charliefederer, tricky, leed, etc: I've a serve dilemma (pics & vid included)

spacediver

Hall of Fame
This is what my serves looked like last August:

http://www.vimeo.com/14259063

Good pace and all, but there were a few things I thought needed fixing:

1) I was initiating my knee bend way after the toss, as opposed to during.

2) I wasn't leading with my hips.


I've worked on improving these things (in addition to some other stuff, including a better racquet takeback), but have noticed a new problem that I need to debug. See the new video:

http://www.vimeo.com/20700531

As you can see, I'm leading with my hips, and bringing my weight forward, and timing the knee bend with the toss. However, as a result, my weight is largely on my inside foot (left), and I end up not being able to use my right knee to drive, and my knees come together which looks strange.


However, I feel awfully off balance if I try to keep my weight on both feet while shifting weight forwards. I could seriously use some experienced guidance here. I sense this problem is costing me some serious power generation.


Compare the trophies before and after:

Before:



After:



Here are some more snaps from the current motion:

(For now, ignore the fact that my racquet take back in the new motion is a bit delayed. I understand that it should be brought up earlier)

 

dozu

Banned
with my limited knowledge about serves....

dude - are you sure you are dropping the racket completely into the slot before exploding up? it gives me an impression that you are side-arm sky-hooking the ball.

I could very well be wrong though.
 

joe sch

Legend
I just glanced and will just offer advice on your stance ...
I like the first sequence where your legs are more parallel.
The legs are very important and when used unconventionally can lead to hip and knee injuries. I know this is a very general critique but could also save you some future problems.
 
This is what my serves looked like last August:
After:
I'm not a coach by any means, but it looks like the angle of your left leg (from foot to knee) is pointed away from the court. In this position, I think it would be very difficult to jump forward over the baseline as part of your serve motion. If anything, it seems like you'd be jumping straight up.

I suggest trying to lean your left knee into the court. That should get the rest of you to line up properly.

$0.02 from someone whose totally unqualified to give advice. : )
But this is the internet and TW so I'm automatically an expert...unless I'm not...but you'll never know!
 

spacediver

Hall of Fame
with my limited knowledge about serves....

dude - are you sure you are dropping the racket completely into the slot before exploding up? it gives me an impression that you are side-arm sky-hooking the ball.

I could very well be wrong though.
yes don't worry about that for now


(For now, ignore the fact that my racquet take back in the new motion is a bit delayed. I understand that it should be brought up earlier)

It gets there eventually (though needs work still), just that it's delayed.

 

spacediver

Hall of Fame
I just glanced and will just offer advice on your stance ...
I like the first sequence where your legs are more parallel.
The legs are very important and when used unconventionally can lead to hip and knee injuries. I know this is a very general critique but could also save you some future problems.
yep I'm with you here - I'm just trying to figure out how to get my legs into that configuration, while at the same time being able to lead with the hips.
 

SuperDuy

Hall of Fame
Have you tried pinpoint, or tried bringing your right leg up closer to your left on push-off? This current serve can lead to knee problems. As mentioned above, try having legs parallel.
 

spacediver

Hall of Fame
Have you tried pinpoint, or tried bringing your right leg up closer to your left on push-off? This current serve can lead to knee problems. As mentioned above, try having legs parallel.
I'd like to master a platform stance before experimenting with pinpoint variations.
 

spacediver

Hall of Fame
I'm not a coach by any means, but it looks like the angle of your left leg (from foot to knee) is pointed away from the court. In this position, I think it would be very difficult to jump forward over the baseline as part of your serve motion. If anything, it seems like you'd be jumping straight up.

I suggest trying to lean your left knee into the court. That should get the rest of you to line up properly.

$0.02 from someone whose totally unqualified to give advice. : )
But this is the internet and TW so I'm automatically an expert...unless I'm not...but you'll never know!
Thanks for the reply. I think so long as you rotate your body into the court, this issue is taken care of. The knees extend while your body is rotating counterclockwise, so that you end up jumping in a more forward direction.
 

Wes_Loves_Dunlop

Professional
Having your palm face up on your left arm is a pretty big issue. It will make you hit long a lot if you are even a little bit late. It also might make you arm your serve because you need to turn your hand in before you hit the ball.

That one picture in your original post looks very awkward especially because your left elbow is tucked in so closely to your body. That with your racket facing up would lead to some big issues.
 

spacediver

Hall of Fame
Having your palm face up on your left arm is a pretty big issue. It will make you hit long a lot if you are even a little bit late. It also might make you arm your serve because you need to turn your hand in before you hit the ball.

That one picture in your original post looks very awkward especially because your left elbow is tucked in so closely to your body. That with your racket facing up would lead to some big issues.
Not sure what you're talking about here, or which picture you're talking about.
 
With all due respect, you have to learn how to toss.

What is the purpose of the toss?

(Hint: It is not just getting the ball up there!)

The purpose of the tossing motion is to finish in a perfectly balanced agressive trophy pose.

To do that you need to be coiling away from the ball (as you bend your knees, AT THE SAME TIME as you are bringing your tossing arm up and up and up (getting a very steep shoulder angle.) [And you are not coiling away from the ball hardly at all right now.]

It is not toss, then coil/bend knees/shoulder angle/form bow shape. It is one seemless toss while coiling/bending knees/getting an ever steeper shoulder angle as the arm goes up/forming a bow shape.

Here are the videos you need to study to do it:

Watch how Federer, Murray, Hass, Hewitt, Davydenko, Safin, Tsonga all make the same move when tossing the ball. Keys to a good toss: Upper body turn during the backswing as your arm is going up and up and up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF-UaRUd6k (Notice that they start coiling as soon as they start bringing the ball up. When the ball is brought up from the thigh to waist position there already is noticeable coil and by the time of ball release they are pretty fully coiled.)

Now there is a tempo to the serve toss you may never have thought about. But as the arm is going up, your back shoulder is tilting back, and to balance the back shift in weight of your upper body as you go into a bow shape, you have to let your font hip go forward more. (This isn't just jutting the hip out there, it really is a necessary counterbalance to your upper body tilting backward.)
Tennis Serve Tossing Motion Tempo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeZp90h-Ar8&feature=channel
Tennis Lesson: Serve Tips: Lead with the Hip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgeYmEScfgQ

After watching these videos, try shadowing the motion at home, so that you start to build some "muscle memory" even before you get to the court. It will then be a lot easier once you get there. But like every new motion, it will take time to really burn this new tossing motion in. But you should be rewarded with a harder and more consistant serve.

I hope this helps.
 
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spacediver

Hall of Fame
To do that you need to be coiling away from the ball (as you bend your knees, AT THE SAME TIME as you are bringing your tossing arm up and up and up (getting a very steep shoulder angle.) [And you are not coiling away from the ball hardly at all right now.]

It is not toss, then coil/bend knees/shoulder angle/form bow shape. It is one seemless toss while coiling/bending knees/getting an ever steeper shoulder angle as the arm goes up/forming a bow shape.
Thanks for the response - but are you sure you're watching the right video? I posted two videos, one before and one after. In the first video, I had good knee bend, but did the toss, then coil problem.

In second video, I had weird knee bend, but more sync'd toss and bend.

Anyway, will study your videos some more, and see if it helps my particular problem.
 
You've got to get your front hip out over the baseline more. As it is now, instead of counterweighting your upper body tilt with letting the hip go out, you are using your leg to prop up your body so as to maintain your balance.

But you can't just "tack on" the hip pushing out.

The hip has to be going out as you tilt back ... and as you are coiling and tossing.

Hence the emphasis of redoing your toss so you will feel comfortably in balance at all times.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
You got nice arm snap, movement into court.
I think if you start out platform with your feet closer together, your knees would bend in conjunction as opposed to opposition. The twecked right knee, right now, has problems pushing off with the energy needed to match you left knee.
 

spacediver

Hall of Fame
thanks for all the suggestions. I'm gonna meditate on this a bit, absorb some videos, and do some experimenting with my homemade tennis sock. Will try to get some updated footage and see what happens.
 

spacediver

Hall of Fame
wow charlie, I think that tossing tip in the first video is key for me! I just tried experimenting with turning my body clockwise during the toss so that my tossing arm is parallel to baseline, and I was able to bend both knees and remain balanced.

Thanks, I can't wait to experiment on court :)
 

joe sch

Legend
You got nice arm snap, movement into court.
I think if you start out platform with your feet closer together, your knees would bend in conjunction as opposed to opposition. The twecked right knee, right now, has problems pushing off with the energy needed to match you left knee.
Agree and this is the correction I should have suggested in my earlier post.
 

Kevo

Legend
I think you need to point your front foot more into the court. Rotating around the knee can lead to problems. I know people who have had trouble with that.
 
wow charlie, I think that tossing tip in the first video is key for me! I just tried experimenting with turning my body clockwise during the toss so that my tossing arm is parallel to baseline, and I was able to bend both knees and remain balanced.

Thanks, I can't wait to experiment on court :)
I'm glad this seems to be working.

I think that everything in the toss/turn away from the ball/form the bow sequence has to be smoothly coordinated, and for you to feel your weight is evenly distributed on the balls of both feet throughout the sequence. That feeling of continuous balance is so essential for putting yourself in an aggressive trophy position from which you can then explode.

I hope you are now doing what Fed, Murray, Monfils and Roddick do. (I noticed you don't raise your front toe right after your rock back like Hewitt, Haas and Tsonga do, and there is certainly no reason to.)

They start the tossing motion leaning with their upper body weight over the baseline, with their knees slightly bent, with their weight on the balls of their feet. Then as they start to raise their arm, they keep their weight evenly and continuously distributed over the balls of both feet as they continue to raise the arm and simultaneouly turn away while letting their body weight fall/bending their knees.
 
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spacediver

Hall of Fame
I'm glad this seems to be working.

I think that everything in the toss/turn away from the ball/form the bow sequence has to be smoothly coordinated, and for you to feel your weight is evenly distributed on the balls of both feet throughout the sequence. That feeling of continuous balance is so essential for putting yourself in an aggressive trophy position from which you can then explode.
This is a major part of my problem, but it stemmed from a misunderstanding. I was under the impression that I was supposed to be shifting my body weight forward during the toss, and that by the time I was in full trophy, the weight was meant to be almost completely on my front foot. As a result, I was struggling to understand how one could derive power from the back leg.

Also, I've another question that has just emerged from this new tossing idea. How am I supposed to toss the ball ahead of me, if my tossing arm is parallel to baseline?


(I noticed you don't raise your front toe right after your rock back like Hewitt, Haas and Tsonga do, and there is certainly no reason to.)
You sure you watching the correct video (the 5 sec one)? Here's a screen from it that shows my front toe being raised:


 
You sure you watching the correct video (the 5 sec one)? Here's a screen from it that shows my front toe being raised:
My bad.:oops:
I actually had posted a response remembering that you raised your front toe.
I even included a reference to this Fuzzy Yellow Balls video on Tennis Serve Knee Bend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdaMb96OhNA&feature=related
But then I clicked on your video and didn't see the toe raise on your most recent serve that I thought I'd remembered - I must have clicked on your "old" video by mistake.
So I took edited out the reference to the FYB video and any reference to a toe raise because I figured that would be confusing.
Well... the one I confused was myself.
But the bottom line is if you are comfortable with the front foot toe raise, and easily feel balanced using it, then don't change it. You are in good company with not only Hewitt, Haas and Tsonga from the video, but obviously many other pros and non-pros as well.
(I dropped the front toe raise because I thought it was easier to maintain balance starting the Fed/Murray/Roddick way. Not because it is intrinsically better, but for me it was easier to maintain balance by always keeping the weight on the balls of both feet right from the start of the tossing motion, rather than establishing balance on the balls of the feet after the front toe raise.

Also, I've another question that has just emerged from this new tossing idea. How am I supposed to toss the ball ahead of me, if my tossing arm is parallel to baseline?
The toss is in the shape of an upside down J - and therefore is known as the "J
toss."
Here is a clip of Sampras using his "J toss" (All of the players in that video of pro tosses use a J toss - you just can't see it because the video cones in on the player and doesn't follow the path of the ball.) http://web.archive.org/web/20071023184108/www.operationdoubles.com/sampras_serve3.gif

(There was a discussioin on this last fall: http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=346404 )


So you end up tossing the ball slightly back to you and slightly in front.

I guess it sounds harder than it is to just do it.

Indeed, when you are tossing you are not thinking: "I have to have a J shaped (parabolic) toss to get the ball to the optimal contact point in front."

You just have a strong mental image where you want the toss to go, and with practice your arm moves to place it there.

[The reason this toss is used by virtually all the pros and most advanced servers is that I suppose it is easier to use this tossing motion as you are coiling back, than to try to keep your arm further in front as you coil back.]
 
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spacediver

Hall of Fame
Here is new footage from a few hours ago. Need to turn my outside foot more clockwise, and need to maintain better balance for a deeper knee bend, but I think I see an improvement. Found it hard to toss ahead, but will work on it.

I also note that the knee bend isn't occuring fluidly in sync with the toss yet. Something to work on.

http://vimeo.com/20907791
 
Much better!!!

The awkward leg motion on your Feb. 24th video is much improved.

At this point, it may largely be a matter of practice, practice, practice to get the "muscle memory" so that it feels like it just flows without having to think about it.

Perhaps you might want to consider the following, to maybe tweak a little the advance you made.

One thing may be to start with slightly more bend in your rear knee/weight on the ball of the foot as most of the pros in that serving video start with. (It is probably easier to keep bending an already bent knee/weight on the ball on the foot, than to start with a relatively straight knee in the first place.)
[Check out Lleyton Hewitt who has a serve similar to yours, and how he starts with his rear knee already flexed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkeuSMMPUTI ]

But again, great work! Keep it up!
 
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LeeD

Bionic Poster
A little knock kneed, but much more explosion and great foreward movement coupled with a strong fast swing.
Did you move feet closer together on prep? Maybe consider moving it 3" closer, so you still get the forward movement, and both legs work together in conjunction to explode up on the ball without independent angles.
 

spacediver

Hall of Fame
Interesting idea. You're definitely right about the need for the angles to be in alignment. The way I was thinking about fixing that was by rotating my outside leg a bit more clockwise, but never thought about experimenting with feet closer together. Thanks, will experiment with that next time.
 

ATP100

Professional
Interesting idea. You're definitely right about the need for the angles to be in alignment. The way I was thinking about fixing that was by rotating my outside leg a bit more clockwise, but never thought about experimenting with feet closer together. Thanks, will experiment with that next time.
You have some serious natural power, if you find a teaching pro who you like, they will unlock a very powerful serve, everything a coach looks for is there, waiting to be molded a little.
 

spacediver

Hall of Fame
thanks ATP. I've thought about the idea of maybe having a session or two with an experienced coach who I trust.

However, I feel that there's a lot I can improve on using my own resources (and this board, which has been wonderful), and I had a bad experience last year when I paid for an hour's coaching session for my groundstrokes.

I will start putting out feelers for coaches who have experience with teaching the serve - I play once a week at the rexall center (tennis canada) and there are a lot of coaches around whom I could speak to.
 

Sreeram

Professional
You got nice arm snap, movement into court. I think if you start out platform with your feet closer together, your knees would bend in conjunction as opposed to opposition. The twecked right knee, right now, has problems pushing off with the energy needed to match you left knee.
I agree with the first point. I used to think, guys like you who do not have a decent rythem in serve cannot serve fast or improve. But after playing against few guys in India recently including a pro I understood that explosion into the ball is more than enough to serve at a decent pace. You have nice movement into the court and that is your strength. There are so many things wrong with your serve motion (intial loading) but the unloading is very powerful. I dont know how to improve your loading motion but I would advice you not to change the unloading motion. I am exactly opposite of you, I have decent loading and toss but I dont unload or blast fully into the ball and there by rob power out of my own serve.
 
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