Any shoulder saving serve technique tips?


I am coming back from a shoulder injury (small labral tear). I have done PT rather than an op as I cannot afford the money or face the layoff time right now. My PT supports this and bearing in mind I am an older player playing more for exercise and enjoyment (although I do play league tennis) he says the best approach is to see if I can do what I want to do despite the tear.

I am pretty confident that groundstrokes will not disturb my latent injury but serves and overheads are the risk. I will need to make sure I only throw my arm well within its limits rather than push them so I will be slowing down my serve for sure and working towards hitting 2 decent second serves rather than a big first and a weak second as I have in the past. As I play mainly doubles I do not think this will affect the level I can play at and it should give me more time to get in when I serve volley.

Aside from reducing speed does anyone have any other tips - and reasoning - for serving technique which is shoulkder friendly?

Ideas I have had (and I do not know whether they are valid or not are):

- use an abbreviated take-back - with my old serve I have a tendency to over-rotate my shoulder on the takeback and pull the racquet too far into the back. I think both of these could aggravate the shoulder so maybe an abbreviated takeback would help.

- work on tossing more out in front - I feel hitting up on balls close to the body puts a strain on my shoulder and that more out in front will enable a more linear swing path with less rotational strain on the shoulder. It should also help to give me back a bit of power I will be losing through not swinging as hard although I will also lose spin potential.

Do these make sense?
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I have never tried it, but could you not just hit a groundstroke to start off the point. Maybe with enough practice, you could somewhat hit it flat enough (with a little topsin to get it in) and possibly hard enough to not start you out on the defensive. Again, I have never tried it..........


injury is injury, unless your livelihood is dependent upon your tennis game, why risk it? take it easy man. under arm that sucker.


agree with all the previous posts. if you have an injury that will harm yourself forever, don't take the risk. just do an underhand serve with extreme sidespin and/or backspin- this is what my friend did when he had a surgery because he wasn't able to lift up his arm.

Again, just take it easy.


Agree, don't overlook the under arm serve.

Serve it like a table tennis serve. Forehand slice, forehand sidespin, forehand topsin, backhand inside out side spin.

Work on it. At club level, it is as good as the over the shoulder serve.
Be careful about choking down on the stroke (which is where I think you may be heading with the abbreviated take back).

Abbreviated follow through is a major source of shoulder strain.
This is because, if you decelerate the racquet, either consciously or unconsciously, this actually places much more strain on your shoulder, since you are using it to counteract the natural momentum of the racquet. So just concentrate on hitting a smooth, FULL, stroke.

The other natural tendency when one decides to take something off the serve is to use less body and more arm, which again can end up putting more strain on your shoulder, rather than less. Save your shoulder; use your legs!

fuzz nation

Yeah, I'd agree that you'd be wise to go easy if your serving is putting you at serious risk.

I strongly agree with the advice on using your legs to drive upward - the larger muscle groups need to do the 'heavy lifting' in this game whenever they can. Also, test your motion. If you can repeat your typical serving swing without hitting a ball with no pain or problems, then you're doing something wrong when you try and serve a ball.

In my coaching experience, I saw lots of players rush to catch up to their toss when they'd serve and this sort of snatching action really strains the shoulder. If this is the case for you, just analyze your motion and wait on tossing the ball up there until you're more set and ready for an easy release through the hitting zone. It also wouldn't hurt to keep your toss out where you need it for either a comfortable flat or slice serve.

Geezer Guy

Hall of Fame
I agree with your initial post. Proceed with your overhead serve, but be sure you hit the ball out in front. Not straight overhead, and definately not behind your head. This eliminates the topspin serve, but a good slice can be just as effective.

Also, keep your arm and shoulder really loose during the serve. I'd say it's ok to have a big windup, and let the racquet head gather up speed steadily instead of having a short windup that you need to muscle through in order to get power. Feel yourself "throwing" the racquet head through the motion.

I had shoulder problems too (maybe not as bad as yours) and I had GREAT success with physical therapy. Good luck!


thanks for the tips - I tried underarm and hit my partner in the head ! May need a bit of work. The injury is not so bad that I am risking making it much worse by serving overarm so long as I do not go mad. I just need to get a nice smooth reliable medium paced action going. As the OP correctly said it is rushing to catch up with the toss or mis-hitting which causes the pain. I tried a few today and found I can still hit topspin slice (toss out in front). Not much topsin but enough to add consistancy. The pace is still too slow but I can work on that as I get confidence and learn the limits of my shoulder.


New User
You might want to take a look over at They have some videos with Dr. Ben Kibler and Todd Ellenbecker who are well known in the Tennis Medicine community. They talk about how proper serving biomechanics can prevent shoulder injuries.

The rest of the material on the site is VERY GOOD as well...

Forehand Forever

I also have a shoulder problem. I tried more of an Andy Roddick motion and that seems to put a lot less stress on my shoulder. If you don't want to have that complete motion then just try taking the arm back similar to his way. To me it feels a lot better I'm not sure what you'll feel.