Continue to use unorthodox (but effective) serve?

mightyrick

Legend
Hi guys,

After a ladder match that I had recently, my opponent complimented me on my serve. I ended up winning that match 6-1, 6-2. I decided to go out and videotape my serving motion because I wanted to see what I was doing. BTW, I am a completely self-taught server. A few details about my serve. The fastest ones probably hit 100mph (but I find speed fairly irrelevant). I do have three serves (flat, kick, top/slice). I also have fairly decent placement control.

So after videotaping myself, I was completely shocked. I definitely have some seriously bad (or unorthodox if you want to be nice) fundamentals. Honestly, the serve just looks weird. My ball toss is always in an arc. Most times, I "fall backwards" while swinging up -- apparently due to my arcing ball toss. My back scratch really doesn't have my racquet facing straight down at the ground -- and I open up too early. On the good side, I jump on every serve. Due to my being a baseball pitcher in high school, I know how to rotate. So I get excellent unwinding rotation while I swing.

But what I'm wondering is if I really should worry about changing it. I'm a high-3.5. I serve pretty well. I serve without pain. And I win a lot of games with it. Many 4.0s can't even effectively return my serve without popping up floaters to me.

Should I start trying to make incremental adjustments now? Or just wait until it starts losing me matches? What do you guys think?
 

b.termite

Rookie
Depends on how much the technical stuff is affecting the improvement of your serve. My serve looks pretty weird, but it hasn't really affected my progression with it. If the technical pieces are so off that you can't really improve, I'd work on that. Otherwise, it doesn't really matter, people might think it looks weird but it they can hardly return it I doubt they'll say a thing..
 

gregor.b

Professional
Provided the serve is fundamentally sound and does not cause pain,and unless you feel the need to change,why bother? If this is not the case,then use the 1% method. ie 1 thing at a time.
 

Ducker

Rookie
no never, you should never do that. The problem with most everyone learning tennis, practicing and improving is there are more concerned with end result now than anything else. If i drop a ball and tell somone to watch this how you hit a backhand they almost always watch where the ball goes and never actually watch the technique i used to acheive that result.

SO no do not use bad form, in the end you will be so much more confident in your serve, proud, and effective.
 

BobFL

Hall of Fame
Why don't you post the video? It would be 1000x easier for us to propose something creative...
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
I agree with BobFl, post the video. We'll help you out

I had no idea what my serve looked like until I video taped it and put it on here. My serve never really was a weakness for me, and like you I could do a lot with it.

However, when I posted my serving video on here I got some good advice that greatly improved my serve in a short amount of time. And as a result my serve looks less awkward now :)

point of the story, post as many videos as you can here. You wont regret it
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
I agree with BobFl, post the video. We'll help you out

I had no idea what my serve looked like until I video taped it and put it on here. My serve never really was a weakness for me, and like you I could do a lot with it.

However, when I posted my serving video on here I got some good advice that greatly improved my serve in a short amount of time. And as a result my serve looks less awkward now :)

point of the story, post as many videos as you can here. You wont regret it
Hahaha! Careful! He may regret it. Depends on who notices his videos.
 

r2473

Talk Tennis Guru
I'm a high-3.5.

I serve pretty well. I serve without pain. And I win a lot of games with it. The fastest ones probably hit 100mph

Most times, I "fall backwards" while swinging up -- apparently due to my arcing ball toss.

Due to my being a baseball pitcher in high school, I know how to rotate. So I get excellent unwinding rotation while I swing.
I'm having trouble picturing this. You are a 3.5 level player, capable of serving 100 mph while falling backward, you used to be a baseball pitcher (presumably you didn't fall backward off the mound when you pitched), and you are able to serve consistent and pain free?

Some of this seem contradictory to me, but if it is working for you, I wouldn't mess with it.
 

thug the bunny

Professional
Agree with r2...how can you fall backwards off of a serve? So you don't end up on the in-bounds playing surface after a serve? I have trouble picturing that.

But yeah, if it is effective, don't mess with it unless you feel like experimenting.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Question becomes, are you satified trouncing a bad 3.5 player who praises your serves?
Maybe he's just trying to justify his lost? He's a BAD 3.5. You are a good 3.5, so why not start looking towards 4.0? Or better.
Back to watching vids of PRO men's players. Not the weird ones with goofy motions, but the top guys like Fed, DJ, Murray.
 

r2473

Talk Tennis Guru
Agree with r2...how can you fall backwards off of a serve? So you don't end up on the in-bounds playing surface after a serve? I have trouble picturing that.
This isn't too uncommon. Watch pretty much any woman on the rec courts. You'll probably see a "bail out" move with the hips / butt sticking out. Most women serve this way (and quite a few men do something similar).

It's actually not easy to coordinate all the things that go into the "momentum forward into the court" serve and still get it in. But as he was a pitcher, he should have the move down pat. It's pretty much the EXACT same thing, just on a different plane.
 

TennisCJC

Legend
no never, you should never do that. The problem with most everyone learning tennis, practicing and improving is there are more concerned with end result now than anything else. If i drop a ball and tell somone to watch this how you hit a backhand they almost always watch where the ball goes and never actually watch the technique i used to acheive that result.

SO no do not use bad form, in the end you will be so much more confident in your serve, proud, and effective.
I agree with this ^^^^.

I enjoy trying to learn technique. Not to say my technique is great but I like to try to understand good technique and incorporate it into my game. If you are sure your serve has flaws work on correcting the flaws. It may cause you some small amount of regression in your game in the very short term but it most likely will pay off in the long term. Besides, I think this is part of the fun of playing - you strive to be the best you can be - just like the marines.
 

thug the bunny

Professional
I agree that proper mechanics is important (and fun to work on), but every player has to strike a balance between their own innate mechanics and the 'proper' ones.

Golf is probably THE most technique oriented mechanics driven sport, and yet you see a good number of pro golfers whose swings deviate from 'proper' form. If you were to photoshop a stranger's face onto a video of Gainy, Furyk, Bubba, Trevino, Perry, etc (I could keep going) swinging and post it on a golf forum you would get a storm of replies on what they are doing wrong. (BTW, you see more mechanics advice on this forum than most golf forums for some reason.)
 

maleyoyo

Professional
Hi guys,

After a ladder match that I had recently, my opponent complimented me on my serve. I ended up winning that match 6-1, 6-2. I decided to go out and videotape my serving motion because I wanted to see what I was doing. BTW, I am a completely self-taught server. A few details about my serve. The fastest ones probably hit 100mph (but I find speed fairly irrelevant). I do have three serves (flat, kick, top/slice). I also have fairly decent placement control.

So after videotaping myself, I was completely shocked. I definitely have some seriously bad (or unorthodox if you want to be nice) fundamentals. Honestly, the serve just looks weird. My ball toss is always in an arc. Most times, I "fall backwards" while swinging up -- apparently due to my arcing ball toss. My back scratch really doesn't have my racquet facing straight down at the ground -- and I open up too early. On the good side, I jump on every serve. Due to my being a baseball pitcher in high school, I know how to rotate. So I get excellent unwinding rotation while I swing.

But what I'm wondering is if I really should worry about changing it. I'm a high-3.5. I serve pretty well. I serve without pain. And I win a lot of games with it. Many 4.0s can't even effectively return my serve without popping up floaters to me.

Should I start trying to make incremental adjustments now? Or just wait until it starts losing me matches? What do you guys think?
Without looking at your serve, my guess is you are having success so far because you rely on your superior strength. Your serve is un-challenged at your level, but as you get into high 4.0 and weak 4.5 you probably won’t get many easy points on your serve as you used to because your opponents’ returns are far better. That would put more pressure on your serve, and if it’s not fundamentally sound, it will break down more easily due to mental stress and fatigue. When your serve goes south, so is the rest of your game.
A technically sound serve means it’s more efficient and less taxing to the body. If your plan is to have fun at 3.5, there is no need to change.
 
Hi guys,

After a ladder match that I had recently, my opponent complimented me on my serve. I ended up winning that match 6-1, 6-2. I decided to go out and videotape my serving motion because I wanted to see what I was doing. BTW, I am a completely self-taught server. A few details about my serve. The fastest ones probably hit 100mph (but I find speed fairly irrelevant). I do have three serves (flat, kick, top/slice). I also have fairly decent placement control.

So after videotaping myself, I was completely shocked. I definitely have some seriously bad (or unorthodox if you want to be nice) fundamentals. Honestly, the serve just looks weird. My ball toss is always in an arc. Most times, I "fall backwards" while swinging up -- apparently due to my arcing ball toss. My back scratch really doesn't have my racquet facing straight down at the ground -- and I open up too early. On the good side, I jump on every serve. Due to my being a baseball pitcher in high school, I know how to rotate. So I get excellent unwinding rotation while I swing.

But what I'm wondering is if I really should worry about changing it. I'm a high-3.5. I serve pretty well. I serve without pain. And I win a lot of games with it. Many 4.0s can't even effectively return my serve without popping up floaters to me.

Should I start trying to make incremental adjustments now? Or just wait until it starts losing me matches? What do you guys think?
If you have the time, why not take the challenge of improving your serve?

My ball toss is always in an arc. Well, that is the way all the pros (and most good players) toss. The path of the ball is called a J toss:
http://web.archive.org/web/20071023184108/www.operationdoubles.com/sampras_serve3.gif There was a recent TT thread on this: http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=401997

You can make yourself toss further in front for your first serves. It should just be a matter of practice.
You may want to watch a lot of the pros tossing to see how they do it:
Federer Murray Haas & more ball toss common threads http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF-UaRUd6k&feature=related


My back scratch really doesn't have my racquet facing straight down at the ground If this is happening you are leaving power and spin on the table. As a pitcher, you just reared back and threw. As a tennis player you want to hit up - it's more like throwing into the upper deck. You've got to loosen up the arm muscles to let the arm fall by a combination of gravity and the effect of "leaving your arm behind" as you jump up. [You are probably keeping the arm muscles with tension, because in throwing a baseball, you never let the arm drop down as far as you would in a serve.]


I open up too early Keep that tossing hand going up and up and up until it is straight up, helping you to balance in your trophy position:



Then keep the arm up there as you get a deeper knee bend and assume more of a bow shape as in pics 1-9 below:



And if you are "opening up too early", it is likely that you are swinging your shoulders around, rather than having a vertical shoulder over shoulder motion as Jim McLennan explains here:
Preventing Rotator Cuff Injury http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTRvxaBMh8s
[Also see the Sampras shoulder over shoulder motion in pics 10-14 above.]

So even though you may have "no shoulder pain" now, better technique can help insure a longer tennis career without rotator cuff problems.
 

onehandbh

Legend
[Also see the Sampras shoulder over shoulder motion in pics 10-14 above.]
A shoulder over shoulder motion with a steep upward shoulder angle
is probably the best way to serve, but it is also more physically demanding on
your body. If the OP is an older player, this may be difficult and possibly
lead to injuries. I would try to change your technique in progressions.
Work one just one aspect at a time, then add another component, etc.

There's something to be said about finding a technique that makes tennis
as injury and pain-free as possible.
 

papa

Hall of Fame
A shoulder over shoulder motion with a steep upward shoulder angle
is probably the best way to serve, but it is also more physically demanding on
your body. If the OP is an older player, this may be difficult and possibly
lead to injuries. I would try to change your technique in progressions.
Work one just one aspect at a time, then add another component, etc.

There's something to be said about finding a technique that makes tennis
as injury and pain-free as possible.
Good post and I would agree.

One of the problems we have at every level is the location of the toss. Getting/keeping the toss at or behind the head really limits power (if that's a consideration to the poster) but retards any potential movement into court. If the OP is a doubles player and most older players are, this is a serious consideration.

Players seldom, if ever, practice the toss which is crazy when you think about it. The location, arc & height of the toss are critical elements of consistent/effective serves. I see so many players who have erratic tosses that basically destroy their confidence and produce inconsistent serves. Chasing or arcing too much robs the player to serve with any spin or power and every serve is basically a crap shoot - might go in but probably won't type of deal.

Nobody want to talk about serving consistency but its so important in having a solid game regardless of whether its singles or doubles. When my players get below 50% in singles or 60% in doubles, I know were in trouble. I like the serve percentages to be higher of course but you would be amazed at the percentage of players who think 30 - 40% of first serves in, is ok, regardless of any other factors like score, conditions, etc.

So, the bottom line is that if you want to play at the next level, and most in this Forum probably do, work on your serves to get the percentages (and location) higher. Although some think with legitimate reason that the return is the most important shot (I think it #2), I think the serve is still the most important shot to master.
 
A shoulder over shoulder motion with a steep upward shoulder angle
is probably the best way to serve, but it is also more physically demanding on
your body.
If the OP is an older player, this may be difficult and possibly
lead to injuries. I would try to change your technique in progressions.
Work one just one aspect at a time, then add another component, etc.

There's something to be said about finding a technique that makes tennis
as injury and pain-free as possible.
The OP maintains he still is hitting 100 mph serves.

Just check out the Health and Fitness section to see the epidemic of shoulder injuries. (And I've seen the same thing at the local courts.)

Hitting as hard as he is doing without proper technique could still lead him to end up like those posting with a rotator cuff problem in the future.

He has not provided video evidence, but seems to give clues he may be someone who meets the Serve Doctor's concern "Your serve technique doing more harm than good?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgdXawklcZk



As for "physically demanding", a little off court conditioning to stay in shape to play tennis without incurring injury is just healthy preventive maintenance, not just for tennis, but for overall health.
 
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