Getting a little more out of your serve.

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Kana Himezaki, Jun 21, 2005.

  1. Kana Himezaki

    Kana Himezaki Semi-Pro

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    There are a lot of people asking how to get just a little more
    on their serves, or say they've made 100 and want to make the
    changes and get better to...say, 120. (LOL, TwistServe :p)

    So this is just outlining some small things that nobody ever tells
    you about that might help a little. If it doesn't work, oh
    well. It helps some people. If it does work, whoo whoo.
    You're a cool kid now. If you think it's wrong, definitely
    post about it, just don't make it inflammatory without reason.

    This is in my "longer post" fashion, each different part will
    be bolded. Skip to what you want, and don't complain about
    the length -you get absolutely nothing done with short posts.

    And if your serve isn't that great yet, it might help NOT to
    read this post. Attempting to incorporate extra things will
    usually hurt your game or DECREASE consistency if you haven't
    worked out your normal, comfortable motion yet.

    Supination before the Swing

    You know when your racquet is in the ideal drop position?

    Like...

    [​IMG]

    That. That might be just barely into the swing, but note how
    it's dropped, and in position to whip up.

    From there, PRONATE a little already. Your racquet should be
    facing AWAY from you at more of an angle, rather than vertical
    like you see with many players (including pros).

    This will make you naturally supinate as you begin to swing
    up, which adds length to the motion and more acceleration.
    The motion should go naturally from their, you shouldn't
    have to force the supination before the swing. In the picture
    I provided of Roddick in the drop position, he actually does
    this -it looks vertical because he's slightly into the swing.

    Cool? Supercool. Just try it out on the court. It's hard
    to see when watching, because it happens so fast, but if
    you've got high speed footage it's definitely there.

    You're one step closer to that "cool kid" status.

    Hip Thrust

    This is more widely known. They describe it a little in that
    Tennis magazine where they have the pictures of Joachim
    Johannson's serve. I think that's the clay court issue
    (Nadal on the front) but I can't be bothered which one it is.
    Oh well. I'm not referencing that anyway, although you'll
    find an explanation (hopefully similar) to what I'm describing
    here.

    You know after the toss, when your tossing arm is fully
    extended upwards? If you don't, try it, it helps turn your
    body sideways naturally. Right here, the left hip should
    thrust forward.

    Later, when the racquet drops (look at the picture above
    if you want to see what I mean by this), the RIGHT hip should
    thrust forward as well. Jerk it. FAST. This helps fire off
    the entire "kinetic chain", and accelerates the racquet
    further.

    Even closer to being a cool kid. By now, you probably
    attract LOTS of women and/or men, although they probably don't
    have the looks you want. But try to forget about that giant
    cancerous lump sticking out of the side of their head, and
    take away the facial hair -you've got yourself a
    girlfriend/boyfriend.


    The Left Arm AFTER the Toss

    Well known, but whatever helps. Watch some good peoples'
    serves. After their tossing arm extends for their toss,
    look what happens during the swing.

    [​IMG]

    That's Canas. I don't know much about his serve, but you
    can see how his left arm is held in his body. This is a
    braking mechanism, and sort of allows the trunk to brake
    (of course :p) as the rest of the body jolts forward.
    Which means a little more acceleration, supposedly.

    You'll see all the top servers doing this. Roddick, in
    his serve, does this during the swing, but way after
    contact, as the racquet is following through, the
    tossing arm that was held close to the body jolts out
    and behind him. I dunno if that helps or not, but he
    still keeps it in during the swing.


    The Toss

    Well, this is something everyone can follow and only
    achieve better results. While this doesn't really classify
    as a small, not that well known thing that helps
    good servers add on a little more, it certainly does help.
    So oh well.

    Your toss should NOT have really any spin on it.
    The tossing arm should be slightly bent or even
    straight. You are NOT using the wrist, PERIOD. That
    simply takes away consistency and makes tosses harder
    to replicate repeatedly. The height should simply come from
    pretty much pushing the ball up with the almost-straight
    arm.

    It also helps to keep the ball on top of your fingers, and
    release with the fingers during the toss.

    Also note that you should be tossing up, out in front,
    and hopefully with full extension when the ball is coming
    DOWN.

    Some people have been known for hitting the ball RIGHT at
    its peak. I think Tanner and Ivanisevic, mostly. But
    look at the very top servers. Not only is perfecting this
    toss hard to do, it doesn't really help or add on any
    velocity. Since it's hard to duplicate, it simply adds
    on the inconsistency at crucial points.

    But whether you hit it right at the peak or when it's
    coming down is simply a matter of rhythm. If you have
    an extremely fast rhythm on serves (you're rare.), and
    go through your motion extremely quickly, then hitting
    at the peak is fine.

    But since most players have a slower rhythm, and need
    more time to prepare (which doesn't hurt your serve at
    all), you'll want to be hitting it on the way down.
    Trying to hit at the peak not only doesn't add on
    anything, it makes you rush the entire motion and screw
    up.


    You're supercool by now. No doubt instead the people that
    jump all over you (the ones with the facial hair) have
    changed to supermodels/celebrities. Meaning now you
    have Kournikova or Giselle Bundchen throwing their clothes
    all over for you, or you have Jesse McCartney throwing
    his clothes everywhere.



    I really can't think of anything else people don't hear
    that often. I'll post it in another thread if something
    comes.

    Knee bend is obvious, but that's not exactly not well known,
    and is essential for all good serves. Uncoiling upwards
    with these naturally makes the racquet drop further (more
    acceleration, whatever), adds on the elastic energy
    in the chest muscles, and gives you the drive to hit the
    ball higher.

    If you've got good knee bend/leg drive it's also probably
    better to start tossing the ball higher, if you haven't
    done so already.

    I'm done. All you cool kids can go do whatever cool people
    do. If you're married, or don't want the attention
    of supermodels of whatever your preferences are, I'm sorry.
    You're still a cooler person.

    And...don't take the cool kid thing seriously, okay? :p
    If it doesn't make you automatically cooler, at least
    I tried. XD Not that I'm particularly "cool", either.
     
    #1
  2. POGO

    POGO Hall of Fame

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    Kana,

    Like always, very informative post. Thanks for posting it.

    The pic of Roddick of his serve looks to be a classic service motion of one serving a kick serve, due to the extreme arch of the back.

    Does one need to have such extreme back arch to serve a flat or slice?
     
    #2
  3. thejackal

    thejackal Hall of Fame

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    The ach makes for more racket-head speed, which helps on all serves. One site that analysed Roddick's serve claims that the angle differential between his arm and the rest of his body accounts for the speed on his serve.
     
    #3
  4. Rickson

    Rickson G.O.A.T.

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    I like Kana's post, but I have to disagree with the ball on the way down is the best hit theory. The ideal contact for the serve is when the ball is stationary, not on the way down.
     
    #4
  5. TwistServe

    TwistServe Guest

    The biggest difference in my serve that allowed me to make a jump from the 80s to the low 100s in a short period of time: Create longer Elbow distance to the body and keep it almost parallel to the neck, and toss very deep into the court.

    The pro that has been working on my serve hits 120-130s mph consistently and spotted my elbow was too low and close to the body. We fixed that by changing the take back a little. B()()M! A lot more power achieved. When watching wimbledon I notice lots of big servers with their elbow way far from their body.

    Toss deep into the court is self explanitory.

    There are of course other little tidbits that are tricks of the trade. I vowed I couldnt tell because then we'd have too many b()mbers on the court..

    Man I wish I was like 6'2 or something. I would be bombing 120s with my current mechanics.
     
    #5
  6. alan-n

    alan-n Professional

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    My first serves early on in a set are in the 100s... Once I am fully loose and stretch my body back on the toss, and a slightly deeper knee bend.... and make sure I CRUNCH my torso and stomach muscles.... Only then does my serve goes past 115 and deep into the 120s flat down the middle..... most of it has to do with cruching my stomach and torso mucles to hit through the ball more.

    Ooops look like I gave the secret away... LOL. Knowning is one thing, doing is another.
     
    #6
  7. AJK1

    AJK1 Hall of Fame

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    Pace is good no doubt, but placement, especially at my level (4.0) is way better. And a bit of both is nirvana! Iv'e learn't at my level, that most players can handle receiving pace, sometimes they prefer it. But they don't like wide sliders or kickers, or down the middle or right at the body. Most of the players at my level hardly practice their serving, just practice groundstrokes all day, practice, practice those serves and you're gonna be way ahead.
     
    #7
  8. Kana Himezaki

    Kana Himezaki Semi-Pro

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    Not really. Not only will this lead to inconsistency, as I said it FORCES you to move through the motion much quicker.

    Which isn't exactly ideal. It rushes things, which means further inconsistency.

    Sampras, Roddick, whatever, all hit when the ball has dropped at least a foot from it's peak. Hitting it when right at the apex leads to nothing really beneficial, although it's fine if your natural rhythm is fast.
     
    #8
  9. Kana Himezaki

    Kana Himezaki Semi-Pro

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    Exactly. Placement IS the most important part. But this post is just for people who want to get a little bit more out of it.
     
    #9
  10. AJK1

    AJK1 Hall of Fame

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    Cool, isn't placement and pace yummy!!
     
    #10
  11. takeuchi

    takeuchi Rookie

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    while i do agree that hitting at the apex would be the best contact spot, i don't think it would work out as well as tossing a bit higher. I notice in games where i'm pressured or nervous i end up tossing a little lower. If i relied on hitting at its apex and my toss was just a little bit short then i'd expect a fault. When you toss a bit (A BIT) higher you give yourself that margin of error. Tossing higher allows me to go up for the ball and hit it at full extension.
     
    #11
  12. 0.2RatedPlayer

    0.2RatedPlayer Rookie

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    it also helps not to be flat footed when you knee bend. a great transfer of energy occurs when youre on the balls of your feet (not too extreme obviously like a ballerina or anything). see roddick.
     
    #12
  13. MTChong

    MTChong Professional

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    I'm just wondering where you guys are getting your service speeds clocked...

    I can say that I have a moderately fast serve; from all the high school players I've seen, mine are pretty much the same speed as the fastest ones, but they have better placement; I have yet to work on it. I can only get it into three sections of the box, down the t, out wide, or to the guy - even sometimes, it's off though.
     
    #13
  14. POGO

    POGO Hall of Fame

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    I got mine clocked at a local University where I sometimes play tennis at. During the tennis season after practice, the coach would allow us to measure our serve with a radar gun. The highest I was clocked at was 97 mph. I average about 91.
     
    #14
  15. MTChong

    MTChong Professional

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    Oh, that's cool; hopefully, maybe once I get my license in around three to four weeks, I'll check out some local colleges to see if they can clock it. I've alwyas wanted to know because a year ago, my coach eyed it to be around 70mph, and since then it's been faster. I just want to know how fast it really does get to be. Because when he said 70, I had thought I was serving like 50
     
    #15
  16. Thanatos

    Thanatos Semi-Pro

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    Good post, however I more interested in placement of the serve rather than speed. I would definitely scarifice speed for placement anyday. If I can hit out wide all the time or down the T, I'd be a made man.
     
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  17. Kana Himezaki

    Kana Himezaki Semi-Pro

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    It's not for placement. These are just little speed factors, intended for people who have a good server and want to find small things they can do to make it a little better.

    Placement IS key. Nobody's ever doubted that. But this is for people who have that down, and want to crank it up a little.

    And for the most part, placement on serves can't be taught. Even the parts you can, the server still has to practice and work it out himself. However, speed and consistency CAN be taught with proper and different mechanics.
     
    #17
  18. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    More weight in the head and longer racquet will help with serve speed too.
     
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  19. thejackal

    thejackal Hall of Fame

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    Thanatos: Have a friend call out a location (wide or T) while your toss is in the air and try to hit it there. Sampras used to do this drill with his coach. I've been doing it too for a while, it's money.
     
    #19
  20. Thanatos

    Thanatos Semi-Pro

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    I know guys who don't even play tennis, they play baseball with a strong pitching arm, and just whack the ball 100+mph. Does it does it go in? Can they hit the T or serve out wide? Of course not. The secret is placement and consistency. Just like groundstrokes, almost anyone can hit a FH with power, but can they direct or control it to a spot on the court? I found that if I follow-thru towards the direction I'm aiming for sometimes it goes there. Other times it's the roll of the dice. Thanks thejackal,, I'll try that.
     
    #20
  21. cervelo

    cervelo Rookie

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    Hey TwistServe ::::

    Hit me back with the information in your post ... but explain it a little more please ... I like what you're saying but I haven't gotten my brain around it yet. Just FYI: It's not your explanation, it's more my slow brain. I'm curious to learn more about what you're saying in the elbow/neck/arm and torsional angle, etc.

    ______________________________

    Just something to think about:

    Someone once told me that a serve hit at 120 is going about 50-60 mph when it reaches the returner. If this 120 mph serve lands shorter in the box, it's actually going even slower because of how the court works over the ball after the bounce.

    In that same line of thinking, an 80 or 90 mph serve, launched at a lesser angle which places it deeper in the service box is going a little less than 50 mph when it reaches the returner. But the elapsed time from the bounce to the striking spot of the returner is ACTUALLY SHORTER with the deeper, but "slower" serve!!!

    Once again, power takes a back seat to placement and depth.
     
    #21
  22. Thanatos

    Thanatos Semi-Pro

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    cervelo..you're not the only one confused. Twistserve...please share your secret with us.
     
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  23. TwistServe

    TwistServe Guest

    Its really no secret but may not be obvious. Pick up a tennis ball and throw it as far as you can. Notice that your elbow is not down or tucked. To get the greatest speed when you throw or swing your racquet, you need to have your elbow high (about as high as your neck).. Its almost like when you flex your biceps and your upper arm is parallel with the ground. Watch the pros serve and you'll see what I mean. Another thing is when your elbow is higher, the racquet drop is more veritcal thereby giving you more distance which equals speed.
     
    #23
  24. kicker75

    kicker75 Rookie

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    Outside of mechanics, you can add 5-10mph on your serve by your racquet of choice. Strings, tension, length, and weight can all make a difference (though sometimes you sacrifice control on your other shots for more pace on your serve) Not positive about this, but I believe Roddick uses a 27.5 inch long racquet which gives him more momentum in his racquet head speed. I know Michael Chang to improve his pace on his serve used a 28 inch racquet length.
     
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  25. SageOfDeath

    SageOfDeath Guest

    Someone once said something about hitting in the upper third of their racquet to gain more power and for a while I didn't really understand how that would give you more power but now I do. If you think about it in terms of leverage like when you open a door. One end of the door is moving more than the other end of the door when you open it. This may seem obvious but in tennis is the same way. The upper third of your racquet is moving more than your handle thus making more head racquet speed to develop more power.

    I know it was someone in this forum that said that about the upper third but I didn't know who.....
     
    #25
  26. kicker75

    kicker75 Rookie

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    Supination (dropping down of the racquet)

    I hit good serves...first serve I can get up into the low 100mph range, and second serves usually in the 70's-low 80's with kick. A pro analyzed my serve on video, and he and I noticed that my supination (or dropping down of the racquet) did not go as far as it could. So I tried a couple of serves with a more extreme "drop" and although it improved my range of motion and racquet speed, I find it VERY difficult to time, so most of the time I mishit. My question... how much more mph and control does an extreme "drop" add to a serve, because I'm pretty good with my normal serve motion and don't want to mess with a good thing unless it's really worth it (say 10mph +)
     
    #26
  27. thejackal

    thejackal Hall of Fame

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    Why mess with a good thing? Work on adding spins and getting better placement with it.
     
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