Should tossing arm really be parallel to baseline?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by spacediver, Jul 22, 2011.

  1. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    There've been a few threads where some members (notably charlie federer) have advocated keeping the tossing arm parallel to the baseline.

    This video advocates it also:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF-UaRUd6k

    (although, as with much of his footage, it's sometimes hard to really see the angles given the camera angle)

    Now I get the wisdom behind keeping the tossing arm parallel - it facilitates proper body rotation of the hips and shoulders.

    The problem, at least for me, is that I find it extremely difficult to keep the tossing arm parallel to baseline, while at the same time allowing the contact point to be inside the baseline.

    I brought up this point in another thread where charlie was helping me with an issue, and he said that I should use the J-toss, and showed a gif of sampras doing it.

    The thing is, the j-toss doesn't do anything for making the ball go forward into the court - all it does is bring the ball closer to the server's body.

    Now for a kick serve, this is perfect - a parallel tossing arm combined with a j-toss means that it's easy to get the ball to be above the server's head.

    But for a flat serve, or a serve where you want the contact point out in front, it's really difficult.

    I spent a good hour on the court trying to implement the parallel tossing arm, while at the same time tossing out in front, and it was absolute havoc! The variability of my tossing location was atrocious.

    Is there a way to get a good healthy reliable body turn but without a parallel tossing arm?
     
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  2. salsainglesa

    salsainglesa Semi-Pro

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    Definitely not... on the other side you should keep your tossing hand path in relation to your body, not the court.

    Should you change it depending on your serve type? i think not... the same movement, diferent placements... or move yourself below the ball for a kicker.
     
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  3. Mountain Ghost

    Mountain Ghost Semi-Pro

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    Tossing Arm

    I always advise my students to have their tossing arm come up on a line that is in the direction the right net post (for deuce court serves). Since this is the direction of travel of the serving arm, it eliminates one variable in the tossing control mix . . . leaving only height and depth (how far into the court) that have to be controlled.

    As for the rotation of body and hips, since the shoulder acts as a true universal joint, all one has to do is seperate the two components . . . the tossing arm comes up to the net post and the body rotates sideways (or is already pretty much fully rotated at the ready position before the backswing).

    MG
     
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  4. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    thanks mountain ghost - that makes perfect sense. I remember taking a lesson with a touring pro last winter and he told me to aim tossing arm at net post. He said it was a fantastic way to get a consistent toss in the proper location.
     
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  5. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    I watched this video. The video shows the player's arms parallel to the baseline, but in all but two of the examples shown they are right handed players serving in the ad court. Because a player turns their body about 30° CW to serve into the ad court it wouldn't seem to make sense to carry over the idea of parallel to the baseline tossing into the duece court.

    Of the two duece court examples (Monfils and Safin) it's not clear to me from the camera angle that the player's arm is actually parallel to the baseline. Honestly in those two examples I'd say their arm is roughly pointed toward the net post.

    So I'd say that the advice from Mountain Ghost and the touring pro that you took the lesson from is matching what the players in the video are doing.
     
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  6. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    My toss is about 45 degrees from the target. That feels natural to me. I start my turn after the ball leaves my hand.
     
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  7. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Using the lines or fixed objects on the court as reference points for aligning my serve setup can really make a mess of things. If my deuce and ad side setups are both at a similar angle to a net post or the baseline in front of my feet, I'm likely to be either too closed or too open at address when serving to one side or the other. So my short answer is that I recommend not really sweating the position of your tossing arm as much as the position of your toss itself relative to where you want to send it.

    I like comparing a throwing motion to a serve, so bear with me. If I'm throwing maybe a ball at a target, my initial setup can't be too closed (sideways) or too open where I'm square to my target - that forces me to throw with too much arm and not much else. So my setup is in relation to my target where I start with myself turned at let's say a 45-70 degree angle to it. Once I take the ball up to the "trophy position" behind my head, all I need to do is make a step and shoulder turn toward my target.

    My starting point for that throw was aligned on my target, not to objects or lines on the surface I was standing on. Simply put, I think the serve should also have a set up that lets your "throw" your racquet through the ball toward your target. Your tossing arm's job is to lift the ball into that spot through which you want to "throw" your racquet. It's position needs to be relative to you and that spot in the air where it's placing the toss.

    If you try some practice serves and range from one singles sideline for a few (where you might be for doubles), then hit some from near the center (singles position), and then some more out near the other sideline, that will give you a look at just how much your setup has to change relative to the baseline. Try to develop an instinct for being lined up on your target regardless of where you're standing relative to the baseline.
     
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  8. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Well, I like keeping the arm parallel to the baseline for a lot of players who are having difficulty keeping the toss consistent. One of the problems with the toss, as I have mentioned many times, is that many players end up chasing the toss especially when the little finger stays in contact with the ball.
     
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  9. Funbun

    Funbun Professional

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    It's not exactly parallel. If that were the case, you wouldn't be seeing higher level players placing their toss further into the court...
     
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  10. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Consider....
    Some guys toss well into the court, other's toss behind the baseline.
    Some guys use almost open stances at prep. Other's close so much their back face the opponent.
    Some guys start the toss off the weight on back foot. Some guys start with weight on front foot.
    Some guys need a straight vertical toss. Other guys like the arc in their ball toss.
    Maybe there should be some variables here?
     
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  11. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    But don't you think that keeping the arm parallel to baseline introduce systematic differences in the toss location relative to body, depending on whether server is in ad court or deuce court (see RKelly's post).

    Explain how a right handed server is to achieve a forward contact point if their tossing arm is parallel to baseline when serving from the deuce court (unless they start with their bodies facing at an extreme angle to their right).
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2011
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  12. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Are you saying you're finally getting my point?
    Different serve location. Different serving location.
    Doubles and singles courts different sized.
    Some guys, like JohnnyS/V, like the wandering toss arc using low tosses.
    Some equally good serves, like GraniteChief, tend to toss higher with more precision.
    Both work at 5.5 levels.
     
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  13. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Well, your right but just because the arm is parallel doesn't mean that the ball toss remains on the baseline - I can have my arm exactly parallel and still have my toss penetrate the court - have to be careful here but it can be easily done. "One" of the problems with having your toss too far "in", is your lack/reduced ability to hit with much spin.
     
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  14. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    OK. Well, I'd like the server, in the situation you provided, to be pretty much facing right and depending on the particular serve, rotating into the serve accordingly.

    I don't want to sound trite about this but most good instructors can pretty much predict the success of a serve based on the toss itself. Can we be off at times, sure but as a general rule its pretty easy when your around this stuff for a long time. Again, I'm assuming the mechanics of the service motion are in tack which sometimes is not the case.
     
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  15. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    For most, whether they use a parallel toss or one at 45 degrees to the baseline, it will take more than an hour to perfect a reliable tossing motion (while incorporating the turn away from the ball (coil), knee bend and beginning of the bow position).

    For most, it takes more than two hours.

    For most ...
     
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  16. rkelley

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    First show me a right handed pro that tosses with his/her arm parallel to the baseline from the duece court (or a lefty from the ad court). None of the examples in the original video show this.
     
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  17. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    First of all the pros don't read these boards - probably a few exceptions. They also hit hundreds of serves per week - sometimes per day. So, they have a better feel for this in most instances. At the lower levels however, the toss is "one" of the major problems with serves. When you can place the ball on your toss to about a three-six inch area, your probably able to move on - most players have difficulty doing this. Go out and try it yourself and you'll see what I mean.
     
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  18. rkelley

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    I don't understand your post. I was asking for examples of pros who toss parallel to baseline. I noted that the video from the OP didn't not actually show this.

    I never mentioned whether or not pros are reading this board and I never said that the toss wasn't important. Am I missing something?
     
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  19. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    No, perhaps I was assuming something in what you wrote - sorry.

    The serve is one of those examples that what the pros do, often cannot be easily mastered by recreational/club players if for no other reason they basically don't either have the time. Keeping the arm more parallel to the baseline is "one" way to increase the toss consistency while keeping the little finger off the ball is yet another. Neither however, is a magic bullet but they do help. They get the shoulders perpendicular to the net and reduce the curve on the toss.

    There are many excellent players that use little tricks like this to keep the toss consistent and position/align themselves properly. If a player can achieve similar/appropriate consistency using other methods that's fine also - there are many ways to play this sport.
     
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  20. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Thanks papa for the clarification.

    Regarding the arm parallel to the baseline however we're still at the same point. There hasn't been any pro shown to use this technique (righty from the duece court). The original video didn't show this.

    Overall I agree that the toss is super important. However I think the advice of tossing toward the right net post (righty from the duece court) is more correct. If you transfer arm/body orientation to the ad court then you get an arm that's about parallel to the base line (you turn your body to serve to the ad court).
     
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  21. tennis_balla

    tennis_balla Hall of Fame

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    I read this thread when it was first posted, watched the video and evidence is there. I had a lesson the next day with a good player but he's been having hiccups with his toss. Has started to toss way to the right, he's a lefty, and upon him trying to correct it became inconsistent with his toss.

    I remembered the video while on court, told him about what I saw and my only instructions to him were toss with your arm parallel to the baseline. The result? Perfect tosses each time, problem fixed. He wasn't exactly parallel with the baseline, but close enough. Doesn't matter anyways.

    I also noticed I toss somewhat parallel to the baseline as well. So there goes that old theory out the window on how to teach people to serve/toss
     
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  22. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Ain't the actual "parallel" to the baseline that counts, it's the REFERENCE POINT of the baseline being a consistent guideline for your tossing arm direction.
    Closed stance servers, like McEnroe, tend to toss arm parallel.
    Hard to say with open stanced servers, like Goran, because he closes during his motion as he tosses.
    We all need reference points to keep ourselves in line with our best techniques.
     
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  23. tennis_balla

    tennis_balla Hall of Fame

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    Thats a good way to say it Lee. It was a good reference point for the guy I am teaching he mentioned that as well and also that it felt much more natural and comfortable to him tossing 'parallel to the baseline'.

    Is it a must though? No not really and I'm sure the next person I introduce this to will most likely have a tough time implementing this. However it doesn't matter, as there are thousands of ways to play the game, thousand ways to coach etc. As long as you get the results you're after it doesn't matter.
     
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  24. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    What I never understood was guys like Goran and Roach (Tony), who opened up towards the receiver on the prep, then rocked counterclockwise to close their stance as they went into their toss. They seemed to do this to get the toss arm parallel to the baseline. Seems an extra move and an extra source for error under pressure.
     
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  25. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    I went back and examined the clips provided by Grasshopper and it certainly looks to me like the arm on these guys is parallel to the baseline. I think you could probably make a similar case for the arm going toward the right net post citing pros using that approach also. I just happen to believe that the toss is more consistent and the body position better when the arm is parallel. Maybe you guys are seeing something that I'm missing here but I've had good success with it.
     
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  26. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Hi papa. The video only had two examples where the server was serving from the duece court. In those two cases I think the camera angle makes it difficult to tell where the tossing arm is, but it does not look parallel to the baseline to me.

    All of the other examples were righties serving from the ad court. In those cases I'd agree - arm roughly parallel to the baseline.
     
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  27. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the reply charilie - still not sure how your comment addresses my concern though.

    You seem to be saying that no matter what you do, it will take hours to develop a reliable toss.

    If that's the case, why teach the parallel to baseline toss when it has this major flaw I've pointed out?
     
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  28. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    well said.
     
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  29. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    Not to mention that there was no qualification of the type of serve being executed. A parallel to baseline toss may be ideal for a kick serve, where you don't always want the ball out in front.
     
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  30. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    I personally think that disguise of a serve is really important. I don't want my opponent having any idea of what I'm doing with a serve until the ball comes off my racquet. I would avoid having my arm follow a different toss path for different serves.

    I even try not to move around my toss location very much. The one exception to this is how far into the court I toss. That's hard for a returner to read. For more spinny second serves I'll toss over my head a bit more.
     
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  31. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Well, you have somewhat of a point here. However, the pros, most of the anyway, can hit a variety of serves using the same toss. This isn't exactly accurate but the toss can't give away the serve.
     
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  32. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Yeah, your absolutely right and this is what the majority of pros & better players do.
     
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  33. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    What seems like a flaw to you seems to have worked well for the majority of pros.


    But maybe I have a tip that may make this tossing motion easier for you. It just occurred to me that maybe you would do better holding the ball "like an ice cream cone".

    For me, it seems easier to get the ball tossed forward holding it like this.

    Brent Abel has a video showing this, and why he thinks it is worth doing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8kynEzufNE

    Also, most servers appear to externally rotate the hand (by externally rotating from the shoulder) at the end of the toss. You can see this in the Sonic Serve video, (as well as in videos of most pros) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajoZ0f7hw-A
    I think this motion is the follow through motion from directing the ball forward as you are rotating back away form the ball (coiling).
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
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  34. rovision

    rovision Rookie

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    Makes sense to me too. My serve is fairly consistent, on a good day, in the 60-70% first in. While I have a general understanding about the mechanics of the serve, the toss is one that until now I couldn't associate with any fixed point of reference. I toss in front, at 1 o'clock, high enough to hit the ball cleanly.
    This "1 o'clock" is the factor that gives me usually the miss hits. I've tried this "aiming at the post" approach the last couple of matches and it works great for me. Since I also point my left foot (right handed) at the post, the toss is just an extension of the position and angle of the foot in the same plane.

    Great tip, thanks!
     
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  35. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the reply Charlie. I'd personally LIKE to find a way to get the ball moving forward while still keeping tossing arm parallel to baseline. I find when tossing arm is more parallel rather than extended into court, I can smoothly twist my upper body clockwise (I'm righty) while remaining balanced throughout the entire motion.

    Can you show me a video of a right handed pro who is CLEARLY tossing ball forward, while arm is parallel to baseline, and serving from the deuce court?

    I've watched that sonic serve video but the arms are into the court - which time frame in the video are you referring to?
     
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  36. Netspirit

    Netspirit Hall of Fame

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    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
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  37. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    yea, kinda hard to tell with the second video of his flat serve, not to mention it was from the ad court, where parallel to baseline will naturally bring the ball out in front a bit.

    Won my ladder match 8-1 today, and serve was on really good form. I had no problems remaining balanced, getting plenty of torso rotation, and still tossing out in front with my arm pointing more towards the net post.
     
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  38. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    This side view of Sampras from the ad court shows the ball tossed well into the court:
    Tennis Serve Pronation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DpptgXq5j4

    Because so much is stripped away, the forward toss of the ball by Andy Roddick is easily appreciated in this APAS system video:
    Andy Roddick Serve on the APAS System http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqSKBBxO3qU&feature=related

    You can see it in any of the medial or lateral views, but the flight path of the ball during the toss is actually tracked with a red line in the 3:10 to 3:30 segment of the video.

    Another video you may appreciate:
    "Roger's tossing arm serves many functions:
    - it pre-stretches the muscles across his chest and facilitates the tilt in his shoulders
    - it provokes the shoulder-over-shoulder rotation and prevents his left side from dropping too much
    - it stops the shoulder rotation, which causes the racquet arm to accelerate with maximum speed through the hitting zone
    - it prevents his upper body from opening up too early"
    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SG7dTkZ-EpM&feature=related

    I mentioned it will take more than an hour of practice to serve with your eyes closed:
    Amazing Roger Federer Serve while eyes are closed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpyDxn4sH7E&feature=relmfu
    :shock::)
     
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  39. toly

    toly Hall of Fame

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    See please http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCKWHe3oIx8&NR=1 Andy Murray toss (around 0:20). His arm moves almost parallel to the baseline, but also from the right to the left.
    He also pronates at the end of the toss (see picture around 0:50). It is really very complicated motion.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2011
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  40. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    thanks charlie and tolie - those are great examples. Looks like the arm is actually coming up at an angle so that it creates a forward trajectory on the ball. So if anything, it starts out even MORE extreme than parallel to baseline.

    This means that their tossing mechanics is a combination of shoulder flexion AND transverse abduction. If it were only flexion, then the arm would go straight up. The transverse abduction component allows the arm to trace a circular path as it rises.

    (see http://www.exrx.net/Articulations/Shoulder.html )
     
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  41. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    Yes, there is definitely a transverse abduction component.

    I almost included a slow motion video of Andy Murray's toss to emphasize this before Toly's post, but I thought it might complicate things to see that you can actually bring the ball from that far back forward. My worry with this motion is that it tends to evoke a shift in balance to a reverse shoulder angle/ reverse bow shape that then has to be reversed.
    Andy Murray - Serve - ProStrokes 2.0 Slow-Motion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GFkqD7GBZQ
    You can see that reverse bow shape he makes at 6-8 seconds into the video where he is bringing the ball past his midline (from the side).

    Contrast with the Fed/Sampras motion where the arm stays parellel to the baseline as the arm starts to come up, so that there is no initial reverse shoulder/ reverse bow shape that has to be overcome:

    Ferrer vs Federer - Serve - Right - ProStrokes 2.0 Slow-Motion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQYe3w46sNw

    [Ferrer is in this only because it is the best example of true side view of Fed serving I could find.]



    Because of the transverse abduction component, I think for many (but certainly not all) holding the ball "like an ice cream cone" feels more comfortable, as you don't have to keep the arm externally rotated so extremely as you are tossing up and to your left to make the ball go forward.

    That graceful gesture at the very end of the tossing follow through where the hand is open with the palm is pointed at the sky actually is releasing the external rotation the arm was kept at in order to throw the ball forward. The gesture then is not merely a flourish, but allows the arm to be more comfortable as you use it as a "balance pole" high up in the air to maintain the steep shoulder angle, and allow you to sink lower as you bend your knees forming an extreme bow shape.
    [​IMG]
     
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  42. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    This makes perfect sense to me.

    So the ice cream cone toss allows an easy release of the ball as the tossing arm shoulder externally rotates. The thumb doesn't get in the way.
     
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  43. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    I'm going to try using that phrase/term and see what type of reaction I get. Just hoping I can keep a straight face.

    Every once in a while I show up in something that has "Harvard" on it and one time a guy said "where did the shirt came from"? When I mentioned I went there he looked absolutely stunned and responded, "jeez, I never would have associated YOU with Harvard". So, apparently my following doesn't expect that much out of me so they might be surprised when I pull "transverse abduction component" out of the bag.
     
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  44. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    lol papa :)
     
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