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-   -   Do You Have an Unusual Serve? (http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=441994)

TimothyO 10-03-2012 06:59 PM

Do You Have an Unusual Serve?
 
I have virtually no cartilage in my left knee (martial arts and racquet ball) and bone fragments in my right ankle (football injury). Thus, while I can do a traditional serve motion complete with full leg drive upward my knee and ankle protest loudly enough that, with the help of fellow TT members, I've developed an earth bound serve stance and motion that works for me.

On Tuesday night I helped my wife warm up for her team practice. I knocked in a couple of serves before leaving the court and while her team was chatting her coach stopped me. He told me my feet were all wrong and showed me a proper stance. He was, and is, perfectly correct of course. He explained that as a righty I should have the left/front foot aimed at the net post, the right/rear foot parallel to the baseline, and the left heel aligned on the right toe. Been told that and have seen it in every tennis book and video.

But when I do that I feel like I'm not getting enough power and fluid movement. I feel too much friction between my earth bound feet and the court.

So my serve stance is "backwards".

My left/front foot is parallel to the baseline and my right/rear foot is angled away from the baseline roughly 45 degrees. And like a certain position in t'ai chi my feet start pretty close together. With my weight fully on my back foot I toss and begin my serve motion and, as when throwing a football or baseball, I step into my swing by lifting and then planting my left/front foot followed up by a full, smooth follow through and step into the court with my right/rear foot.

All of this means a massive hip and shoulder turn far in excess of a traditional serve since I set up looking at my target over my shoulder/back. I develop RHS with a slower than normal acceleration but final speed is still enough for great topspin and pace. The more calm and smooth I am the better the serve too.

I tried the coache's traditional approach this afternoon and just couldn't achieve what I felt was sufficient power. I felt constrained as if I was losing a huge chunk of my hip and shoulder turn. To get the same final RHS I had to accelerate faster which meant far less accuracy. Essentially my serve is a long, slow acceleration to full speed which replaces a full leg drive with extra hip and shoulder turn (feels very comfy on the shoulder and arm too!)

I'm not looking for a critique of my serve. It works for me and lets my middle aged, sports damaged, desk jocky body wield a "heavy" AG 4D 200 Tour with ease. My flat serve stays very low and fast, well below the net, making returns more difficult. In spite of its low altitude it now nearly reaches the back fence before skidding into the court surface. My kick serve clears the net by several feet and has so much topspin it can dive down back into the court before reaching the baseline. It can also hit service box corners near the net post and make a second hard dive wide (sometimes my kick serve comes in so "stright down" it bounces far more up with little or no court penetration).

I'm curious if others have unusual aspects to their serve stance or motion. Have coaches tried to break you of your unique serve? Do you perform fine with an unusual serve stance or motion? Have you tried to change it? Why or how did you develop your stance or motion?

sureshs 10-03-2012 07:07 PM

Hi JMac.......

Fuji 10-03-2012 07:14 PM

I have an odd motion with my shoulder more then anything else. I don't "load it" straight down, instead I do a roll (Bring my elbow over my shoulder to load) It doesn't really do anything different as I get decent pace / accuracy with it. I've had a few coaches say it's totally fine, but it does look a tad more awkward compared to a nice pin-point load up.

-Fuji

syke 10-03-2012 07:32 PM

My coach tells me whether your left/front foot is pointing to the net post or parallel to the baseline, it all depends whether you are a left or right master eye.

BTW, he was a ranked ATP player.

TimothyO 10-03-2012 07:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sureshs (Post 6934448)
Hi JMac.......

Was he earth bound too? :)

cluckcluck 10-03-2012 07:45 PM

I have an unusual serve...it doesn't go in very often ;)
I've learned, when it comes to injuries you can't control, then making adjustments is all you can do.

goran_ace 10-03-2012 10:01 PM

Post deleted.

Timbo's hopeless slice 10-03-2012 10:40 PM

no, he explained why he serves the way he does!

sounds like the way I served when I was young, actually, emulating JMac.. (generated a lot of pace but I couldn't vary it very much, ended up changing to a more conventional stance when I was about 18 or so)

I have one little quirk, I take a little step with my left foot at the start of my motion, very much like Ferrer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5-pnLAGaTk

TimothyO 10-04-2012 04:50 AM

That looks like my little step But mine comes later as I'm beginning my swing, sort of like throwing a football. It's more pronounced on my flat serve.

Chas Tennis 10-04-2012 05:24 AM

The pros all use heavy internal shoulder rotation (ISR) to provide final racket head speed to their serves. To do this you must 'load' or stretch the ISR muscles. One main component of the stretch is the leg thrust. You can leave leg thrust out or reduce it so that your feet don't leave the ground.

There was a thread discussing serving without leg thrust.
http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=414039

You can also stretch the ISR muscles with complex trunk motions (lumbar lateral flexion, lumbar rotation) and other mysterious motions in the middle of the service motion.

The ISR service motion is being used by all pro tennis players. When done properly by a conditioned athlete the technique seems to be very safe especially considering the violence of the motion.

Most recreation players - lower performance - have developed their own serving techniques probably using what feels good as a guide. For recreational serves, I believe that many/most players use ISR and have no idea. Only a high speed video can determine what they are actually doing. I took high speed video of some of my tennis friends and saw ISR, often much more than in my serve. Very often these players keep their shoulders too level - an injury risk specifically identified in the Todd Ellenbecker & Jim McLennan videos. This 'too level' shoulder orientation adds to shoulder impingement injury risk.

There is a risk of developing your own technique since there no track record regarding injury issues compared to the pro serving technique using stretching followed by very rapid ISR.

Only high speed video can show you what you are doing on your serves. Video 60p with fast shutter and small Jello Effect is also useful but the fastest part of the serve needs high speed video to observe.

athleticstennis 10-04-2012 05:48 AM

[quote=Chas Tennis;6934969]
You can also stretch the ISR muscles with trunk turn and other complex and mysterious motions in the middle of the service motion.

Chas Tennis,
Which other complex and mysterious motions?

Chas Tennis 10-04-2012 06:29 AM

Interesting subject and an area of current biomechanics research-

http://asmiforum.proboards.com/index...ay&thread=1801

BTW - I believe that aching the back is very risky and am not interested in that baseball pitching approach for tennis serving but only in - what is that motion doing?
ARCHING YOUR BACK FOR THE TENNIS SERVE IS VERY RISKY

TennisCJC 10-04-2012 08:54 AM

TimO, I don't see anything wrong with your stance. From your description, it sounds like you have more of a closed stance. I actually think more pros are closer to your stance than the neutral stance described by your wife's coach. McEnroe, Federer, Cilic and Sampras are just a few who use more closed stance.

However, you could learn to use the neutral stance and then rotate hips and shoulders to close your upper body to the net. Kind of like Nadal.

But, I think it is more preference than anything. The coach kind of showed you the basic 101 serving stance but there is nothing technically wrong with starting more closed rather than rotating the upper body. I am probably in between - slightly more closed than the coaches neutral stance and slightly more open than your stance.

TimothyO 10-04-2012 11:31 AM

Yes, it's definitely closed...as in door slammed shut! :-)

I find the result is greater hip and should turn than with a neutral stance since my hips and shoulders start out facing away from the net to a much greater degree. In fact, I don't have a choice but to rotate shoulders and hips to contact.

When I've tried a neutral stance I find less power given my high friction, earth bound status.

@ Chas Tennis...

I developed my current stance and motion working with a pro. We tried to compensate for lack of leg drive power with more rotation (closed stance) and lack of low friction leg drive with the step into the shot football-style. The key difference is that I do keep my shoulders open to my swing path to avoid pinching my shoulder. Thus I try to swing my arm by rotating my hips then torso instead of swing the frame with my arm and shoulder.

We have lots of guys in our club who smack the ball REALLY hard with a nearly vertical arm bent at the shoulder. Many suffer shoulder pain after 2-3 sets and three are sidelined with shoulder injuries. They generate impresive pace at a great cost to their bodies.

It's more difficult building a serve based on proper core rotation but it feels so effortless when it works. My wife has complained about my pace when we "hit for fun" but from my end I don't feel like I'm "hitting hard". I feel quite the opposite: very relaxed and swinging easy.

LeeD 10-04-2012 11:38 AM

I haven't seen your serve, but...
If it's only your wife who thinks your serve is fast, I'd not place too much importance on it. If your tennis BUDS start to complain your serve is too fast, then I'd think your serve is doing well.
Almost EVERY female, regardless of level, complains I hit with too much spin on spin serves, and mix in too much ball speed when I hit the corners, or into their bodies.
Very few 4.0 GUYS complain, they just hunker down, concentrate harder, step back 2 steps, and return my serves.
Then again, on another note.... You can rotate to get your service power, or you can use a stomach crunch, like Roddick does, to get your shoulder's moving forewards. BOTH work, so it's not confined to "your way, or the highway".
"Easy Power" is great to have, but more important, does it bother your peers when they are trying to return your serves?

TimothyO 10-04-2012 06:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by LeeD (Post 6935744)
I haven't seen your serve, but...
If it's only your wife who thinks your serve is fast, I'd not place too much importance on it. If your tennis BUDS start to complain your serve is too fast, then I'd think your serve is doing well.
Almost EVERY female, regardless of level, complains I hit with too much spin on spin serves, and mix in too much ball speed when I hit the corners, or into their bodies.
Very few 4.0 GUYS complain, they just hunker down, concentrate harder, step back 2 steps, and return my serves.
Then again, on another note.... You can rotate to get your service power, or you can use a stomach crunch, like Roddick does, to get your shoulder's moving forewards. BOTH work, so it's not confined to "your way, or the highway".
"Easy Power" is great to have, but more important, does it bother your peers when they are trying to return your serves?

Yes, LeeD, ONLY my wife thinks it's fast. Yes, that's precisely what I wrote.

:roll:

As for my peers, yes, it bothers them. Tonight during a practice match with teammates I held serve comfortably against members from our first and second lines (ie above my pay grade!). Only one of my games went to deuce and we won that one.

More importantly, it's not just pace that bothers them. (Pace is not my strong suit). It's pace and spin. I can aim well and put extreme spin on the serve. I go for consistency and accuracy. Knowing where I'm hitting means I'm one shot ahead of an opponent.

I think this is your cue to regale us with a story about the time you hit a 150 mph serve against some washed up female tennis star while surfboarding with a broken leg And shark chasing you after which she told you how impressed she was with your game, yadda, yadda, yadda...

:)

Seriously, I understand what you're saying but it's a bit obvious. Thanks anyway, I appreciate the input.

LeeD 10-04-2012 07:47 PM

No, this is where you get personal and offended, even though you are soliciting response on your extremely closed stance service stance.
I'm only responding to your post, where you mention your wife is saying your serve is wonderful.
But hey, you gots a chip on your shoulder, so be it.
Maybe you have a reason to have the chip there, which is good enough for me.
I've already mentioned for most of this year, that's 8 months + already, that my serves have dropped into the lowest 100's. If you didn't read that, why are you so defensive when I say anything?

Timbo's hopeless slice 10-05-2012 03:37 AM

I thought he was just asking if anyone else had a weird action?

meh, must be my reading comprehension letting me down again...

TimothyO 10-05-2012 03:46 AM

LeeD, I've seen your serve video. If that's the low 100s then mine are easily 150! Seriously, I do NOT serve hard serves by higher level standards but my flat serves have a lot more pace than those.

;-)

Like I said, thanks for the input. But do give fellow members the courtesy of NOT putting words in their mouth. Just read what we write and don't add anything that we didn't.

And I truly enjoy your creative writing contributions about your sports adventures. I think of you as the cranky old uncle who, during holiday gatherings, talks about the good ole days when he played tennis with a plank and could hit 200 Mph serves even after throwing out his shoulder striking out Babe Ruth is a sandlot baseball game.

The reason I enjoy them is because you and I are alike! I'm becoming you according to my kids. I tell them about growing up going to Catholic school in Chicago where we walked 100 miles to school during blizzards in 5' deep snow while being pursued by hungry wolves with glowing red eyes but we liked it because it built character. Oh, and the nuns were far more dangerous than the wolves when armed with wooden rulers edged with metal strips!

:)

TimothyO 10-05-2012 03:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Timbo's hopeless slice (Post 6936816)
I thought he was just asking if anyone else had a weird action?

meh, must be my reading comprehension letting me down again...

You shoouda gone to Catholic school. The nuns beat reading comprehension into us with brass kunckles. They were tough, but fair. They taught us how to play Chicago style tennis.

If your opponent brought a racquet, you brought a bat. If he then pulled a knife, you pulled a gun. That's the Chicago way...of playing tennis.

And we liked it!


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