Ladies, How Are We Feeling About Our Serves?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Cindysphinx, Feb 7, 2011.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Maybe it's time the ladies had a thread to talk about serving. Much of what is discussed here about serves can be a little intimidating, what with all of the fellas having six-foot kickers and 100+ mph bombs. A gal can get a tad discouraged, ya know? Perhaps a bit of chick talk will help.

    Does anybody feel their serve is a weapon? A liability? Have you taken lessons on the serve? Do you think your serve can get any better?

    As for me, I don't really have a flat serve. I mean, I can try to hit a hard flat serve, but it doesn't often go in. If it does go in, my opponents seem delighted to whip it right back to me, so what is the point?

    I'm comfortable slicing and am committed to the idea of learning a topspin serve.

    Cindy -- who is envious of tall people
     
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  2. eliza

    eliza Guest

    Great thread starter, Cindy. Ladies need to discuss THEIR tennis strokes!!!
    I can't say my serve is a weapon I am afraid, but I succeded in getting my first ace, and first kick .....Wonderful feeling....
     
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  3. jdubbs

    jdubbs Hall of Fame

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    Well, as a guy with a 100MPH serve (I'm guessing), I've converted to a spin 1st serve and seen my first serve go to the 80+% range, and have won a lot more matches as a result.

    Most women I've played with don't get enough forward momentum on their serve, and none have kickers, so their serves really aren't weapons but more rally balls.
     
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  4. obtn

    obtn Rookie

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    As a short guy (5'4.5"), I see no reason why a woman can't have a killer serve. Personally, after studying my serve on film and making some adjustments, I have been able to get up to a 90-95mph first serve (calculated based on video), and I still have flaws to correct to get that even higher.

    Some of my fastest serves also tend to be some of the most effortless, which makes me think that strength is really almost a non-issue until the player is 5.0+ and trying to get above 110 or so.

    But as jdubbs said, getting a higher percentage is likely better than getting a fast serve. I personally just had my personal best aces in a match (4), and none of them were particularly hard serves, they were just well placed.
     
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  5. Kevo

    Kevo Hall of Fame

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    Good thread idea. Pretend my name is Sophie for purposes of this thread. ;-)

    There is absolutely no reason a woman can't have a good or even great serve. Height is not as big an issue as most people make it out to be. Strength is also another reason cited as an obstacle for women. In reality you only have to be strong enough to get the racquet moving fast. The racquet does the work of hitting the ball. Getting racquet head speed is more about technique and leverage than strength. Besides there are a lot of women, girls even, that take martial arts classes and break boards. How many of them can bench 200lbs.?
     
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  6. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    There it is...

    ...size matters, but maybe not that much. And serve speed matters...but maybe not that much, and it's not the only thing that counts. One thing I'd say, however, is that fundamentals are key. Not saying anyone in this discussion is guilty, BUT...I see a ton of people, including some of the folks I coached last summer, who wonder why they can't get any pace/spin/direction on the ball, and when I try to get them to move from a Western FH to a Conti grip, what they'll usually say is "Huh...well, I've been doing it that way forever, and it just feels right, you know? So getting back to my original point, how do I add 20 mph to my serve?"

    Where I'm going with this is if you really want to upgrade your serve, making a 2% improvement on what you're already doing might not do much of anything. Instead, it might be time to go back to square one and completely rethink and reengineer the serve entirely. Which is the Dave Hodge Serving Clinic, next slide please...
     
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  7. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    I’m a 4.5 female player, and I play mostly with 4.0’s, 4.5’s & 5.0’s. And most of the women I play with have far better returns than serves. I think that the 4.5’s and 5.0’s have better serve placement than the 4.0 and below level women. But even the women who have good serves seem to have trouble with serve consistency. Some days their serve is working well, other days it’s not. (Seems to be the MO for most WTA players too so it’s not just us club players!) On the other hand, most men (even the lower levels) seem to be able to have pretty good serves on a regular basis. Personally, I think it has to do with overall strength. I’m 5’4” and not really a weakling, but a 5’4” man can generate a lot more power and spin than I can. Unfortunately, it seems to be the laws of nature.

    I rarely practice serves, because I don’t have time. I work full time, and I can’t afford a lot of lessons. So I play a couple of times a week, do one group clinic a week, and that’s my practice. I think my serve improved dramatically when I dropped the tension on my strings. It takes a lot less effort for me to produce more pace and spin on my serves. Now I concentrate more on placement and wrist snap, and the strings do a lot of the work for me. BTW, I use natural gut string. Nothing else plays like it.
     
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  8. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Catfish....
    Excellent post, and welcome! You summed up nearly all the issues.
    You did forget that women generally play baseline stronger than men, as that is what they practice the most.
    And of course, we are what we practice.
    As an old fart, I've dropped string tensions down to around 50, and it works just fine even with strong spin serves.
     
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  9. peter

    peter Professional

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    Bingo. I think you have the "issue" right there. Most girls do not practice their serves enough. Combine this with the fact that most girls (for some reason) don't "naturally" seems to have a good "throwing" motion and you will get a lot of bad serving from the girls.

    Atleast this is my experience seeing how the coaching works around here with a lot of girls. It's almost 100% groundstroke drills from the baseline. Serve (and volleying) almost never...

    It's almost like the coaches has beforehand given up "it's no use - they (the girls) can't learn a good serve anyway, so why bother". Anyway, I got tired of that attitude and we now have got a small group of girls (12-14 years old) that weekly focus on training serve for 1 hour. Every week. And can you fathom it - they are actually getting better at serving, and even having really good serves! How strange... I only wish we had gathered this group earlier instead of waiting for the coaches (I'm not a coach, just a frustrated parent :).

    Two things we practice *every* session - throwing tennis balls (focusing on proper technique), and nice and easy serving (start with the racket behind the head, platform position with the feet, correct ball toss and then slowly top-spin the ball into the serving box) - focusing on technique here too. We almost never goes for the big serves (but their pace has increased dramatically - as have their serve percentages). And I use video a lot to se we can check the technique in slow motion.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2011
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  10. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    I've been working on a topspin serve since last Summer. It actually was better last summer (more consistency, more pace, etc) in the Summer when I started working on it. The reason I'm sure is that in the Summer I can just go and hit serves for 45 minutes at lunch time several times a week outside, no charge courts.

    Now, I rarely just practice my serve cause I have to play indoors mostly which is costly and I'm playing with others to pay for courts.

    Right now, my serve works against some and not so much against others. Some people have trouble with it and some do not.

    What I find is that if my toss is good, my serve is good. If my toss is not good, and I'm just not in the zone on my toss, my serve is just erratic. That is the way it is now that I do not practice it as much. For me, it is all about repetition, and more repetition.

    If my toss is good and my timing is good from lots of repetition, I can just let the racquet swing itself through the ball and get fairly good pace. If any of those things are off, my arm gets tense, and I try to muscle with the arm to get pace. That just does not work! For me, I have to use a continental grip and let the palm of my hand hang off the handle a bit so that I can get that racquet to swing through the ball with lots of racquet head speed.

    My serve is a work in progress, but it is getting better. At least I feel that it is better than just a completely flat serve which goes long too much or will go in the net too much because there is no lift over the net.
     
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  11. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    I'm 47 years old, and I started playing tennis at 36. I don't have a "coach". I'm self taught. I played other sports and many of the skills translated to tennis quite well. I don't "drill from the baseline". I rarely drill at all because as I said, I work full time. I doubt I can get a crowd of 35 - 60 year old working women to drill on throwing tennis balls every time we play. That's a little unrealistic.
     
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  12. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Choking up on the service grip....
    Conventional thought is longer racket, more leverage, more rackethead speed.
    Me thinks..... BUNK!
    Most of us don't swing strong enough to get rackethead speed up to snuff, and oftentimes, choking UP on the racket, making it SHORTER, gives us an easier object to throw, and we can max out our rackethead speed!....:shock:
    We're not pros, don't practice, don't have the speed or the explosion.
    How many of you have watched a vid of poor ElenaDementiava serving? If she hits a groundstroke for her serve, she'd hit just as hard but more consistent!
    But she was taught to hold the racket waaaay down at the buttcap, and she doesn't have the strength or the control to conti grip a serve from down there.
    I, at 5'11" and 146 lbs., after 50 years of throwing stuff farther than most people, have trouble achieving high enough rackethead speed when I hold the buttcap in my palm. So my serve grip is buttcap below pinkie finger base of palm.
    And I know a few 5.0 players doing exactly this, for control, not for leverage. With control, you can swing HARDER to get the rackethead speed. With little control, you have to swing slower to achieve enough control to get the ball IN.
     
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  13. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Catfish is right about the whole practice thing. Most women age 40 and up either have small kids or they have a job (or both). When they get a tennis racket in their hands, they want to play and have a good time. I would say that only about 10% of the female players I know actually work hard on their game. I say this not to denigrate them at all. I say it to underscore that there is no way in heck these women are going to go out and practice throwing a tennis ball.

    Anyway, Catfish and Spoke, what has surprised me most about women and serving is how little actual change there is in the serves of opponents as I have moved up. Remember, I started at 2.5. Now I am seeing the serves of women as high as 4.5.

    Even among 4.5 women, I don't see much variety. The serve comes in a straight trajectory 99% of the time. The serves come to the service line, usually in one of the corners (few are able to hit the front corners of the service box). They can place their serves wide/body/T, DFs are rare and pace is good, but that is it.

    In contrast, the difference between the serve of a 3.0 guy and a 4.5 guy is enormous. I haven't met a 4.5 guy yet who didn't have a strong kicker, a flat bomb and a slice. My sample size is small, but all of the 4.5 guys I have met own an American Twist also.

    Anyway, Spoke, I feel your pain about the toss. Maybe we should start thinking of it as "having a good tossing day" rather than "having a good serving day." 'Cause I can DF 3x per service game if my toss is messed up.
     
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  14. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    As a guy with all the serves you mentioned, I cannot hit ANY of them without a proper toss height and location. That is foremost on any serve, a correct ball location before the swing is started.
     
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  15. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    Thats interesting. I never thought about choking up on the serve. I hold the racquet with the end of my hand hanging off the end of the butt cap. so you are saying to choke up and use a continental grip? Right.
     
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  16. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    You are correct. Even the 5.0 women don't have serves to write home about. A few do, but they are usually tall. In women's tennis, as you get to the higher levels it's not the serve that you need to worry about. It's the pinpoint accuracy, excellent service returns, and control that gets way better. And those skills do get way better the higher you go.

    I imagine we could all develop better serves if we worked on technique a lot, but who has the time? What I notice about the men is that even lower level men can have a good serve with a lot less practice and worse technique than women. So it does have something to do with overall strength. I played a lot of co-ed softball, and the women could never hit as far as the men even though many of us had great bat speed.
     
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  17. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Or at least claming that hehe
     
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  18. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I already see from the thread that the men have 100 and 95 mph serves
     
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  19. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Catfish...
    It's not the batting that men can do, it's the throwing, like from short to 1st, catcher to 2nd, outfielder to home plate or cutoff. I know several women who bat as well as any equal sized boys baseball player. They actually throw OK, but not great, for their size. They can run and jump as well as the boyz too.
    Alas, one of them plays for USA's women's BASEBALL (yes, it does exist) team and works out with UCBerkeley's men's varsity baseball team. I just can't convince her to try tennis, or to windsurf regularly.
     
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  20. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I also keep my hand part-way off the handle for serving. I would never choke up. I find that having half of my hand off the handle keeps me from gripping too hard, and I get more racket head speed. There is definitely a cost to pay in terms of control, but if I am slicing most of my serves, I have to hope the spin will keep it in provided I get the racket head speed.

    For the kick serve, my pro has me spreading my fingers out on the handle with no part of my hand off the handle. The reason is so I can pronate. I don't know whether this is something I will always have to do or whether I can stop doing it once I get the kicker reliable.
     
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  21. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Are you sure you swing faster holding the bottom of the grip? I know very few 4.0 men who actually do.
    Try this test. Shadow swing your serves, listening to the higher pitched swish sound. The higher the pitch, the faster the rackethead speed.
    Me, I need to hold the whole handle, including the buttcap inside my palm. I can get a slightly higher pitch by choking up a hair, like 1", but that's 1" less leverage for my flat first serve, which I hit about 50% of the time.
    YOU don't hit flat first, so pure higher rackethead speed is what you're trying to achieve.
    Try this, you will have your eyes opened by the results.
    For my kick/twists, which appear equal to players a whole level higher than me, I actually choke up on the handle the full 1", to get an easier UPWARD and outwards swing.
     
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  22. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    I think I started holding the bottom of the grip to get more wrist snap, and also not to grip the raquet so tightly.......like Cindy mentioned. But I will try choking up like you mention. Will let you know the results.
     
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  23. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Thanks.
    I wonder where we get the notion that there is less wrist snap with holding high up the handle?
    And for grip, the buttcap is nice to hold for sure, but it can be held solidly with the palm at the base of the pinkie.
    As I mentioned, a former top 4 for SanDiegoState chokes up about TWO INCHES for all strokes, and nobody can stretch him wide consistently, nobody laughs at his serves.
     
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  24. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I think a tight grip slows the racket, therefore choking down prevents the tightness and therefore prevents the racket from slowing.
     
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  25. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Before we DEBATE where to hold the racket, maybe real live evidence is called for......
    TRY IT, swing as fast as you can your grip, then as fast as you can choked up so the butt is inside your palm.
    I've done this test to over 20 different guys from 3.5 and up, and every single one of them makes higher sounding swish sound choking up the handle.
    And of course, a death grip is not recommended.
     
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  26. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Heh, heh. I think we have almost reached the point where there are more posts by men on this thread than by women. :)
     
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  27. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    But of course, we will debate rather than try out a swing to see if you really CAN swing faster by choking up on the racket.......:cry::cry:
     
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  28. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    Not trying to debate with you, just saying why we do these things. A lot of us have a "death grip" on the racquet. Like Cindy said, many pros will tell you to serve with your pinky hanging off the end of the racquet to get a looser arm and more racquet speed. I think I saw that in a Tennis Channel 1 Minute Clinic as well. And if you choke up and don't snap your wrist correctly, your butt cap will stab the inside of your wrist. But I'm going to try choking up when I play tomorrow. I'm interested to see the results.
     
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  29. jdawgg

    jdawgg Rookie

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    I know a pro (who happens to be a lady) who gets a lot of women who ask how to bulk up their serve. She straight away tells them to throw a tennis ball -- it's a good way to show what is a reasonable expectation of their serve. She has them practice actually throwing tennis balls instead of serving.

    Of course as a guy I've always had a good arm and was throwing things as a kid any chance I got. NERF BALL TO THE FACE HAAAA.
     
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  30. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Huge problem here.
    If yourbuttcap stabs your wrist when choking up, you are not pronating correctly, you're instead, trying to snap your wrist. Snapping your wrist downwards is not a tennis serve. Pronation is the twisting of your forearm that allows the wristjoint to make the rackethead speed thru the swing, not at all like a wrist snap.
    And of course, better to try something new NOW at home rather than actually lining up to hit a tennis ball. You cannot hear your swish on court while trying to hit the ball.
    "I hear all the coaches say" doesn't apply to you and me. They are talking generalities in their world of black or white. We live in a world of shades of gray.
    Try shadow swinging your forehand. You lose NO rackethead speed by choking up until the buttcap is inside your palm, and you gain NO rackethead speed by choking downwards for a longer leverage arm.
    The pros DO, but you and I are not pros.
     
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  31. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    I understand about the pronation, and if I hit my wrist while choked up I'm not pronating.

    I'm always looking to tweak my tennis game, so I'm looking forward to trying what we discussed when I play this week.
     
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  32. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    That is what I see many pros doing. And they seem to be holding it tight too.
     
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  33. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    Yes, I do swing like that, i.e. looking for the higher pitch. I had an instructor ask me to do that so I am quite aware of what you are talking about. If I choke up, I get no brush. I've tried it; my serve is just a flat serve that way and it pretty much su__ s.
     
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  34. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    One more thing guys, not all women cannot throw a ball. I throw a ball just fine. I've played softball and basketball all my life, even when I was growing up. What a concept!
     
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  35. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Ladies, a question I have always wondered about and this thread has given me the opening. I will try to very diplomatic here. Men experiencing similar situations (and I know you are out there) can also chime in.

    Do you experience "obstruction" on the serve movement from a couple of things?
     
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  36. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    I agree to a point. I see 2.5s and 3.0s serves as not much to deal with. They are usually what I call frying pan serves. 3.5 and up, depending on the players, can be very similar. Most are conservative with their serves because they absolutely hate to df. There are a few that rely on their serves a lot, but can be pretty inconsistent with them. I know about 4 women in the 3.5 to 4.5 area that have kick butt, really high paced and twisty serves. The funny thing, is that, 3 out of 4 of those ladies are ladies that are on the large side, played as juniors, and college players, and now don't move well, have great strokes, but they can kill you with their serve.

    I don't play too much with younger guys cause there are not that many who play here in our rural town that I would be playing with. I play with some of the older men and they have good serves, some twists, some not, more pace, usually good placement.
     
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  37. tennismonkey

    tennismonkey Semi-Pro

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    interesting to see that other people think also that there's a relationship between being able to throw a ball well and having a good serve. not to make it a men vs women thing but i wonder if women at the college to pro level have lower serve hold percentages than men.

    at the recreational to college and pro levels -- there are scores and scores of guys who have dominant serves with the rest of their game mediocre. i don't think i've ever seen a recreational to college or pro level woman who just dominates with serves and the rest of her game not that good.

    **edit ** i stand corrected. spokewench mentions ex-college players who are now a bit on the larger side. but they've retained their serves so they can win games with their serve alone -- even if the rest of their game isn't as good as it used to be.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2011
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  38. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Yep, and here's the Dave Hodge serving clinic...

    ...based on that concept, done in stages, with a basket of balls:

    - Stage 1, no racket, just throw the ball with your racket arm, get used to the feeling of throwing it.

    - Stage 2, still no racket, now toss a ball UP in the air with your toss hand, throw another ball with your racket hand, try to hit the ball you tossed at its peak. Stage 1 gives you the feeling of throwing the racket head, Stage 2 gives you the concept of hitting up through the ball.

    - Stage 3, now you get a racket, go back to serving but you're trying to encorporate the feelings you got in Stage 1 and Stage 2 into your serve motion.

    - Stage 4, racket into the back scratching position, toss the ball, and try to spike it town into the court hard enough to bounce the ball over the fence. This gives you the concept of the snap at the end of the serve.

    - Now go back to serving, incorporating all 4 stages, and now let me see you load up by bending the knees and timing the extension with the snap from Phase 4.

    This drill came from my former coach Dave Hodge, former ATP player, former Men's Assistant at CU Boulder, former Men's Assistant at Stanford, now one of the 5 National coaches for Tennis Australia. Worked great for me, try it, and I'll bet it will for you, too...
     
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  39. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    Thanks for the tips. I have never tried Stage 1 and 2. I will have to see how that works. I have done Stage 4 quite a bit, drilled with instructor on this Stage before so I get what the snap at the end of the serve is. I will give this a try
     
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  40. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    Ditto. I played softball, flag football and basketball, so I can throw a ball. I think serve mechanics are similar, but take a bit more practice. And as I've mentioned twice before in this post, I don't have much time to practice. And I got from a starting level of 3.5 to 4.5 without practicing much or taking many lessons. With the amount of time I'm willing to put into tennis and being 47 years old, 4.5 is probably my max. I don't really want to get bumped up to 5.0 because the chances to play league tennis and club tournaments becomes almost non-existent.
     
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  41. Kevo

    Kevo Hall of Fame

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    I'd throw my arm out if I tried to throw a tennis ball too hard. Not a great thing to throw as a serve workout imo. I'd say get a small football, or get some gloves and throw a baseball or softball.
     
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  42. eliza

    eliza Guest

    And we still do not know what WOMEN thinks.
    BTW, the Pro here used the same "throw the tennis ball"test last year, after which he declared I would never get a strong serve. Again, after reading Wegner's book a lot has changed in the motion, speed and spin.
    Time for a tennis revolution, and ladies, speak up!
     
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  43. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    I have been speaking up - SpokeWENCH is a woman. It is not mispelled. It is a play on words.

    spoke
     
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  44. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    I have spoken up too. 3 or 4 women have talked about their serves and women's serves in general.
     
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  45. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    The lesson men need to learn from this thread (and from the WTA in general): you can be small and thin, yet have strong serves. How is it possible? The secret must be in the technique. Schiavone looks like she would go down in one blow from a guy, yet her serve is far better than male recreational players. How?
     
    #45
  46. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    This thread is actually going pretty well, considering that 95% of this forum is male, and 4 out of the 5% of women here are Nadal fans who only post in the pro player section.
     
    #46
  47. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Death grip....
    To avoid a death grip, try using your forefinger and the middle finger only to hold onto the rackethandle.
    DO NOT hold with the ring and pinkie.
    I can hit twist/kickers and heavy topspin second serves holding anywhere on the handle, including right accross the tape that hold the grip on. TECHNIQUE, you lack it, don't have the serve motion down yet.
    If you body kinetics and arm are too weak to swing fast, it doesn't matter WHERE you hold the handle.
     
    #47
  48. JoelDali

    JoelDali G.O.A.T.

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    The imagry on that is priceless!

    Connors in 5!

    [​IMG]
     
    #48
  49. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

    Joined:
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    Lee, duh! Most of the women who have talked about their serves here have been talking about improving their serves which means they are a work in progress. So, probably the technique is not quite down yet! That is probably a given. And, I did say most of the women, not all. Now, we, as women are talking about how we make these serves work for us now. I don't really care where YOU can hold onto the handle and accomplish the desired serve you want to produce. You are a guy and an opinionated one at that. If I am trying to produce some spin (you know, that funny sound you hear when the racquet hits the ball with spin) and you cannot produce it all choked up and that is what you are trying to accomplish, then you don't choke up.
     
    #49
  50. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    See, that's where your thinking is flawed, and why you can't serve spin serves as well as other top women players.
    It doesn't matter WHERE on the handle you hold, if you lack basic technique and strength to swing your ARM. You already said you lack technique and strength!
    Why should choking waaaay down ADD spin? You can hit much heavier spin serves by choking UP, shortening the racket because the racket is balanced head lighter, and it's EASIER to swing fast.
    All I'm saying is TRY IT. NO, don't try it during a match. Instead, you find a quiet place, swing as fast as your fastest swing with both grips. I'll bet you hear a higher pitched sound when you choke UP on the handle, shortening the racketlength.
    And I TOLD you how to get the fast rackethead speed by choking up, to grip with fore and middle fingers!
     
    #50

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