses these slow "shoulder angles" or 'shoulder turns' of orientation motions with internal shoulder rotation -

    The main power contribution to the racket head speed in the serve - internal shoulder rotation - is occurring only around the time of picture #8. This twitch-like motion (very roughly 0.03 sec in duration) is much faster that the slower shoulder orientation motions that are displayed. These motions don't contribute that much to racket head speed.
     
    #44
  45. martini1

    martini1 Hall of Fame

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    Good info there. I always know about the shoulder turn and drop but my coach has mentioned many times that I am losing power due to these:

    - opening up my left side (rib cage) too soon

    - chest and head should be still facing at initial angle (more closer to the right side, rather than facing the net at contact)

    He is also telling me not to try too hard on the racket/thumb down finish. The reason being if you do that too soon at contact, you are putting a lot stress on the wrist. But I feel that "looking at the time on the watch" finish happens naturally on the flat serve a lot.

    On one note is that Federer has the same look for every kind of serve. But at rec level we need several different tosses and swings.
     
    #45
  46. Mahboob Khan

    Mahboob Khan Hall of Fame

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    Prior to Puberty Be Careful with the Kick Serve!

    Excessive serving poses problem for the shoulder (post 1), but kids under 14 years of age should also be very careful as their body parts, bones, muscles, etc., are in the process of growing. Kids should be careful with the kick serve wherein they have to arch their back to add more kick to the ball, this might hurt the spine. The kids must understand the bypass of the racket .. 7 to 1 o' clock position .. but avoid tossing the ball behind. As they cross the puberty years peacefully they may then learn to toss the ball a bit behind as compared to the first serve.

    Coming back to the adult serve:

    It is always recommended to warm up your shoulder by throwing medicine ball: first with two hands, and then with the serving hand mimicking the serve motion. If you follow this routine, your shoulder will stay healthy and powerful.

    For ground strokes: Throw the medicine ball like you would hit your FH, BH.
     
    #46
  47. yonexpurestorm

    yonexpurestorm Rookie

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    i only practive serves with a new can of tennis balls with a fresh string job. i have to warm up with no less than 12 serves before i start hitting flat first serves. once i feel any pain or soreness i stop hitting flat serves and only hit slice/kicks. for me, serves are the number one thing that hurts my elbow/shoulder so i am really carefull.
     
    #47
  48. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    Seems like Rafael Nadal will be complaining to the umpire about your slow play.
     
    #48
  49. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    LOL! I guess I worded that wrong! I meant that normally I get a serve in and play a point, before I have to serve again. I didn't mean to say that I take up to 2 minutes between 1st and 2nd serving! :D

    -Fuji
     
    #49
  50. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Here is a frame showing your elbow angle at impact. This is on all the serves. Compare to Federer serve is earlier reply.

    The YT video frame at impact with the bent elbow is now a single jpeg image on Snapfish. However, the Snapfish ijpeg image link is not working on the forum. ?? Does anyone know how to display one image from a YT video?


    [​IMG]

    See second 0:05 of the Lendyl1986 video for the bent elbow at impact.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
    #50

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