Pronating on serve

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Fedchamp, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. Fedchamp

    Fedchamp Semi-Pro

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    I understand this technique is a great way to get a bigger serve. I understand what you need to do for this technique, but I've been trying it, and I find I can't get a good contact on the ball. Ball contact seems to be weaker. Are there any tips to help with this technique?
     
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  2. BU-Tennis

    BU-Tennis Semi-Pro

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    There are countless factors which could be affecting your serve...Recently I had trouble with making solid contact with my serve after not playing for a while and what got me back to serving well was to focus on keeping my elbow up throughout the serve

    If you can get into a good trophy position then just working on having a smooth swing up into contact your serve will fall into place and then you can start tweaking little things
     
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  3. Fedchamp

    Fedchamp Semi-Pro

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    Thanks for the advice. I do normally get solid contact at serve , and I quite serve big for a player of my standard ( I can hit the back fence on one bounce regularly), but when I try to pronate, I feel I'm kind of flapping at the ball. Maybe Iam pronating without knowing it.
     
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  4. BU-Tennis

    BU-Tennis Semi-Pro

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    You probably are pronating somewhat, and might be forcing the pronation when you try to "pronate" But the trick with pronation is that its the last part of the service motion, and if everything is done correctly, it should feel very effortless, which is where debate comes in about how much pronation is "forced" through arm rotation, or whether it is just a natural release of the built up energy.

    You might need to try and get your stroke going "up" more rather than "forward" towards your opponent, which will create better, and faster, pronation.
     
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  5. Fedchamp

    Fedchamp Semi-Pro

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    Thanks, I'll keep that in mind.
     
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  6. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    Turn everything else off, knee bend, shoulder drop, etc, and just pronate. Focus on that one part. You have to let energy build in the racquet head. It should feel like the racquet is doing the work, so I hear.
     
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  7. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Unless you're elbowing yourself in the stomach every time you try to take your racquet over the top and hit a serve, I'd say congratulations, you're pronating just fine. This topic has gained a lot of popularity lately, but it's also been regarded by some as the key to a good serve.

    In reality, I think it's a rather passive motion that involves relatively small muscles and connective tissues in the shoulder. To actively and deliberately concentrate on a more exaggerated "inward rotation" of the arm when swinging at the ball could be courting disaster in the form of a rotator cuff injury.

    With a good progressive windup and release through contact that includes a rather loose, passive arm, the act of pronation should be a result of those other proper elements in a serve instead of being accentuated in itself. That focus on pronation can put a lot more torque into the rotator cuff than is necessary for good racquet speed in a serve.

    Look to energize your serve with your big muscle groups including your legs and your core. If there's any sort of rush to contact now, you should be able to get a more efficient windup by trying to slightly delay your toss. That lets the progression in your windup get closer to a comfortable release, or more "loaded up" before the ball goes up into your strike zone. Ideally you should develop a serving motion where your arm feels almost as though it's along for the ride, including a very loose wrist and relatively light grip pressure. That makes for very little restriction of the racquet and better energy through contact.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012
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  8. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    Storm has a good suggestion to just work on your pronation movement. Once you get it down, it will be a lot easier to add it into your serve.

    Coach McCraw explains just how to do this.
    McCraw explaining a serve pronation exercise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iONY6fcqZGg
     
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  9. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    One thing I'm quickly learning is that if you're going to pronate (and of course you should) you need to do so with the upper arm relatively aligned with the shoulders, otherwise you could impinge your shoulder complex. This is where that 'cartwheeling' of the dominant shoulder over the tossing shoulder comes into play.

    Here's a good video on that:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTRvxaBMh8s
     
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  10. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Nice video links by charlie and storm.

    I believe that if you are serving using a continental grip and the proper form the pronation should naturally follow. In my experience, players might lose useful pronation by trying to stretch up too much to hit the ball. If you are straightening out the angle between the forearm and the racket too much at contact, it will sap the ability to use pronation to bring racket-head speed thru the ball. Check on video to see this isn't happening.

    Another thing to get natural pronation is to make sure that you are lagging the racket head into the ball. Make certain that you are pulling the racket butt strongly up toward the ball out of the drop and you should naturally have to pronate to get good contact with the ball.
     
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  11. Netspirit

    Netspirit Hall of Fame

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    Grip the racket with the Eastern BACKHAND grip.

    It will force exsessive pronation since otherwise you won't be able to hit the ball at all. Over time, your wrirst will become more flexible and pronation will become your second nature.
     
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  12. dr325i

    dr325i Legend

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    I am hoping that one poster will chime in...
    He has improved my (already good) serve in 30 minutes...
     
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  13. tennis_balla

    tennis_balla Hall of Fame

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    That's difficult to really say without seeing a video of your serve. However, take a look at these 2 videos (talking about the same thing, just different ways of explaining it) to see where you're at compared with your own motion. If you're pronating correctly, you will feel an increase in power and not feel weaker. The fact that you said it feels weaker to me says you're not pronating correctly.

    McLennan
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LyGN5YSuCY
    Nick B.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIpKx36_ork

    If you have an opportunity to video tape yourself and post it on here, even a couple serves that would help a lot.

    Edit:
    Also, one question: Did you change your grip when you started to try and pronate? Trying to pronate with a frying pan grip (eastern forehand grip) will make it difficult and feel weak. Make sure you have a continental grip to begin with.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2012
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  14. Bagumbawalla

    Bagumbawalla Hall of Fame

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    Often-times the greatness of modern rackets masks imperfections in technique.

    If the various suggestions, above, don't set you on the right track, try this: get an old, but good, wooden racket from a thrift store (or wherever) and a basket of balls and practice serving withthe proper technique (that you say you understand- so I am accepting this as true) and start trying to pop them into the service box.

    You will find that poor form is much more severly punished, than with your modern racket. This negative reinforcement will help you to adjust and tinker with the serve until you finally can start pounding them in when everything comes together.
     
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  15. rufusbgood

    rufusbgood Semi-Pro

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    Fedchamp. Question for ya. Stand up from the computer and shadow throw an imaginary ball. Bring the throwing hand back to just behind your ear to begin the throw. Now, which way is your hand facing when the ball is even with your ear?
     
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  16. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Gotta see your serve.
    For solid pronation, hold conti grip that you can volley both fore AND backhands, serve a FLAT BALL. Use a closed stance. That is normal pronation.
     
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  17. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    This is good.

    As a guy who has gone, in the past few weeks, from having an abysmal serve to a solid one, I can tell you that the key to a solid delivery is slowing everything down. If it doesn't feel good then slow it down even more. Don't speed it up until it feels good. If it gets faster and feels good, good. If it starts to feel forced again, slow it down.

    I can't emphasize this enough (so I used bold and italics).
     
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  18. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Protating on serve is not something you do actively. It happens automatically from good technique and a relaxed arm, wrist and hand.
     
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  19. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    I'm actually skeptical of this.
     
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  20. 10sLifer

    10sLifer New User

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    Pronation is for sure the hardest thing to learn on the serve. Remember it happens as a byproduct of using the right grip and leading to the ball with edge of the racquet. It's important because you have to hit forward(not down)on a serve despite the perception. Is also essential for hitting spin. Be sure you understand the reasons for pronation before you try it. You can find that........no where. I would tell you where but can't.
     
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  21. Fedchamp

    Fedchamp Semi-Pro

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    My hand is facing with the imaginary ball pointed toward the imaginary target.
     
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  22. Fedchamp

    Fedchamp Semi-Pro

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    I do use a continental. If I serve in my natural way, I find I get the best results by curving my wrist up and around the outside of the ball.
    This is the way I use to hit a flat, kick, or slice serve. The only difference is how I follow through on the swing.
     
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  23. Fedchamp

    Fedchamp Semi-Pro

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    Thanks for all the replies btw. All good stuff to ponder. I haven't been back here to check for a couple of days.
     
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  24. Fedchamp

    Fedchamp Semi-Pro

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    You know I served all my life with a closed stance, and my serve had been the weakest part of my game. I found I could never get solid contact with the ball and slicing wide was impossible. I recently switched to a more open stance and it worked wonders. I began making solid contact on pretty much every serve and I can direct the ball with more accuracy.
     
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  25. rufusbgood

    rufusbgood Semi-Pro

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    Yeah. Mine too. Perfectly reasonable way to throw if you're only interested in accuracy. But try this with the imaginary ball. Turn your hand 90 degrees so your hand is facing your face, and then another 90 degrees so your hand is actually facing backwards and start your throwing motion like that. What do you notice is happening?
     
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  26. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    FedChamp.....
    What is easier for you might not be the best for anyone, including you.
    You have to learn how to hit closed stance conti gripped flats and wide slices, it's not something your brain cal do instantly.
    Watch 1,000 men and women pros. They ALL use closed stance conti or conti towards eBACKhand grips on their serves.
    Now you're saying an open stance is better for you? Think about this.
     
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  27. paulfreda

    paulfreda Hall of Fame

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    With respect, I disagree.
    The Eastern BH grip feels very awkward.

    For many years I tried this grip and kept working on it to moderate success.
    But it always feels uncomfortable unless you get your hand very very loose.
    This is fine for some.

    I recently found great success once I simply pre-suppinated my forearm instead.
    That is turn your forearm clockwise until the hitting face is looking at your face.
    If your watch tennis on tv notice how many pros begin with the hitting face pointing almost to the sky.
    This is pre-suppination.

    It is much easier to make the large pronation turn in to the ball from this position.

    Folding the wrist a little also gives some more speed to the motion thru the ball too.

    Hope this helps you
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
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  28. Fedchamp

    Fedchamp Semi-Pro

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    Actually you're right. I'd do this to throw further and to put spin on the ball as well (is this what a baseball pitcher does?). The hand rotates counter-clockwise on the forward throw. (I'm right-handed btw).
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
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  29. Fedchamp

    Fedchamp Semi-Pro

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    I agree that they start their motion with a closed stance, but I think they're pretty open at contact.

    This clip is instruction on another topic, but the player's body appears to be pretty open at contact (his legs are parallel to the baseline).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6hqLXc-8Lo

    This is gold....


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0dldQUtRbo&feature=related

    Youtube is the bomb.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
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  30. rufusbgood

    rufusbgood Semi-Pro

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    Well, I think this is what a baseball pitcher does, but I think the real question is why do you and I do it. I think we do it because of what we want at the end of our throw, a wrist snap. What I am hoping you notice when you make these imaginary throws is that you are pronating. Not actively though. What you are doing actively is turning the hand around at the beginning of the throw. The pronation is more an "un-doing". In a serve, the racquet drop is the "doing".
     
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  31. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Fedchamp, it's called ROTATION into the serve. McEnroe had the most.
    You also need movement into the court. Oftentimes, pinpoint servers have the most.
    Without either, you're giving up 30% of you possible service speed. Rotation counts more than movement into court.
     
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  32. paulfreda

    paulfreda Hall of Fame

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    To take this pronation to another level .......

    If you think of a snapping pronation in to the ball you will get a nice pop
    and good pace. This is what most are looking for.

    But here is a modification of the shot; a similar but different serve.
    Think of wiping across the ball from right to left as you pronate in to the ball.
    If you do this you will see the ball bounce to the right when it hits the court.
    This is very surprising and difficult to return for the receiver.
    It is best done with a lower toss and it becomes an American Twist like serve.

    Start with a semi open stance, a lower toss, and think of wiping across the ball as you pronate.
    It will bring a smile to your face when you see it kick right.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
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  33. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Most players believe a very closed stance the best for hitting American twist serves. A "semi open" stance promotes less spin, and works only for beginners just like an eastern forehand grip is easiest for beginners in tennis.
     
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  34. paulfreda

    paulfreda Hall of Fame

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    Yes, you are correct.
    Most believe this and its true.
    To hit the ball with top and slice you need to go from left to right as you go UP thru the ball.
    The slice component will give the L-R bounce.
    And a closed stance makes this easier to execute.

    But if you toss low and swipe R-L across the ball with a low toss you will also get a slice component,
    BUT without the topspin.
    So the ball bounces low and to the right.
    This is so unusual and hardly ever seen.
    Which is why it is so effective when done well.

    Key thought for me;
    I try to wrap the left side of the frame around the ball so it almost
    points to the target. Not just swipe across, but wrap around the ball with the pronation rotation.
    This is a bit easier to do in the deuce court because of the geometry matching
    swing direction.

    Works for me because I have practiced it a lot.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
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  35. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Very few low bouncing serves seem to work against strong men's players. Most really high kickers can solicit "weaker" returns, but depends on skill level of the returner.
    Maybe it depends on level of competition.
     
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  36. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    But isn't there a point where such a closed stance actually disallows twist on the ball? It seems like if you're closed like McEnroe, by the time you make contact with the ball most of your twist has already been expended.

    I realize Mac has a great slice serve but isn't there a "sweet stance" where your twisting ability is at its highest upon impact with the ball?

    Does this make sense to anyone? Like, at some point your body isn't going to be able to twist as much as it did a split second before. Maybe this just depends on the body, but I've tried closing off more with my stance to get more slice but it actually hindered it.
     
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  37. paulfreda

    paulfreda Hall of Fame

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    Yes I would agree.

    Problem with the closed stance is that the pronation action makes the ball go to the right. But the closed stance ALSO has you facing right to start with. So you will have trouble keeping it in court. Semi open stance looks left and the pronation makes the ball go right which compensates and thus they work well together.

    It is no coincidence that two of the best pronation servers of all time BOTH set up with an open stance; Ivanisivic and Lubijic.
     
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  38. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    Could you explain what a semi open stance is? I've honestly never heard the term. I'm assuming it's somewhere in between McEnroe and Goran, but I don't know why it would be called "semi open".
     
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  39. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Of course, in every stroke you make, as in every decision you make, there is the point of DIMINISHING RETURNS.
    Try serving with a prep stance that has you body facing your opponent.
    Try serving with your prep stance that faces your entire back to your opponent.
    Compromise, like everything in life, you need to find the balance between too little and too much.
    YOU KNOW THAT!
     
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  40. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    Right, so my question was: where is the perfect balance? Or perhaps an easier question, roughly where is it? Certainly this can be quantified scientifically.
     
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  41. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    The perfect balance is easily found by compilatng every pro level serve, and find the average.
     
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  42. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    Done. The answer is 7.
     
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  43. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Good for you!
    I had to figure it out by watching every B and A player around, watching TV tennis of as many pros as shown, then figuring out what works for my body, then figuring out which direction to take.
    I'll take no. 7, much cleaner and easier.
     
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  44. paulfreda

    paulfreda Hall of Fame

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    Sure, no problem

    My definition would be ....
    Open stance; you are facing the net with your chest and torso.
    Square stance; a line thru your shoulders or hips is about perpendicular to the net and points to or slightly left of the target.
    Closed stance; the shoulder line points to the right of target rather than at it.

    So semi-open is between Open and Square. Say shoulder line pointing 45 degrees to the net. I think Goran and Lubijic set up this way.
     
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  45. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Where's pronation? & Trunk rotation is in opposite direction to arm rotation

    References on biomechanics of the serve.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2577481/

    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=370729

    Based on the above references & others the main contributor to racket head speed is total arm rotation rate(around the arm's axis). See the table in the B. Elliott reference.

    Total Arm Rotation Rate = Pronation Rate(forearm only) + Internal Shoulder Rotation Rate (upper arm, but the rest of arm goes along too)

    (The term 'pronation' is not currently being used for tennis discussions as it is technically defined in biomechanics, kinesiology, etc. Does the USPTA have a formal definition?)

    Pronation (forearm). In high speed videos I have been trying to find any solid evidence that pronation of the forearm contributes before ball impact. I have not been able to establish that it does or does not. ? In any case, I believe that pronation(forearm) is not a very significant contributor to racket head speed based on the references. See table in the above Elliott reference.

    Internal Shoulder Rotation (ISR). ISR is a powerful, twitch-like motion that occurs start-to-finish over only about 0.03 second for powerful servers. It is much too fast to see in standard rate videos at 30 fps or 0.033 seconds between frames.

    Internal Shoulder Rotation at 240 fps (ISR occurs over about 7 frames).

    http://vimeo.com/27528701

    Trunk Rotation. Trunk rotation starts usually from line-between-the-shoulders more or less 90°, perpendicular to net. (McEnroe was about 170° to net.) At impact the line-between-the-shoulders is roughly 0° to net (open stance/ ‘facing the net’).

    If you take a viewpoint from above the server looking down, the slow trunk rotation for a right hander is CCW and the very rapid total arm rotation is CW. I used to think that if I would rotate my body faster it would speed up the serve and it still might by translating the shoulder but the trunk rotation subtracts from the arm's rotation. In high speed videos the shoulder and arm often look almost stationary as the arm rapidly rotates about its axis.

    New Australian Open High Speed Videos. They have new, much higher quality high speed video coverage of the Australian Open. (You can see ball lint in the air after the ball strikes!) If you have a DVR you can do stop action frame-by-frame on these great videos and clearly see ISR, the racket angle (discussed by Toly), slow shoulder forward motion at impact............. Good luck finding pronation. Please post! The elbow bones rotating shows ISR and the angular difference between the elbow and wrist shows pronation. On serves I can always see lots of ISR but have yet to clearly see any pronation.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012
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