The Serve: Busting misconceptions once and for all

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by sureshs, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I figure the weakest WTA serve goes "75" mph, because that's what CarolineWosniaki's goes.
    I figure you can hit a 98% second serve that fast...don't you?
     
  2. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    So your point is to hit a second serve?

    This thread is about busting misconceptions and specific tips. Please focus on that.
     
  3. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I think you have to hit a faster than normal second serve.
    A tentative top/slice second serve usually goes around 75, so you need to make that serve go a little faster and bounce close to the backboard, that's all.
    If a weak WTA second serve goes around 75, you can do it easily, I'd think.
    I always claimed I hit second serves around 75 mph, and I also claim easy 98% IN. But I never practice my second serves.
     
  4. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Why do you think so?

    I watched Kutzy-Woz yesterday and the showed some of the serves from a lower camera angle. Nothing like the serves I see till the 4.5 level - they are far superior to them.

    So I wouldn't make such assumptions, but just focus on tips to do better.
     
  5. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I'm very sorry you cannot serve a second serve at 75 mph.
    I assumed, since you say you hit with some top juniors, that you were at least a 4.0 player.
    From 4.0, you can practice your second serves.
    As a weak 4.0 singles player, I know I can second serve around 85 and get them in about 95% if I don't pinpoint the placement to the two wide quadrants.
    But you are right, most other 4.0's don't hit decent speed second serves.
     
  6. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    ^^^ Other than boosting yourself (about which nobody cares) above other club players and WTA players, do you have anything actually useful to say?
     
  7. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Yeah...
    Basically, any cripple can hit a top/slice fast second serve at 75mph.
    YOU just have to practice it.
     
  8. Relinquis

    Relinquis Hall of Fame

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    Practice...

    Take a ball hopper or bucket full of tennis balls and serve, over and over again... Do 500 - 1000 serves a day, three days a week for a couple of weeks. That's 3,000 - 6,000 serves. Report back with findings.

    If consistency is the issue, then you don't have the so called, muscle memory, down. Either that, or you are over-thinking about things like stretch-shortening cycles, back foot movement and such rather than just focusing on hitting your serve. Practicing hitting serves over and over again will cure both. You will learn how it feels to hit a good serve and will get better at reproducing that movement though repetition.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  9. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Findings are that I don't have a job anymore if I put that much effort into tennis
     
  10. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Yes, I agree ^^^^. The racket at an angle tip has helped me a bit on serve. I don't hit a really flat serve. Instead, I toss it about 12-18" in front and hit a hard spin thru about 2 o'c. I have been working on getting the hand just outside the contact point and the spin is much easier to achieve. On 2nd serves, I pull the ball back to where is is just in front of the front shoulder and at 12 o'c. The angle from hand to contact is more severe for the 2nd serve due to the toss at 12 o'c and the fact that I hit at a steeper angle thru contact - close to thru 1 o'c.

    Other tips that have helped:

    1. Use shoulder over shoulder action: front shoulder up first and then as you hit, the back shoulder goes up into contact as the front goes down.
    2. Stay to the side more on 2nd serves and slice serves.
     
  11. TheCheese

    TheCheese Professional

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    I agree, a 75 mph serve is hardly difficult to produce for a decent player. You have to remember the ball speed is measured when it's leaving the racket.
     
  12. wanda

    wanda New User

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    One myth I used to believe was that snapping the wrist would help the serve. I've found that hitting up to generate topspin, pronation would occur without having to think about snapping. This way I could add more or less topspin depending on whether I would go for a flatter or second type serve.
     
  13. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Yet, most players up to and including the 4.5 level cannot produce it consistently in a real match.

    Watched a USTA 4.0 league yesterday. There was a guy in the visiting team, tall, lanky, great shape, seemed a veteran player. No FFs either. Game starts, beautiful hard first serve, with a little spin, high bouncing, wins the point. Next point, first serve into the net, then a beautiful second serve, bouncing chest high and angling away, wins the point. Home team congratulates him, shake their head in appreciation and resignation. The third point: good first serve, but ball comes back, partner goofs up, loses the point. Fourth point, first serve is now a dink. Game continues, he is about to lose, last serve is a DF.

    His gorgeous serve did not even last over a game!

    Most people I have seen have been only talk about their serve, nothing in reality. I have heard 90 or 100 mph frequently. Reality: nothing there.

    It is above the 4.5 level where I really see consistency in the serve.
     
  14. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    But your ONE example is the new "bumpup" 4.0, which means 3.5 about 3 years ago.
    With that in mind, you might be correct, for that ONE example.
    I have also seen it with some players I consider at 4.0, but aren't tournament players. Pure rec players just do whatever, not caring about getting better or looking better.
    I guarantee my third set serves are as fast as my first point or anything in between serves....or as slow. I see no reason to slow a serve down. Add more spin to get it in, not slow it down. Adding spin DOES slow it down.
     
  15. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Good point.
     
  16. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    sure, DJ has that vid showing how to get better, and almost everything he says get's disproved.
    But he can still play tennis OK.
     
  17. TheCheese

    TheCheese Professional

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    Myth: You need to toss the ball in a different spot for each serve.

    Reality: You can hit all the targets by only varying how far you throw the ball into the court. You don't have to change how far it is to your right or left.
     
  18. Relinquis

    Relinquis Hall of Fame

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    Six hours over the next two weeks.

    try 200-250 serve practice sessions X 3 times a week. you should be able to get through that many in an hour. at the end of two weeks you will have served more than you would have playing 200+ service games.(1,200 - 1500 serves) Six hours is all it takes. Less time than most of us have spent posting on these forums.

    You will learn a lot about consistency and your serve. You will learn about focus. You will learn about hard work. You want the quick fix, to learn a trick that will let you hit it properly. Doesn't work that way. Consistency comes from repetition, even if you know, intellectually, exactly how to hit the perfect serve.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  19. luvforty

    luvforty Banned

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    200-250 x 3 ??

    next stop - the health (aka the injury) forum
     
  20. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Exactly...............
     
  21. Relinquis

    Relinquis Hall of Fame

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    it's three times a week, so you take a day or two rest between each 200-250 serve session.

    If you are not fit, start with 100 serves sessions. Surely if you are playing tennis regularly you should be able to make 100-150 serves in an hour and then call it a day? Take breaks every 50 serves if you need to.
     
  22. Relinquis

    Relinquis Hall of Fame

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    actually, i think you should get a coach. maybe your form is bad and that is why you find it physically difficult to serve regularly.

    Maybe you're not tilting your shoulders and you'll get impingement or something.
     
  23. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    It is not a matter of physical exhaustion. It is a matter of injury.

    And after 1 week, do you think if I go back to my regular routine I will retain these benefits? Don't I need to do this every so often?
     
  24. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Actually, I have served 75 balls in a row - what my hopper can hold.

    Not recently though.
     
  25. Relinquis

    Relinquis Hall of Fame

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    When i had a coach this summer he would have me serve out a whole hopper full of balls at the end of every practice session* unless i was particularly worn out, i.e. couldn't move, was dizzy, etc... It helped my consistency lots, although i could probably use specific instruction on my serve now to get to the next level.

    You have to put in the work to get consistency, just like the other tennis strokes (forehands, backhands, volleys). The difference is that you generally don't get much serve practice during matches/play, but you can practice serves on your own.

    Why not serve a hopper-full after your next practice session or match? A 75 ball hopper is equivalent to serving 12 or so games, i.e. as much as you might do in a best of three match.

    I never play through pain though, or if i pull a muscle or have any kind of injury i stop and rest for a few days/a week until i'm 100%. This is not serve specific, i don't get paid for this and want to play for decades to come.


    * Practice was generally an hour long of hitting with the coach, ground stroke drills or simulated points.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  26. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    i suggest renaming the thread in: "How to improve my serve without a coach and without practicing":)

    @ LeeD: i guess the offer to fly you in and set you up at a resort is out of the window now:)

    consistency comes with consistent training. consistent means regular and concentrating on the same one or two issues over a prolonged period of time, if possible under professional guidance. there´s your magic tip for free
     
  27. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    MYTH: Pronation produces significant racket head speed on the serve.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1C6V_3s4nA

    This dated video is not correct and is misleading. It should be replaced to reflect the current biomechanical analysis of the serve. (I'm a big fan of FYB.)

    REALITY: Internal shoulder (upper arm rotation) produces the greatest contribution to racket head speed on the serve as described by Bruce Elliott & associates for the last 2 decades.

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

    Video showing ISR.
    http://vimeo.com/27528701

    The confusion comes about because both ISR with a straight arm and pronation result in the exact same rotation at the wrist. However, ISR is powerfully driven by large muscles (lat & pec) but pronation is driven by much smaller forearm muscles.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  28. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    You, as a 4.0 player, are not better than the club teaching pros.

    Just take a private lesson.
     
  29. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    you´re making interesting points. it´s clear that the power comes mainly from the large muscle groups. but are you saying, that there is no active forearm and wrist pronation? that it happens automatically with no intent from the player? and is something of a byproduct?
     
  30. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Good points.

    I am actually better than 3 of them. Let us put that aside for now since you seem very sure.

    I don't feel comfortable taking only one lesson and asking them to look into one issue only. It is a business, and they will be looking for long term commitments. I don't know their preference, but I would be very uncomfortable saying: Here is your X bucks. I am not going to warm up or do unrelated drills - already warmed up at home and on the next court. I prefer not to pick up balls, but will do it if you force me to. I want answers to these 2 questions only. After that, I will never take any lesson from you.

    It is not fair to them.

    I also know exactly what they teach, having been in the next court for years now.
     
  31. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    This thread is just a placeholder, as requested by people. Don't take the title literally. This thread is what you want it to be. A blank slate, tabula rasa.

    And offer to LeeD stands. In person, I can force him to be more specific.
     
  32. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    I don't think as much in terms of power, which is a difficult thing to estimate as each phase of the serve occurs. The question of which muscles provide the most 'power' overall to the serve is important but the details are more useful to focus on. I think more in terms of specific joints, attached muscles, velocity and a specific phase of the serve. Most important is the last phase just before impact and its racket head speed. At that time, some muscles have been pre-stretched and are shortening rapidly to act through the hand to give the final racket head speed the instant before impact. Looking back into the earlier serve motion phases in videos, you can clearly identify some of the motions that stretched the specific muscles, for example, lat stretch from leg thrust. There are other motions that involve the trunk and shoulders that probably produce stretch but are more difficult to observe in video and understand. I am now trying to see the supination and pronation earlier in the motion discussed in another thread. [Supination stretches the pronation muscles.]

    Term Usage - I am using the term pronation to mean motion in that forearm rotation direction and not joint position. The usage - for position or location - is ambiguous. I have seen forum discussions where one party was talking position and another was talking location. Search - pronation in anatomy usage and usually the word means location and not a rotating motion. On this forum it usually means a rotating motion. The overall arm rotation rate at the wrist is the sum of the internal shoulder rotation and pronation angular rotation rates.

    I saw a graph that showed pronation rates: 1)some pronation earlier in the serve motion and 2) a lot of pronation later, after impact, but 3) not very much pronation rotation rate at impact. In video, I can see the large pronation following impact but I can't distinguish the smaller pronation and supination earlier in the motion, too confusing, also elbow and wrist angles are too difficult to see without markers. I believe that both pronation and supination are important. I believe that strong serves probably have little conscious active pronation the instant before impact and give the arm a relaxed feeling. I have hit a very small percent of serves with a 'relaxed' arm and have gotten strong serves doing it. But that is not my normal match serve which has some tightness.

    Speculation: In a powerful serve it may be physically impossible for the small pronation muscles to pronate the arm & racket just before impact because the powerful ISR muscles are already angularly accelerating the arm & racket so forcefully. ? Similarly, you can't jump up in a rocket ship accelerating at 4 G's, you would be hard pressed in your seat.

    Research: Elliott, I believe, has said that pronation functions to orient the racket face and that ISR provides the largest contribution to racket head speed. I believe that practicing the serve is training including to reproduce a certain degree of pronation for racket face string direction at impact.

    Active & Passive Muscle Shortening and Sensations/Feelings - When you walk your muscles are actively and passively shortening to supply forces. I believe that the passive shortening from pre-stretch muscle has little feeling of effort, relaxed. Also, for the active component of muscle shortening, because we are so well trained at walking we don't/hardly consciously/deliberately notice that we are sending nerve impulses (EMG signals) to the legs. If you are trained for the serve do you 'consciously' send nerve signals to muscles, probably not, especially since there are 600 muscles in the body and many are involved in the serve? It would be nice to find some research clarifying the feelings for active and passive muscle shortening. It might explain what a 'relaxed arm' is, what 'muscling the ball' is - in terms of muscle theory passive & active muscle shortening and sensations. When I completely 'relax' my serving arm and don't 'muscle the ball' am I using mostly passive pre-stretched muscle shortening to hit the serve?
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  33. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    I believe there is a secret. It is the racquet drop and swing to contact. For me at least. Getting the arm loose and like a hinge during this part changes everything.
     
  34. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    I believe that an Australian Open TV announcer said that Almagro was 5th in aces in 2012. I tried to confirm the stat but could not find it yet.

    In my opinion, Almagro has the loosest arm in pro tennis.
     
  35. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Will keep that in mind today. Weekday nights present the real challenge for me. Weekends I am automatically loose. But weekdays, the cr*p builds up over the day and doesn't go away.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  36. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    The best description of what I am talking about is on the Feel Tennis web site. He has a drill that shows how to groove in the proper racquet drop. It will get it so you automatically supinate the shoulder and all that other stuff people obsess about on here. The difference is that you won't be thinking about all that stuff, you will just be hitting serves with a loose arm and a proper racquet drop.
     
  37. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I read parts of it and I am reading it again, but frankly I am taking it with a grain of salt. His contention that power does not come from strength but from technique does not explain the upper body strengthening exercises that tennis players do these days. Agassi was well known for pioneering that with Gil Reyes, and now everyone is doing it, including the women. So I am not buying all he says.
     
  38. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    Just watch the video I described. That is all I am talking about. He is right about technique being key over power. The thing is that he is just trying to get you to not muscle the ball. It is rare I see any rec player who does not muscle their serve.

    Of course if you have that technique down and add muscle, you will only improve your strength and play better. But good technique will give you a loose arm, which will give you a real serve. That is the main thing to focus on first.
     
  39. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    ^ This.

    The coiling and uncoiling of the body is so underrated. I used to always struggle with creating pace on my serve -- I used to always arm and muscle it.

    Then, I saw a slow motion video of Stefan Edberg serving. When Edberg starts his motion, he literally turns his shoulders and head and looks at the side fence. Then he tosses the ball and goes through his motion. And he gets unbelievable flat pop on his ball.

    So all I did was do what he does. I pointed my front foot at about 33 degrees relative to the baseline. Before I toss the ball, I turn my head and shoulders a little bit to where I am facing the side fence. I swear this added a ton of effortless pace to my serve. The power of uncoiling the torso and shoulder is huge.

    I was absolutely stunned at the difference such a small tweak could make. And my service motion is FAR from orthodox and fundamental. I recommend anyone to just try this small, simple thing.
     
  40. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, but that is just the start. Trophy pose means racquet and face point towards side fence. It is not going to ensure internal shoulder rotation.

    What does that is how you drop the racquet and swing up after incorporating what you described.
     
  41. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Maybe we need a video of Suresh serving his flat and his second serves, so we have an idea where to start?
    I'm willing to bet he can serve harder than most WTA players. He probably only needs enough practice to replicate that serve into a real match.
    I hope Suresh is at least 5'10" tall and in somewhat good shape.
     
  42. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I am just 5'10" - shape not optimal but BMI indicates overweight but not obese. I definitely cannot serve harder than most WTA players, actually any WTA player I think.

    Practice time is definitely an issue. And perhaps the most important issue. But that is what makes it challenging.
     
  43. Relinquis

    Relinquis Hall of Fame

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    i know sureshs' issue is consistency rather than just power (am i correct?), but this drill has helped me whenever i feel my serve is lacking in power...

    Drill

    Serve from the service-line instead of the baseline. Really fast serves. Don't hold back.

    Don't jump off the ground. Aim to serve really fast serves, really go for it, but make sure you get it inside the box and with good form, apart from not jumping. Do 20 of these. Then go to the baseline and do 20 normal serves, full motion. You should notice that you are able to hit more aggressively.

    Try it and let me know what you think. It works for me, i don't know if it is psychological or if it forces me to be looser and hit more freely.
     
  44. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Well, being about 25 lbs overweight only hurts your game, not your serves, so it shouldn't matter much.
    You're as tall as TimLincecum. No excuses.
    NicolasAmagro is 2" taller than you, he can hit 135. You should easily hit 100 if you choose to hit a FLAT first serve.
    That translates to about 75 for a heavy spin, safely IN, second serve.
    Still, we haven't seen a video of your service motion. Are you swinging as fast as you can in a controlled manner? Are you moving into the court as you serve? Do you try to jump up to the ball? Or do you adopt the Nadal/Almagro idea of pinpoint precision without jumping? Either jumping or not jumping easily garners your maximum fastest serves.
    You're only asking for a 75mph top/slice serve that goes into either of the 3 quadrants, so it should easily be attainable, although somewhat boring for a 4.0 level player.
     
  45. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I do not take off with my feet, no. Old style, right foot comes forward. Now, I am not moving it forward during impact, but rather impacting when it is off the ground, and then moving it forward.

    And I prefer to think of myself as 20 lbs overweight, not 25. Thanks.
     
  46. Avles

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    Cmon Lee, if people actually listen to you they are going to hurt their shoulders (and/or their egos) trying to hit these 100 mph serves that you say are so easy.

    They are not easy, flat or not, and many solid rec players never get close to 100 mph. And "75 mph heavy spin safely in" is a 5.0 second serve IMO.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  47. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    LeeD always needs to be discounted (a lot), as they say in finance.
     
  48. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Well, if you set your sights as low as possible, your performance will reflect exactly that, won't it?
    Hurting shoulder's serving 100mph. Yes, if your ultimate top speed serving is 90, yes yes yes.
    Still, we haven't seen the VIDEO of Suresh's motion.
    Remember, Almagro and Nadal DO NOT jump very high on most of their serves. Instead, they rely on precision you get from NOT jumping, which means a more solid lower body.
    Can Suresh hit serves that bounce IN and then to the backboard around knee to thigh high? Talking warm temps and Wilson or Penn tennis balls.
    I'm 2 weeks from 64 and can bounce an IN first serve, using DunlopRocks, in 50 degree air temps, cement courts, around mid thigh high to lower thigh high almost every single IN serve.
    And I also don't really jump up. I might rise to my toes, at best.
    Let's see some Suresh serves.
     
  49. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    Why not lift off the ground?

    Much of the serve power is coming from the large leg muscle groups.
     
  50. Relinquis

    Relinquis Hall of Fame

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    I think the rationale for that drill from the service line is to get you to swing freely, understand/feel what it is like to hit hard and in the box, and to appreciate how low the net actually is.

    Once you get back to the baseline you lift off if you want, i.e. full service motion whether you use platform stance or pinpoint.
     

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