Which professional's serve should I copy?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by carguy01123, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. carguy01123

    carguy01123 New User

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    My serves aren't too great, and even though I understand the basic principles like bending your knees and twisting your forearm for pronation, I want to have something to look at and copy. Which professional's serve should I analyze and get principles from to improve my serve? What should I look for similarities in? I'm about 5'9.5-10'' (I'm 14 and a male), so should I copy a serve from a pro who's about the same height as me (like Michael Chang)? Or does that not matter. I obviously don't need the best serve on the planet because my main focus right now is to make sure my serve is good enough to make my pretty good high school team. Which professionals' the easiest to copy and learn quickly? I'm looking at Djokovic because, in my opinion, his entire game is quite simple and fundamental and effective, whereas someone like Nadal is an oddball. Should I go with him? I know these are a lot of questions. Thanks and sorry for the trouble.
     
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  2. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    Sampras', and then +/- as you wish, because some parts of a motion just won't gel with the individual. Instead of trying to be a carbon copy of a particular motion, take the concept behind the motion, and mold it into your own. That's what I did :)

    Couple things I removed from Sampras' motion were:
    - The "take-aim" part where he brings his racquet and ball forward before he starts the the motion. That's just too much motion for me, and it messed up my rhythm. I kept a small part for it, but I didn't bring the racquet/ball up to my face.
    - The "high-elbow" finish. I just couldn't do it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
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  3. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I agree Sampras is a great template.
     
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  4. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    I agree that many elements of the Sampras serve are worth studying but modifications are needed for most players trying "copy" his serve. His toss is a bit too high for many players. I prefer Federer's tossing height & style. Sampras' racket lags quite a bit behind the tossing arm. Because of of this he needs the higher toss to be able to synchronize the motions of his arms (wrt each other). When I "copied" his serve, I went with a lower toss and adjusted the synchronizations of the arms accordingly.

    Take a look at the image of Pete below. The ball is already 2-3 feet out of his hand and his racket is still down -- it has a way to go to get to the trophy position. This is not the "down together, up together" motion that many coaches teach. Check out the Federer-Sampras video serve comparison. Look at the difference in their racket position at about the 0:24 mark. Roger's racket position is much to the trophy position than Pate's. Federer's arm sync/timing would be easier to copy that Sampras'.

    [​IMG]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npxP6Jej9iE
     
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  5. Ojibway

    Ojibway New User

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    I feel Federer motion is easier to build upon. Though Sampras has much better serve, I could never arch my back way he did.
     
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  6. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    To the OP, to take inspiration from a serve it is really important to look at what are the broad, important movements and separate them from the superfluous extras or particular traits which rely heavily on some special ability (Sampras's foot point and his freaky shoulder flexibility for example). Not all great serves can be easily scaled down to a club player.

    Sampras's serve was a piece of artwork and many people say they were inspired by his despite not obviously having much commonality with his at all. Federer definitely did. He and guys like Almagro probably provide better all-round lessons for a club hack than someone like Sampras because they lack the amount of extras and the slight timing quirk that Systematic Anomaly mentions above - they are straight-forward motions which are both reliable and not overly height or body-type dependent (like Roddick or Isner's serves for example). A player of almost any height or build could do well with a reliable Federer-esque serve for example.

    I'd say, for someone starting out, not having a fluid 'throwing' motion (to be clear I'm referring to the swing, not the ball toss) is the single biggest factor which limits a person's serve potential. So, get onto that aspect really early on and look at who has a really nice throwing motion like Federer, Sampras, Almagro etc and getting that part sorted will be a great accompaniment to the other advice you will no doubt get in this thread. Hopefully CharlieFederer posts as he is really astute on matters relating to the serve.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
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  7. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    I've seen your serve (in the infamous "arming the ball" thread :p)and it doesn't really resemble Sampras's at all. If I had to guess who inspired your serve I would never have guessed that - but there are plenty of tell-tale aspects take directly from Federer's whether intentional or not - the way your start on the front foot and hold/rock the racquet pre-serve, the way you bounce the ball on the edge of your racquet exactly like Federer does before almost every serve and the angle/pose you start with.

    Also, you basically don't pronate on your serve which adds a significant biomechanical and swing path gap between motions like Sampras/Federer etc.

    This doesn't at all mean you can't offer good advice to others - most coaches can't serve all that well themselves and some not at all - but self-awareness and the ability to see what is actually happening goes a long way in working out what to work on. That is one of the inherent difficulties of learning tennis - those that need to improve the most usually start with the lowest ability to self assess so take ages to make changes for the good.
     
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  8. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    I didn't know bouncing of the ball with the beam of my racquet is a Federer exclusive. Should I stop doing that too as I walk along the baseline to the next point? Hmm, I better think of new ways to get myself into rhythm...

    The hold/rock is derived from my observation of Rafter (I had a phase where I tried to emulate Rafter's motion, but holy crap, it damn near destroyed my shoulder). I kept the concept, but just toned it down. Instead of holding it for a period of time like Rafter, I just let it drop and let it "rock" into my motion. It felt more simple to me. The "lock n' loaded", "cocking" (or whatever you want to call it) right before Sampras goes into his motion was just too much for me.

    Next time I'll include the complete timeline for the progression of my serve.
     
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  9. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    It's been his thing since over a decade and you do it on virtually every single serve in that video. It doesn't affect your serve so it's no biggie at all - I was just saying it immediately stuck out as Fed inspired. If you don't realise it then you're more impressionable than you might think you are and I have a business opportunity you should invest in. :p

    There's no shame in being inspired by a player a lot - not sure why you seem to want to not give Federer credit. Hallmarks of him can be seen in how you prepare (not the hitting part) for your serve, hit both your forehand and backhands and even in how you dress (the white-under-black sock with the US Open V8s was clearly your thing)

    Please post a newer video to go with your recent rallying ones. Your forehand doesn't seem to have changed much in the two years since those videos other than you seem to move a little better now (that could be simply down to the day though). You still put tons of stress on your shoulder by having such a small backswing and not engaging your core much at all - something I thought you were dead keen on doing given your history with shoulder injuries.
     
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  10. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    I don't like being compared to the pros because I find it to be disrespectful to them. I don't even come close to what they can produce on the court.

    Secondly, the mention of me copying a pro takes away my own efforts in developing my strokes.

    Also, Mr. Federer wasn't really on tv that much when I was developing my strokes in the late 90s/early 00s. I'm not denying the similarities as I have heard them from other people. I'm just saying it was through my own development and efforts.

    White/black socks, ok that one I did copy. Because I thought it looked good. :)
     
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  11. carguy01123

    carguy01123 New User

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    the video

    I appreciate your guys' help. Could you guys post the link to the video you are talking about? Maybe I can learn a little from that as well. Thanks.
     
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  12. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    If someone were claiming a serve was as good as player X I might agree but insofar as admitting a stroke was inspired by one - especially if it was widely considered to be a benchmark example - is not in the least bit disrespectful to the pro. That's how things are learned and with the advent of easy access to slow-mos and replays of almost any pro's stroke it takes over from the previous situation where a coach would get you to copy their swing as a starting point of how to serve.

    I doubt Federer would ever have any issue ever with anyone, Dimitrov or the average club player, basing and entire game on him. It's more of a compliment than the opposite - even if it doesn't work very well.
     
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  13. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    I'm partial to copying Goran Ivanisevic's serve or perhaps Almagro's. You likely will keep growing so I don't think height is a major factor. In any case, you can simply add more topspin if you find it difficult to hit flat.

    I'm not as big of a fan of Sampras's serve as a model for the average person because he was quite athletic and I don't think his extreme left toss and leaping ability can be easily duplicated by most players.
     
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  14. carguy01123

    carguy01123 New User

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    copying

    I agree with Bobby. I take lessons, but I find that taking screen shots of slow motion videos of the pros' shots and then coming up with a document that talks about the things they do that make their shot effective and then copying them can make much more of a difference than just taking lessons, where you basically do the same drills everyday. Watching videos has greatly improved my ground strokes over the past few months. I'm able to get a wrist snap without hurting it, and its all due to the internet. My shots don't look exactly like the people I copy (no one's does), but there nothing wrong in copying from the best of the best. Which is what this thread was all about. Now stop arguing and bury the hatchet.
     
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  15. JW10S

    JW10S Hall of Fame

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    Clearly you haven't had lessons from a good pro. If you're 'basically doing the same drills everyday' I can see why you think copying others is better. You need to find another pro to take lessons from.
     
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  16. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Study the shoulder and beware especially of impingement issues. The information in this video describes the shoulder and especially impingement risk during serving. There are light shoulder conditioning exercises such as the Thrower's 10 that strengthen the muscles and help the range of motion.

    You cannot tell exactly what you are doing on the serve without high speed video.

    Research the most basic service motion which is the same for any height. Racket head speed is not mostly produced by "forearm pronation" but internal shoulder rotation.

    Raonic has an interesting and very strong serve.
    https://vimeo.com/user6237669/videos/page:3/sort:date

    Sampras video
    Work with a well-qualified instructor.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
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  17. mbm0912

    mbm0912 Professional

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    #17
  18. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    Some good serves to copy, with what to look at:

    Sampras - Technically copy the very controlled consistent motion, with plenty of back and leg power. Tactically copy the way he keeps his cool on the first and second serves - both always are hit with decent power (not excessive amounts), a lot of kick, and good placement.

    Nadal - Technically you want to copy the way he gets exceptional consistency with a hard to attack shot by focusing on spin instead of power. Tactically you want to copy his high first serve percent, the way he moves the opponent around the box and the way he keeps them guessing with spin.

    Roddick - Technically you want to copy the very simple takeback and toss, which prevents errors, and the huge coiling he achieved with a lot of knee bend/racquet drop/shoulder turn/back bend, which let him generate a lot of power without having to hit flat. Tactically copy the way he would rarely hit his biggest/flattest 145+mph first serve, instead favouring a more consistent 130mph spin serve. In other words: serve as big as you can without losing spin or consistency.

    Isner/Karlovic/Janowicz: Technically -be tall-. Also, these players use a combination of heavy spin and high/forward contact points to be able to hit extreme angles, so hit the ball with spin at as high a point as you can consistently manage, while moving forward into the court to get open up angles. Tactically, lots of variation - sidespin, topspin, torpedo spin, placement, and power can all be changed - don't let them get comfortable with your serve.


    DON'T:
    Always hit big flat serves trying to be Roddick/Karlovic, as the big flat serve is inconsistent and easy for your opponent to predict.

    ALSO DON'T:
    Wimp out on serves, first serves should always be an attempt to get you in a favourable position, second serves must not be easy to attack - so really kick it!

    REALLY DON'T:
    Try to perfectly copy a pro technique, as you are different to them in terms of your body and training, instead you should take inspiration from what they do well and copy the general idea.
     
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  19. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    Here you go, Rafter vs. Sampras US Open 1998 SF

    Two of the most beautiful motions ever in my opinion. The movement on Rafter's serves was unreal, he was stupid fast!
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
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  20. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Let Google or the Youtube search function be your friend. Use something like "Almagro serve slow motion" for your search criteria. Have you watched the videos listed in this thread? Here is one link that shows Almagro and Wawrinka (but not in slow mo):

    http://www.top-tennis-training.org/strokes/serve/the-lightning-bolt-serve
     
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  21. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    Nice. I second this.

    This is the sort of advice a beginner or someone struggling needs. The plethora of video available means you could easily get put onto a stroke which isn't necessarily one which would serve most players well to copy, mimic or to even take inspiration from.
     
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  22. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Almagro Serves

    Alamagro has a very strong one hand backhand. His arm is very free and loose, maybe one of the loosest arms on the ATP. Maybe that looseness also contributes to his serve. ?

    This video was to display the unusual eye contact on one particular serve. Closing the eyes is not typical for Almagro or any server. Most servers, for most serves, break eye contact with the ball just before impact. I believe that they usually don't watch the ball until impact to reduce stress on their necks from their service motion. To see if servers are watching the ball requires high speed video and is best seen with a camera view from the side.
    https://vimeo.com/72167895

    Almagro serve, close-up from the side, 240 fps.
    https://vimeo.com/81091932
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2013
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  23. andreh

    andreh Professional

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    I always thought Michael Stich has the "best" serve to copy. Simple, fluid, not too high or low toss, no exaggerated knee or back bend, He just tosses and cracks the whip.
     
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  24. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    Do any pros use the "down together up together" motion?

    Could one advantage of the "down together up together" motion be is that it gives you an easier feel for where the racquet arm should be when the ball is released from the tossing arm?

    Whereas, with the "lagging racquet arm" motion (which I am practicing) I don't think my lagging racquet arm is in exactly the same position every time when the toss is released.

    Is that a significant issue in developing a consistent serve? Or is it okay to have variation in the position of the lagging racquet arm?

    I am assuming that Federer's lagging arm is in the same position every time when the toss is released?
     
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  25. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    For simplicity you can't beat Serena Williams' serve. It's very clean.

    And it has serious power:

    "She translates all that into intimidating power. Williams’s average speed on her first serve against Kvitova was 109 m.p.h. David Ferrer, a Spaniard who is into the men’s quarterfinals, has been averaging 109 m.p.h. on his first serves, too.

    Williams’s average speed on her second serve Tuesday was 92, faster than the tournament averages for two men’s quarterfinalists: Florian Mayer (87 m.p.h.) and Andy Murray at (88)."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/s...e-makes-the-difference-at-wimbledon.html?_r=0

    The challenge of trying to "copy" someone else's serve is that they often incorporate elements unique to the individual. I suggest focusing on the fundamentals of a good serve and practice it frequently. If you try to copy someone's serve that includes unique "hitches" you might be making things more complicated for yourself.

    And practice is key here. I chuckle to myself when I hear fellow rec players say they're "working on their serve" while playing a casual match. No, they're serving during a casual match, nothing more. To work on your serve you need to hit a lot of balls over many sessions over many weeks and months and years. Since it's often a pressure shot you need to work not only on its physical aspects but also its mental aspects.

    You need to practice and develop your ability to focus purely on the ball as it floats above your head and you confidently swing to contact, trusting that your smooth, relaxed stroke will accurately and consistently send the ball to your intended target point with pace and spin.

    Too often players, especially male players, focus on power alone forgetting that CONSISTENT and ACCURATE power comes from relaxing and focusing and not swinging like a mad man.

    I think that we rec players make tennis much harder than it needs to be by putting the cart before the horse. We worry too much about stroke mechanics before taking care of the many factors that make a solid stroke so much easier. And whether its a ground stroke, volley, or serve, the first step to any solid stroke is the mental part. You need to learn how to be relaxed physically and intensely focused mentally. After that any stroke is so much easier.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2013
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  26. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Your serve speed comparisons are misleading. Ferrer, Mayer, and Murray are putting a lot more kick on their serves than Serena is. The added spin slows their serves down but makes the serves harder to return and gives them better angles to work with.
     
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  27. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Murray's serve is close to "down together, up together". He also uses a J-toss which seems to help his coiling action. The J-toss serve is something of a throw-back to the 70s/80s. It was popularized by Vic Braden among others. Federer's serve is not quite "down together, up together" but it is closer to it than Sampras' serve.

    Down together, up together might be simpler for many amateurs. Many find it difficult to sync the arms with a racket lag. Some even have problems with synchronization with down together, up together.
     
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  28. Raul_SJ

    Raul_SJ Professional

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    I would have expected to see many players, especially juniors, emulating Roddick (whose motion seems to be fundamentally sound), but it doesn't seem to have caught on.
     
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  29. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    Well there's Brands... sorta. But it's not that easy: you need excellent shoulder flexibility, excellent hip rotation, very good timing... And I think it's also because it's not that popular among coaches; even if the motion is sound. I've seen many coaches labelling it as "dangerous", "rushed", ect. Even if Roddick didn't have more shoulder problems than your usual good servers: Sampras, Ivanišević, J. Johansson, Philippoussis on the top of my head all had shoulder problems at the end of their career. Even Rafter had surgery for it despite serving nothing but kick serves. Those were some vicious kick serves though...
     
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  30. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ Have got to agree with this assessment. The idea of an abbreviated takeback is a good one for juniors but there are other aspects of Roddick's serve that are probably not suited to most players. Note: Roddick's implementation of the abbreviated takeback is a bit quirky/stylistic -- perhaps for good reasons. However, I would suggest an even simpler version of the abbreviated takeback than Andy uses.

    Like many coaches, I am not too fond of the high left hand starting position for Andy's toss. Monifls has a very Roddick-esque serve but employs a fuller tossing action than Andy. With Andy's short toss motion, players trying to copy him might be tempted to flip the wrist or bend the elbow. Another apsect this is difficult for many players to copy successfully is the early pull-down of the eyes/head seen with both Andy and Gael. Their head/eyes are up at the big L (where the racket arm is extended but the racket head is more-or-less parallel to the ground). However as the racket head moves upward from this point, they quickly pull down the head and the eyes no longer looking at the toss prior to contact. Compare this to Federer, who appears to keep his head up and eyes on the ball/contact point longer.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeMZmVQci-0
     
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  31. Ojibway

    Ojibway New User

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  32. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    @SystemicAnomaly: I use a toss comparable to Gasquet or Roddick in shortness. Because I realized one thing when I "had" (it got better) an irregular toss: the shorter your motion, the less likely you'll screw up.
     
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