A year later, my serve still sucks.

Znak

Professional
Trying to break down my serve and rebuild it this past year after 10 years of bad habits. It's proving tougher than I'd like to admit; I'm getting close but I still feel so far. I decided to get my friend to film me because in my head I feel like I'm doing things that I'm not and I'm glad that I did — because man I do some weird things.

For one, I do this slight knee bend when I toss the ball. I think my elbow on my racquet hand is too low when I toss. Most importantly, when going towards the ball, I thought I was leading with the edge of my racquet, but my wrist falls open and ultimately I do this hybrid waiter serve (which made me very sad inside :(). Even on the racquet drop you can see that it's open.

Question for any of you, what's the best method to correct this? Does this stem from my move prior where my elbow isn't at a correct height? I don't feel tense on these serves, but I wonder if that has anything to do with it. I am using a continental grip and strangely enough, this problem is less apparent when I perform my slice serve...

Thanks in advance (image below).

 

TrojanTennis

New User
Trying to break down my serve and rebuild it this past year after 10 years of bad habits. It's proving tougher than I'd like to admit; I'm getting close but I still feel so far. I decided to get my friend to film me because in my head I feel like I'm doing things that I'm not and I'm glad that I did — because man I do some weird things.

For one, I do this slight knee bend when I toss the ball. I think my elbow on my racquet hand is too low when I toss. Most importantly, when going towards the ball, I thought I was leading with the edge of my racquet, but my wrist falls open and ultimately I do this hybrid waiter serve (which made me very sad inside :(). Even on the racquet drop you can see that it's open.

Question for any of you, what's the best method to correct this? Does this stem from my move prior where my elbow isn't at a correct height? I don't feel tense on these serves, but I wonder if that has anything to do with it. I am using a continental grip and strangely enough, this problem is less apparent when I perform my slice serve...

Thanks in advance (image below).

I would like to see more knee bend and the ball tossed more into the court so you are exploding and landing more into the court to give your serve more power. Just relax your grip and have a smooth motion worrying less on power but more on placement and smoothness.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Lukhas

Legend
Trying to break down my serve and rebuild it this past year after 10 years of bad habits. It's proving tougher than I'd like to admit; I'm getting close but I still feel so far. I decided to get my friend to film me because in my head I feel like I'm doing things that I'm not and I'm glad that I did — because man I do some weird things.

For one, I do this slight knee bend when I toss the ball. I think my elbow on my racquet hand is too low when I toss. Most importantly, when going towards the ball, I thought I was leading with the edge of my racquet, but my wrist falls open and ultimately I do this hybrid waiter serve (which made me very sad inside :(). Even on the racquet drop you can see that it's open.

Question for any of you, what's the best method to correct this? Does this stem from my move prior where my elbow isn't at a correct height? I don't feel tense on these serves, but I wonder if that has anything to do with it. I am using a continental grip and strangely enough, this problem is less apparent when I perform my slice serve...
Without seeing it in motion, there's little we can say. Post that video man. :D You're also mentioning things that are not essential to a proper service motion: the position of the elbow of your racquet hand when you toss is irrelevant. Where your racquet hand is when you toss is dependant of your rhythm and toss height: some player prefer to bring both arms together immediately, some have a very staggered motion with huge delay between the toss and the action of the racquet arm, so on so forth. That said, you're doing more right than wrong, but you don't seem competent at throwing/pitching. The pictures you show to us remind me of this video.


You need to trust, unconditionally, no matter how many ball fly straight into the fence when practising it, that a good upwards pitching motion will bring the ball inside the box. Also, to avoid opening too early, keep your elbow more bent when you bring the racquet up with your racquet pointing forward. Djokovic used to have the same problem back in 2010; he has corrected it since.

 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
In frame #5 your racket looks down too far. Your head has not risen much so your leg drive has not occurred. The racket should move back and down due to the forces of leg thrust, shoulder over shoulder, trunk twist, etc, and the other identified motions of the serve that cause external shoulder rotation (ESR) and stretch the important internal shoulder rotation (ISR) muscles. You are just bending at the wrist to get the racket back without using the motions and forces that can stretch your ISR muscles. Compare your service motion to a high level service motion as to when the racket goes back.

Having the racket down early without the biomechanical purpose is what Jay Berger called 'Racket Leaking'.

Your upper body seems stationary with little forward bend ('Somersault'). Compare to high level serve.

Can't see your ISR motion because of motion blur and camera angle. Camera angle from behind looking along the camera's trajectory shows the ISR and racket angles better.

I detailed many of these points in previous posts.

Suggest reference Technique Development for Tennis Stroke Production, 2009, B. Elliott et al. Available ITF Store and Kindle.
 
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SinjinCooper

Hall of Fame
Alright. Starting at the top left, let's refer to those photos sequentially as 1 through 12.

The bent knee is fine. The toss is fine. The takeback is fine. You might not be 100% textbook up through photo #5, but you're close enough that it isn't going to hold you back in any meaningful way.

At photo 3 (and on toward photo 5), you're more or less c0cked and loaded, as you'd want to be at the start of the business part of the throwing motion that powers the serve. It's roughly what people call trophy position (and again, it looks fine). From THIS INSTANT, high level serves and low level serves diverge in one important way. There are a million checkpoints you can look for, but they're all indicative of the exact same thing.

From this moment, you can either initiate the forward and upward motion with the huge, powerful muscles of the legs, glutes, hips, and core...or you can initiate it with the much smaller muscles of the arm, chest, and shoulder.

If you do the latter, you're doing what we call "arming." When you do this, the shoulder doesn't remain tucked back in its socket, because it has to help the arm reach up to the ball. Since it's not tucked back, it doesn't rotate freely in there, and the serve motion doesn't create powerful upper arm rotation. That changes the entire path of the swing. The upshot is that serving this way (arming), the default continental grip doesn't result in the racquet coming up on edge, followed by a nice, square contact.

When arming, the arm moves in a very direct path (without rotation), and to create square overhead contact, you need to come straight at the ball with an eastern grip (which is why beginners serve with that grip). Once you learn you're "supposed to" use a continental grip, unless you also fix the motion to remove the arming, you must manipulate the wrist so that the racquet face moves into position, which you do by going into a waiter's tray.

Point is, what's happening with your racquet face isn't an error you're making with your racquet hand. It's an error in the fundamentals of your swing, starting from the ground up.

How can I tell what muscles you're using to power the swing?

Look at photos 6 through 10. The line of your hips, and the line of your shoulders never changes, from the moment you initiate the swing, until the moment you contact the ball.

How should it look? Here's Kyrgios in slow motion from roughly the same angle. Ignore EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS SERVE EXCEPT THE LINE OF HIS HIPS AND SHOULDERS. Don't worry about checkpoints and micromechanics. Just notice that his hips and torso have rotated around toward the court (for a flat serve, here) BEFORE he makes contact. His whole body, not just his arm, has created the power.


This means not just a more powerful serve, but also a motion that keeps the arm back in its correct slot longer, which creates the upper arm rotation that powers the serve, AND creates the circumstances that force a continental grip to both come up on edge, and contact the ball squarely.

How do you get there from where you are? Take the legs out of it. MY #1 MUST DO IMMEDIATE CHANGE FOR YOU is this: Get out of that advanced, Sampras style platform stance. It's screwing up your progress, because it's actually a terrible stance to serve from unless you're using a correct, full-body swing. Bring your feet closer together, and point the front toe at the net post, 1970's style. Don't concern yourself with leg bend at all. Just think about winding up your upper body to start the serve, so that your hips are ahead of your chest as you start to swing. That'll encourage full-upper-body swinging. Start with the toe and the chest pointing at the post, and as you toss (or before you toss), turn the upper body 45 degrees so it's facing the fence. Then think about swinging from the body, and letting the arm follow.
 
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SinjinCooper

Hall of Fame
I stand corrected. MY NEW #1 MUST DO for you is to ignore the Feel Tennis video by Tomaz above. It's the single worst piece of tennis instruction on the entire Internet, a gross misrepresentation of what happens in a throwing motion, and has a far better chance of tearing your rotator cuff or causing debilitating golfer's elbow than it does of helping your serve. It's borderline criminal.

But as soon as you're done ignoring that, reread my post and do that stuff.
 
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Tennisanity

Legend
the shoulder doesn't remain tucked back in its socket, because it has to help the arm reach up to the ball. Since it's not tucked back, it doesn't rotate freely in there, and the serve motion doesn't create powerful upper arm rotation.
Is there any point during the entire serve motion that the tucked shoulder actually leaves the socket? Also, the shoulder being tucked into its socket, is that equivalent to having the plane of the upper arm in the plane of the torso and have it remain there?
 

Znak

Professional
Without seeing it in motion, there's little we can say. Post that video man. :D
Good call, I'll post when I'm back home tomorrow!

Djokovic used to have the same problem back in 2010; he has corrected it since.
Wow didn't know he had that problem (PS whereabouts in France are you?)

In frame #5 your racket looks down too far. Your head has not risen much so your leg drive has not occurred. The racket should move back and down due to the forces of leg thrust, shoulder over shoulder, trunk twist, etc, and the other motions of the serve that cause external shoulder rotation (ESR) and stretch the important internal shoulder rotation (ISR) muscles. You are just bending at the wrist to get the racket back without using the motions and forces that can stretch your ISR muscles. Compare your service motion to a high level service motion as to when the racket goes back.

Your upper body seems stationary with little forward bend ('Somersault'). Compare to high level serve
Not sure I follow. Basically, I need to use the other parts to engage my ESR to provide a better ISR and in turn will create a better motion?

If you do the latter, you're doing what we call "arming."
I think that's 100% what I'm doing. There's time's where everything by chance aligns and it feels natural but I dont know what I did or how to recreate it.

Bring your feet closer together, and point the front toe at the net post, 1970's style. Don't concern yourself with leg bend at all. Just think about winding up your upper body to start the serve, so that your hips are ahead of your chest as you start to swing. That'll encourage full-upper-body swinging. Start with the toe and the chest pointing at the post, and as you toss (or before you toss), turn the upper body 45 degrees so it's facing the fence. Then think about swinging from the body, and letting the arm follow.
So if I follow correctly, do almost like a pin-point stance without the foot movement? Also so once I've coiled up as you mentioned from the net post to the fence, then my chest + hips should open up again to the net before I make contact with the ball?

I stand corrected. MY NEW #1 MUST DO for you is to ignore the Feel Tennis video by Tomaz above. It's the single worst piece of tennis instruction on the entire Internet, a gross misrepresentation of what happens in a throwing motion, and has a far better chance of tearing your rotator cuff or causing debilitating golfer's elbow than it does of helping your serve. It's borderline criminal.

But as soon as you're done ignoring that, reread my post and do that stuff.
Interesting, because he was one of the videos I've been following before when I was restructuring things... so don't do this?
 

Lukhas

Legend
Wow didn't know he had that problem (PS whereabouts in France are you?)
In the Parisian region, in the 93.
Interesting, because he was one of the videos I've been following before when I was restructuring things... so don't do this?
I posted this video more because I thought there was a link between the pictures and the subject of it; not because it's an actual lesson.
 

Kevo

Legend
If you are willing to start from scratch, I'd recommend doing exactly that. Start with just the toss and pronation to contact. Master that first. Then add things back in. It's very difficult to get the sequencing and timing right when you're trying to do the whole thing and fix this and that at the same time.

In my experience most people can have a 4.0 level serve with basically just the toss and pronation. It might take a few weeks depending on how often you practice it, but technique is key on the serve, and if your toss and contact aren't correct I don't care how good the rest of it is, you're serve will never progress to an advanced level.

Also, it's supremely helpful to have someone who knows what to look for watch you as you add pieces in. Most people can't actually tell what they're doing by feel. Any bad rep is just some positive training in the wrong direction.
 

SinjinCooper

Hall of Fame
Is there any point during the entire serve motion that the tucked shoulder actually leaves the socket?
Yeah, for both the forehand and the serve, the body rotates and brings the arm with it up to the point where your body (chest, sternum, whatever) is pointing IN THE DIRECTION YOU ARE DIRECTING YOUR THROWING MOTION. That'll be pretty much dead forward for a flat serve, more angled toward the side for a slice or kick serve, and in the direction you're hitting for your FH's. At that point, we say the arm "releases." The body has driven it using those big, powerful muscles, and now that effort is paid off because the arm is freed to come through and complete the swing. This release'll happen after contact on a good serve, and just before contact on a good forehand. That's because you want to hit a serve at max extension (so long as your body is still aligned properly, that is...NOT "as high as you can reach overhead"), and a forehand a bit out in front of you.

Also, the shoulder being tucked into its socket, is that equivalent to having the plane of the upper arm in the plane of the torso and have it remain there?
Exactly. The arm doesn't actually "leave its socket" (of course, because ouch). But it stops being retracted later in the swing.

Borrowed from GPP, Pete's classic "throwing motion," laid bare. Keep that arm back till the throw happens.

 
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SinjinCooper

Hall of Fame
I think that's 100% what I'm doing. There's time's where everything by chance aligns and it feels natural but I dont know what I did or how to recreate it.
Righteous.

So if I follow correctly, do almost like a pin-point stance without the foot movement? Also so once I've coiled up as you mentioned from the net post to the fence, then my chest + hips should open up again to the net before I make contact with the ball?
Just a narrower, more forward-pointing platform. Relaxed. You'll see people rage about this, decrying it as "ineffective!" And, "not what the pros do at all!" Those things are technically correct. This is NOT the way to maximize power and spin and heaviness. It's the way to LEARN how to use the upper body correctly, so you can ONE DAY maximize power and spin and heaviness! That's the same progression you'd go through if they were breaking down and rebuilding your serve at IMG.

For most people, the service motion is too complex and non-intuitive to learn all at once. But once you get upper body down, a move back to that classic Federer/Sampras stance will be more useful, because you'll know how to use it to start the motion you now understand.

Interesting, because he was one of the videos I've been following before when I was restructuring things... so don't do this?
That is my position, yes. Tomaz's stuff is very hit and miss. Some is excellent. Some is just...ugh. If you want to see a good service motion explained from the ground up, ignore any and all youtube tennis videos, and go straight to little league pitching or throwing instructional ones. There, you can learn how to move your arm safely through the right motion without endangering anything. And once that's second nature, moving it to the service motion and directing it more upward is quite instinctive.
 

Moonarse

Semi-Pro
I always had a fast arm with the correct motion since I started playing. Once I changed from a 355g frame to a 318g strung one this speed really made the whole difference.

Problem is, everytime I focused on fixing something other part of it just got out of the rithm. out of sync. You fix something and imediately "Unsync" yourself.

What really amped my serve for another level, beeing able to take advantage of my fast arm and beeing able to confirm serve games without much problem was really the fixed feet.

I'll explain. I always jump on my serve, but right after the toss I used to make micro adjustments to my feet, just like hitting a forehand or backhand. now I just stand still and compress myself by bending my knees, and then explode while pushing the ground. That changed the motion completely. steady feet. try that.
 

Power Player

Talk Tennis Guru
Problem with the Feel tennis serve drill is it makes it like you need to whip your arm in that way Tomaz describes and make the racquet feel like it's going out to your right. So now you are thinking about your arm initiating the serve.

What you can do instead is get int your toss/tropy pose and just work on turning your hips and chest toward the net.

The same thing happens with the arm, but you aren't thinking of making your arm do it. Now the arm is a passive part of the serve since your body is initiating it instead.

It's basically the same concept as hitting groundstrokes.
 

Znak

Professional
Much appreciated to you all, I think Im picking up what you're laying down so to speak. Will get to work on this and report back with progress hopefully sooner than later
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
It's a great idea that you've broken it down into these photos. Each one is its own check point.
I recommend to you to simplify even further by trying to emulate, via check points, a smooth abbreviated service motion. This motion may prevent you from getting your racquet arm and elbow too far away and in an awkward position. As you can see below you can keep it closer to your body, go straight up and eliminate all the unnecessary tangle that's happening in your motion.


Trying to break down my serve and rebuild it this past year after 10 years of bad habits. It's proving tougher than I'd like to admit; I'm getting close but I still feel so far. I decided to get my friend to film me because in my head I feel like I'm doing things that I'm not and I'm glad that I did — because man I do some weird things.

For one, I do this slight knee bend when I toss the ball. I think my elbow on my racquet hand is too low when I toss. Most importantly, when going towards the ball, I thought I was leading with the edge of my racquet, but my wrist falls open and ultimately I do this hybrid waiter serve (which made me very sad inside :(). Even on the racquet drop you can see that it's open.

Question for any of you, what's the best method to correct this? Does this stem from my move prior where my elbow isn't at a correct height? I don't feel tense on these serves, but I wonder if that has anything to do with it. I am using a continental grip and strangely enough, this problem is less apparent when I perform my slice serve...

Thanks in advance (image below).

 
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vex

Hall of Fame
You know you are not REQUIRED to toss it to the moon right?

In seriousness I think sooooo many problems come from slight inconsistencies due to unnecessarily high tosses. Try bringing it down man!
 
Pictures 4 thru 7 sure don't look like a continental grip from here. Like you say you're not leading to the ball with the edge of your racket and for sure you should be. With a strong cont. grip it's very difficult to get in the waiter's tray position.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
............... Like you say you're not leading to the ball with the edge of your racket and for sure you should be. .............................................
The racket face is rotating rapidly. If it were "leading to the ball with the edge of your racket and for sure you should be" That does not seem consistent.

Is this 'leading with the edge'? 'Edge on' to the ball is seen to be a momentary orientation. See lower red arrow.


Slice serve. Toly composite picture from Fuzzy Yellow Balls video. The full serve video is available. Frank Salazar serving.

Tiny Pic image no longer supported.

High speed videos of the serve taken from above do not show the edge going toward the ball. They show the entire arm rotating from ISR as it also swings forward. The racket is at a rapidly changing angle to the arm.

Unfortunately, high speed videos of tennis serves taken from overhead are rare.
 
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The racket face is rotating rapidly. If it were "leading to the ball with the edge of your racket and for sure you should be" That does not seem consistent.

Is this 'leading with the edge'?


Slice serve.


High speed videos of the serve taken from above do not show the edge going toward the ball. They show the entire arm rotating as it also swings forward. The racket is an angle to the arm.
At some point(s) in the upward swing the edge of the racket should be headed at the ball. Things obviously change before you hit the ball. You're not really trying to hit the ball with the edge of your racket but I guess that would make the strings last longer.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
At some point(s) in the upward swing the edge of the racket should be headed at the ball. ........................................
Agree.

Here is the checkpoint when the edge faces the ball at the 'Big L', see red line. Next ISR accelerates the racket to the ball. Internal shoulder rotation is rotation of the upper arm around its long axis at the shoulder joint. The shoulder itself does not move anywhere from ISR.
http://www.hi-techtennis.com/serve/nalbandian_l.php
http://www.hi-techtennis.com/serve/flash/nalbandian_l.mp4
 
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mcs1970

Hall of Fame
I've played against a terrific server and always thought you had to work very hard to develop a good serve. However, recently I started also playing against a USTA ranked 4.0. Form doesn't look good at all...almost like a pancake serve. However, it's a slice but he lands the ball in most of the times and the ball really zips off the ground. Not much drop off on 2nd serves either. One thing I noticed about him is that his contact point is pretty consistent. Always in front with the weight going towards the ball.

I don't claim I'm a great server, though I work very hard at it, so take this observation fwiw. On your video, if that's indicative of your usual serve, the contact point seems a little bit too close to your body or even slightly behind. The initial toss into the court seems good but at some point in your motion it doesn't look like you're exploding into the ball. The body seems to be already in the court in front of the ball. Pic 9 is what I'm specifically talking about. Contrast that with the Kyrgios video and see how far ahead of his body his contact point is (22 sec mark on the video). His body is exploding into the ball at the point of impact while your body seems relatively straight.

Maybe tossing the ball a little bit more into the court might help?
 
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SinjinCooper

Hall of Fame
Contrast that with the Kyrgios video and see how far ahead of his body his contact point is (22 sec mark on the video). His body is exploding into the ball at the point of impact while your body seems relatively straight.
This sort of thing is part of the reason I ALL-CAP highlighted the idea that I only wanted OP to notice the hip and shoulder alignment. (Kyrgios in particular I chose simply because he was the first vid I found that was filmed from that angle.)

Yes, Kyrgios gets a ton more going on his serve in part because his motion is so much more explosive, head to toe. And that same explosiveness allows a clean, mechanically sound contact well out into the court.

But you CAN'T toss further into the court, and explode into it with good mechanics until AFTER you've developed good mechanics. Right now, a toss further into the court is just going to set him back, even though it's a good characteristic in a professional, polished serve. Clean upper body throwing mechanics come first. All else only later.
 

SinjinCooper

Hall of Fame
Back to basics.
slow is smooth...smooth is fast

His heart's in the right place. But get that ******* elbow up, Ian.

Throwing motions are tricky business. Too low on that elbow, and the UCL is vulnerable. Too high, and impingement rears its ugly head. Go for 90 degrees, and you're not too far wrong.

When you start with the elbow too low like that, your body can't safely launch the arm on its own. You have to use the body while you simultaneously extend the arm intentionally. You get a "half-armed" motion. It's better, but not good. Get the elbow up and let the body do the work.

It's a shame, because the idea he's sharing in that vid is a hugely important one. It'd just be nice if he knew how to do it.
 
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You have low elbow. The cause is the way you are tilting away in a side bend. You have shoulder tilt and shoulder turn but no back arch. The racket is laid off (open). As a drill, try to hit a couple serves going into a slight back arch (nothing that causes an injury for Pete's [Sampras]sake) and for your racket take back, take the racket back closed with your elbow going back like you were going to coil back to punch. I am not making a claim that this is how anyone else in the world should serve, but it addresses the problem of low elbow with the racket laid open. When you test this theory of mine, get a little back arch whilst pushing your belt buckle forward (may affect the way you bend your knees) So take the racket back closed and arch your back a little so that your puffing your chest to the sky and you will find that you can access the proper part of the ball on an upward path.
 
Show any Div1 player all this voodoo BS and they will just shake their heads.
You can't change your elbow by 2 degrees or whatever other crap is posted here.

The serve is an explosion. You can't control the details.

All you can control:
1) Ball toss depth
2) Grip.
3) Trophy arm.
4) Max leg bend and jumping.
 
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Have you ever taken serving lessons?
That would be your next step.
Most coaches can't Coach, so pay more for a good one.
One lesson with a true pro is better than 100 with a crappy one.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
.........................
Not sure I follow. Basically, I need to use the other parts to engage my ESR to provide a better ISR and in turn will create a better motion?
.....................................................
1) I had said that in Frame #5 your racket was already down and you had not started your jump.
Look at Frame #5 and note the height of your head in Frame #5 and Frame #6. Your jump starts then. Look at your forearm and racket.

2) Now go to this video and do single frame at around 8 sec. That is when his head starts to rise, when he jumps. Use the stands in the background or court sideline as a reference for his head height. Look at the forearm and racket.

To do single frame on Vimeo hold down the SHIFT KEY and use the ARROW KEYS.

Compare your racket to his racket. In your case, you have already placed your racket back and down with a wrist bend. Look at the forearm-to-racket angle. The forearm, when the elbow is bent, is a clear indicator of the angle of ESR and ISR. The forearm & racket are held that way so that the jump will cause ESR and stretch the ISR muscles. Your racket down then is not part of the motion of the high level serve.

There are other motions that also cause ESR, you probably won't use them effectively. Search: leg thrust Cartwheel trunk twist Somersault Chas
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...e-cartwheeling-properly.561924/#post-10250911


Explaining this in words is very poor compared to carefully working through a high speed video. When the serve is closer to the correct technique, recording at about 240 fps is necessary to see the faster motion.

The upper arm to shoulder joint should be oriented to reduce the risk of shoulder impingement. See the Todd Ellenbecker video "Rotator Cuff Injury". Tennis Resources website. See upper arm orientation throughout the serve for ATP servers.
 
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Show any Div1 player all this voodoo BS and they will just shake their heads.
You can't change your elbow by 2 degrees or whatever other crap is posted here.

The serve is an explosion. You can't control the details.

All you can control:
1) Ball toss depth
2) Grip.
3) Trophy arm.
4) Max leg bend and jumping.
Just because a move is explosive doesn't mean it can't be controlled/coached/improved.
- More difficult to control? Yes.
- More difficult to break down into micro-progressions? Yes.
- Harder to isolate specific flaws? Yes.
- Impossible? No.

I'm confident a good coach will be able to teach good serve mechanics, even the explosive parts.
 

moonballs

Hall of Fame
Alright. Starting at the top left, let's refer to those photos sequentially as 1 through 12.

The bent knee is fine. The toss is fine. The takeback is fine. You might not be 100% textbook up through photo #5, but you're close enough that it isn't going to hold you back in any meaningful way.

At photo 3 (and on toward photo 5), you're more or less c0cked and loaded, as you'd want to be at the start of the business part of the throwing motion that powers the serve. It's roughly what people call trophy position (and again, it looks fine). From THIS INSTANT, high level serves and low level serves diverge in one important way. There are a million checkpoints you can look for, but they're all indicative of the exact same thing.

From this moment, you can either initiate the forward and upward motion with the huge, powerful muscles of the legs, glutes, hips, and core...or you can initiate it with the much smaller muscles of the arm, chest, and shoulder.

If you do the latter, you're doing what we call "arming." When you do this, the shoulder doesn't remain tucked back in its socket, because it has to help the arm reach up to the ball. Since it's not tucked back, it doesn't rotate freely in there, and the serve motion doesn't create powerful upper arm rotation. That changes the entire path of the swing. The upshot is that serving this way (arming), the default continental grip doesn't result in the racquet coming up on edge, followed by a nice, square contact.

When arming, the arm moves in a very direct path (without rotation), and to create square overhead contact, you need to come straight at the ball with an eastern grip (which is why beginners serve with that grip). Once you learn you're "supposed to" use a continental grip, unless you also fix the motion to remove the arming, you must manipulate the wrist so that the racquet face moves into position, which you do by going into a waiter's tray.

Point is, what's happening with your racquet face isn't an error you're making with your racquet hand. It's an error in the fundamentals of your swing, starting from the ground up.

How can I tell what muscles you're using to power the swing?

Look at photos 6 through 10. The line of your hips, and the line of your shoulders never changes, from the moment you initiate the swing, until the moment you contact the ball.

How should it look? Here's Kyrgios in slow motion from roughly the same angle. Ignore EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS SERVE EXCEPT THE LINE OF HIS HIPS AND SHOULDERS. Don't worry about checkpoints and micromechanics. Just notice that his hips and torso have rotated around toward the court (for a flat serve, here) BEFORE he makes contact. His whole body, not just his arm, has created the power.


This means not just a more powerful serve, but also a motion that keeps the arm back in its correct slot longer, which creates the upper arm rotation that powers the serve, AND creates the circumstances that force a continental grip to both come up on edge, and contact the ball squarely.

How do you get there from where you are? Take the legs out of it. MY #1 MUST DO IMMEDIATE CHANGE FOR YOU is this: Get out of that advanced, Sampras style platform stance. It's screwing up your progress, because it's actually a terrible stance to serve from unless you're using a correct, full-body swing. Bring your feet closer together, and point the front toe at the net post, 1970's style. Don't concern yourself with leg bend at all. Just think about winding up your upper body to start the serve, so that your hips are ahead of your chest as you start to swing. That'll encourage full-upper-body swinging. Start with the toe and the chest pointing at the post, and as you toss (or before you toss), turn the upper body 45 degrees so it's facing the fence. Then think about swinging from the body, and letting the arm follow.
Great analysis. I suffer from the same arming problem. I know it because if I practice 200 serves my shoulder hurts. In matches the pain comes sooner because I am less relaxed. Full body swing is supposed to be the same for forehand and serves. My forehand swing is led by the hip but it is much much harder to incorporate it in the serve! Other than the basic drill which I definitely will be doing is there any other videos or drills?
 

RetroSpin

Hall of Fame
I stand corrected. MY NEW #1 MUST DO for you is to ignore the Feel Tennis video by Tomaz above. It's the single worst piece of tennis instruction on the entire Internet, a gross misrepresentation of what happens in a throwing motion, and has a far better chance of tearing your rotator cuff or causing debilitating golfer's elbow than it does of helping your serve. It's borderline criminal.

But as soon as you're done ignoring that, reread my post and do that stuff.
I don't see what's so terrible about tomaz's video. In fact, I think it is pretty good. Few lower level players understand how the arm and racquet move in an advanced serve. He does a good job of illustrating it and showing a training progression.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Finding and posting pictures -

To find pictures Search: back bend tennis serve pictures
https://www.google.com/search?q=back+bend+tennis+serve+pictures&client=firefox-b-1&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjP4OaRl4zZAhUBtlkKHQRIDEkQsAQIJg&biw=845&bih=500


Many times starting out with a group of pictures is a good way to look into any subject. You can go to the website with the picture by clicking on the "View" box. Provide the website link as a source as most websites want traffic. Don't copy proprietary photos.

Right Click on the picture and select "Copy Image Location".

In the TW reply box, click on the picture icon above the TW reply page and paste the copied Image Location into the box for the image address.

If you want to post a picture from your computer you first must post it on a photo hosting website. Many photo websites are free or at least start out that way.
 
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Znak

Professional
Some good tips there! I should do an update vid, been reworking the serve from the ground, up. Doing an abbreviated takeback now (I think you were advocating this as well), I find my muscles understand it better. Still needs so much practice, but hopefully this spring I'll have some progress vids (once the snow melts!).
 
C

Chadillac

Guest
Look at the 7th image. Unless your trying to hit a kicker, the toss shouldnt be overhead. After images also show you falling left, your losing power. Easiest solution is to try a few without your lean back on prep, bend both knee's/shoulders equal and see if it helps the balance and weight transfer.

Could also toss more into the court so you can take advantage of all that prep, looks like its causing resistance with a late contact point.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
Trying to break down my serve and rebuild it this past year after 10 years of bad habits. It's proving tougher than I'd like to admit; I'm getting close but I still feel so far. I decided to get my friend to film me because in my head I feel like I'm doing things that I'm not and I'm glad that I did — because man I do some weird things.

For one, I do this slight knee bend when I toss the ball. I think my elbow on my racquet hand is too low when I toss. Most importantly, when going towards the ball, I thought I was leading with the edge of my racquet, but my wrist falls open and ultimately I do this hybrid waiter serve (which made me very sad inside :(). Even on the racquet drop you can see that it's open.

Question for any of you, what's the best method to correct this? Does this stem from my move prior where my elbow isn't at a correct height? I don't feel tense on these serves, but I wonder if that has anything to do with it. I am using a continental grip and strangely enough, this problem is less apparent when I perform my slice serve...

Thanks in advance (image below).

The serve is based on throwing. You toss the ball with one hand and throw the racquet at it with the other. It doesn't appear from these pics that you have ever played a throwing sport, or that you otherwise learned a good throwing motion. One method that I have found helps players who haven't developed a good throwing motion, is to stagger the timing of their toss and racquet throw so that as you toss the ball with your left hand, the top of the racquet remains pointing down to the court until the ball is released, then you throw the racquet at the ball. Pete Sampras and Stefan Edberg served this way with great results. The staggered timing isolates the 2 movements so that you can be more aware of the swing path of your throwing motion. Understand that a good throwing motion is a long fluid motion that gradually accelerates and involves the arm, the legs, and upper body rotation.

With that in mind, lets look at some of your pics. Your position in pics 1, 2 and 3 look pretty good, straight tossing arm and some turn and tilt of your spine. However, if you were employing a proper throwing motion, with the correct grip: in pics 4 and 5, the hitting side of your racquet face would be facing your head; in pic 6, the racquet face would be facing forward toward the target, not the left side fence, and your elbow would be pointing up not down or to the right side; in pic 7, as you begin your up-swing the edge of your racquet would be leading the up-swing toward the ball. In the remaining pics, although your toss and position looked good in pic 3, it seems that your toss was too far back and your weight has not moved forward into the court and your balance is too far back impairing your ability to rotate your upper body in the up-swing.
 

Curious

Legend
stagger the timing of their toss and racquet throw so that as you toss the ball with your left hand, the top of the racquet remains pointing down to the court until the ball is released, then you throw the racquet at the ball.
I have started experimenting this recently and I'm getting thrilling results in terms of pace. It's like I'm first sending the ball to where I want to hit it, then I absolutely smash it while it's hanging in the air for a split second. One more thing that seems to help me is, I'm almost moving in slow motion until the explosive throwing starts.
 

Kevo

Legend
Some good tips there! I should do an update vid, been reworking the serve from the ground, up. Doing an abbreviated takeback now (I think you were advocating this as well), I find my muscles understand it better. Still needs so much practice, but hopefully this spring I'll have some progress vids (once the snow melts!).
Yeah, Soderling gets it right in that vid, although I don't necessarily like the way he describes arm rotation as using the wrist. However, too many players gloss over the toss. The toss is absolutely the most important part of the serve. If you don't get that right, or at least very close to right, consistently, then you will not develop a great serve.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
I have started experimenting this recently and I'm getting thrilling results in terms of pace. It's like I'm first sending the ball to where I want to hit it, then I absolutely smash it while it's hanging in the air for a split second. One more thing that seems to help me is, I'm almost moving in slow motion until the explosive throwing starts.
That's good! Acceleration should be gradual. The force you use to "smash it" can also be used to impart topspin. Also, be aware that it is not necessary to toss the ball much above contact with staggered timing. Check out the great Jack Kramer's serve at about 20 seconds:

 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
This is what stood out to my non-coach eyes. Check out Kyrgios and Sampras below. Obviously your hand position at racquet back scratch position is more like Sampras. I wonder if the Kyrgios style of hand closer to the head/back is the easier for the rec player. I checked my serve video, and my hand gets pretty close to the head. I just tried your/Sampras position ... and feels like more stress on shoulder joint.

Just my 2 cents ... if you can hit a Sampras serve ... DO IT. :D


 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
This is what stood out to my non-coach eyes. Check out Kyrgios and Sampras below. Obviously your hand position at racquet back scratch position is more like Sampras. I wonder if the Kyrgios style of hand closer to the head/back is the easier for the rec player. I checked my serve video, and my hand gets pretty close to the head. I just tried your/Sampras position ... and feels like more stress on shoulder joint.

Just my 2 cents ... if you can hit a Sampras serve ... DO IT. :D


Timing is everything. Those picks don't capture their respective serves at the same point of progression. Pics 1 and 3 are close to the same point in the service motion.

Check out the all-time-great servers in this video, especially Sampras and Laver. Notice how they all have their elbows pointing up at some point during the upswing, something that the OP does not achieve from the pics he posted.

 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
Timing is everything. Those picks don't capture their respective serves at the same point of progression. Pics 1 and 3 are close to the same point in the service motion.

Check out the all-time-great servers in this video, especially Sampras and Laver. Notice how they all have their elbows pointing up at some point during the upswing, something that the OP does not achieve from the pics he posted.

Hey Limp ... you always find great videos. I will like to see @Znak 's serve between his pic 5 and 6.

I guess elbow pointing up is another way of saying "very bent elbow" in the throwing motion. I guess the elbow wouldn't always point straight up to have a great throwing motion (consider side arm mlb pitchers). But watching your video, I see all of them do what I referenced ... the hand ends up behind the head. Sampras is the exception in that video with his hand further from his head.

We need to see Znak's serve video. :D
 

Znak

Professional
Hey Limp ... you always find great videos. I will like to see @Znak 's serve between his pic 5 and 6.

I guess elbow pointing up is another way of saying "very bent elbow" in the throwing motion. I guess the elbow wouldn't always point straight up to have a great throwing motion (consider side arm mlb pitchers). But watching your video, I see all of them do what I referenced ... the hand ends up behind the head. Sampras is the exception in that video with his hand further from his head.

We need to see Znak's serve video. :D
Today was the first good day! Hoping to get a new recording soon :)
 

jz000

Rookie
If I were to teach myself 3 years ago...

Try starting from a static racket over shoulder position, instead of having to bring the racket up from below. If you need to be able to generate easy power from this position first.

Practice at least 30 minutes everyday. Go easy, and try to build mental resistance against frustration. Don't give a **** if you shank the ball. Sit down and think of trying it a different way.

Once you can 'feel' your serve and know exactly everything you are doing from that static position, then you can try starting from the bottom position.

I'd say that if you can hit the ball one bounce to the fence easily and comfortably from that position, even after 1 hour of practice, then you've learned the right technique...

I used to try sooo hard, even 3 hours serving non-stop like a zombie. (Never serve for that long lol.. I'm young so I still have my rotator-cuff intact).
Remember, you must practice serve at least every other day, otherwise you'll lose the memory of it.

Time to work on the kick serve!
 
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Curious

Legend
That's good! Acceleration should be gradual. The force you use to "smash it" can also be used to impart topspin. Also, be aware that it is not necessary to toss the ball much above contact with staggered timing. Check out the great Jack Kramer's serve at about 20 seconds:

This is what works best for me. I have focused on his serve and what you always said: toss the ball first, then throw the racket at it.

 
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