backscratch motion

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by vin, Jul 31, 2004.

  1. vin

    vin Professional

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    I noticed that some pros do a loop on their backscratch (Keurten, Ivanisavich) and some just let the racquet drop (Sampras, Roddick). Is one way better than the other? Why?

    If you look at the serves of the pros listed above, you can pretty much tell that the loop, or lack of it, is a result of the backswing. Keurten and Ivanisavich have their arm more extended and use their bicep to bring the racquet up. Sampras gets the racquet up just by rotating his shoulder and doesn't open or close his elbow.

    I've been trying the Sampras way just because it seems more simple and may allow me to reduce the height of my toss. It also seems to require more shoulder flexibility.

    But then I wonder if the extra motion made by the lower arm during the loop is excess motion that unecessarily complicates the rest of the motion, or if the extra motion contributes to additional racquet head speed.

    Does anyone know anything about this, or am I being over analytical?
     
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  2. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Is he? Maybe he is, maybe he isn't! What is Pete really doing?

    Review this for a second opinion.

    http://www.ifp.uiuc.edu/~anilrao/serve.html

    Review this for what your really trying to do! Pointing the butt cap to the sky is a better visual than the backscratch. The backscratch teaching visual is not a very good one.

    http://www.tennis.com/instruction/fullstory.sps?iNewsid=46122&itype=1481

    Now after you understand, go out and relax the arm. You can also do stretching exercises to improve your flexibility.
     
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  3. vin

    vin Professional

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    I know why 'backscratch' is a bad term, but I didn't know what else to call it.

    I'm very confident that the difference I'm talking about does exist. When Sampras' racquet drops behind his back, the motion is almost purely external shoulder rotation. The angle between his forearm and upper arm is constant. Some pros close the angle between the forearm and upper arm in addition to the external rotation.

    The end result is the same (butt cap pointing at ball), but the Sampras style involves less racquet movement and makes me wonder if it is more efficient and possibly more reliable.

    In this Sampras clip you can pretty much see what I'm talking about. It's a bad angle because at one point his shoulder rotation blocks the view of his elbow.
    http://www.uspta.com/html/e-lesson-Flat serve.swf
    If you look at all the different angles on tennisone, you can really see it.
     
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  4. vin

    vin Professional

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    Here's some pictures to help show the difference.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    It's more apparent watching the videos, but in the pictures you can see that all three players have started the descent of their racquet behind their back.

    Notice that Goran's racquet is going behind his head and how small the angle is between his forearm and upper arm. This angle got small from using his bicep to bring his racquet up from an extended arm position during the backswing. The result is the loop behind the head that I am referring to in the original post. Pete and Andy don't have this loop.

    Pete and Andy's forearms are closer to a 90 degree angle with the upper arm and stay that way throughout the descent.

    Also notice how close Goran's serving hand is to his head and how far away Andy and Pete's serving hands are from their head.

    All three players are getting to the same position, but Pete and Andy seem to be taking a more direct route. What I'm trying to figure out is if there is an advantage to the way Andy and Pete are doing it.
     
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  5. Power Game

    Power Game Professional

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    Well all three of them (Pete, Andy, Goran) have/had huge serves....
     
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  6. gmlasam

    gmlasam Hall of Fame

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    vin,

    How dose the biceps muscles bring the racquet up to full arm extension? Doesn't the triceps muscles come more into play into bringing the racquet up to full arm extension?
     
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  7. vin

    vin Professional

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    It doesn't. Goran uses his bicep to raise his racquet during his backswing. This is before the racquet drops behind his back and before it comes up to hit the ball.
    Yes, the tricep is used to raise the racquet from it's lowest point after being dropped behind the back.
     
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  8. gmlasam

    gmlasam Hall of Fame

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    So goran is in a way muscles his drop down instead of letting the racquet drop down naturally in a relaxed motion?
     
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  9. vin

    vin Professional

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    Probably not. The only reason I mentioned the bicep part was to help describe the motion I was talking about where the angle between the forearm and upper arm gets smaller. The only way to move your forearm closer to your upper arm is to contract your bicep.

    Although Goran must use his bicep to get the racquet to the top of his style of backswing, once the racquet is at the top, gravity and momentum can be used to complete the loop that brings the racquet down behind the back.
     
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  10. jun

    jun Semi-Pro

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    From your picture, you are comparing the WRONG moments.
    Goran's pic indicates that he just tossed the ball up. While the other two pictuer indicate that it's well after they toss the ball and is about to go into backscratch motion. You can tell it by their non-dominant arm. Goran's arm is still up, while Pete's and Andy's is coming down.

    You are making it way more complicated than that. You should concentrate on going into backscratch motion regardless of type of your backswing, or how you bring your racket up. And then, you should concentrate on going up for the ball.

    B. Bill has pretty much clarified it for you. Just concentrate on having butt cap pointed upward.
     
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  11. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Exactly Jun.

    Vin I think you're now trying to over analyze it. The pictures you showed above clearly support what Vic Braden discovered years ago. The backscratch is a myth. It isn't a good term to use anymore as it is not happening in the serve motion. If anything, you are scratching someones back behind your hitting shoulder more than anything.

    If you just concentrate on a smooth motion that is relaxed, you will achieve what the pros are doing. Now, the difference lies in how much you open the shoulders as you can see in all three pictures compared to your swing.

    The triceps are involved but not to the degree you think. The biceps are involved but not to the degree you think. I find that the lats under the arm and the connection it has with the chest muscles really provides the thrust in the serve if we just isolated the arm thrust in the serve. Obviously, the lower body is involved as well.

    What is difficult is isolating a relaxed arm, shoulder, and neck muscles with a tightening lat, chest muscle. With a solid motion, you can achieve a lot of power and remain injury free.
     
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  12. Mahboob Khan

    Mahboob Khan Hall of Fame

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    Component 3: Yes, point the butt cap upward to the ball and if you want let the racket head circle behind your back and then up to hit the ball, and down.
     
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  13. vin

    vin Professional

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    Ok, I guess there are too many things to worry about in the service motion to give this any worry.

    I thought that the extra motion of letting the racquet circle behind your back may be bad for two reasons.
    1. It takes more time.
    2. The circular path may make it harder to control the racquet when bringing it up to hit the ball.

    You guys know a lot more than me, so I'll stop worrying about it and work on more import things. Thanks for being patient with me. :)

    Vin
     
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  14. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Actually the circling works the opposite way. It helps with timing and gaining momentum. The loose arm throughout is what allows the arm to swing freely with no hitches.

    If you stop the momentum by allowing the so called backscratch, you will have to exert more energy to get the racquet going again. That is not good for timing and generating racquet head speed.

    If you create that serving aid I always talk about, you will develop the correct arm motion for the serve. The rest is making sure the energy and force is going up to the ball. Also, practice opening the shoulders like the pictures you provided.
     
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  15. PhatAbbott

    PhatAbbott Rookie

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    The idea of making sure that by being loose is so your major muscles don't kick in too much and reduce the length of your swing by restricting free motion. Don't make the mistake of thinking that by being loose you need to slow down though. Quite the opposite... you need the high speed to gain any real transfer into the ball.
     
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  16. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Good points PhatAbbott, it is hard to break the serve up in sections (my opinion) in the "arm" department. I think the arm motion, because it is suppose to be loose at the elbow, is one complete motion that has a start position and a finish position.

    When you put the "back scratch" thought in the middle of the motion it sort of stops the fluidness of thought and hinders the development of the serve. This is my feeling and my opinion on what I found on the courts.
     
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  17. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Never thought I had a hitch in my service motion until I read of BB's gismo with the string and ball attached to a racquet. Although I didn't make one, I started visualizing its effect and realized I probably do pause especially on my second serve - interesting.

    Although it took a few ball, 100 or so (slow learner), I found that my serve was more consistent and actually easier on me. Even though I play or practice for a few hours daily, the service motion gets to me frequently - I'm ok the next day but a little soreness on my right side. I really think not pausing or stopping might just help.
     
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  18. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    I might have typed my words wrong. So let me correct any misunderstandings. When you attach the ball to the string, you do not need to attach the string to a racquet. Just swing te ball with the string only in your hand. The strings length should be about the length of the racquet for simulation.
     
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  19. vin

    vin Professional

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    Ok, you all will probably roll your eyes at me giving this topic more thought, but it has instigated me to research proper throwing mechanics. I'd be willing to bet that a lot more research goes into baseball than tennis!

    Anyway, I stumbled upon the following website ...
    http://www.throwmax.com/www-throwmax-com/baseball.chk

    Although it is a product website, it shows some examples of poor mechanics. The motion referred to as 'wrapping around the head' with the hand near the ear is the motion I was trying to point out in Goran's serve. This is the same thing I do which was why I was trying to point it out.

    At any rate, despite playing baseball for 9 years as a kid, I think I have poor throwing mechanics and they naturally made their way into my serve. I'm tempted to try this product and work on better throwing mechanics in hopes that it will help my serve. Depending on how it goes, I may even try to hit serves with it.
     
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  20. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Well Vin, your right. I am rolling my eyes. :roll:

    I really dont think you need that product. I really dont. I think the string on the ball will do the trick. Also, getting your toss right so you can maintain one continuous motion will help too. Like everything you must start out slow and develop the motion.

    I need to evaluate your serve soon, so let me jot down a reminder to help you.

    I can get my serve going pretty good. The times when I feel I am making the best motion is when I have a spring in my legs, my front hip stretches (I dont do a full stretch, just lightly), the lines I make with my knee bend, the shoulder angle are all parallel to each other angling up to the ball. When I am ready to launch, my backfoot comes to a pin point stance with my pressure or weight on my toes or the balls of my feet, then my arm is loose and I feel the muscle contractions more in my stomach and my lats/Chest muscle. It is not a really tight feeling, but I feel my lats and chest muscle providing the surge of energy to get my loose arm going.

    If you work on that machine "the pullover" at the gym you will sort of see what I mean and what I feel. The trick is to keep the arm real loose and let it go (you have to trust that part) and only isolate or use the muscles above to build arm speed. That is difficult, because if I am not loose enough, I feel my neck muscles and top shoulder muscle sort of pinch up or tense up, or my shoulder muscle will contract or something else to stop or short circuit the flow of energy to a loose arm.

    I didnt mention shoulder rotation speed as another intregal part but we arent talking about that right now.
     
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