Kneeling servers hitting 125 MPH - really?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Chas Tennis, Feb 19, 2012.

  1. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    I have heard it claimed that kneeling servers can hit serves 125 MPH. Serving that hard without using any leg thrust seems very suspect to me. Have you heard that claim? Any information, references or links?
     
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  2. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    For reference, fastest serve in wheelchair tennis is just over 100mph.

    Cheers
     
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  3. Shellovic

    Shellovic Rookie

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    The upper links provides most of the speed, because they are the fastest. Like shoulder, elbow, wrist. Your legs are just to start up the total motion. Without any action from your legs, there will be a maximal speed loss of 5%. It won't make much difference for your service speed, that's why a kneeling person can serve about 125mph and a wheelchair tennisser about 100mph.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
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  4. dlesser13

    dlesser13 Rookie

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    Think of an overhead( non scissor kick) they are generating all the pace of an overhead from their upper body alone. Most pros have live arms and great understanding of the biomechanics involved to routinely hit a shot at that kind of pace. It is not unbelievable they could arm a serve at 125.
     
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  5. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    ^^^The research has generally shown that leg drive accounts for around 12% of total power on the serve not 5%.

    Cheers
     
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  6. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Yes, and I have seen accounts that place it upwards of 15%.
     
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  7. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    it does not supply much of the speed. the hip rotation speed does not add many mph to a tennis stroke.

    however it does create a lot of energy by creating stretch so just looking at the speed of body parts is not telling the whole story.
     
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  8. Shellovic

    Shellovic Rookie

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    That's exactly what I meant. Excuse me for the poor explanation. Hip rotation does create a lot of energy by creating stretch, however the last links are the fastest. Even without the legs and hip rotation you can still hit a ball with some pace
     
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  9. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    Another problem would be if you get enough downward angle from your knees to hit the box from the knees:).
     
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  10. Shellovic

    Shellovic Rookie

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    Sorry, what do you mean?
     
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  11. spacediver

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    It's very difficult to quantify joint contributions towards speed. A lot of these figures that people cite (such as the one above) are based on analyses of joint rotations just before contact.

    But this tells nothing about the power source of the contribution.

    You could theoretically have 100% power source contribution from the legs and hips, and 0% from the upper body, yet right before contact, have 0% speed from the lower body and 100% from the upper body.

    If you have trouble seeing how this is possible, think of a whip. Right before the whip cracks, the tip of the whip is moving significantly faster than the handle. If someone were to do a kinematic analysis at this point in time, they would observe that the tip of the whip contributes to say 95% percent of the speed. Yet they would be foolish to conclude that the power comes from the tip of the whip, when it's clearly from moving the handle directly.

    Another source of confusion is that if someone can hit a 100 mph serve using the upper body only, and 120 mph using the whole body, they conclude that the lower body contributes to that 20 mph. Not necessarily so. By using the lower body, you relieve the burden of power from the upper body. In other words, if you could serve 120 mph kneeling and 120mph standing, this simply means that by standing, you are sparing the upper body from excessive work.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
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  12. toly

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  13. gmatheis

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    I'm really not believing his claim of a kneeling server hitting 125mph and getting the serve in.

    A standing pro hitting a second serve doesnt serve at 125mph ... and you are telling me some coach kneeling does (and serves in the box) ????

    The reason I say a 2nd serve is that he claimed this guy used alot of topspin to get the serve in so it would have to be more of a 2nd serve than a 1st.
     
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  14. BU-Tennis

    BU-Tennis Semi-Pro

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    I was just thinking about when Serena had hurt her abdominal muscle a few years back and was still hitting over 100mph first serves without much leg movement.

    Most people, however, are confused about the role of the legs, and that was what Vic Bradens article was focused on clarifying. The "jump" isn't a jump, its a leg drive which, combined with the racquet drop, helps the server get his body into the proper position hitting position.

    We can also call this the stretch-shortening cycle which we have all become familiar with. Its the fact that a muscle has more energy when releasing form an eccentric, or stretched state, rather than a resting state. The leg drive essentially stratches out the arm and chest muscle, and when combined with the racquet drop which gets the racquet moving making it easier to speed up, helps to increase the potential speed of the serve.

    So it is definitely possible for someone to serve very fast without using "legs" as was suggested in the article because its not the jump but the use of the legs against the court to help create a coil, thereby stretching the muscles and storing more energy, which needs to be released at the proper time (or at the maximum amount of stretch)

    I hope that made a semblance of sense for someone :)
     
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  15. toly

    toly Hall of Fame

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    Vic Braden is very reputable and famous USA coach. I respect him very much. He usually works with serious physicists, biophysicists, etc. Together, they typically check and recheck all their/his statements about tennis. So, you better believe him in this simple case! He has no reason to deceive us.

    Also, you can read my posts about this matter in thread http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=382481&page=4
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
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  16. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Toly, Thanks for the reference.

    "one of our coaches, John Tichy, served a 124 mph serve while on his knees."

    That might be the origin. It is a very interesting statement. Is it the only measurement? In experimental science an experiment that is not reproducible is not usually taken very seriously (to avoid errors, wasted time,....chaos, etc.). There must be some other service speed measurements for kneeling serves to support the Braden claim above. ?

    Wayne Bryan recommended serving while kneeling on Tennis Channel. I believe that the technique was intended as a training method and not to demonstrate high serve velocity.

    I also don't agree on Braden's timing description on the leg thrust and arm motion -

    "..If a player jumps off the ground early to reach up to the ball before his upper arm and forearm have achieved maximum speed, the player loses a great deal of power....".

    Maybe I misunderstand but I don't think that is what I see in videos of pros. The legs thrust up and and that bends the forearm and racket backwards and downwards to stretch the internal shoulder rotators (ISR). These stretched muscles are also moving up as the shoulders change positions from hitting shoulder down to up. Also, there is trunk rotation but I don't understand how that adds to the stretch.

    From the knees you could stretch the ISR by first forcefully contracting the shoulder external rotator muscles to get the forearm & racket rotating back and down. You can get a surprising amount of racket speed loading with the external rotators and no jump.

    Any kneeling serve velocity measurements?

    SAFETY ISSUE? Serving from the knees how can the hitting shoulder be properly oriented? Isn't there a problem with the Jim McLennan video warning not to serve with shoulders too level?
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
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  17. JohnYandell

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    There are a few issues to consider. As some posters above point out, direct contribution from the legs is one thing. How they set up the other segments to make their contribution is another.

    For example, the leg drive increases (some say creates) the racket drop and the backward or external rotation of the upper arm in the shoulder joint. This puts the shoulder muscles on stretch and significantly increase the force of the forward or internal rotation of the upper arm, which I think everyone agrees is a major direct contributor.

    I know Vic well and there is no chance he is lying or making up data and I am sure it has happened--players serving 120mph from the knees.

    My question would be how much did those servers have to compensate with increased strain on the shoulders without the contribution of the other segments.

    And Chas you are right--what Brian Gordon has found is that the launch off the court should coincide with the lowest point roughly in the racket path behind the body. If you get up in the air sooner you won't get the benefits noted above and you will create force at the shoulder joint that could be dangerous, according to Brian's measurements.

    The other issue I would raise is spin. Toss the ball to the right on your knees and hit it hard and flat--you definitely can and some will go in. Now try to duplicate that speed and get 2000rpm on the serve. That is going to be tougher.

    Top serves have speed and spin obviously. I would question whether both can be duplicated without the legs--you can direct the energy you have into speed or spin both you may not have enough for both. There is a reason why all the top servers use the legs--and why many have great torso rotation as well.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
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  18. papa

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    I happen to be very fond of Vic myself and think he has contributed greatly to the sport. Many of his observations, suggestions and methods are still relevant.

    I too would warn players to take it easy when serving from the knees - yes, its maybe a good way to learn rotation into the serve but can become expensive - if you don't do it right you'll break your racquet.

    Can we assume this 125 mph serve actually went in?
     
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  19. rkelley

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    I don't want to cast dispersions on anyone, and Ash saying that the wheel chair folks can serve 100 from a sitting position is really impressive, but I'd really like to see a 120 mph serve from the knees (into the box) on video, and then maybe someone serving on their feet so that I can see that the radar gun is calibrated and that the knee and feet serves look about the same. Generating 120 mph in pace along with the significant topspin you would need to pull that ball down so that it lands in the box just seems like it would be really, really difficult. Every time I think about serving that hard from my knees I just feel my lower back and shoulder just exploding in pain.
     
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  20. JohnYandell

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    Well I think the point is less whether it has been done than whether that is relevant to developing your best serve.

    I remember being at a coaches conference in NY at the Open a few years ago where the data and/or a piece of video was presented by Vic and coroborated by Jack Groppel about the high speed on the knees serve.

    But yeah that couldn't be good way to create power--using the shoulder and the arm when you serve from your feet. To me the point isn't whether it's possible for some server to achieve. The point is that the research now corroborates the obvious--using the legs as the starting point is the most efficent and safest way to generate racket head speed at the other end of the so-called kinetic chain.
     
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  21. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    124 mph serve from the knees is possible.
    124 mph serve from the knees and going IN, is impossible.
     
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  22. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    So, are we saying someone can hit have the ball come off their racquet at 125 mph as compared to an actural serve - there is a big difference.
     
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  23. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    You can time the fastest serves from someone's knees, and it would be the same speed as serves that speed hit from a standing position.
    However, don't expect anyone can hit a serve from their knees, and IN, if they're kneeling on the ground. They CAN hit 125 mph serves IN when serving from a PLATFORM, so their contact point is around the mid 9's to 10' off the ground.
     
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  24. JohnYandell

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    Well I still say the point is not about in or out etc. I have no idea of about what the window of acceptance might be on that one, maybe it is impossible, but again Jack and Vic aren't known for misrepresenting facts.

    The point has to do with the use of the segments of the body in the serve.
     
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  25. rkelley

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    Fair enough and good point. I wrote one of the "doubting Thomas" posts. I didn't mean to derail the main point that while not unimportant, the legs are not the main power source. It's an excellent point.
     
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  26. rufus_smith

    rufus_smith Professional

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    I've wondered about this "kneeling serve" for many years. I searched the web. John Tichy, the guy who served from his knees, may be the same one that resides in near Irvine, CA and who coaches Northwood High School tennis. If somebody knows him, maybe he would be willing to confirm it or explain it a bit on this forum.
     
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  27. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Sorry, but, I'm having a little difficulty picturing the follow through on a 124mph serve from the knees. If it can be done, I'm guessing it can't be done with the same racquet twice. Hahaha!
     
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  28. bhupaes

    bhupaes Professional

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    ^^^ Good one! :)

    I also believe that Vic's numbers are probably exaggerated... maybe the radar was flawed. His representation of the jump timing is also slightly off, as has been pointed out. But the big point he's making, that the jump is an after effect and not something premeditated, I agree with.
     
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  29. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    References

    (I am not familiar with the Mendeley site. Does anyone know about it? )

    I’ve only read the abstract and my interpretation might be wrong because the definitions of terms FU, FB and ARM have to be inferred from the abstract. Without the full text this interpretation is uncertain.

    Lower-Limb Coordination and Shoulder Joint Mechanics in the Tennis Serve.
    by Machar Reid, Bruce Elliott, Jacqueline Alderson

    Racket velocities -
    FU – Foot Up – 43.6 m/s
    FB – Foot Back – 42.6 m/s
    ARM – Arm, "minimal" leg thrust – 39.4 m/s
    http://www.mendeley.com/research/lowerlimb-coordination-shoulder-joint-mechanics-tennis-serve/
    Wheelchair serves with two pages readable-
    http://www.mendeley.com/research/shoulder-joint-kinetics-elite-wheelchair-tennis-serve/

    If correctly interpreted this would indicate that the leg thrust adds about a 10% racket velocity increase over an arm serve.

    If true, then why do they often say ‘Most of the power comes from the legs.’ ?

    FYI
    Serve components and conditioning with the important biomechanics references on the serve including the above one.
    http://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Fu...ce_Evaluation_of_the_Tennis_Serve_.5.aspx#P93
    Serve video showing leg thrust timing and racket & shoulder positioning
    http://www.mytrainer.com/action/viewvideo/212/Slow_Motion_Tennis_Serve/
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
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  30. JohnYandell

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    I've been looking at some new research from Brian Gordon and as I mentioned above the key to understanding the legs (as he explains it) is not the direct contribution at contact, but their role in setting up the other contributions.

    Specifically, the leg drive should synchronize with the swing so that the feet leave the court at the lowest point in the racket drop. This creates or increases the external, backward rotation of the upper arm. This effect which puts the muscles on stretch then increases the forward internal rotation.

    I am not btw defending the serve from the knees or the diminished role of the legs--think they are key.
     
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  31. chico9166

    chico9166 Guest

    That article on your website, is perhaps the best single piece i've ever read on the subject. I took away exactly what you described. That the legs and arm progressions really need to be in sync. Also, on topic, using the legs just creates a much more efficient way to deliver the racquet with speed. The more force created against the ground (provided it's in conjunction with arm) the easier it is on the body over a lifetime.
     
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  32. BeHappy

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    When you have players like Almagro today serving 145mph with almost straight legs, and the same with Roscoe Tanner in the 70's, you have to take a step back and re-evaluate.

    All the servers who bend the legs a lot also throw the ball very far to the left for kick (think Sampras, Safin, Federer etc). The only way you can hit a ball thrown to your left without arching your back is to bend your legs.

    The others are people who jump higher than average for a higher contact point (again - Federer).

    I don't think the legs contribute to racquet head speed or serve speed.
     
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  33. rkelley

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    From my personal, extremely non-professional experience, when I get the legs working correctly with the rest of the service action the leg drive increases the stretch and pull I feel in my arm as I'm swinging up at the ball. I usually get more bounce on the other side (i.e. more topspin) and a bit more "pop" as the racquet impacts the ball.

    OTOH I can toss a ball up about head high to the side, turn my shoulders and pronate my wrist into the ball, and hit it pretty hard. No legs at all. The shot is totally flat and I can't get this into the box, but I sometimes use this to show people how hard you can hit a tennis ball with a continental grip and very little effort. It's also a good exercise to loosen up my wrist.
     
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  34. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I sometimes serve without bending the knees, and the speed is about the same as percieved by the returner. In my mind, I think I"m losing all sorts of speed. The physical act of bending, powering upwards, and really stretching out to hit the serve FEELS like you add tons of power, but is a small percentage gain.
    The higher strikepoint is real. Meaning a bigger target at the other end.
     
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  35. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    Go back and read my post in this thread. It answers this very question.
     
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  36. spacediver

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    You're forgetting that without the legs, you are placing more burden on your upper body. Even if the final velocity is identical, using the legs takes a load off your upper body.
     
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  37. BeHappy

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    Carlos Moya is another player who effortlessly and consistently served well into the high 130's consistently with completely straight legs. Of course he was very tall, he didn't need to jump for a high contact point.

    Bjorn Borg had a big first serve, 125mph with a wooden racquet at one USO final, he didn't bend his legs very much.
     
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  38. JohnYandell

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    Happy,

    If you look at video of Almagro and Moya you will see that neither one is serving with straight or almost straight legs--both have considerable bend, explode into the air and land inside the court. They both have quick motions with minimal body turns, but the leg bend is the equal of many or most of the other tour players.

    There are many variations in the ways to hit a good serve. But the research shows that the legs can have a huge impact in what happens as you move up the so-called kinetic chain.
     
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  39. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I think for most of us sub 4.5 players, clean contact can be more important than using all our body kinetics. When you take the legs out of the equation, you also take a way lots of mishits on your serves, so most of your serves, the AVERAGE, seems not to fall off at all.
    No bending the knee lots, instead moving forwards into the court, also takes away some twisting motion from the hips, another point of variance. Sure, the big bending top or slice serves are not nearly as effective, and I can't hit a twist without using my legs.
    BUT, a flat first serve, for me, is really only swung around 85% max speed anyways, so I can get a few IN, so I can easily add a bit to that but add more consistency with a more solid contact.
    Not advocating it for anyone who's trying to get good at tennis, it's something we old farts do to keep our game within reason while we are suffering thru our injuries.
     
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  40. MethodTennis

    MethodTennis Hall of Fame

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    Karlovic wouldnt hit 125 kneeling, its lies mate
     
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  41. toly

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    What about this serve http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVv6jvD1W-0 around 0:01? Taylor Dent front foot didn't even leave the ground. IMO, too much active legs actions, with jumping into air, decrease ball speed.:)
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
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  42. Chas Tennis

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    Research shows that internal shoulder rotation(ISR) makes the largest contribution to the racket head velocity. Assume that is also true for the on-knees serve without leg thrust.

    1) Normal Serve. With leg thrust, as you describe, there is a contribution to stretch the ISR muscles from the legs. Well researched.

    2) On-Knee Serve. Without leg thrust does some other motion - additional earlier forceful contraction of the external shoulder rotators for example? - substitute for leg motion to stretch-load the ISR muscles nearly as much? What is going on?

    Either the kneeling serve motion uses additional motions OR the upper body motions are the nearly the same and the leg thrust adds only around 10% to the racket velocity. ?

    BTW- Trying to serve for high velocity from the knees seems very risky. No experiments please.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
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  43. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    You can bet that dude who served from his knees at 125 is not a typical tennis player. Someone can ARM a serve that fast, but would he do it more than a few times?
    Wear knee pads, pivot off front knee like Dent.
     
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  44. BeHappy

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyyNZdfV3Es

    Personally I don't see a lot of knee bend there, but maybe it's just me?

    But there's no one technique, maybe some players get more from one link in the "kinetic chain" than others (ie more arm, less leg and vica versa), just as some players forehand's hit with extreme grips will use less arm and more shoulder and forearm rotation than someone with an Eastern grip like Sampras.
     
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  45. JohnYandell

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    Chas,

    I agree with Lee that would be tough for anyone to do but I don't think Vic is lying that it did happen--once at least...

    What Brian mentioned in his talks at Stanford is, again, to distinguish between direct contribution from the legs and how the leg drive sets up the internal rotation.

    My guess is that the less legs the more the player has to involve other muscles to generate the same energy. But every player is different. Certainly some players with more ability are going to serve faster with less legs than less talented players who use more.

    As a general rule I think every player needs to experiment, because it is also related to service rhythm and timing which again is an individual charactertistic to a great extent. Quicker rhythm usually means less bend and less turn away.
     
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  46. JohnYandell

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    Happy,

    Those 2 do look quite stiff! I have a few dozen on Tennisplayer where he is going quite a bit deeper--it also helps to look frame by frame since his motion is quick. And agreed regarding the different emphasis on different links in the chain...
     
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  47. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    I think vic braden told a little story to get his message across:D.

    If that guy could serve 125 from his knees he could easily have hit 135 standing. and then we would have heard his name. guys who hit that hard are usually good tour players.
     
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  48. toly

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    Thank you very much for this video. You are absolutely right. Karlos Moya barely bends legs, picture #7.
    IMO, legs are not very important for any stroke. :shock:

    [​IMG]
     
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  49. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Dom1985.
    Sorry, but you're waaaaay off base.
    There a tons more players NOT on the ATP circuit hitting 135+ than there are ON the circuit. Say the ATP has 1,000. I'll bet there are over 2,000 players in the world who don't rank 1,000, but could hit 135 pretty consistently.
    Just like golf, more players NOT on tour can hit 300+ than on tour.
     
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  50. rufus_smith

    rufus_smith Professional

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