Playing Tournaments with a Sketchy Serve

Discussion in 'Junior League & Tournament Talk' started by Postpre, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. Postpre

    Postpre Rookie

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    My son's a pretty good 8 year old player, especially groundstrokes. His serve is coming around, however since changing to a continental grip a few months back, he's still inconsistent. Last spring/summer (first exposure to a few tournaments) he served underhand during a few matches. He's doesn't particularly like doing it, but he enjoys playing and it was the only way to avoid double faulting more than half his serves (at the time).

    As of today, I'd estimate that in a competitive environment (continental grip and pretty decent serve technique) he'd double fault about half his serves. Do you think he should hold off on tournament play until he becomes more consistent? Should underhand serves ever be an option?

    Thanks.
     
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  2. Alohajrtennis

    Alohajrtennis Semi-Pro

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    At that age, all the kids serves are kind of sketchy, especially if they are really trying. Holding serve is the exception rather than the rule. So don't worry about the DF's. Flip side of the coin is that the other kids are most likly DF too and/or pushing their serves, so it's never to early to teach them to be aggressive on the service return.
     
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  3. TCF

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  4. Bash and Crash

    Bash and Crash Semi-Pro

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    I would avoid the underhand serve, just keep him working on the regular serve in practice and matches. I would work a lot on spin, consistency, height over net right now and it will get more consistent. As also stated, DF's are par for the course at that age among most competitors, I call it a breakfest when they start playing. Good to do some drills were he has to get 4 out of 10 in, then 5,6 etc., if he can get 7 or higher that can be his match serve as he continues to build power with the consistency.
     
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  5. Bash and Crash

    Bash and Crash Semi-Pro

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    + 1, welcome back TCF..................................
     
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  6. lala28m

    lala28m New User

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    There seems to be much discussion on this forum about "playing too early".

    IMHO.. as long as the kid can keep score and is courteous, fair, can call lines correctly, etc...they are ready. You are just training them for one more aspect of the game. it is actually hard to simulate.

    Tournament play is such a different, mental aspect to the game: shaking off unfair calls, loud, obnoxious onlookers, brand new opponents, the opponent's parents...sometimes cheering at your unforced errors. Mental toughness... Hard to practice that outside of the real thing.

    All kids have something to work on. Most adults do. We just keep plugging along :)

    There has been some debate (on forum) of current top juniors hitting an eventual success ceiling if continued to be allowed to compete without having all strokes and parts of the game "ready", and funny this thread popped up, I just was watching this video this a.m....Azarenka, age 13 at the Orange Bowl. Who can me she doesn't have strokes to work on (including serve!). But early tournament play does not seem to have hindered her. (I know you have a boy, so slightly different strategy, etc, ...but the moral of the story remains).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80dX_yNz70c&sns=em
     
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  7. Bash and Crash

    Bash and Crash Semi-Pro

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    Agreed, if that is the game plan, to learn and grow it's all good, but it seems that for some it still comes down to winning, and not handing it to their opponent. The other stuffs goes out the window too quickly.
     
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  8. Soianka

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    good point. Azarenka definitely needed improvement in a lot of areas from that video.

    I'm actually really surprised to see how good she is now compared to how she looked at 13. Obviously, was still a good competitor at 13 but her game looked all kinds of hitchy.

    Also, where's all that noise that she now makes, LOL
     
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  9. strike1

    strike1 New User

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    When my kids started playing, their coach at that time thought they shouldn't compete until they could regularly "beat the ghost." Basically he would have them play games -- but with no one on the other side of the court! So as long as they did not double fault too much, they would win the game, or beat the ghost. We still have great memories of them out there, all alone, calling out the score. :) But ultimately it did give them confidence about their serve once we started putting them into tournaments.
     
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  10. chalkflewup

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    Welcome to my world! ;)
     
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  11. TCF

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  12. Soianka

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    That's a really interesting and unique way to think about practicing serving.
     
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  13. Soianka

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    I have a feeling if someone would have posted the video of a 13-year-old Azarenka as their kid and asked for opinions, you would have declared that she would never have a pro career and her game was terrible. Her legs were too skinny. Her serve was awful and she shouldn't compete until she fixes it. She'd be lucky to get a D2 scholarship and girl juniors suck, etc. :)
     
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  14. TCF

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  15. TCF

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  16. coaching32yrs

    coaching32yrs Semi-Pro

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    I read some of the comments about the Azarenka video at age 13 and then watched the video with interest. I thought from some of the postings her strokes were going to be very flawed. They were not. The stokes look good. The swing on the serve is good and that's the critical point. Of course what she does with her lower body, taking her right leg way off the ground at times and other times landing on the right leg are problems. But, like I have said before, if the swing is good those can be easily fixed. If the swing is the problem- the fix becomes very difficult.
     
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  17. TCF

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  18. mrj1813

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    And not a grunt/shriek heard out of azarenka at 13.

    Just makes her utter cheating gamesmanship nowadays all the more disgusting.

    Totally coached and forced in order to disrupt opponents.

    Sorry. /rant.
     
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  19. Soianka

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    Sorry, I don't buy it from either one of you :)

    You are complimentary because you know the result is that this little girl grew up to become the #1 WTA player.

    If this was any body else's kid playing exactly like that in 2013, you'd both be super negative about her zero chances for even a modestly successful pro career.
     
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  20. Soianka

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    It is really weird how loud she is now and how quiet she was back then.

    I'm not ready to say that she makes those horrible noises in an effort to cheat these days though.
     
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  21. TCF

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  22. Soianka

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    I don't remember DB's dad ever saying he was going to be the #1 player in the world or the greatest ever. Maybe I have not been here long enough.
     
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  23. lala28m

    lala28m New User

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    That moving target is keeping me dizzy.
    The premise is... Should kids with flawed techniques (serves, etc) continue to play in tournaments or will winning tournaments with the flawed techniques hinder future performance?
    Who cares what the crazy parents project. It's the kids performance and results that we are discussing, correct?
    My stance is, one flawed part of a game, at a young age, coupled with other good aspects does NOT rule out future success. And it does not warrant pulling kids out of tournaments for a year plus. That seems silly. You can fix flawed strokes etc, while continuing to compete.
    Azerenka YouTube video, Exhibit #1. (Yes, I see her serve is flawed here. But she is 13. She continued to compete... and improve.)
     
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  24. Soianka

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    I like your style, LaLa and I agree with your post.
     
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  25. mrj1813

    mrj1813 New User

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    Not to be argumentative, but what exactly is a "flawed" stroke vs an "unflawed" stroke? So many professionals on both the men's and women's tour have VASTLY different service motions that I don't get sometimes when someone says someone's serve is flawed. It's not like there is one way to do it. Different stances, ball toss height, grips, knee bend depth, back bending, torso turning, racket up with the ball toss, racket down with the ball toss(serena), hitches, etc etc.

    My point is that as a longtime lurker here on the tw boards, I constantly see people pointing out flaws in other's strokes. Maybe they just hit it a little different and it works for them. Thank the lord we all don't hit the ball the same way.

    Of course i agree that her jumping around during the motion is not good at all and she obviously fixed it, but compared to say....federer, aren't all of our serves flawed? I wonder what the comments of McEnroe's serve would have been when he was 13. Uglier than sin but it worked for him.

    I vote keep playing the tournaments.
     
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  26. Chemist

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    Just did a quick search of Azarenka. She was born on 7/31/89. If she were indeed 13 yr old on that video, she should be playing the 2002 Jr Orange Bowl (for 14s). Would it be possible that she improved so much in one year to reach #54 in the junior ITF in 2003? Then in another two years, she would be ranked #1 in the world by winning Jr Australia Open and Jr US Open.

    Maybe she was only 11 in that video. Nevertheless, her coach did an amazing job in improving her games. BTW, she started training in Arizona after she turned 16.

    The 3rd link below is an amazing story about her and Slava Konikov, her coach from 8-14. Konikov is Sacramento State men's coach now. Something to learn for girls or boys who also wanted to be #1 in the world?:)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Azarenka
    http://www.itftennis.com/Juniors/players/player/profile.aspx?PlayerID=100034773
    http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2012/03/sac-state-coach-azarenka-wasnt-kidding.html
     
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  27. BMC9670

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    On the OP's post, I had the same experience with my son when he was 7/8. He could hit groundies pretty well, but couldn't serve. Dabbled in a few tournaments and he would DF 2 points each game, sometimes more. When he played a kid who could get the serve in, he would win some return games but lose all service games. Confidence shot. When he played another kid who couldn't serve is was like watching grass grow. No fun - didn't like tournaments.

    So, I stepped away from tournaments and taught him a proper serve - which took a year, and in the mean time trained, found some good groups and he played on a club team, which he enjoyed.

    Now, at 10 1/2, we are venturing back into tournaments (12U) and he's doing well. He's confident in his serve which in turn makes him confident in the rest of his game. Most importantly, he's now having fun and wants to compete more.
     
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  28. TCF

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  29. lala28m

    lala28m New User

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    I agree. Look at Bartoli.
    I bet you had people all her life laughing at her (and her dad) about those "horrible" and "awkward" strokes and their crazy aspirations. Nowadays, the announcers call the strokes and serves "unconventional" lol.
    We can talk strategy all we want, but once in a while, we have to look at the results :)
     
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  30. TCF

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  31. Tennishacker

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    Agree 100%
     
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  32. Tennishacker

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    Wrong, AD's serve is just totally BAD. Her service motion is similar to those kids/adults that play just for fun. If her aspirations are to play pro tennis, then her coach must correct it NOW.

    As for Azarenka's serve, (at 13 yrs) it is fundamentally correct.
     
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  33. Tennishacker

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    (if your talking about AD)

    No one who plays competitive tennis (juniors, college & pros) use a forehand grip to serve.

    Any competent coach should be embarrassed to have their student using a forehand grip for serving.
     
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  34. Soianka

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    In Bartoli's case, it doesn't appear that her unique strokes/serving stance, etc are "flaws" but rather the way her father designed them (for specific purposes) and they apparently work well for her.
     
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  35. TCF

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  36. lala28m

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    No, I'm not talking about the personal coaches who are there, in the trenches, knowing and battling the ins and outs. I'm talking about the critics. Standing on the sidelines, telling the up and comers that they're doing it wrong.
    Possibility stands, they may be doing it right for themselves, or will correct it on their own time, in response to their own body and development. Pre-teen & teen years are just so different for everybody.
    You can't possibly know why or how the strokes developed how they did, and why they persist or can or can't be corrected for now or forever.
    I really believe Bartoli wouldnt have made it any other way.
    Different strokes for different folks. (LOL. Sorry, couldn't help myself).
     
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  37. TCF

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  38. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    Exactly. Pancake grip is not acceptable for a proclaimed world beater.
     
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  39. Soianka

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    Yes, I agree. That one girl, Deja, whose father posted here is a good example.

    She was a very athletic, motivated girl but she was doomed to failure because the techniques she was being taught were so poor.

    As for AD, I tend to think (hope) they will correct her game as she develops and correct her serve. They are obviously doing a lot right so far.
     
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  40. Soianka

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    I tend to think that as well.
     
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  41. TCF

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  42. lala28m

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  43. barringer97

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  44. Alohajrtennis

    Alohajrtennis Semi-Pro

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    Or ran away from home....
     
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  45. TCF

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  46. arche3

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  47. Bash and Crash

    Bash and Crash Semi-Pro

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    Some interesting serves by both girls. Would've been interesting to see where she would be if her dad let someone tweak her strokes, that girl has some serious natural tools.
     
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  48. TCF

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  49. coaching32yrs

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    There is a difference between a junior's flawed strokes and a pros unconventional strokes. The way one junior was serving- she would never be able to consistently generate pace and spin. You just can't defeat the laws of physics and biomechanics. I have studied Dolgopolov's serve, unconventional but not flawed. In fact, his swing, point of contact, and follow through are very conventional. He uses different timing of the toss, load, and explosion up into the ball so the time between when the ball leaves his hand and contact is made is shorter. I am all for unconventional tennis as long as the stroke can generate pace, spin, and consistency without injury. Fabrice Santoro was one of my favorite players.
     
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  50. TCF

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