Any Hope For Short Guys to get a decent Serve?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by that_was_just_out, Jun 11, 2013.

  1. that_was_just_out

    that_was_just_out New User

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    Hey All,

    Newbie here. Been playing for years, decent game, but it really bugs me that I can't get any pop on my serve. I'm 5'8", am I just doomed by my physique to never be able to generate the proper torque or length or whatever it is that gives you some pop on the serve? I've tried really getting my legs into it, tossing the ball into the court, etc but to no avail. Or is it all in the wrist snap? I think sometimes I don't quite snap at it hard enough because I'm afraid it'll just wildly hit the fence or the bottom of the net.

    Any hints maybe from other shorter guys who have a decent pop on their serve would be appreciated.

    Cheers
     
    #1
  2. looseleftie

    looseleftie Rookie

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    Hey mate, I'm 5'10" so only a bit shorter..

    My first bit of advice is to grab a couple of lessons.. Seriously, do yourself a favour and get a pro to help u rather than struggling yourself and getting frustrated..

    Remember the serve is about the rythm, everything has to work together and in unison. Which is no different to your ground strokes really..Look at your hitting arm, is it getting into trophy position, and then is it dropping right down the back to give a little scratch??? Are u gripping too tight??

    Ferrer is only 5'7" by the way...There was a little Belgium guy a few years ago, he was 5'5" from memory.

    No doubt, being taller than 6' signicantly helps with the angle into the box..

    I am only 2 inches taller, and what I found is that when I really drive up with my legs, and drive forwards, my contact point is quite high, and hitting with feet many inches off the ground.. I think, extend, drive and hit for my swing..

    Other posters will suggest some more to help, but getting a pro coach will help u along your way much quicker..
     
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  3. corners

    corners Legend

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    Henin, at 5'6", occasionally got a serve in at 120 mph. So, yeah, short guys can serve.
     
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  4. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Serena Williams is 5' 9" and averages about 105 mph on her first serve and frequently hits serves at 120 mph. Her 2nd serve averages about 90+ mph and kicks up high and deep. So, yes, you can hit a good serve from 5' 8" tall.

    Justin Henin was 5' 6" (maybe a bit shorter) and had an excellent serve. She served the vast majority of her serves down the center over the low part of the net - sometimes it was over 80% of her serves went down the center. But, you do need the ability to change it up and hit wide.

    Try to learn to hit hard spin serves. A straight line serve for someone 5' 8" tall has about 3 inches of clearance window over the net and it will just land on the service line. Will Hamilton at fuzzyyellowballs.com has proven this. Meaning a ball that is hit so hard that it doesn't bend in the air (a straight line) must just barely clear the net and it will only just barely clip the service line. In other words, a hard flat serve has practically no margin of error if you are under 6' tall. So, learn to hit a hard spinner and the spin will bend it down toward the ground. If you can bend it 12" in the air, you now have a 12-14" window that you can hit over the net and thus have a better margin of error. Pete Sampras hit over 2,000 rpm on his 1st serve and 3,000 rpm on his 2nd serve. Pete also had a steeper topspin angle in that his ball rotated more toward the ground and less pure side spin but all spin serves have an element of side spin.

    But, if you are under 6', you have to bend it with spin. Pete was over 6' and he knew this and bent his serve big time.
     
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  5. that_was_just_out

    that_was_just_out New User

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    Thanks for the advice, folks! Appreciate that!

    looseleftie, always thought about lessons, but the serve is so complex, I figure it'd take about 10 lessons to get something solid down, and at $50 a pop, that's not really an option for me, I'm just not that invested in tennis to make that much of a financial commitment, I can think of a lot of better things $500 will get me.

    Tennis CJC, I have been trying to use a hard spin serve exclusively over the past 5 years, can't remember the last time I hit a flat serve, but there still isn't quite as much net clearance as I would like. Is that a function of not swinging hard enough and really snapping the wrist on contact? Or is it the toss? I usually try to toss straight above my head.

    I've always found the whole coordination thing the toughest part of serving, always feels like the parts of my body are moving individually and out of sync, like I'm bending the legs too early/late, throwing the ball too early/late, starting my swing too early/late making contact too early/late etc.
     
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  6. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
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  7. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I do not agree that you would need 10 one-hour lessons at $50/each to improve your serve.

    If budget is an issue, take one 30-minute serving lesson. Go practice diligently for 1-2 weeks. Then take another. Repeat.

    If you have decent mechanics to begin with, I would think you would see good results for $100 or less.

    [edit: I see now you call yourself a newbie. Better crank that budget up to $250, then. :)

    Seriously, money spent learning to serve is money well spent. If you have a bad serve -- which I define as a guy who blasts a fault for the first serve and then pushes in the second like a far-sighted schoolgirl -- it will be hard to play any decent tennis. Go get some lessons, for sure.]
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
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  8. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

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    Also, have your teaching pro take videos when teaching you to serve. Seeing what you're actually doing is much better than relying on what you think you're doing.
     
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  9. The Meat

    The Meat Hall of Fame

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    I'm 5'8" and have a pretty decent serve. Use pinpoint stance, pronate with good shoulder rotation to get a good pop on the serve. I have a pretty low toss and it works.
     
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  10. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

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    Oh, and keep in mind that, against decent returners, disguise and placement are much more effective than just flat-out power.

    You might not ever be able to hit 130-mph serves. But, if you can consistently hit 100-mph serves that make your opponents stretch and keep them guessing, you'll have a solid overall serve game.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2013
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  11. tennismonkey

    tennismonkey Semi-Pro

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    check your grip too. been seeing an awful lot of 3.5 and 4.0 players in my area with frying pan service grips (overheads too). if you are serving with a semi-western forehand grip: you're doing it wrong.

    [​IMG]
     
    #11
  12. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    It definitely helps to have long arms if you want to generate pace. However, with good technique, an athletic player can still hit 100mph without too much difficulty. I've seen 5'4" women hit over 100mph.

    Using the proper movement pattern with a continental grip is going to be key. I'd work on a topspin slice serve as the basic serve.
     
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  13. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    At 5' 8" you should be getting at least 122 MPH on your first serves.

    Justine could hit 122 mph at 5' 5 1/2" (and she's a... woman!! Keep it to yourself...)
     
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  14. that_was_just_out

    that_was_just_out New User

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    Thanks, I'm gonna book a video session with him today, see what he says. Maybe I can post some of the video here to get y'alls feedback as well. I think the video is a great idea, because you can keep going back to it rather than book further lessons if you feel like you're going back to your old bad habits.

    Cheers
     
    #14
  15. that_was_just_out

    that_was_just_out New User

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    I believe that's what the people that use the Internets refer to as trolling.
     
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  16. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    Fixed that for you. Not many club players hit at 120mph, but it's doable.
     
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  17. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Your OP implied that your height limited your serve speed. This is incorrect. There are limitations to serve speed especially at the rec level as many have posted, but being 5'8" is not one of them.

    BTW, since you brought it up, if my post bothers you, you must be new to the Intraweb...
     
    #17
  18. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    I'm 5'-8" and also recommend the pinpoint stance since that will make you as tall as possible at the point of contact. Of the 3 biggest serves I've ever faced, two of the guys were around 6'-3" and the other guy was 5'-4". A live arm is more important than height, but yes I'd love to be 6'-3" and have the geometry more in my favor.
     
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  19. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Post a vid of YOU serving.
    Camera 5' off the ground, directly behind you, with your target in the background.
    I"m 5'11", have a decent serve for 64 years old (nobody faster out of at least 50 4.0 thru 5.0's, but a fast serve takes a lot out of my body, so my game sometimes reverts to slug and lose tennis.
    Better to place it well, out wide, into the body, and play smart tennis, instead of slug tennis.
    I"m often guilty of being a neantherdahl, a DUMB style of tennis, and a losing style, to be sure.
     
    #19
  20. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    Classic LeeD.
     
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  21. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Problem is that it's true.
    A 5.0 could serve faster than me, Sakai out here in Berkeley.
    But I've practiced serves with lots of A/Open guys in the past year, and all like to try to stand in to face my serves, which are always as fast or faster than theirs.
    "stand in" means standing a foot behind the baseline. They can volley stroke it back, but it's a sitter for me to hit into a corner.
    There ARE some guys who rely on me missing my first serve, then standing inside the baseline by 3' to chip and charge, but they don't do it against my first serves.
    Lots guys on here know Freedom and Josh, a couple of taller 5.5's in Berkeley. My serve is easily the same speed, but they only hit topspin serves.
    They NEVER hit flat serves, for some reason, and I've talked to them about it, and their reply is they rely on conditioning and baseline play to win.
     
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  22. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    You are too much.
     
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  23. Vertiz

    Vertiz Rookie

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    Justine Henin was clocked serving 122 mph and she was 2 inches shorter than you. It should be completely possible to develop a "decent" serve, you just need to work at it. Good technique, good timing, and a strong body will get you that serve. While you will never serve 155 like Isner, Roddick, Raonic, etc...you can certainly develop a very strong serve. Don't let these things hold you back, look at Ferrer who is top 5 in the world regardless of his height. He may never be #1 because of his height, but 5 is pretty freaking good.
     
    #23
  24. Tight Lines

    Tight Lines Semi-Pro

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    LeeD,

    Do you have a video of you serving? I would like to see that.

    Harry
     
    #24
  25. jmnk

    jmnk Professional

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    yes, he does. and no, you don't want to see it. (you will feel like the day you found out there's no Santa :))
     
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  26. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Hey, YOU are the one obsessing on service speeds.
    I'm just saying a 5'11" guy can serve hard enough for his level, that's all.
    Kohlshreiber serves much harder than me, about 32 mph faster, and he's my height.
    But 4.0's, nope, none I've seen.
    You just gotta have some technique, and some quick twitch muscle.
    Why don't you PM RobFL, and ask him if I can serve pretty fast? He actually played with me and against me for 3 sets.
    I"m not a world beater by any means, I''ve always said I serve around 100 mph average, some good days faster, some bad days hitting maybe 90.
    And everyone agrees a 100 mph serve is fast enough to get the job done at 4-4.5 levels, right?
     
    #26
  27. The Isomotion31

    The Isomotion31 Semi-Pro

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    I'm 5'7" and use deception for my service game. I can crank it up there but definitely not like a 6' dude could as well as what is mentioned earlier the margin of error is very very slim. So I definitely mix lots of slice, and kickers in there. Then when I do decide to go flat, it catches opponents off guard as they do not expect it even if I am not trying to just mash the ball. I get the most aces from the surprise flat but give opponents a much harder time with a really hard slice.

    The only thing is my kicker toss is very obvious where as my slice and flat tosses are nearly identical.

    I also switched racquets not too long ago to the PDR GT + and that .5" really added some pop to my serve. It took some getting used to, but I am definitely in love with the racquet.

    loosen up, warm and stretch your shoulders, back, legs and wrist. Just keep at it, you'll get to it eventually with reps.
     
    #27
  28. 10isfreak

    10isfreak Semi-Pro

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    Nadal's average ball speed during the FO:
    F --109.99 mph
    SF --111.19 mph
    QF --116.20 mph
    R4 --105.20 mph
    R3 --108.74 mph
    R2 --110.61 mph
    R1 --122.42 mph

    Average: 112, 05 mph

    Of course, Nadal's serves tend to move more than the average serve and he was playing on clay, so it's fairly possible that he wasn't going for pace for tactical reasons. However, the point is that he won a GS title without even serving an average of 115 mph.

    If that's enough for Nadal, 100 mph is more than enough to defeat 4.0's and 4.5's.
     
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  29. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Once again, AVERAGE serve speed is a mix of slices, top/slices, flats (which Nadal chooses NOT to hit) and some kickers. Talking first servers only here.
    If Nadal wanted to, he could easily top 135 serving FLAT, and not playing a tight match against a top player.
    So Nadal's service speed is well over 130, for first serves hit flat.
    My AVERAGE first serve speed might be 85 mph. My FASTEST first serve speed would get close to 110 on days warmer than 60 degrees.
    Like any player, my wide slice on ad court might poke in at 60 mph, while top/slices into the body maybe 80, and first flats up the T a touch over 100 on a good day.
    I just don't see those speeds in 4.0 level play, and most of 4.5 level play.
    Aba, former No.2 for Harvard, now on the Challenger circuit, hit first serves well into the lower 130's. And he's about the same height as I am.
     
    #29
  30. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Yeah I had a few teaching pros with some pretty big serves -and they were no taller then 5'8". With the leverage of the racquet pretty much anyone can have a big serve.. It just takes good technique.
     
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  31. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    MichaelChang was timed at over 125mph at the French, late in his career.
    Like Nadal, during match play, he would not hit his fastest serves, choosing instead to spin it IN on the first try, not allowing his opponent to smack his second serves, and put more pressure on his opponent while giving them less time to rest.
    In LasVegas, AndreAgassi was timed to serve consisently in the mid 130's. He hardly ever served high 120's in match play, same reason as Nadal and Chang.
     
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  32. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    Let's mention Simon, who's perfectly able to hit over 120mph, but sometimes hits his second serves at 120kph... and gets away with it!
     
    #32
  33. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    The key is pronation.

    Pronation gives a powerful "slap" to the ball.


    Coach McCraw gives a great "pronation exercise" in this video:
    McCraw explaining a serve pronation exercise
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iONY6fcqZGg

    You can start well inside the baseline to "pop" that ball and learn the motion without worrying about whether the serve is going in or not.




    In another video, Coach McCraw shows how to do your racquet take back to get your racquet drop well to the right of your body.

    Many tennis players - and I'll bet you are one of them - mistakenly drop their racquet into the middle of their back - the "back scratch position".

    But to pronate, you've got to drop your racquet off to your right side at maximum racquet drop so you swing out of this racquet drop "from outside to inside".

    Coach McCraw shows how to get your racquet drop into the correct position from which to pronate in this video:

    McCraw Serve Fundamentals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuIgTyh4aDs
     
    #33
  34. v-verb

    v-verb Hall of Fame

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    Thanks CharlieF - will try this!
     
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  35. Dimcorner

    Dimcorner Professional

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    You should post a vid of yourself serving. Also avoid VVS when filming.
     
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  36. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
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  37. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    He has got a nice smooth motion but the ball needs to go in.
     
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  38. that_was_just_out

    that_was_just_out New User

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    Based on the recommendations of this thread, I'll take a video lesson with my club pro. As soon as I can upload footage, I'll add it to the thread.

    Hopefully he knows about VVS, I won't be in charge of the camera.
     
    #38
  39. RogueFLIP

    RogueFLIP Semi-Pro

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    If you've never seen yourself playing tennis on video before....be prepared.

    Probably isn't as pretty as you think it is.....maybe. :)

    But it is a great tool to learn from.

    Try to get multiple angles....front, back, sides....
     
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  40. Tight Lines

    Tight Lines Semi-Pro

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    Not too shabby LeeD! Other than that jerky toss motion, you have a fairly solid serve.

    Harry
     
    #40
  41. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Notice my graceful running style? The left ankle wasn't working that week.
    Vid was taken in April, after the rainiest March ever.
    Butt ugly for sure, but notice bounce height on the out wide serves. Camera was placed atop a 48" high tripod. 66 degrees, 9PM, DunlopHDHardCourt balls.
     
    #41
  42. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

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    watch the second one, think about it..

    dude is 64, hasn't warmed up at all, lands it in the corner of the box and it takes a camera set back near the fence on the full on the first bounce..

    with a wide one!

    now, video yourself, see if you can do it, then return here with the results

    or stfu
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
    #42
  43. TheCheese

    TheCheese Professional

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    The simple answer is yes. You're never gonna serve like Isner, but you probably won't be hindered so much until you get to a really high level.
     
    #43
  44. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Hold it. I'm not bashing LeeD's serve. LeeD has a good serve, and a very good serve for a 64 year old. What I mean is that his serve doesn't match up with some of his claims. He's not serving over 100 miles per hour, and he's not hitting kickers that bounce 6 feet high. Also, I do have a serve video on the thread titled "A Few Serves." The last one is a wide one to the ad court (I'm a righty) that hits the back fence on the first bounce.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
    #44
  45. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Well, I'm glad I finally got a glimpse of Lee. It's nice to have an image to go with the voice.

    Lee, I think you're crushing it at 64, bad ankle and all. I don't think you're rocking the radar gun, but I'd poach off of that serve any day of the week, my friend.
     
    #45
  46. Avles

    Avles Hall of Fame

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    All threads eventually end up focusingon LeeD's boasting sooner or late I guess... it's like a law of nature..

    Anyway the Donthireddy serve speed page guesstimates those LeeD serves at around 88-90 mph which seems about right and is definitely good for an old guy with a bum ankle.

    Topspin Shot's serves are in a different league though IMO:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0IJfe3nsFs

    Those definitely look 100mph+ to me...
     
    #46
  47. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Was that really him serving?????? Which one is he????

    Bout to lose my s*it here
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
    #47
  48. Cheetah

    Cheetah Hall of Fame

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    good post.
     
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  49. pushing_wins

    pushing_wins Hall of Fame

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    #49
  50. looseleftie

    looseleftie Rookie

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    Hey LeeD, 64 yrs young and still playing!! Total respect..

    Most 60+ yr old blokes I know spend their time on a couch!! Waiting for their first heart failure..

    Way to go, keep active, and keep getting those nice serves in! :)
     
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