High elbow on serve

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by crash1929, Sep 19, 2011.

  1. crash1929

    crash1929 Hall of Fame

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    What does it mean when they say you should keep your elbow high on the serve?
     
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  2. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    See photo 4 below...

    [​IMG]

    Cheers
     
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  3. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    I dunno. What part of the serve are they talking about?

    If you are talking about the trophy position, the elbow should pretty much be in line with the shoulder tilt. (See image below). The elbow should not drop (much) lower than this line such that it is close or tight to the body. Nor should it be higher than the back shoulder at this point in the serve.

    [​IMG]

    Ar they talking about a different part of the serve?
     
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  4. Giannis

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    I guess they talk about racket drop.
     
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  5. Ramon

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    I think they are talking about a different part of the serve, a part that comes after the trophy position. I think it's referred to as the back-scratch position. That's the part just before the upswing where your racket should be nearly flat against your lower back and your elbow should be pointed up to the sky. If your elbow points to the side at this stage, your motion will be less efficient.
     
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  6. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ At the start of the racket head drop (scratch position), I would not advise a high elbow position. The elbow is still in line with the shoulders at this point. It does not drop, nor does it begin to rise above the back shoulder until well into the scratch position. When commencing the racket head drop, the tossing arm starts to come down. As the scratch position is achieved, the front arm & shoulder drop so that the shoulder tilt is reversed from the trophy position. This allows the back elbow to rise above the back shoulder yet remain in line with the shoulder tilt.

    Still, I would not characterize this as keeping the shoulder high. This is getting the shoulder high (as the rear shoulder comes up and over the top). Still uncertain as to what they and the OP are talking about.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2011
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  7. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    By far the most common meaning is what Ash Smith displays above.


    In order to get maximal power on a serve you have to fully load.

    "Keeping the elbow high" insures the racquet drop occurs with the arm in a position to swing almost straight up. ( I say "almost" because the best servers actually supinate slightly at their maximal racquet drop, so there is somewhat of a twisting motion of the lower arm on the upper arm during "pronation". If you slowly follow the progression on Ash's pictures above with a racquent in hand you should be able to "feel" this movement - do it faster and you should be on your way to a more effective serve.
     
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  8. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ "Keeping the elbow high" still trouble me. Getting the elbow high makes a lot more sense. It's a bit more than just semantics.
     
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  9. mightyrick

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    When I think of "keeping the elbow high"... that also means after contact keeping the elbow up... and allowing the wrist to roll forward, over the elbow, and down below the elbow.
     
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  10. Ash_Smith

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    ^^^see pic 3.

    cheers
     
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  11. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    That makes a bit more sense. The arm, which should be comfortably straight at contact, can bend on the follow-thru. The elbow will stay high for a bit as the arm bends after contact.

    I still wonder if this is what the OP is referring to.
     
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  12. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I've used "high elbow, high hand finish" multiple times in previous threads to get the racketHEAD to come thru and past the hand following contact, so the maximum speed of the HEAD can be achieved. That is the ideal and maximum use of pronation.
    OTOH, at trophy position, LOW elbow is the better of two evils, for maximum power potential.
     
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  13. mightyrick

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    It's funny Ash, I wish there was a pic that was a split-second after pic 3 that shows the wrist is bend/pronated over and racquet facing down... but elbow still high.
     
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  14. Ash_Smith

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  15. mightyrick

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    Thanks, Ash. Just for time-savings for everyone. Here is an image of that freeze-frame. Elbow highest, then wrist/hand, then racquet head.

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    Yes, this makes sense.


    I think Djokovic used to have this low elbow trophy position but has since corrected it.

    But I am curious ... as long as one eventually gets to the "racquet drop" position , why is having a low elbow at the trophy position a problem?

    Perhaps it takes more effort to get to the racquet drop pose with an incorrect low elbow at the trophy pose?
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2013
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  17. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    False problem. In fact, having the elbow too low and/or too close to the body makes it harder to go in racquet drop position. Exception made of Roddick, who used an active racquet drop to get rid of the problem... Although he dropped few miles per hour on his serve as he got old; bar his last USO where he got more speed on his serve. Suspect shoulder pain, and playing on Hydrodilatation in USO 2012.

    It's much easier to go in racquet drop position and hit with proper pronation naturally with the elbow on the save level as the shoulder. Different from "leading with the elbow", which is the next part of the serve.
     
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  18. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    ^ Yes, that makes sense...

    Note: corrected typo in my original post:
    meant to write "why is having a low elbow at the trophy position a problem?"
     
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  19. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    Novak Djokovic Serve Technique: The Big Change

    www.optimumtennis.net

    In the past, his elbow was too low in this trophy position. This increased the distance his racket head had to travel to get to the contact point, theoretically allowing him to build up more speed. But it wasn’t biomechanically efficient. It required too much effort. It also compromised the consistency of the swing and therefore the accuracy of the resulting shot.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Djokovic Serve: His New 2011 Serve Motion (Left) Vs. the Old Tennis Serve Motion (Right)


    The article states that one can theoretically get more power with the low elbow position but it will be less consistent.

    If that is true, I suspect that Djokovic's old low-elbow serve was just as powerful (maybe more so) than his new serve, but that his consistency has improved with his corrected high-elbow serve.

    I have to work on keeping the elbow high at the trophy pose. I find that as I raise my tossing arm to the sky after the ball is released, and get into the shoulder tilted position, there is a natural tendency to drop the hitting arm elbow.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2013
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  20. Lukhas

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  21. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Me suspects, in DJ's case, he went back to his motion, and slightly shortened it for consistency.
    His straight elbow is followed immediately by a bending of that elbow back to a normal trophy position before he starts his swing.
    He just likes the feeling of stretching the biceps.
     
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  22. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    You are correct. Djoko corrected this relatively minor flaw in his serve late in 2010. In looking at his serve motion now, we see that his elbow, at the trophy phase, is more directly in line with his shoulder tilt. This was one of the changes to his game that enabled him to dominate in 2011.

    Novak's elbow position variation was fairly minor. Many servers have a very severe elbow drop at the trophy (or prior to the drop). I have seen many servers produce very good spins with the sub-optimal elbow position. However, many of them also have developed timing problems or inconsistencies because of this low elbow position. With a very low elbow position, some servers may not perform a proper/adequate racket head drop.

    OTOH, players with a very high elbow position at the trophy phase or at the start of the racket head drop might put added stress on the shoulder/rotator group. This could very well be worse that an elbow position that is too low.
     
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  23. boramiNYC

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    I'd say high elbow is much better than a low elbow at trophy. there are more than a few pros that lift the elbow higher than shoulder line and can still serve very well. I don't think that necessarily leads to unjury. with a low elbow you simply cannot serve hard flat serve at pro level. maybe only spin serve.
     
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  24. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    This link shows a much lower elbow position for Novak than the minor flaw I was referring to previously. Perhaps, with his older serving style, the relative elbow position varied from the 1st serve to the 2nd. I would say that this version of his serve exhibits a major flaw in his older motion.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtfEP6bOrvI
    .
     
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  25. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    MartinaNav served with high elbow at trophy, because her shoulder was injured for several years. She did not serve flat, but used kick, some twist, mostly top/slice serves.
    Lower elbow allows you to rotate your motion upwards at the ball, so you can complete your swing as you hit the ball, and not after you hit the ball.
    How many times have we seen videos of 3-4.5 level serves that complete the swing AFTER they hit the ball?
    The high hand and high elbow AFTER you hit the ball, the racket pointing straight down at the ground, is the sign of an ADVANCED serve.
    Hard to hit that finish with a high elbow at trophy position.
     
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  26. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Slightly high may be ok. However, I have provided a couple of links from biomechanics experts in the past that indicate that the elbow should not too much higher than the shoulder line. A high elbow position, in some cases, may take a decade or two to manifest. Some may manifest much sooner. This problem is seen with many volleyball hitters/spikers and tennis players in their 50s.
     
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  27. boramiNYC

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    leeD you can do all that with a really high elbow. try it you might like it.
     
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  28. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I actually find that short swing high elbow serve with a high elbow finish to be very whippy, but not very controllable in the long run. It lacks maximum power, but can be a fast quick serve with little effort.
    Yes, I've tried it quite a bit, Martina being one of the pros I'd watch on TV when I was still playing tennis full time.
     
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  29. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    You are doing a disservice to players with this very high-elbow gospel. Below is one of the links that I have posted in the past. I have personally spoken to medical professionals/physical therapists about this issue and they all agree that our shoulder was not designed for repetitive overhand throwing/hitting motions with the elbow above the shoulder line.

    http://www.tennisresources.com/index.cfm?area=video_detail&vidid=3712
    .
     
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  30. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I think if you watch good servers, anyone from 4.5 on up, you find very very few who use a high elbow at the trophy position.
    While lots of us have a slightly lower elbow than the straight line drawn between our two shoulders, it can certainly be IN line with the two shoulders.
    I think the racket HAND can be above the line of the two shoulders, but still not by much.
     
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  31. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Going too high or too low tends to rob power, though I think the risk of injury is higher with an elbow too high in the trophy.

    Tomic is an example of a guy that keeps his elbow too high in the trophy. He has a very weak serve given his height 6'5" and ranking.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRNoHrJ6U8E
     
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  32. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Trust me. You couldn't be more wrong about this. Wish I had know the biomechanics issues 20-25 yrs ago. I have suffered from significant shoulder problems since my mid-50s (now in my early 60s). My external rotation and forward flexion (of the shoulder) is limited. I currently cannot abduct the left arm (lift it up to the side) more than a few degrees. I think that I may have torn the supraspinatus in an effort to compensate for the other shoulder articulation limitations.

    I know quite a lot of volleyball and tennis players who currently suffer from shoulder issues because of faulty mechanics.
     
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  33. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Not to jump too hard onto the bandwagon, I already expressed my view on high elbow.
    I also know at least 5 guys who used to serve with a higher elbow...at least higher than I did. One still plays tennis, serving really softly. The other 4 were injury axed from tennis, and still complain when they throw a football, or even lift their arms to grab a windsurfing boom. And two of them cannot even paint their homes...:cry::cry:
     
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  34. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    when I say high elbow I mean Delpo, Daniel Brands, Julian Benneteau kind of high elbow. They all serve very very well. not the ultimate model serves but I don't believe their high elbow will cause them injuries.

    Regarding Tomic, definitely not my favorite serve motion but he make it work and hits even 130s once in a while. I don't think it'll cause him injury either.

    I myself don't serve that way but if I consciously try to lift the elbow a little higher than normal (which is about the shoulder line for me) I can make it work as well. However, when the elbow is lower than the shoulder line it prevents me from hitting ANY decent serve since it takes the racquet completely off the optimal swing path.

    I'd add Raonic to that list as well even though he elevates only a little.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhM8Wk2IIcY
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2013
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  35. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Of the posters here who have shown their vids, MOP, LawMan, and most good servers use a low elbow, lower than the line between their two shoulders.
    Sorry if I forgot your names, there are several other good servers....JonnyS/V, the stringer guy Traveljam, NLBewell, and a few more.
     
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  36. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    I want to try for that high elbow finish after contact like Sampras has...

    Are his shoulders low, high, or inline at the trophy position?
     
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  37. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    Don't see how low elbow at trophy should have any effect on the spin.

    You are still getting to the same racquet drop position whether you're using a high or low elbow at trophy.

    And from that racquet drop position, you should be able to swing up to hit flat or spin .
     
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  38. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I'm going strictly based of memory.
    I think Sampras's right elbow is LOWER than a line between his shoulders. His racket hand must be higher.
     
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  39. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    I'd argue that Sampras is pretty much in line with his shoulder, and his hand moves higher than the line in the trophy position. Even though it is in line, what really stands out to me is how he draws the elbow back, or perhaps the shoulder in the socket. Very distinctive.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqRqdbBEzUM
     
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  40. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    With a video for reference, WildVolley is correct, I"m wrong. Elbow more or less in line, hand above.
     
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  41. boramiNYC

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    in fh ground stroke have you tried to overrotate for prep? there is limit how much the shoulder can rotate into the power zone. same thing for serve. there is limit how much shoulder can come around for the power zone and a low elbow cannot bring the racquet fast enough.
     
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  42. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    This seems correct. There's basically an optimal angle for getting the elbow away from the body during the shoulder motion. Too high or too low limits the elbow speed which in a proper kinetic chain is related to the hand speed and ultimately the racket face.

    The great servers (Sampras, Ivanisevic, Roddick, etc) all seem to have a similar angle between the line of the shoulders and the elbow at the end of the trophy and during the forward motion.
     
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  43. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Video Analysis Discussing the 'Elbow Up'

    In this video analysis, the part of the serve identified as the 'elbow up' phase seems to be that position when the hitting shoulder is up and the upper arm is in line with the line joining the two shoulders. That puts the elbow up. This was pointed out by Ash_Smith as Figure #4 in Reply #2 (2011). This also looks like the shoulder-upper arm orientation discussed in the Ellenbecker video for reducing the injury risk to the shoulder on the tennis serve.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhRxnuV9BTY

    The analysis has some very nice detail on the serve but, as usual, in tennis serve instructional videos, it fails to mention internal shoulder rotation and therefore cannot clearly discuss the most significant joint motion in the tennis serve.

    Manual of Structural Kinesiology, 15th edition, C. Thompson & R. Floyd is available, used, for under $10 with shipping. It describes the main muscles, joints, and joint motions of the body. For example, it identifies internal shoulder rotation as a shoulder joint motion which can occur when the arm and scapula are held high as in the tennis serve and the lat and pec (the internal shoulder rotator muscles) shorten. This action rotates the upper arm in the serve. The book also describes pronation as a motion of a joint at the elbow that rotates the forearm relative to the upper arm.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2013
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  44. Lukhas

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  45. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    That is exactly the issue.

    If there's a rule to put the elbow up or down based on what the pro's are now doing in the current serves, that is very useful.

    If there is also a clear biomechanical reason for that orientation that can be more useful and easier to remember.

    The Ellenbecker video describes the shoulder and gives a biomechanical reason why the upper arm should be held sort-of in line with the line between the shoulders. See minute 8 for his advice to minimize shoulder impingement risk.

    I would see the 'elbow up' or 'down' as mostly depending simply on the orientation of the line between the shoulders and Ellenbecker's advice to keep the upper arm roughly in line with the line between the shoulders. That puts the elbow up when the shoulders move so that the hitting shoulder is up. That line between the shoulders and the upper arm are not perfectly aligned in practice.

    All that is done so that forceful internal shoulder rotation can be applied leading to impact.

    [​IMG]

    https://vimeo.com/27528701

    Just because something makes sense doesn't mean it's true. The above viewpoint needs some more information from tennis biomechanical researchers.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2013
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