Feedback Needed on Serve Technique (Slo-Mo angles)

Freudsiggy

New User
I'm a 3.5/4.0 tennis player and I've been trying to increase the rackethead speed and spin on my serves. I mostly hit slice serves and need to develop a good kick too. I am looking for some feedback on my serve technique.

I think i know i need to work on the areas below based on youtube tutorials (feel tennis channel mostly)
  • My body is falling sideways (to the left) as I am serving & not extending upwards and forwards as most pros do. To fix this:
    • I need to consciously swinging upward rather than sideways and make contact at a higher point.
    • Use my legs to propel upward
    • Get more shoulder over shoulder lifting/ tilting motion to make higher contact
  • Shallow racquet drop/ backscratch. To fix this need:
    • Loosen my wrist/forearm to drop racquet
  • Not pronating as a consequence i only hit slice serves and it reduces the drive through the ball. To fix this need:
    • need to loosen my wrist/forearm to get natural pronation and work on exaggerated pronation after contact
Let me know if you guys agree with my self-assessment and please point on anything major i maybe missing.


 

onehandbh

Legend
How is your throwing motion? can you record a video (from behind) of you throwing a tennis ball across the court?
 

richardc-s

Semi-Pro
From a quick look I would say your ball toss could go further into the court. The further forward you throw it the more you have to propel yourself into the court to reach it, and it'll make you throw your bodyweight into it as well.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
I'm a 3.5/4.0 tennis player and I've been trying to increase the rackethead speed and spin on my serves. I mostly hit slice serves and need to develop a good kick too. I am looking for some feedback on my serve technique.

I think i know i need to work on the areas below based on youtube tutorials (feel tennis channel mostly)
  • My body is falling sideways (to the left) as I am serving & not extending upwards and forwards as most pros do. To fix this:
    • I need to consciously swinging upward rather than sideways and make contact at a higher point.
    • Use my legs to propel upward
    • Get more shoulder over shoulder lifting/ tilting motion to make higher contact
  • Shallow racquet drop/ backscratch. To fix this need:
    • Loosen my wrist/forearm to drop racquet
  • Not pronating as a consequence i only hit slice serves and it reduces the drive through the ball. To fix this need:
    • need to loosen my wrist/forearm to get natural pronation and work on exaggerated pronation after contact
Let me know if you guys agree with my self-assessment and please point on anything major i maybe missing.


Time 13s - You are very upright. Compare trunk and arm angles to high level serve using similar camera angles.

Time 1:04 - You are tilted to the left. Compare trunk and arm angles to high level serve using similar camera angles.

Your use of ISR is not clear. Is the forearm-to-racket angle OK during ISR? And timed for effective ISR?

Study Somersault motion of the serve (forward bend). I would say that the majority of high level servers are not looking at the ball at impact. Some high level ATP servers are looking at the ball. I believe, but don't know, that looking at the ball to impact restricts the Somersault forward bend. Some get their heads to the side when serving. Stosur. Consider if you need to look at the ball until impact and look at some high speed videos.

Thread on angles.
Background. For the tennis serve consider the forearm-racket angle when the racket impacts the ball. The forearm-racket angle only at impact is of interest for this thread.

The forearm-racket angle will vary a lot as seen from different camera views (see comment & demo at end).

The forearm-racket angle can be viewed as having two separate components, as seen in a side view and a behind view.

This component of the forearm-racket angle, resulting in a near vertical racket at impact as seen from the side, is necessary to keep the serve in.

1) Side View. Viewed from the side, the racket at impact is roughly vertical, give or take a few degrees. This angle changes very rapidly around impact and even during impact. As a first estimate, the angular rotation rate for the racket around impact is on the order of 1° per millisecond. What are the variations of this component for the flat, slice and kick serve? It would be helpful if some of the replies had high speed video links or, better yet, single impact frames with the camera viewing from the side (perpendicular to the ball's trajectory is best.)

Examples of the view from the side of the ball's trajectory. Note the forearm-racket angle component from the side -




----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2) Behind View. Viewed from behind, the well known angle, β, between the forearm and racket that is necessary for the internal shoulder rotation (ISR) serve is very clearly displayed. It is the other component of the forearm-racket angle.
Thread on this angle, β, and ISR.
http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=361610

Keep in mind that these angles change very rapidly after the arm extends - angular rotation rate is on the order of 1° per millisecond as a first estimate. Also, that these rotations are never forced or controlled, 'muscled', but flow as a result of practicing the serving technique using the kinetic chain with sequential stretch-shortening cycles.

This component of the forearm-racket angle is necessary to develop racket head speed when the arm is axially rotated by ISR.

Examples of view looking along the ball's trajectory from behind to show this 2nd component of the forearm-racket angle. (The forward tilt of the arm seen in the side view does not show very well.)

Kick serve -


Kick serve -


There are many common comments to describe how to hit the ball for the various types of serves:
1) kick serve - 'hit up on the ball 7 to 1 o'clock'
2) slice serve - 'hit across the back of the ball'
3) slice serve - 'hit the side of the ball with an angle on the racket face'
4) kick serve - Rafter's incomprehensible comment to 'hit 5 to 11 o'clock' or that it feels like 5 to 7 o'clock. ?
5) general serve - 'hit up the mountain'
6) general serve - 'hit as if your were throwing a racket'
7) general serve - others, please supply some of the many instructions

I have been trying to understand these verbal instructions without getting a very clear idea of what they mean.

I believe that the forearm-racket angles as viewed on high speed videos at impact will have a strong correlation with each type of serve.
Flat serve - smaller forearm-racket angle component as seen from behind.
Slice serve - smaller forearm-racket angle component as seen from behind.
Kick serve - larger forearm-racket angle component as seen from behind, as for the examples above.

These angles will also play a part in hitting 'up' on the ball. For the kick serve, the large forearm-racket angle component will allow the racket to impact the ball while traveling up and also to the right (for a RH server), a diagonal path.

Grips. Another issue to consider is the grip. The grips influence the forearm to racket angle. Moving from a continental to a 'strong' continental or backhand grip, in particular, changes the forearm to racket angle.
http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=483360

(Interpretation of Videos. Because the serve is a very 3D motion and the camera gets a 2D projection of it, different camera viewing angles can show most anything for the forearm-racket angle from various view points. As a demo, take a paper clip and straighten it out. Put a 45° angle in it. Hold one end and rotate the paper clip while looking at it. The apparent angle will go from 0° to 45° as it is rotated. A similar effects occurs as a camera views a forearm-racket angle from an undefined viewpoint. That's why it's useful to limit the camera viewing locations to: 1) the side and 2) behind and along the ball's trajectory.)
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...et-angles-for-flat-slice-kick-impacts.489960/
 
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FiReFTW

Legend
Holy sh*t thats as sideways as ive ever seen anyone when serving, looks very uncomfortable for lower back.
 

Freudsiggy

New User
Holy sh*t thats as sideways as ive ever seen anyone when serving, looks very uncomfortable for lower back.
I know, I never realized how sideways I was until I saw a video of myself. I've been saving like this for 5+ years and it doesn't hurt at all. I think the side bend came about as a way to protect my shoulder ( I had rotator cuff issues as a teenager)
 

Freudsiggy

New User
Time 13s - You are very upright. Compare trunk and arm angles to high level serve using similar camera angles.

Time 1:04 - You are tilted to the left. Compare trunk and arm angles to high level serve using similar camera angles.

Your use of ISR is not clear. Is the forearm-to-racket during ISR angle OK and timed for effective ISR?

Study Somersault motion of the serve (forward bend). I would say that the majority of high level servers are not looking at the ball at impact. Some are looking at the ball. I believe, but don't know, that looking at the ball restricts the Somersault forward bend. Some get their heads to the side when serving. Stosur. Consider if you need to look at the ball until impact.

Thread on angles.


https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...et-angles-for-flat-slice-kick-impacts.489960/
Thanks for the feedback!

I'll look into the somersault motion..

ISR I assume it internal shoulder rotation?
 

FiReFTW

Legend
I know, I never realized how sideways I was until I saw a video of myself. I've been saving like this for 5+ years and it doesn't hurt at all. I think the side bend came about as a way to protect my shoulder ( I had rotator cuff issues as a teenager)
Yes but its not needed, you only need to focus on having ur shoulders sideways, look how sideways Djokovic's shoulders are here, yet his lower body and upper body angle is still fairly straight.

 

Freudsiggy

New User
simple starting issue is that you move well into the court, but his is spoiled because that is not where you tossed. You can't hit strongly if the ball is in the wrong spot....behind your launch in this case.
Agreed, the Toss needs to be further inside
 

Freudsiggy

New User
simple starting issue is that you move well into the court, but his is spoiled because that is not where you tossed. You can't hit strongly if the ball is in the wrong spot....behind your launch in this case.
Agreed, the Toss needs to be further inside
 

Freudsiggy

New User
Yes but its not needed, you only need to focus on having ur shoulders sideways, look how sideways Djokovic's shoulders are here, yet his lower body and upper body angle is still fairly straight.

Yes good point. The pros all hit with their torsos a little sideways.
 

Off The Wall

Semi-Pro
You also have a moving base. You take a small step to the right with your left leg after your toss. Then you pull your right leg/hip around prematurely. Your leg launch happens as your right leg is swinging out to the right. Hence, you must lean left to stay balanced and under the ball. You might try drawing your right leg up behind your left into a pinpoint stance before launch.
 

onehandbh

Legend
I think the timing of your "throwing motion" seems off somehow. Can you record some video of you standing at the baseline and throwing a tennis ball (at a 45 degree angle) over the opposite fence? (or as far as you can throw it)

There doesn't seem to be enough of a lag in each part of your kinetic chain. In other words I suspect you may not have a good throwing motion.

I agree with the others that your toss is not far enough in front. Maybe try hitting some serves where you just stand at the baseline without jumping into the court.
 

Kevo

Legend
I would suggest minimizing the use of the legs until your toss is consistently in the right location and your swing path is corrected. It's much easier and simpler to learn a good serve if you do it piece by piece. If you try to train the whole thing at once it's like trying to hit a moving target. One change to one aspect affects everything else and makes you have to adjust the other pieces, so you're constantly fighting with the whole stroke.

The toss should be trained first as everything else follows from the toss. It's the most important part of the serve IMO. You need to be able to consistently get the ball into a roughly 6 inch area directly in front of the strings. So figure out your contact spot and then make sure your tossing into that spot every time. It's harder than it seems. If you aren't quite sure where the contact spot should be, have someone show you or review the slow motion serve videos or lessons on youtube. Basically you want the ball roughly above your head, but more towards the court and towards your hitting shoulder when your arm is stretched all the way out right before contact. The racquet should be at roughly 30-40 degrees angle from your arm.

Once you have that worked out, concentrate on the arm motion stretching up and turning the arm into contact. Work on that until it's automatic. Then add the other pieces one at a time and slow enough so you don't mess up what you worked on before.

Much of the problem people have learning serve is simply a result of bad training. You have to be aware that every bad swing caused by a mistimed leg drive is like training an incorrect swing. So a step in the wrong direction. If you think about it like this it's pretty easy to see that many people are simply training to have a bad serve.
 

bitcoinoperated

Professional
You move your front foot forwards
You toss with a bent wrist grabbing the ball in your hand, try holding it in your fingers
Your impact point is behind your head(!) RIP shoulder

Otherwise to my somewhat less educated eye a lot of stuff is going well.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
................................................................................
  • My body is falling sideways (to the left) as I am serving & not extending upwards and forwards as most pros do. To fix this:
    • I need to consciously swinging upward rather than sideways and make contact at a higher point.
    • Use my legs to propel upward
    • Get more shoulder over shoulder lifting/ tilting motion to make higher contact
  • Shallow racquet drop/ backscratch. To fix this need:
    • Loosen my wrist/forearm to drop racquet
  • Not pronating as a consequence i only hit slice serves and it reduces the drive through the ball. To fix this need:
    • need to loosen my wrist/forearm to get natural pronation and work on exaggerated pronation after contact
.......................................................................


Regarding the side body tilt -

In this frame it looks as if you keep your shoulder girdle roughly perpendicular to your spine. Compare the angle between your shoulder girdle and spine to those displayed by ATP servers. This is a factor - maybe a very significant factor - for how sideways your body tilt is.

Compare using identical camera viewing angles as camera angles affect the apparent angles seen in videos.

Demo - While standing upright in front of a mirror, tilt your shoulder girdle right side low to right side high, back and forth, etc.

If you have developed your serving technique because of some injury or spine or shoulder limitations or feelings, don't copy a high level serving technique without understanding what is going on or having a knowledgeable instructor.

Swing "upward" or "sideways" are not very accurate descriptions, simple but you can believe anything that fits your current views. The racket starts low goes up of course and in a high level serve the hand swings sideways at an angle to the ball trajectory. Because of ISR the racket head path is more complicated and 3D than 'swing up and out'.
--------------------------------------------------------

1) "Get more shoulder over shoulder lifting/ tilting motion to make higher contact".
Higher contact is one useful thing but not the main one.

2) "Shallow racquet drop/ backscratch. To fix this need:
  • Loosen my wrist/forearm to drop racquet"
That might interfere with the muscle stretching function of the service motion. Compare videos for wrist angle and racket drop.

3) "Not pronating as a consequence i only hit slice serves and it reduces the drive through the ball. To fix this need:
  • need to loosen my wrist/forearm to get natural pronation and work on exaggerated pronation after contact"
The serve uses a lot of internal shoulder rotation (ISR) and not much pronation for the forces to accelerate racket head speed. Why think about the serve using the incorrect joint motion term "pronation" to describe the motion? When the arm is straight both ISR and pronation produce the same rotation as seen in videos at the wrist/hand area. The first people to notice this wrist/hand rotation as well as the tennis researchers called it 'pronation' by mistake. Only in about 1995 did this mistake become well understood and corrected. But the misleading term 'pronation' is still widely used for some hard-to-explain reason. ?

How this incorrect 'pronation' usage problem come about? - When the arm is straight both ISR and pronation produce the same rotation as seen at the wrist/hand area. The first people to notice this wrist/hand rotation as well as the tennis researchers called it 'pronation' by mistake. Only in about 1995 did this mistake become well understood and corrected. But the misleading term 'pronation' is still widely used for some hard-to-explain reason. ? (Camera angles make a significant difference in the apparent angles seen in the video.)

In about 1988 when I first heard of 'pronation', I can remember practicing the serve and literally pronating my forearm to make the racket strings face the ball just before impact. It was a dead end street and I didn't know it.............

When do you loosen your wrist? Compare to high level serves.
 
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Freudsiggy

New User
Thanks a lot guys for all the excellent feedback.

This is more than any pro will provide!!!

I'll continue to work on my serve and upload another video shortly.
 

Freudsiggy

New User
Thanks to all the feedback I've made some changes to my serve and am seeing some good results so far (see side-by-side comparison video below)

Changes made
  • More momentum going into the court rather than sideways. I did this by consciously trying to bend forward (not sideways) and kick up my right leg towards the back fence rather than the sideline.
  • Keeping my hips & lower body facing more sideways (towards the left net post) while hitting the ball. I had a tendency to open my hips too early while hitting the serve
Things to improve on
  • Drop my racquet deeper. I'm making contact at a higher point and as a result have less time between my trophy pose and contact and have not been dropping my racquet as much.
An unintended consequence of this change - i've been making contact at a higher point vs earlier which is good given my relatively short stature. My serves have been bouncing higher (as a result of the higher contact point) and penetrating deeper into the court.

Overall happy except one thing -my shoulder has been hurting a bit eventhough i have not practiced any kick serves. I'm hoping this is just a result of higher repetitions but I need some suggestions on why this maybe and potential fixes.

 

Freudsiggy

New User
Anyone have any opinions on the new serve technique and if I'm on the right track at least? I don't want to go too far down a path and again have to retrain my serve motion.
 

richardc-s

Semi-Pro
Looks like you're on the right track. I'm no expert but I can see that the ball toss is deeper into the court, making you push your weight into the court and moving through the ball more.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
...........................................................
Overall happy except one thing -my shoulder has been hurting a bit eventhough i have not practiced any kick serves. I'm hoping this is just a result of higher repetitions but I need some suggestions on why this maybe and potential fixes.
.......................
Stop experimenting with your serve if it causes pain.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
You have an excellent clear video for analysis and side-by-side video comparisons shows differences. Find high level serves from the same camera angle and do frame-by-frame comparisons.

Shoulder Impingement. Todd Ellenbecker made a 20 minute detailed video, "Rotator Cuff Injury", that describes the shoulder and how to minimize the risk of impingement. He specializes in tennis. The video used to be available free but no longer. It is now available from Tennis Resources, associated with the USPTA. You can join for a short time, 30-90 days, and view the video. It describes the shoulder anatomy, impingement and the angle of the upper arm that minimizes the risk of impingement. Almost always ATP severs hold their upper arms in this way, in good alignment with the shoulder joint as described, throughout their motions. Videos of the average high level serving techniques can show good practice.

Todd Ellenbecker has many publications and videos on injuries and conditioning.

Additional risk factors such as age, previous injury, etc always need to be considered. I have read that some people have issues with shoulder impingement because of their individual shoulder anatomy genetics. You have some upper arm muscle, do you weight lift?

Compare frame-by-frame your shoulder and upper arm to a few high level servers to see any differences. Use the same camera angles. Look especially for the upper arm being angled too high at the shoulder joint.
 
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Freudsiggy

New User
You have an excellent clear video for analysis and side-by-side video comparisons shows differences. Find high level serves from the same camera angle and do frame-by-frame comparisons.

Shoulder Impingement. Todd Ellenbecker made a 20 minute detailed video, "Rotator Cuff Injury", that describes the shoulder and how to minimize the risk of impingement. He specializes in tennis. The video used to be available free but no longer. It is now available from Tennis Resources, associated with the USPTA. You can join for a short time, 30-90 days, and view the video. It describes the shoulder anatomy, impingement and the angle of the upper arm that minimizes the risk of impingement. Almost always ATP severs hold their upper arms in this way, in good alignment with the shoulder joint as described, throughout their motions. Videos of the average high level serving techniques can show good practice.

Todd Ellenbecker has many publications and videos on injuries and conditioning.

Additional risk factors such as age, previous injury, etc always need to be considered. I have read that some people have issues with shoulder impingement because of their individual shoulder anatomy genetics. You have some upper arm muscle, do you weight lift?

Compare frame-by-frame your shoulder and upper arm to a few high level servers to see any differences. Use the same camera angles. Look especially for the upper arm being angled too high at the shoulder joint.
Wow, thank you for the excellent feedback on shoulder pain. I'll look up Todd ellenbecker and his advise.

My take is that I maybe able to avoid impingement if I either Toss the ball further to the right or tilt my shoulders to be more vertical at contact so it minimizes any angle between the shoulders and the upper arm/ triceps.

Yes I do lift weights. I assume the extra strength in my back, legs and arms should only help. Let me know if there is another pov I'm not aware of.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Here is a long thread on the subject of how the upper arm is held to the shoulder for the serve. Issues on how to estimate the angle are discussed.
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...-chas-tennis-about-high-level-servers.596908/

David Whiteside is a tennis biomechanics researcher and here is a post of his.
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...igh-level-servers.596908/page-3#post-11544567

Shoulder Injuries - Informative Videos. Unfortunately, the Ellenbecker video, "Rotator Cuff Injury" is missing. Maybe the USPTA and Tennis Resources will consider injury prevention, goodwill, etc....
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...jury-informative-videos.556000/#post-10060791
 
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Hmgraphite1

Hall of Fame
So that small step with left foot at a point where the legs should be loaded and ready to drive. Then no loading or leg drive occurs so then you come out of serve and to close to ground. I've seen Sock take a left foot step but maybe his earlier in toss cause he must get leg drive.
 
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