How does Ben Becker hit such a fast serve?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by scotus, Sep 3, 2006.

  1. scotus

    scotus Legend

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    Benjamin Becker is about the same height as Agassi, but his serve had much more juice on it. So how does he do it?

    Well, rather than saying it's technique or racquet head speed, it would help me if you get into the specifics. For example, what could Agassi change in his technique in order to get his serve up to the speed of Becker's serve?
     
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  2. drakulie

    drakulie Talk Tennis Guru

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    Swing faster. It really is that simple.
     
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  3. scotus

    scotus Legend

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    Okay, that was very helpful. Next please.
     
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  4. kchau

    kchau Semi-Pro

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    he wasnt in pain..
     
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  5. grizzly4life

    grizzly4life Professional

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    i don't think agassi is going for max velocity on his serve. i think he spins it alot more..

    becker seemed to have a very relaxed, fluid way about him.. that will help with service speed.
     
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  6. Verbal_Kint

    Verbal_Kint Rookie

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    Less spin = more heat. Andre used his serve to set up points, Becker to win points.
     
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  7. One word explains his fast serve: rhythm.
    Detail: Rhythm enables him to generate more power from ground and up (upward thrust and rotational power). That power enables high racquet speed.
    (see my blog.)
     
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  8. thebosher

    thebosher New User

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    He uses his legs to get all that power he builds up his calfs and thighs, it comes all from his legs, same with Rodicks power
     
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  9. Hondasteve

    Hondasteve Rookie

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    Some guys can just spank it. I don't think it is something that you can necesarily teach or learn, rather it is a more intangibe thing that is commonly referred to as the kinetic chain.

    I believe this is what thebosher is referring to above. Getting your whole body from feet to racquet tip in to the stroke in a way that fafcilitates maximum racquet velocity.

    I hope that the epiphany will hit me soon during one of my practice sessions so my serves will catpult into the 120+ category.:D
     
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  10. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    I completely disagree. There was an article in Tennis Magazine about the myth that the legs generate the power on serve. It's minimal. The racquet travels quickly from shoulder rotation and wrist snap. This is where the power comes from.
     
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  11. jimiforpres

    jimiforpres Rookie

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    This sounds right. Most of the power is generated from the arm on the serve. There are guys in wheelchairs that can serve 110 mph and they only use arm AND have a serious height disadvantage.
     
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  12. ATXtennisaddict

    ATXtennisaddict Hall of Fame

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    did u just make that figure up? :rolleyes:
     
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  13. MasterTS

    MasterTS Professional

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    Agassi isnt a big serve, simple as that.. Just because you have two guys the same height doesn't mean they should serve the same.. its about technique and what they're doing, how flexible they are, how fast their arms rotate etc.

    Becker simply has a faster swing and service motion. Besides Grosjean is shorter then Agassi and can pop the ball with a lot more pace. Same with Bracialli.
     
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  14. scotus

    scotus Legend

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    Well, even if Agassi goes for maximum speed, Becker can out serve him by around 15 mph.

    But you are right about Becker looking more relaxed and fluid. How one can achieve that motion and speed is what I would like to know.
     
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  15. supersmash

    supersmash Semi-Pro

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    I guess some people are naturally big servers.
     
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  16. oray777

    oray777 Rookie

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    Why have a big serve if it can be returned like Agassi did? I think better ball placement and slice is better.
     
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  17. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Actually, Ben Becker is an inch shorter than Agassi at only 5'10".

    Power in the serve comes from your motion, where you toss the ball, the weight, balance, length, and power of your racquet, and your strings and tension.
     
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  18. maverick1

    maverick1 Semi-Pro

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    Is this figure of 110 mph authentic?
    I would also like to see the article stormholloway is referring to.

    Legs are acknowledged to be the main source of power in the serve as well as hitting/pitching/throwing a baseball, shooting a basketball from more than 20 feet...

    My first thought about the OP's question was that Becker must have stronger, bigger legs than Agassi.
     
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  19. mona999

    mona999 Banned

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    Hmmmm... I really dont think it can be the legs. Look at the size of the Williams sisters legs, and the thunder thighs that tons of other female athletes have. Most have quads that are bigger than a lot of male tennis players, and yet they cant serve nearly as hard. Even though their legs are not AS lean as the male players and have a bit of fat mixed in, some do pack on a lot of muscle - enough to create a solid base and provide a lot of power...but this is not sufficient to generate a huge serve.
     
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  20. alan-n

    alan-n Professional

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    Some things people can do that others will never be able to.

    You can talk about his knee bend, his swing and toss all you want, among pros its just your typical solid motion.

    Some pros hit through the contact point cleaner ( = taking the racquet face along a single plane for a greater distance). At a faster swing speed than others.

    a few MPH of extra swing speed makes a big difference in MPH of serve speed assuming you hit the ball as cleanly as you can.
     
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  21. fx101

    fx101 Rookie

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    The legs serve to help the arms transfer power to the racquet and the ball, they themselves only serve to transfer power not create it.
     
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  22. jasonbourne

    jasonbourne Professional

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    In addition to the snap of the wrist, this is exactly what John McEnroe said in comparing Roddick's and Becker's serve just a minute ago. Power is generated from the legs mainly.
     
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  23. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    I agree completely here. It's not so black or white. I heard what Mac just said as well and think it's really a half-truth. The legs help set the arm and wrist in motion, but the arm and wrist can be set in motion quite easily without the legs. There's a player on tour, though I forgot his name, who barely bends his legs at all and he still hit a good serve. He was criticized for not bending his knees but it didn't seem to make that big of a difference. It looks funny that's all.

    The legs simply make it easier to generate arm and wrist rotation, but are not responsible for the power.
     
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  24. jasonbourne

    jasonbourne Professional

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    The legs of the women in WTA you're referring to is more like a NFL linebacker (ie William Perry). Whereas the men in ATP have legs more like an NBA guard (ie Michael Jordan). Different type of power.
     
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  25. jasonbourne

    jasonbourne Professional

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    I think I know of the (tall european) tour player you're referring to. McEnroe also commented about that player during a match he was in. McEnroe mentioned the player's serve would have been more powerful, effective and consistent over the course of the match.
     
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  26. maverick1

    maverick1 Semi-Pro

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    I think the women's serve speed support the argument that the power mostly comes from the legs. I believe the record for WTA is about 135mph and I have seen Venus serve 126mph. A lot of ATP players would be satisfied with those numbers.

    It is well known that women's upper body strength is a lot lower than men's but their leg strength is comparable to that of men.

    Muscle size is not that good a predictor of strength. There are fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibres, whose ratio is genetically determined. The former are responsible for strength and explosive movements. The slow twitch muscles enable endurance.
    Michael Jordan had skinny legs and yet they could launch his 210 lb(95 kg) body about 4 feet in the air. There are guys with leg muscles twice the size of his who can't elevate 2 feet.
     
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  27. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    I say it's the arm and wrist that create power but muscle size and even strength are less responsible than rhythm and timing. The wrist snap must be timed properly to accomodate the shoulder rotation. I think timing is more important than strength.

    Also, don't forget the core's role in generating power. I feel the core is more important than the legs. I think people say it's the legs because they are the first to get involved once the ball is in the air.
     
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  28. TennsDog

    TennsDog Hall of Fame

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    While legs do not directly translate into power, they do allow the rest of the body to do what helps get power. You won't see anyone hitting powerful serves who don't have good use of legs. No knee bend = no weight shift, no upward thrust (which leads to the whip-like action), and no natural rhythm (which helps in consistency).

    I don't know how many people here are bowlers, but I have a bowling analogy. When bowlers release at the end of the approach, they are only moving at about 4-5 mph and throw the ball upwards of 25 mph. When they do trick shots and only take a one step approach, they are moving at about 2-3 mph, but they struggle to get the ball moving 20 mph. This loss of ball speed does not come from the loss of speed on the approach, but not having that proper set up does lead to less ball speed. It's the same kind of thing with the knee bend in serving.

    I also disagree that height really has anything to do with serve speed. The only thing height changes is how much spin is needed for a serve of a certain speed to go in. Anyone can hit a flat serve, anyone can hit a topspin serve, and anyone can hit a serve 130 if they have the right mechanics and strength. Height is not a factor in shear service speed.

    So to answer the OP, why does Becker serve faster than Agassi. The answer really is because he swings the racket faster, but before that, you get to the fact that he has faster racket head acceleration. Agassi has a longer backswing and has a smoother, less violent forward acceleration. This produces a slower racket head speed going into contact. Becker has a short motion that forces him to more quickly accelerate the racket head, thus producing a faster serve. Hope this helps.
     
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  29. mona999

    mona999 Banned

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  30. drakulie

    drakulie Talk Tennis Guru

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    I think you are talking about Scehn Schalken (not sure if I spelled that correctly).
     
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  31. TylerWeekes

    TylerWeekes New User

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    I think this question should be answered by talking about fundamentals of the serve. Between 10-20 % of service power comes from the legs. Todd Ellenbecker did a helpful study showing that although legs are NOT the primary contributer to service speed, between 20 and 30 degrees of flexion from the knees can reduce the load on the shoulder greatly. Now external rotation and internal rotation coupled with upper body rotation, are the primary contributors to service speed ( Bruce Elliot ). Next you have forearm pronation which can supply tremendous power at the end of the serve.

    Check out this link to see sceintific data on the working parts of the serve: http://coachesinfo.com/category/tennis/202/
     
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  32. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I read that article too. And today JMac says on TV that most of Becker's power came from his legs. Don't know who to believe.
     
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  33. TylerWeekes

    TylerWeekes New User

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    But the question is where is the proof for Jmac's statement? He never provides proof for what he comments on in the field of biomechanics. The link shows i provided proof.

    Trust me I love Johnny Mac, I just need to have some proof, all the proof points toward external to internal rotational principles, as well as forearm pronation being the biggest contributers.

    -Tyler:D
     
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  34. skuludo

    skuludo Professional

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    ZPTennis walks through his serve and can generate this much power. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5gLYogcZIE

    I've also seen some one just stand straight up and hit their serve which is faster than ZPTennis. The ball looks like it is warping in the air.
     
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  35. TennsDog

    TennsDog Hall of Fame

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    That's because a heavy shot (i.e. lots of pace and spin) does deform the ball into more of an ovular, egg kind of shape.
     
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  36. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Of course, height makes a difference. Tall people can hit DOWN on the ball, whereas, short people cannot. It's simple geometry. If someone who is 5 feet tall tries to hit a 150mph flat serve, the angle he is forced to hit it at to clear the net would cause the ball to sail long at that high speed before gravity can take over and allow that ball to drop inside the service box. Sure, he can hit the serve at 150mph, but they won't be in since they would land closer to the baseline than the service line.

    However, someone who is 7 feet tall can hit at an angle that more down into the service box which depends less on gravity to pull the ball down. Thus, they can hit a 150mph flat serve that actually lands inside the service box.

    Think of triangles with length of one side being the height of the player and the court forming a right angle with the length of that side being the distance from the player to the service line and the hypotnuse being the trajectory of the ball. With the shorter player, he would have to serve slow enough to allow gravity to pull the ball down inside the box before it can go long. A really fast flat serve would travel nearly parallel to the court surface and sail past the service line since he's unable to hit at a more down angle to still clear the net and land inside the box.
     
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  37. Roforot

    Roforot Professional

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    You must have missed the ceremony where JMac got his honorary Doctorate in Biomechanics from Harvard along w/ Tom Cruise who received his degree in Psychology :) Boy that was a great commencement speech!
     
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  38. TylerWeekes

    TylerWeekes New User

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    This is as very astute comment. But we must remember not to be deceived by the idea of hitting DOWN into the service box. Vic Baden did a very helpful study showing how at his height 5’5” that at a 100mph he had to have the racket face angled down 5.5 degrees to hit the ball in the service box, BUT the forward moment of the arm an hand had to be going upward. He also showed that Artis Gillmore ( I think that was his name) who was 7’7” could NOT hit downward with the arm and forearm at impact.

    To quote from the book “Biomechanical Principles Of Tennis Technique” by Duane Knudson Ph.D. on page 64 it says: “Very skilled players that can hit flat serves over 120mph may be successful with initial trajectories 8 to 10 degrees below the horizontal. So most players should strive to achieve the feeling of hitting up on the flat serve so the initial ball trajectory is near horizontal. Only at more advanced levels can the ball be hit initially downward on a flat serve, and even then not sharply.”

    This coupled with Vic’s studies shows that the racket angle can be downward for players of lots of different heights but the forearm should be moving forward and upward nearing impact, and then slightly upward, or forward, or SLIGHTLY downward (at high speeds), during impact.

    -Tyler:D
     
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  39. TennsDog

    TennsDog Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the geometry lesson. However, I'm well-schooled in such matters. I know what you're saying and I agree. When I say height doesn't matter, I'm talking a difference of 2 or 3 inches that you usually see in matches, not 2 feet. I have never seen a tennis player 5' tall, nor have I ever seen a tennis player 7' tall. I'm assuming we're all talking about people (men, here) between about 5'7" and 6'4", with only a couple inches usually separating opponents' heights.
    Geometry of the sort you've discussed explains how physics allow them to serve that fast, not that their height gives them the ability. Height does not make you a good server any more than a lack of height makes you a bad server. I'm 5'9" in the morning (I'm sure some of you won't get that, but that's ok) and have one of the biggest serves I've come into. So height doesn't determine how fast you can serve, it determines how fast you're allowed to serve given a specific rate of rotation.
    In my experience of non-professional tennis players, almost no one serves fast enough to challenge the physics of their own height.
     
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  40. TylerWeekes

    TylerWeekes New User

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    Great post:eek:
     
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  41. skuludo

    skuludo Professional

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    Those serves in the video are about 125MPH.

    That guy can serve over 130MPH using that same technique in the video.
     
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  42. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Of course, just being tall doesn't automatically give someone a big serve. You still need to have the proper technique and motion. But would you agree that given the exact same technique and motion, that being taller is more advantageous than being shorter in hitting big serves? Not just flat serves, but taller players can also hit with more angle out wide. It's not a coincidence that the best servers of all time on the pro tour have almost all been over 6 feet tall, e.g., Sampras, Roddick, Ivanisevic, Ljubicic, Philippoussis, Becker (Boris), Krajicek, Stich, Curren, Lendl, Tanner, etc. Also, in my own experience playing recreational tennis, it's much more likely for a tall player to have a big serve than it is for a short player to have a big serve.

    BTW, Karlovic is almost 7 feet tall at 6' 10", and Rochus is almost 5 feet tall at 5' 4". BTW2, I had a feeling that you might be under 6 feet tall to be making this argument. ;)
     
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  43. thines

    thines Guest

    actually, it helps push your shoulder rotation adding more motion/speed. it is like trowing a ball with feet on the ground compared to trowing a ball aboard a speeding vehicle.
     
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  44. skuludo

    skuludo Professional

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    Thines wouldn't your explaination mean that using the legs will give you a minimal increase in power then?

    stormholloway disagreed on the legs as the main generator of power in the serve.

    The dude named ZPTennis looks like he is walking through his serve and he can hit over 130MPH.
     
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  45. maverick1

    maverick1 Semi-Pro

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    By "walking through his serve", you seem to be referring to the fact that he is walking in his follow through?
    He has a knee bend, may be less than Roddick, but more than Rusedski.
    He IS pushing off his legs up and into the court. What he does after landing is irrelevant. He is walking because he is not playing a point. He is just slowing himself gradually. If accelerated towards the net instead of deccelerating, he would have looked like he is "running through his serve".

    The best Physics explanation of why the legs are such a major contributor to serves and baseball throws involves "conservation of momentum". The legs may be moving slowly but they are quite massive, so their monemtum( Mass times velocity) is significant. A good part of the momentum generated in each link of the body gets transferred to to the next link up and ultimately to the ball, which has a tiny mass, so even a small amount of momentum means a large velocity.
    A good analogy is the whip. When a whip cracks, the crack you hear is the sonic boom that is the result of the tip of the whip moving faster thean the speed of sound(761 mph) !! The hand moves the fat part of the whip at some small speed, but this momentum gets tranferred utilmately to the tiny tip.

    Having said all this, I am not absolutely certain that legs are a major contributor to serve speed. I have been curious about serve and throw speeds for many years, and the whip argument above is the most convincing
    explanation I have heard. Nothing I have read in this thread comes close to convincing me otherwise.
     
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  46. TennsDog

    TennsDog Hall of Fame

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    Yes, I would say that tall servers do have an advantage, but they still need to work to obtain that advantage. My only point is that being tall doesn't inherently give you any more power on serve, which seems to be the notion that a lot of people have. I think it comes from some tangent of leverage, and that a long lever arm provides more torque. If you view the body as a lever arm into the ball, then you would likely come to this conclusion. However, the body on serve works very differently than a lever arm, so this logic does not hold. If anything, by this line of reasoning, if you view the body as a lever arm and the feet as the pivot point, a taller person would have a harder time hitting faster because the ball is applying a force at a greater distance, thus applying more torque against the ball's motion.

    So yeah, being tall as a server is a good thing. But take that good server over 6', cut 6" off of him and he'll still have a damn good serve. Just ask Justine.
     
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  47. Mike Cottrill

    Mike Cottrill Hall of Fame

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    How are you calculating that speed? Thanks
    Mike
     
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  48. Mike Cottrill

    Mike Cottrill Hall of Fame

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    Good point. However, how do you tell when that point is reached?
    Thanks
    Mike
     
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  49. pushing_wins

    pushing_wins Hall of Fame

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    when roddick tries to wack the ball out of the stadium after he wins the match.

    how much legs is he using?

    all wrist.
     
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  50. TennsDog

    TennsDog Hall of Fame

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    ...And did he hit any out of the stadium? Lol.

    Regarding your question, Mike, I use myself as a guide. As I said earlier, I have rarely faced someone with a bigger serve than myself. I am one of the shorter males you will see playing advanced tennis. If I can serve bigger than people taller than me, then obviously the laws of physics allow them to serve faster if they are so capable
     
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