Pronation only for flat serve??!

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by geo, Feb 22, 2004.

  1. geo

    geo New User

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    Hi all. Nice to be here...
    I have read somwhere in this forum that forearm pronation is used ONLY for flat serves. Is it really so? I have seen pros at tennisone and they pronate at EVERY serve. Am I getting something wrong?

    Tx

    -geo-
     
    #1
  2. vin

    vin Professional

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    Pronation happens on every serve with a continental grip as a natural way for your arm to complete the swing.

    However, I think pronation occurs in different amounts for different serves. I pronate earlier and more forcefully for a kick serve because it adds to the spin. If you watch the follow through of a pro's kick serve, the racquet head usually ends up out to the side of there arm.

    When I hit a flat serve, the pronation is mainly to get the racquet face square with the ball and allow a smooth follow through. In this case, the racquet head will pretty much follow through straight down rather than out to the side after contact.

    I'm not overly experience with the slice serve, but I believe the goal here is to hit the ball with an angled racquet face which is basically a delayed pronation.

    This may not all be exactly correct, but is at least the way I view it. Hopefully it helps.

    Vin
     
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  3. polakosaur

    polakosaur Rookie

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    as long as you remember to hit up on the serve the forearm will pronate naturally
     
    #3
  4. GP

    GP New User

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    Agree with vin mostly. It's a bit more complicated than that.

    On the old message board, in one of the last posts in a thread on this very topic, somebody had posted an incorrect reply to the effect that pronation only occurs for flat serves.

    I had worked up a lengthy reply to it, then discovered that the old TW message board was defunct and wouldn't accept my reply.

    There are several keys to understanding what is going on:

    1. The forearm pronation is the final piece in the kinetic link of the serve motion. It is the last bit of significant acceleration that your body/arm unit can apply to the racquet head. If you don't do it, or if you do some lesser version of it (beginners and intermediates often end up doing wrist flexion rather than true forearm pronation), you're going to lose significant racquet head speed.

    2. The forearm pronation produces two motions - an upward and forward arc of the racquet head, and a rotation of the racquet face from an initially edge-on position facing to the left for right-handers(when the racquet head is at its initial position dropped downwards and behind the shoulder) to a flat position (face parallel to the net) at some point during the arc of the swing forward, and finally finishing with the racquet face again edge on and facing to the right. The art of putting different spins on the ball depends essentially on being able to separate out the timing of these two motions relative to each other and relative to when the racquet strikes the ball.


    3. The goal of flat serves is to rotate the racquet face so that it is parallel to the net when the racquet strikes the ball.

    4. The goal of topspin serves is to contact the ball at a point that is slightly lower and a bit closer to your head/body than the flat serve. The racquet face has to be rotated a bit earlier, as a result, since the goal is to hit the back of the ball, with the racquet face nearly flat, while the the wrist/forearm pronation and elbow extension motions are still in the earlier, upwards segment of their arc, and the racquet head has not yet reached the top of this arc. The result will be to brush up and slightly outward on the ball during the ball strike.

    5. The goal of slice serves is to contact the ball pretty much at the top of the arc of the wrist/forearm pronation and elbow extension motions. A delay is put on the rotation of the the racquet face so that by the time the raquet face strikes the ball, it is still oblique to the plane of the net. The goal also is to contact the outside of the ball. The result will be to apply sidespin to the ball. Players usually still finish with full pronation/rotation of the racquet face, although some players might cut this short in their follow-through.

    6. Reverse slice - often done with an Eastern grip to make it easier. The goal here is to rotate the racquet face very early so that it is actually facing outwards somewhat by the time the racquet strikes the the ball. The result will be to put a reverse sidspin on the ball.
     
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  5. Thunnus

    Thunnus Rookie

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    GP,

    This is some real good stuff. Would you please explain on how to excute the kick serve with forearm pronation? Thanks!
     
    #5
  6. Roforot

    Roforot Professional

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    Thanks for informative post. I'm still trying to digest part of it.
    I understand pronation for the flat serve, and delayed pronation for
    a slice serve so you make contact w/ the racquet at an oblique angle.
    I'm just lost on visualizing the description of #4.

    When I hit a topspin serve, I'm straightening my elbow upwards and the racquet is travelling in a near vertical path. I imagine that I'm cutting the ball in half. This gives me a high arch w/ spin but not much pace. If I pronate, should the palm (and racquet) face the sky at contact, so the racquet is sort of hititing tbe bottom of the ball??? Or are you trying to get the racquet to hit over the top of the ball to keep the serve from going long?

    thanks again in advance for your help,

    Roforot


     
    #6
  7. Joe Oldschool

    Joe Oldschool New User

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    I, too, understood everything except the pronation for the kick serve.
     
    #7
  8. geo

    geo New User

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    The angle that the racket face hits the ball is given by the pronation movement. In the twist you want to hit the ball with the racket plane facing forward while the racket is moving upwards and to the right. So you must start pronation a bit earlier to meet the ball square BUT while moving upwards, so you toss closer, more to your left and you will end up hitting lower. Is this correct?

    -geo-
     
    #8
  9. Mahboob Khan

    Mahboob Khan Hall of Fame

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    I agree with GP. With continental grip you won't be able to strike the ball with your strings unless you pronate!

    For kick serve the strings bypass the ball from 7 to 1 o'clock positions (the face of the ball is the clock), and then some players supinate but the Pros pronate. Same is true for slice serve when the strings bypass the ball at 3 o'clock -- some supinate, some pronate. Yes, pronation occurs on all types of serves! I hope I have not said anything controversial!

    To serve out wide in ad court you pronate more because you are trying to bypass the ball at 9 o'clock (hitting inside of the ball).
     
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  10. Roforot

    Roforot Professional

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    Mr Khan,

    Forgive my density, are you saying that the pronation on a kick serve should occur after moving the racquet from 5 to 11 (I'm a lefty)? in which direction, should the racquet face post pronation?
    i.e. for flat serve, racquet faces right at target.

    thankyou for your advice!
     
    #10
  11. Momo

    Momo New User

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    Mahboob's comment about how some people supinate after they do a kick or slice serve reminded me of something I hadn't really put much thought into before. Now that I think about it, I realize that when I get lazy or unfocused, I'll supinate on the follow-through of my kick serve. This tends to take away a lot of the forward momentum of the ball since as you supinate, it allows the strings to brush past the ball a lot more than they hit through it. With not much forward momentum and the spin of the ball making the ball dip downwards, this serve rarely makes it over the net, and never lands deep in the service box. I realize that a little pronation is needed to give the ball a more solid hit from the racquet which will give it the juice it needs to get over the net before the spin brings it down.

    As for my slice serve, I must admit, I supinate on the follow-through for that one as well... but on purpose in this case. I figure if I'm gonna hit a slice serve with pace (with slight pronation) I might as well hit a flat bomb, so instead I have an extreme spin slice which is slow but goes very wide on the deuce side. It works well for me on S&V because it gives me time to get up to net and it leaves the opponent literally off the court. Also it's funny to see people outright miss the ball as they swipe at it because it pops off low and to the (server's) left when it hits the court because it's almost all sidespin on the ball. Anyhoo, it's more a gimmick serve (although the erratic bounce is really great on indoor rubber and clay) that was just another example of how the supination once again causes the racquet face to become less and less normal (as in vector analysis) to the trajectory of the ball, imparting more of the racquet's energy to the ball as rotational rather than translational (ie. more spin, less pace).

    So in conclusion:
    1. If you have a wimpy kick serve, see if your forearm stays pronated on the follow-through.
    2. Beware my 15 mile per hour slice serve :shock:

    P.S. Please do not misunderstand what I mean when I say supination. I dont mean to serve with a supinated forearm. To do that would be to try to serve backhanded. Awkard to say the least. Assuming you have a continental grip, every serve will need some degree of forearm pronation at the point of contact with the ball (as been previously stated)... unless you like to serve with the edge of your frame to intimidate your opponents. When I say supination on the serve, I'm talking about what happens after contact (ie. the follow-through). As the arm comes back down, if you dont keep your mind on it, it'll have a natural tendency to return to it's neutral position (neither pronated or supinated as excellently depicted by the Atlanta Braves Tomahawk Chop). To go from a pronated position back to a neutral position will require supination. This motion is what I'm referring to. I think my problem is that with the kick serve, I'm worrying about so many other things, I'll let my arm start to supinate back to neutral position during or before I even hit the ball. This of course leads to the stuff I discussed earlier. Anyways that's my take on it. I don't make any claims that my ideas are the end-all truths. I'm no tennis guru. I'm just devastatingly witty and dashingly handsome... but in this day and age, isn't that all one really needs for instant credibility? ;) I hope at least some of you were able to relate to what I was talking about.

    P.P.S That was a long P.S.
     
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  12. vin

    vin Professional

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    Momo,

    Have you ever heard the expression 'thumbs down for a harder spin serve'? If you pronate correctly, your racquet head (and thumb) are pointing to the ground during your follow through. Just a simple phrase that might stick in your head and make you aware if you are supinating.

    Vin
     
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  13. gofederer

    gofederer Rookie

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    i think when hitting a topspin serve i keep supinating for a while after the contact and just drop the wrist at the last moment to apply a brake on my arm swinging back into my body and to get prepared quickly for the next shot. that last wrist drop makes it look like i've somewhat pronated during or before the contact but actually it's not. ball contact is made through the whole wrapping motion and i still get decent pace as well as a lot of top spin on the ball. am i an odd man out here?
     
    #13
  14. GP

    GP New User

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    Well, what Mahboob calls supination is essentially what I mean by wrist flexion. It is almost the same thing, except that beginner/intermediates frequently use wrist flexion (and an Eastern or "frying pan") grip to hit flat serves as well. It's more obvious when they are hitting a flat serve that the key feature is that they are flexing their wrist through the ball rather than pronating their forearm/wrist unit. These players will also use wrist flexion to hit slice and topspin, and the supination shows up mainly in the follow-through.

    The main problem with using wrist flexion instead of forearm pronation is that the wrist flexion motion has a much more limited range of motion compared to forearm pronation, and, the muscles driving wrist flexion are much weaker. Hence, less racquet head speed as several people have noted.

    As for more details on hitting the topspin serve: Here's a few more keys:

    1. Pronate the racquet head rapidly from its position from behind your shoulder (more rapidly than you would for a flat serve).

    2. Keep the elbow and wrist/forearm unit flexed downwards/backwards. The combination of motions 1 and 2 will bring the racquet face to a nearly flat (parallel to the net) position to hit the back of the ball, AND the racquet face will be LOWER than it would be for the flat serve.

    3. Contact the ball at a point slightly lower and closer to your head than you would for a flat serve. This requires either that you do a slightly different toss, or that you lean or step forward slightly more underneath your standard (non-readable) toss.

    4. The natural follow-through of your forearm/wrist pronation motion, together with the straightening of your elbow, will result in an upward arc of your racquet face which will brush upwards and outwards on the back of the ball.

    5. The follow-through is usually more outward and lateral than for the flat serve.
     
    #14
  15. Japanese Maple

    Japanese Maple Semi-Pro

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    I think it is very difficult to accurately describe in writing what happens to your forearm and wrist for each of the serves. I really wish Pat Dougherty would come out with a second serve video on how to hit the various serves(flat,slice,topspin,top/slice,kick) with
    disguise, where to toss the ball, what serves are best to hit to each target, ect. I found very few pros do a good job explaining this aspect of serving and you will get as many different viewpoints as there are pros. Through trial and error I have discovered that you can hit various serves effectively using both
    pronation and supination for spin serves and strictly pronation for flat serves only. My definition of supination is the wrist and forearm snap/flexion that you would use if you where throwing a curve ball in baseball-when hitting a slice you actually try to hit the side of the ball and trying to snap the racquet around the front of the ball. You can also hit a slice with pronation with the thumb pointing down-both work and one isn't better than the other,just different-experiment. Same thing with hitting a kick/american twist. When hitting the kick with supination you would use the curve ball wrist/forearm snap and rotation similar for the slice but instead of hitting the ball at 3:00, you would hit the inside of the
    ball with the racquet face angled towards the right sideline as you
    snap up and over the ball. With pronation on the kick your racquet
    face is parallel with the baseline as you snap up the back of the ball and your thumb points down as you pronate with your arm going to the right side and slightly backwards towards the baseline. Both ways are correct but obviously the serves will vary in terms of spin and penetration-its worth trying both ways and see what works best for what your trying to create. I know of ex
    pros who have outstanding spin serves(slice,topspin,kick) using mainly supination and wrist flexion. As I said earlier this is difficult to explain in print-when is the serve part 2 coming out Pat Dougherty? Please help us out!
     
    #15
  16. jun

    jun Semi-Pro

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    i agree with vin mostly....
    I was pretty confused about pronation and wrist snap for a long time..Took me a while to figure that out.

    Pronation is a mere action of your palm turning inside out. For every serve, the butt cap is pointing upwar before you go up for the ball.

    In order to hit flat serve, your racket face has to be square. So your palm obviously have to turn inside out. It's a very distint form of pronation.

    In order to hit kick serve, you have to brush up from 7 to 1. And pronation happens a bit earlier and quicker than flat serve.

    For slice, it's not so obvious. Some people will carve around to hit slice serve. Some people will by pass the ball at 3:00. If you are hitting the slice in later form, than you are pronating much later than that.

    It should be happening very naturally. If you are having hard time hitting flat serve, it maybe a good idea to think about it.

    After experiencing with many aspects of serves, i think following things are the utmost important.. (at least for me). Not in particular order...

    1) relaxed grip/arm
    2)backscratch position.
    3)Correct toss (no exaggeration)
    4)proper use of legs.
    5)hip stretch.
     
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  17. sonicdeviant

    sonicdeviant New User

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    "Check your watch" - Quickly!...on EVERY SERVE.

    "Check your watch" - QUICKLY! Do that ON EVERY SERVE!

    Yes...you DO PRONATE on ALL serves, not just the flat. There was a serving article by Pete Sampras in Tennis Magazine a few years back and it showed him pronating on ALL serves, including and especially kick and slice. The key for me is the angle of attack on the ball (read Pete's article). Don't slow your serve swing down or use weird movements in your wrist, arm, and elbow to generate spin. The pros are good on ALL their serves because they use the same swing every time (same pronation) and just vary where they hit the ball (and how much of the ball they hit).

    Try this - make your grip more extreme toward the eastern backhand grip for the kick serve. Now, do all the things you've been taught - over the head toss or over the left shoulder toss, etc. Now instead of going OUT with pronation like on a flat serve, go UP at the ball and PRONATE AT IMPACT. In other words...pronate up. The grip and pronation are actually keys to hitting this serve in my experience.

    Forget trying to consciously brush from 7 to 2 o'clock. Turn your wrist over and "check your watch" - this time you're checking it over your
    head while on the flat serve you check it out it in front. If you do it right, you don't hit much of the ball...you kind of rub or massage it, and the extreme grip helps you hit from 7 to 2 o'clock using that extreme grip WITH PRONATION and without having to think about brushing from 7 to 2! I think that whole 7 to 2 brushing thing has screwed up more tennis players trying to learn kick than if they'd just learned to pronate on all serves to begin with. If you don't pronate - you're left trying to use arm motion from your elbow or wrist (wrist flexion - I used to do this too) to generate spin. If you hit it right, it will feel like your strings are brushing over the top right side of the ball (like you're wrapping the string bed around the ball using the pronating motion). You're not doing that at all but it feels like it. I can say that the kick serve has a distinct feeling where, once you hit it right, you'll remember the feeling.

    You'll know when you hit it right, because the ball will SPEED UP after if bounces, it will bounce high and steep suddenly, and it will bounce to the right (your right if you're right handed). The more you feel like you wrap around the top right of the ball, the more the ball will break to the right after it bounces. Just try it and see. Do the same pronation for the slice. Hit the outside right edge of the ball with a slightly angled or open racket face and then PRONATE - turn your wrist over at impact and "check your watch quickly". As some have said here...delay the pronation. It's the same thing. Once you start spin serving this way you'll leave your "wrist flop-over" serves behind. I did. I think this is important too - pronate as the racket hits the ball. I used to turn my forearm on the follow-through which mistakenly led me to believe I was pronating when I wasn't. In other words, pronate at impact...not after.

    If you still don't believe me, go back and look at Pete's article again. See what his arm looks like after the ball has left his racket on his kick
    and slice serve. Pronation is the key to BOTH SPEED AND SPIN. It seems like it won't work when you try and think about it logically, but trust me...it does work. Don't trust me then...trust Pete!

    On the flat serve, you attack the back of the ball and hit or pronate straight through it...YOU DO NOT HIT DOWN. Never hit down. You'll make the ball go into the net if you THINK DOWN. You need to be something like 7 feet tall to think that way. My pro taught me to SNAP UP on the ball for net clearance on all serves and SNAP OUT TO THE SIDE if the serve isn't landing in the box (added spin). Just equate WRIST SNAP to PRONATION. They are the same thing.

    Another thing to remember is that applying spin on a serve is not much different than applying spin in ground strokes. When you hit a topspin forehand, you don't brush the ball in 2 dimensions (straight up and down), which is the way most kick serves are taught. You massage the ball - hit low to high while carrying the ball on your strings forward a bit. It's not really brushing...it's more like massaging or rubbing it. That's the way I like to think about it. Serve the same way - rub the ball when you're trying to get spin. You can do this to some extent using your regular flat service motion too - try thinking this way when you're missing first serves. You'll be surprised how much spin you can generate this way without changing your toss or angle of attack. This is the way Pete developed that serve that couldn't be read easily. His one toss gave you all three serves.
     
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  18. Japanese Maple

    Japanese Maple Semi-Pro

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    SonicDeviant,

    I thought your insights and analysis of what happens on the serve
    was outstanding,especially your comment about the pros hit all the
    serves well because they use the same motion and pronation for
    each serve but just vary the angle and how much ball they hit.
    Just a few questions to help clarify your analysis:
    1)Are you an advocate of using the same toss(where?) hitting
    each serve or do you vary the toss for flat,slice,kick(where?)
    2)Is the toss for the kick out front off the left shoulder and when
    you jump up and forwards its above your head,or is the toss
    above your head and when you jump up and forward it is towards
    your right shoulder-I wonder if most tennis players don't get the
    toss out front enough and back behind their heads-they think it
    is behind their heads but it usually is not back far enough-do you
    agree?
    3)where do you toss the ball(how far in front and to the right) to
    hit the pronating slice serve out wide into the side net of the duece
    court. Do you ever hit that wide slice with a baseball curve wrist
    flexion as if your trying to wrap the strings around the side and
    front of the ball(supination) or is it better to always use pronation.
    4)what serve works best for you to hit down the middle on the
    add side,flat or slice?
     
    #18
  19. sonicdeviant

    sonicdeviant New User

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    Hi...thanks. I'll try and answer based on my own preferences and experiences.

    1. I'm an advocate but I can't do it for the kick. I need that over the left shoulder toss to aid in adding spin (mostly to get that twist). Hey - I'm not Pete and I guess many of us aren't. :wink: I toss the same for the flat and slice; I don't exaggerate my toss out to the right for slice like I've seen some articles/books suggest. I get good slice with the right contact point and pronation using the standard flat toss, but if you are one who can muster a can-opener by exaggerating the toss - do it (especially if it gives your opponent fits). I've tried the exaggerated slice toss and the ball spins like crazy...it just doesn't have enough pace on it, so I don't bother with it.

    2. For the kick, I toss the ball over and just in front of my left shoulder. When I lean in to hit it, it seems like the ball would fall on my face or bounce off my left shoulder if I didn't hit it! If I want more twist, I'll toss back behind my left shoulder (still over the baseline though), but you really have to arch your back to hit it this way. It always feels like you're going to fall over - it does to me anyway. I don't do this often, and usually when I do it's a mistake. It does produce some interesting returns though when it goes in :shock:

    3. My toss for the flat and slice serves is the same - got that one from Pete. I toss to the right and out in front (much more in front than for the kick and obviously no where near my left shoulder as on the kick). You should toss so that the ball is ready and waiting out in front of your right shoulder once your shoulders turn towards the net. The shoulders never open up on the kick like they do for flat and slice serves. The difference between slice and flat is, again, the angle of attack (how much of the ball you hit). Some folks on this thread described it as "delayed pronation" and that's a very good description. I just think of hitting the right side of the ball with a racket face that is slightly open with the string bed pointing toward the left net post and then pronating ("checking my watch" quickly)...works for me. I never use wrist flexion anymore (my wrist is laid back on my looping backswing though - I just do this to let my arm go limp); I used to flex my wrist forward on all my serves, because I thought that was what everyone did. But I could never get the pace or spin of higher level players, and my wrist often would hurt when I first started playing a match. I would wonder why guys who were my size or smaller were able to generate so much more pace and spin. Once I started turning my forearm out instead of flopping my wrist over, I started getting easier pace and spin. I could kick myself for not knowing this sooner. Plus my wrist doesn't hurt anymore. That's not to say that you don't keep a loose wrist, and the wrist may flop over naturally on the follow-through, but "the wrist hinge" technique is not what delivers pace and spin on impact in my experience - it's the turning forearm.

    Also, I never try "wrapping my strings around the ball", but it sometimes feels like that's happening if you get the angle just right. I think that whole "wrapping" thing is just the FEEL of both the kick and slice...it's the end and not the means. Have you ever hit a really good biting slice backhand that bounces weird? If so, doesn't it feel a little like you're wrapping the string bed around and under the ball? But if you saw it played back in "slow mo" you'd see that this is not what is happening at all. Same thing on the spin serves - you're going for that FEELING of wrapping, but don't worry about contorting yourself in all sorts of weird ways to "wrap the strings around the ball". When you hit it right it will feel that way without your trying to make it happen.

    4. I use a flat serve for down-the-middle ad serves (center T), but all my "flat" serves have a little spin on them (and so do everyone else's flat serves really). Remember, I use the same toss for flat and slice, and there's all sorts of room to go from full "flat" to full "slice". There's even room to massage the ball upwards a little for more lift...you can actually hit a miniature kick serve this way. Lot's of room to have more of one than the other - sort of a synergistic serve. I've found that if I consciously try to hit the big arcing slice to the ad side that I'll usually miss left because I'm aiming center T. I've never done this but you could try and hit that big slice and aim more toward the middle of the service box. That would be a great change-up because of the bounce to the left. I've seen pros use that slice to the ad up the T, but I've never really developed it. I think it would be a great serve to have up your sleeve.

    Hope my two-cents is helpful.
     
    #19
  20. Japanese Maple

    Japanese Maple Semi-Pro

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    SonicDeviant,

    Thanks for your input and analysis-just a couple of more questions
    if you don't mind:

    1)on your kick serve when you toss the ball slightly out front and
    behind you,as you arch your back do you make a point of also
    rotating your shoulders back or do you keep them along with
    your chest parallel to the right sideline with no real shoulder turn
    like you would for a flat or slice? Also, for a high bounce is it critical
    to have a high contact point with your arm fully extended or do
    you hit a lower toss hitting the ball as you go upwards-I've heard
    of both ways.

    2)On your 1st serve to hold serve do you pretty much hit primarily
    a flat or slice(which one mostly) and concentrate on moving the
    ball around the various service targets(t,middle,wide,short wide) or
    do you focus on spin and placement variety hitting all target areas
    with flat,slice,and kick?

    Thanks for your input!
     
    #20
  21. sonicdeviant

    sonicdeviant New User

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    1. I really don't consciously rotate my shoulders any differently for the kick backswing as opposed to the other serves. It may be that they naturally rotate backward a little bit more because of the toss and arching back (aching back :shock:), but I don't do it on purpose. I'd recommend picking a few key fundamental things to concentrate on, and I don't think this is one of them. I would suggest concentrating on: first, your toss - over your left shoulder and in front a bit (if you do this right, you'll naturally arch your back, turn your shoulders, and all that stuff); second, your grip - pretty Eastern and not so Continental (this opens up the racket face to rub the ball a little bit more); third, your swing - mostly up at the ball and a little bit out toward your target; fourth, your "snap" or pronation - act like you're trying to show your watch to your opponent. Don't think about it - it seems that this pronation won't work logically, but oh does it work. Some folks on this thread use "early pronation" as opposed to "late pronation" on the slice, and that's good advice too - you want the ball on your strings before you pronate.

    2. I usually hit flat for my first serve down the middle or ad wide, but "flat" still has a little spin on it. I'll hit a slice on either first or second serves to the deuce side if I'm wanting to go wide to the forehand or jam my opponent. Sometimes I'll use a modified "flat" stroke for my second serve too - especially if I'm serving well that day, and I always use the modified flat stroke for my first serve in doubles. When I say modified I mean that I consciously try to brush up and out to the right a little on the ball using pronation as opposed to pronating straight through it for more pace (this is all done using the standard "flat" toss - out in front). That lifts the ball a little and adds more spin while still maintaining some useful speed. It's a safer first serve. I'll let my opponent dictate how much risk I need to take with my serve in terms of pace. If my opponent can't even handle my safest first serve, why take risks with missing it?

    To answer the other part of your 2nd question, I rely more on placing my serve than speed, and I definitely mix up the spins. I have decent speed on my serve, but I don't risk a lot of pace trying to ace my opponent. To me, an unreturned serve is just as good as an ace, and I rack up a lot of those (a point is a point :wink:). I'm good at placing my serve, and there's no difference between my slice and flat tosses (so that's an advantage right there). My kick toss is readable I guess, but if my opponent can't handle it who cares? If they cram it down my throat (which many more experienced players will), I won't use it or I'll try and sneak it in when my opponent is feeling tight. A good player will eat a kick serve for lunch if they're on that day, but if their timing is off it can be a great serve to have. Their timing will likely be off if they're tight at some crucial point in the match. I'll sometimes use it as a first serve, even on the deuce side because it jams your opponent if you go middle or wide.

    Touching a little more on your first question, I recommend caution when you see photos or normal speed video of pro strokes (high speed or multi-frame video would do us all a lot better). A lot of the time, players develop little stylistic flares or hitches that us less experienced players think must be "the key". I've been down this road many, many times in my tennis playing years, and I've learned that finding what works for you and your body is key - not necessarily copying the pros or advanced players. The best things I've learned from watching the pros is how they move and place themselves on the court in relation to the ball. I've picked up a few other things (open stance, semi-western, etc.), but it helps when you try these new "pro" things to have a teaching pro there to help you incorporate them. Otherwise, you'll develop quirks in your playing that you're not even aware of and that are counter-productive. After chasing my tail for a number of years, I discovered that it usually came right back to those basic fundamentals I was taught when I picked up the racket. :roll: We all become better when those fundamentals become second-nature (watch the ball, turn early, pronate, split step, etc.), not when we add that new "Agassi forehand wrist-snap" to get more pace - another myth by the way.

    In other words, if I stand like McEnroe for the serve then I just know I'll get that super Can-Opener slice serve, or if I use Pete's "straight leg" service stance and bend my elbow on the follow-through like him, I'll get Pete's serve speed and spin. I really think that the strokes of all good players are a result of what happens when their rackets meet the ball, not their stylistic flourishes. A few years back, there was an article in Tennis Magazine about using a "staggered toss" on the serve - tossing the ball before bringing the racket up to gain more speed on the serve. I think we can all agree that Andy Roddick put that one to bed as he has now hit 150 mph with a down-together-up-together toss. Again, it's about fundamentals - not little quirks. Even the guys writing the magazine get it wrong sometimes.

    Cheers :D
     
    #21
  22. Japanese Maple

    Japanese Maple Semi-Pro

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    SonicDeviant-thanks for your thorough replies,you really know your
    stuff and I hope you post on other threads in the future. Just
    out of curiosity how long have you been playing tennis ,what level
    (5.0,college tennis,ect) and do you currently teach tennis(you should). I can't
    tell you how many books,magazine articles,videos,lessons I have
    read,watched, or had, along with my own experimenting and noone has explained what happens on the serve with pronation
    and spin in a more comprehensive and articulate way than your
    explanation-I'm serious when I say this. I've had excellent players
    tell me to hit kick serves and slice with supination and rolling your
    fingers over the top or side of the ball. The past two days playing
    I am hitting all my serves with pronation and getting great results-
    my kicks are definitely more penetrating instead of sitting up like
    a quacking duck ready to be crushed and my slice has excellent
    speed while still moving and staying low. I also agree with you
    that the modified flat (hard slice) is the way to go on both 1st and
    2nd serves-on the 2nd I may bring the toss in slightly,hit up a little
    more, and stay away from the lines. The more continuity you have
    from serve to serve the better for consistency and effectiveness.
    I had to laugh :lol: when you said at times you have felt like you've
    been chasing your tail when you thought you had found the"key".
    I can't tell you how many times I've been down that road before
    particularly when it comes to the serve. What I have found over
    the years is that there are no magic keys, only solid fundamentals
    to wrap your game around with your own unique style. Sometimes
    it can be difficult to determine what is truly a solid fundamental
    versus a stylish quirk unique to that particular pro-this is where
    a good teaching pro can really help. Sonic,why do you think so many
    younger pros are using the abbreviated serve motion like Rafter,
    Roddick,Coria,Moya,ect- do you think like I do, that it is easier to
    learn when you are younger versus the classical full motion, or do
    you think there are inherent advantages of speed,spin, disguise,ect.
    As a former quarterback and catcher, I would have been much
    better off using the abbreviated motion when I learned the game
    twenty-five years ago but noone was using this motion and I know
    from experience that the full classical motion is very difficult to learn
    and I would have had an excellent serve much sooner if I had been
    taught the abbreviated motion. In talking with a friend who trained
    as a pro at Saddlebrook and hit with Sampras on occasion(I call
    him the "grand slammer" because at different times he had dated
    both Hingis and Capriati) he said on 1st serves he usually hit the
    hard slice(modified flat) 3 out of 4 times and occasionally a flat
    1 or 2 times out of 4-at his level he seldom hit kick serves as a 1st
    but he did obviously at times do so-fortunately we don't have to
    worry about Sampras :roll: returning our serves. On the 2nd serve
    duece side he would hit a hard slice into the body 70%,wide slice
    20%, and kick only 10%. On the add court for a second serve he
    would hit kick 80% of the time and the remaining 20% hard slice.
    Keep in mind that his kick is fantastic-for me depending on how
    good I can get my kick, I may go more to the hard slice and develop
    more continuity-kind of like the power football team that runs the
    ball down your throat. I feel too many inspiring tennis players
    become enamored with the kick serve as being the "key" to holding
    serve when they may be better off hitting various types of pronated slice serves varying where they hit the ball and whether
    they go forward or more up. The problem with the kick is very
    few players can develop a good one and most advanced players
    can crush it on the return if it isn't any good. Although it definitely
    is worth having in your arsenal to have a change of pace to set up
    your other serves or for the occassional player who has trouble
    hitting a high ball with spin. One last thing from my tennis pro friend
    regarding the kick on the 2nd serve to the add-he said Sampras
    kept him honest by being able to hit the kick toss with slice down
    the middle too-what he did with the toss for the slice is throw it
    back just like the kick but much further out front than simply rotate
    out of his motion and hit the top right side of the ball versus
    the back left side for a kick-the returner can not tell that the ball
    has been thrown out front more, he can only tell if you throw it back or forward along the baseline-interesting. Sonic, I don't
    know if you are aware of TennisOne.com, but you can actually
    view the pros hitting all the shots on video in slow motion frame
    by frame. For me as a visual learner this is an outstanding way
    to improve my strokes and distinquish between solid fundamentals versus unique stylish quirks-it also fantastic to see
    their footwork and recovery steps-I was surprised how wide of a
    split step they actually take. Sampras's footwork is unbelievable
    and you can learn some advanced footwork steps that are not
    normally taught at the local level. The few times I've had the
    pleasure of seeing Sampras live, I was always impressed with how
    quick and explosive he was-his footwork is flawless and awsome
    to see on TennisOne-a truly incredible athlete just like Federer!
     
    #22
  23. sonicdeviant

    sonicdeviant New User

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    Thanks for the kind words, but I'm probably not all that much better than you are really. I take my lumps right along with everyone else, because tennis is an easy game in practice but a tough game under competitive circumstances. I consider myself an intermediate (3.5-4.0). I don't teach currently, but I am thinking of getting my USTPA someday; I like tennis theory and figuring out what works and what doesn't. I've been playing since 1995.


    Cool. :cool: I'm glad it's helping. It's helping me too to pronate on all the serves. Sometimes breakthroughs in tennis are nice, but they just don't seem to come often enough.

    I can't speak for them, but I can tell you that I've had my best results in all areas of tennis when I just simplified everything. Down-together-up-together on the toss is what I do because it's easier to synchronize. And now Roddick proves that it doesn't affect pace at all. Or like on volleys - instead of thinking about get low, turn the shoulders, blah, blah, blah, I just turn my hand to get it ready (palm out for forehand and knuckles out for the backhand - this is with a Continental grip, so the wrist bends a little to turn the racket) - no backswing at all, and just line up the racket face with the ball. If the ball is low, I'll automatically have to bend my knees to keep the racket face in the right position. This may not sound like much, but just opening my hand the right way (that one little tip) has vastly improved my volleys. That tip may not help anyone else at all. I really believe that each player has to find the few key pointers in each stroke that will help them develop the correct muscle memory and not a bunch of extraneous movements that do nothing but "look cool" or worse, look silly.


    You're right. The best kick I've ever seen personally (as in I TRIED to return it myself and never could) was from my third tennis instructor. He is a lefty named Tyler, and he could literally command the amount of twist (jump to the side) he wanted the serve to have. The height of the bounce wasn't the problem so much as the bounce to the side, and with him being a lefty - it bounced to the forehand. So here you are standing on the ad court and here comes a serve to your backhand, right? Only, once it bounces it comes right to your forehand. :shock: Ever since I saw that I've been trying to learn how to hit the kick serve like Tyler (not as a lefty obviously, but with the same amount of spin :roll:), and I still haven't gotten it like that 100%. Or maybe I have and I'm just not on the other end to receive it. I've definitely drawn some awesome errors with my kick when I hit it just right, so I'm on the right track I think. But when I asked Tyler how to hit it, he said just brush over the ball, and then he made this exaggerated wrapping motion to show how he THOUGHT he was hitting it. But when he hit the kick his stroke looked nothing like that, and when ever I've tried purposefully "wrapping" my racket around the ball, I end up hurting my shoulder and hitting the ball into the net. :roll: So there's a definite disconnect between what pros sometimes tell a student and what ACTUALLY is happening. For instance, that whole "hit from 7 to 1 if the ball was a clock face" - how many spherical clocks have you seen? Yet, they're trying to equate a tennis ball with a clock for visualization purposes (a clock face is 2D not 3D). I get what they're talking about now, but it was very confusing for a long time when I was learning the kick.

    Here's another way to think of pronation. Go after every serve with the leading edge of your racket, including the flat serve (this is assuming a Continental grip at least). At the last second, you will have to pronate quickly (check your watch quickly) to hit the back of the ball on the flat serve, and when you do this you will get a lot of pace. Don't do like I used to and go forward for the flat serve with a partially open racket face and then try to FORCE your arm to pronate outward. For one thing, having the racket face open as you go forward produces drag which slows your racket down. If you go forward with the edge, there's less drag and so your racket is moving faster. Plus you'll be fully pronating 180 degrees a lot easier - palm first facing extreme left and then to extreme right in mere milliseconds. In the kick your palm pronates from facing your opponent to facing the rear fence behind you. You'll pronate easier if you go after every serve with the leading edge of your racket frame. For spin, you obviously don't pronate right away since you want to rub or brush the ball using the pronating motion. Another good analogy for the edge-on approach is to think of your racket as a sword. For the flat serve, go toward the ball first like you're going to try and cut it in half with the "edge of the sword" and at the last second pronate so that you're hitting the ball with the broadside of the sword, then finish so that the sword is edge up. That's kind of silly, huh? But hey...if it helps then go with it. :)

    I used to go there all the time when it was a free site. Now I don't go because I don't want to pay the $40. But maybe I will soon again. Later on...
     
    #23
  24. Thunnus

    Thunnus Rookie

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    Sonic,

    Do you know what year/month that article on Sampras' serve from? I would really appreciate it if you would kindly let me know.
     
    #24
  25. sonicdeviant

    sonicdeviant New User

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    You're in luck, because I save EVERYTHING. :lol: At least everything that I deem helpful in tennis anyway. Check out September 1997 page 37; Sampras' pronation is so extreme compared to some of the others. Other good Tennis Magazine series that I feel REALLY show a kick serve pronation, Sept 1999 - Pat Rafter - look at photo 7 to see how he's pronated, May 1998 - Agassi - photo 6, and July/Aug 2000 page 91 - Dean Goldfine (Todd Martin's coach) - photo 3 shows excellent pronation on the kick and he even talks about the "wrist pronation" in the article as being one of the keys. You can also see how he's not just "brushing up" the back of the ball but also hitting out toward the court - how the heck else do you think these guys hit 90+ mph kick serves???!!! :shock: It took me a long time to stop just hitting the ball in 2 dimensions for a kicker, and that came from that whole "act like the ball is a clock" thing. The ball isn't flat like a clock, so I hate that analogy. Better to think of coming through the ball while your sting bed is simultaneously rubbing or brushing up and to the side. The pronation provides the brushing or massaging of the ball, while your arm and shoulder give it the forward oomph it needs for some pace.

    Good luck.
     
    #25
  26. geo

    geo New User

    Joined:
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    Another aspect, I wonder have you ever noticed or considered: to shorten the radius of all movements from the moment the racket is pointing upwards behind you. I am struggling to get more pace and fell upon this very useful insight. "Keep the racket as close as possible to your body behind you as you accelerate the racket head, then through it upwards towards the ball". This is somehow in contrast with the opposite that is like making wide looping moves back there and ending up hitting with slow racket head speed. The difference is almost like between "fast acceleration - with wide moves, and explosion - with the short ones".
    Am I making sense?

    Another thing: when the racket head is pointing up, ready to accelerate, moving it forward as it dives down actually adds speed to the looping move. This is hard to explain... Have you experimented with this?

    -geo-
     
    #26
  27. sonicdeviant

    sonicdeviant New User

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    I haven't worked with my loop in a long time. I have the same exact one for all my serves, but hey...if it helps you to hit a better serve...who's to say you're wrong 8) :?: I say keep doing it if you're seeing that it is CONSISTENTLY helping you hit a better serve.

    I've learned that through trial-and-error. I can't say how many times I was having a great practice, thinking I had found the perfect tip that was causing it all. Next day...I go out thinking that perfect tip would call up the same tennis and...whammo...it didn't:!: I stunk again :lol:
    Led me to finally realize that what was actually making my tennis so great that day wasn't necessarily the "new thing" I was trying. But every now and then, a tip turns out to help CONSISTENTLY, so those are the ones I keep. The others get thrown out if I can't reproduce the same results next time. We all want those GOOD tips that we can fall back on when we're under the stress of a match.

    My service loop doesn't have any hitches at least (I've watched it on video), and it happens right after my compact down-together-up-together toss. I just let it sort of happen CENTRIFUGALLY...as a result of my shoulders snapping forward and because my wrist is loose (in other words...not forced). I guess it is compact like what you're describing. The loop is very quick...there is no pause at the bottom of my loop, so there's not much "back scratching" time. My serve doesn't have much extra flair to it...it's pretty basic, but I can put it where I want to most of the time with decent pace. I don't rack up a lot of aces but I get enough unreturned serves to get some nice free points.

    Cheers...
     
    #27
  28. Simon.R

    Simon.R Guest

    lot of great stuff to help out here! i espcecially like the very long and very explaining answers from GP!
     
    #28
  29. Rickson

    Rickson G.O.A.T.

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    The followthrough on a flat serve definitely pronates and not just down and across. I took video of my serve and I didn't realize how much I pronated on the flat serve until I slo mo'd the vid and saw the raquet head turn to the point where my pinky side was facing the sky.
     
    #29
  30. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Pronation happens on all serves. It happens on slice serves, twist serves, flat serves, all serves. You should search the forum and you will read all the coaches here know that pronation happens on all serves. It is also not something you should be thinking about during a serve. It will happen naturally.
     
    #30
  31. Mattle

    Mattle Rookie

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    Hehe you should write a book :)
     
    #31
  32. Tezuka Kunimitsu

    Tezuka Kunimitsu Semi-Pro

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    Hmm is there anyway to get that article and pictures? You are posting some good information on pronation, but I am just confused. It seems pronation is the stap of the wrist when making contact with the ball. Then I am reading from other articles that the palm should be facing outward from your body when the snap is complete. So on a kick serve, you tipically want to brush the ball. So stapping at the end of the brushing of the ball seems rather difficult to end with the palm facing outward. Same with slicing, if my palm is facing outward after the snapping of my wrist, would that put opposite spin on the ball. I am sorry I am just confused how the snapping occurs. I wish and get a slow motion video of pronation and a demostration, but I have no coach and have been teaching myself for 2 years.

    Thank you for your help.

    ~Joe
     
    #32
  33. Yuki Kirihara

    Yuki Kirihara New User

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    Tezuka, you'll notice that the last time the guy posted was back in 2004. He hasn't been active since.

    Also, pronation is NOT snapping the wrist -it's rotating your forearm so that the palm faces the ground. Counterclockwise on your right hand.

    Since you're definitely not going to get a response from the person you're asking, it might help to create a new thread or do some other searches in the forum.
     
    #33
  34. Tezuka Kunimitsu

    Tezuka Kunimitsu Semi-Pro

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    OMG, sorry, I did not realize how old this forum was when I was reading it.

    Yeah, that whole palm faces the ground... counterclockwise... Is confusing, I am trying to to do right now and I am not seeing how you go through the ball. So when you make contact with the ball what should the movenments of your forearm and wrist be? I am sorry about the above post.
     
    #34
  35. Marius_Hancu

    Marius_Hancu G.O.A.T.

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    Last edited: Dec 31, 2006
    #35
  36. Tezuka Kunimitsu

    Tezuka Kunimitsu Semi-Pro

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    Amazing detail! Thank you so much
    Now I will hopefully pratice the correct way this time and not hurt myself again.

    Thank you

    ~Joe
     
    #36
  37. sonicdeviant

    sonicdeviant New User

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    Better late than never

    Joe, I'm very sorry for just now answering (2 years later...geez). :oops: I don't have a way to post those images...sorry. I guess I'd be violating copyright if I did.

    However, here are a few good, similar photos of Marat Safin right after contact on the kick serve (hopefully the links will be good for a while); this really demonstrates what the pronation looks like, as you can still see the ball in the picture and see what his arm and hand look like on the follow-through. The pictures of Sampras in the serving article looked like these, but those photos were from behind:

    http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/sp/getty/33/full.getty-tennis-davis-cup-arg-rus_10_41_06_am.jpg

    http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/sp/getty/dd/full.getty-tennis-davis-cup-arg-rus_10_39_24_am.jpg

    I'm very sorry once again. :oops: I feel embarrassed that I haven't been back here, but life and grad school called me away from many of my pastimes. :wink:
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2006
    #37
  38. Bottle Rocket

    Bottle Rocket Hall of Fame

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    I was doing a search and came across this thread.

    I read though it and there are some incredibly detailed posts that I think could be very helpful for a lot of people, so I figured I'd bring it back from the dead.

    I wish some of the posters in this thread would come back!

    This is a great thread.
     
    #38
  39. JCo872

    JCo872 Professional

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    #39
  40. sonicdeviant

    sonicdeviant New User

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    #40

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