Great forehand vs great serve

Do you know why the level has remained the same? Is it because 4.5 forehand is when you can get to the ball, but you may not be getting to as many balls as you did before?
Even though you state that serve is more important, your stats tells me forehand is more useful. While serve declines, forehand has more upside potential.
arguably because at the 4.5 level, most folks do not have an outstanding serve, so it's easy to get away with "just a good fh"...
at 5.0 serve becomes much more important IMO (i'm hard pressed to think of any 5.0's i've played that don't have a serve that's not a weapon - ie. at minimum puts them in control of a rally from the beginning)
 
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atp2015

Hall of Fame
djoker: good serve, fh/bh, movement...
I think djoker's forehand deserves a special shout out. He hugs the baseline and produces heavy balls without ceding an inch. I'm not surprised by the bh, because the 2 hander naturally allows transfer of body weight. But fh is just incredible - I cannot imagine how anyone can generate consistent heavy balls right from the baseline. As someone working on forehand all the time, I can tell you (I'm sure you have experienced it yourself) it's pretty tough to generate heavy deep balls without stepping back on the forehand side. Even Nadal cannot do it and has to stand way back.
 
alot of my opinion is currently based on shaughnessy's lecture/tenet where majority of points are won/lost on the first 4 points... i don't recall the break down anymore... but the gist was focused on serve (first shot) & serve+1 (third shot) being the top priority (and where most points are won on the atp/wta)
where "serve" > "serve+1", and +1 is at least partly dependent on anticipating/controlling the pattern of play (ie. if i serve out side, run around bh, and hit fh to the open court;,.... or volley, or whatever)... but either way, it's set up by the serve.
IMO, return is a different shot than fh/bh...

i'm also partly opinionated because i've been obsessed with improving my serve in the last year... and this year as well, focusing less on just "hitting alot of fh's"...
i might lose more "ground stroke games" with the idea that i'll win more actual matches.
since i've improved my serve (and continuing to do so), i've gotten alot of comments about folks noticing "something different" about my serve (more pace/spin/placement)... (not to say where it's where i want it to be, but i'm holding easier than i have before - before, i expected to be broken once or twice, but "believed" in my groundies&fitness to break more (especially later in the set/match) than i get broken). nowadays, i'll have alot more 40-love, and 40-15 games than i've ever had.... and i have a much higher expectation of myself to hold... 100% due to improvements in my serve (despite a decline in fitness & much less time spent practicing groundies)

in the end, i'm like @mad dog1 i want it all :p but given finite time to practice... my current break down in terms of practice that i strive for is:
50% serve
10% fh - as a weapon
10% bh - as a shield (ie. high and deep)
30% forecourt (mid court approach/volley/oh)

looking back, IMO the reason i spent waay more time (as 3.5-4.0) on groundies in the past (especially fh) is:
* serving if boring!
* groundstroke games are way more fun to play
* groundies are way more social
* no one else had a great serve, so we're still on "even" ground, and it came down to groundies
* i'm short (5'4"), so i was convinced i could never have a good serve.... probably not gonna be know for aces, but i want to be able to pick my spots so i can play my first shot after the serve, on the offense (so i don't need to rely on an amazing fh/bh - especially as my movement declines which directly impacts how well i can hit a fh/bh)
 
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I used to have a 5.0+ serve and a 3.5 forehand. Now I have a 4.5 serve and a 4.5 forehand. I think my overall level has stayed about the same.
I’m a lot better now at breaking serve and winning baseline games to 11. But I was more likely to take home tournament hardware in both singles and doubles when I had an intimidating serve. If you told me that I could have my old serve back for the next 10 years, but I’d have to go back to having a 3.5 forehand handicap, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

A lot of players have good groundstrokes on both wings. But it’s the serve that separates the men from the boys.
 
@atp2015 i dont know why you dont accept it when everyone is telling you, but serve is by far the moat important shot in tennis.

But I will admit that the lower the level the less important it is (say 3.5, its enough to get it in there), but the higher the level like 4.5 and then 5.0 and 5.5... it becomes by far the most important shot.

On 4.5 and upward levels if you have a great serve that is say 0.5 above the rest and can aim it well to get opponent off court amd get alot of short balls, all you need is a mediocre forehand, the opponent pretty much is in a check mate position, ur at the service line ready to hit the short return or a bit deeper while hes completely off court, you just need to place it in the open court and you won the point, easily, no need for a great forehand.
 
Its also true for me atm, serve is my biggest weapon, and its even more obvious lately because currently im having a small "break" well im not playing alot and not training alot, and my point play game is extremely rusty while my serve seems to remain solid, and just last time i beat a really solid player, and my point game was mediocre and wasted alot of shots, but my serve was working and if it didnt i would probably lose 6:2 6:2
 
@atp2015 i dont know why you dont accept it when everyone is telling you, but serve is by far the moat important shot in tennis.

But I will admit that the lower the level the less important it is (say 3.5, its enough to get it in there), but the higher the level like 4.5 and then 5.0 and 5.5... it becomes by far the most important shot.

On 4.5 and upward levels if you have a great serve that is say 0.5 above the rest and can aim it well to get opponent off court amd get alot of short balls, all you need is a mediocre forehand, the opponent pretty much is in a check mate position, ur at the service line ready to hit the short return or a bit deeper while hes completely off court, you just need to place it in the open court and you won the point, easily, no need for a great forehand.
well, it's all pretend... in the end we want it all.
not sure what level @atp2015 but i presumed 3.0-4.0, because at those levels, a great fh is everything, and can be used to hit through obvious weaknesses
 
Its also true for me atm, serve is my biggest weapon, and its even more obvious lately because currently im having a small "break" well im not playing alot and not training alot, and my point play game is extremely rusty while my serve seems to remain solid, and just last time i beat a really solid player, and my point game was mediocre and wasted alot of shots, but my serve was working and if it didnt i would probably lose 6:2 6:2
had a buddy taht played d1 basketball but was also good at tennis...
specifically a great serve.... groundies ok, movement good...
he never practiced anything except his serve, and easily played 4.5 level.
i always said, "man if you had groundies as good as your serve" you'd be easily 5.0.

his response: given work&family, i only get to play 2x a week (most times by myself, and occasionally with someone when our scheds line up)... and to me, serve is like shooting foul shots (boring but critical in the big games). if my serve is working i can get away with a mediocre fh, and still be able to play 4.5 level.
 
Lets say suddenly I have Pete Sampras serve and the rest of my game is unchanged. My buddy has Nadal's FH but everything else about his game is unchanged.
He absolutely would never get that FH on my serve. IN fact he'd likely be turning around in fear at that heater coming his way. I've played in a Masters tournament against a 50 year old former semipro player and it was intimidating as heck facing his serve that bounced six feet high on the back fence. Can't imagine facing a samaras serve.
Now my buddy is going to win every point he gets his FH on but his serve is mediocre so I'm going to hit away from that FH and given his 3.5 footwork, he's not going to get a ton of looks.
I think I win in a walk.

We have a 50 year old guy at our club with 2 knee braces, can barely run, but he kills everybody at the club by having the best serve, including the few guys that have really solid footwork and groundstrokes. I've never seen him broken. He was in the club championship once in his 30's against another young gun with a big serve. There were two rallies the entire first set. A big serve is the biggest asset in the game.
 

atp2015

Hall of Fame
@atp2015 i dont know why you dont accept it when everyone is telling you, but serve is by far the moat important shot in tennis.
Will the thread exist if I agreed with everyone? There's no harm in questioning conventional wisdom - if there's a good reason for the conventional wisdom to remain valid, it will come out of the discussion.
You should thank me for raising a question which most won't say it publicly.
 
Will the thread exist if I agreed with everyone? There's no harm in questioning conventional wisdom - if there's a good reason for the conventional wisdom to remain valid, it will come out of the discussion.
You should thank me for raising a question which most won't say it publicly.
i think the controversy in the thread is educational, and am glad you brought it up... i'm glad you're fighting for the wrong side (kidding!)
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
Let's say I'm playing someone weaker than me, I don't need my good serve to win. If I played someone weaker than me and served my best serve but in exchange toned down the rest of my game it would introduce uncertainty in the match; I would have more trouble breaking them and maybe make a few more errors on my service games when they get the ball back.

If on the other hand I play someone better than me, I need my best serve to hurt them as I would lose regardless of how strong the rest of my game was.

W/R/T this thread, I think it depends on the individual and how their game is set up.

I think @nytennisaddict would be better served (pun intended) beefing up his forehand than his serve.

Personally I would want a better serve, but I trained with an ATP coach here for the NY Open and he said I should spend most of my time working on my backhand so there goes the entire thread.

J
 
Let's say I'm playing someone weaker than me, I don't need my good serve to win. If I played someone weaker than me and served my best serve but in exchange toned down the rest of my game it would introduce uncertainty in the match; I would have more trouble breaking them and maybe make a few more errors on my service games when they get the ball back.

If on the other hand I play someone better than me, I need my best serve to hurt them as I would lose regardless of how strong the rest of my game was.

W/R/T this thread, I think it depends on the individual and how their game is set up.

I think @nytennisaddict would be better served (pun intended) beefing up his forehand than his serve.

Personally I would want a better serve, but I trained with an ATP coach here for the NY Open and he said I should spend most of my time working on my backhand so there goes the entire thread.

J
re bh... haha
interesting observation about my fh.... which i appreciate.
to me, it's a secondary priority (but still high), to being able to get a high % of first serves (and a second serve that's difficult to attack).
but i also believe that my fh, is more a function of my fitness (sustain quality footwork over long periods) than the stroke itself.

that said, i hold your opinion highly, so +1 for @atp2015 :p
 
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J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
re bh... haha
interesting observation about my fh.... which i appreciate.
to me, it's a secondary priority (but still high), to being able to get a high % of first serves (and a second serve that's difficult to attack).
but i also believe that my fh, is more a function of my fitness (sustain quality footwork over long periods) than the stroke itself.

that said, i hold your opinion highly, so +1 for @atp2015 :p
I feel like you have a grinder/counterpuncher mentality off the ground, but if you gave your forehand a shot in the arm and changed your mentality to attack with spin you would become a bully out there.

J
 

atp2015

Hall of Fame
If on the other hand I play someone better than me, I need my best serve to hurt them as I would lose regardless of how strong the rest of my game was.
J
well said.

Instead of trying to extract the last ounce from serve, improving the grounds strokes, will make a better player. The question is - are you prepared if the serve does come back?

If the game is built around big serve, does it hold up when there's an added factor of pressure? No matter how much you have practiced your serves with buckets of balls, it does not prepare you for the effect on service speed, and accuracy.
It now comes down to how we react to it. if you have great ground shots (and a weapon with a fh) you have less pressure on your one shot serve. You get multiple chances during a point with your ground shot weapon to win the point.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
well said.

Instead of trying to extract the last ounce from serve, improving the grounds strokes, will make a better player. The question is - are you prepared if the serve does come back?

If the game is built around big serve, does it hold up when there's an added factor of pressure? No matter how much you have practiced your serves with buckets of balls, it does not prepare you for the effect on service speed, and accuracy.
It now comes down to how we react to it. if you have great ground shots (and a weapon with a fh) you have less pressure on your one shot serve. You get multiple chances during a point with your ground shot weapon to win the point.
It's the same, if you have a shaky forehand you will have multiple opportunities to lose the point.

You are basically weighing a greater chance to win the point outright before it starts against a greater chance to lose the point if it does start.

J
 

atp2015

Hall of Fame
It's the same, if you have a shaky forehand you will have multiple opportunities to lose the point.

You are basically weighing a greater chance to win the point outright before it starts against a greater chance to lose the point if it does start.

J
It also shows the mental strength imo. Are you prepared for the fight/the long haul? Or can't deal with the pressure, and want to get it over as soon as you can?
Whether I'm playing or just watching others play, I get sense that there is a great chance of defeating guys with a great serve than great ground shots. I don't get flustered by a few aces or nonreturnable serves - but a consistent heavy ball hitter(or defender) makes you pay.
So, I agree with your ATP coach - work on your backhand to be more competitive! For the rest who don't already posses killer forehand, develop one if you can.
 

atp2015

Hall of Fame
re bh... haha
interesting observation about my fh.... which i appreciate.
to me, it's a secondary priority (but still high), to being able to get a high % of first serves (and a second serve that's difficult to attack).
but i also believe that my fh, is more a function of my fitness (sustain quality footwork over long periods) than the stroke itself.

that said, i hold your opinion highly, so +1 for @atp2015 :p

From what I remember from your match @nytennisaddict with shroud, you were letting the ball come to you, especially on your forehand, instead of attacking the ball with your feet and core. You would turn (very good unit turn - great job there), and just roll over the ball without moving your feet - resulting in floaty balls mid court - I want to see heavy balls with ton of spin from someone passionate like yourself. good luck with your development ! :)
 
I don't get flustered by a few aces or nonreturnable serves
I don't think anyone gets flustered by a "few". We certainly get flustered by a "lot" of unreturnable serves. All of a sudden you know in your heart you can't break the opponent and you have to really bear down and hold your own serve. That can throw a lot of pressure at you.

The entirety of tennis is really centered around a great FH and a great serve. You can be as ungainly as Kevin Anderson and make it to the Wimbledon and US Open final with those two shots in your bag.

So both are important and certainly the average rec player becomes an instant 4.5 with a very good serve and FH. Add in some footwork and you are a 5.0. Round out the BH, overheads and volleys and boom you have a 5.5.
 
From what I remember from your match @nytennisaddict with shroud, you were letting the ball come to you, especially on your forehand, instead of attacking the ball with your feet and core. You would turn (very good unit turn - great job there), and just roll over the ball without moving your feet - resulting in floaty balls mid court - I want to see heavy balls with ton of spin from someone passionate like yourself. good luck with your development ! :)
interesting that you think i don't attack the ball with feet & core (i mentally try to)... any chance you could point out where in the vid?
also interesting that you said i hit float mid court balls (i thought i was doing a decent job hitting through the court in the match).... though i have been focusing on attacking mid court balls for the last year or so, so maybe it was in a different mindset at the time.
i'll have to review the vid again... though alot has improved, so might have to post up another one.
what about my match vs. TopspinShot? (older - circa 2014, so alot has changed, but better overview of how i typically try to play)
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
It also shows the mental strength imo. Are you prepared for the fight/the long haul? Or can't deal with the pressure, and want to get it over as soon as you can?
Whether I'm playing or just watching others play, I get sense that there is a great chance of defeating guys with a great serve than great ground shots. I don't get flustered by a few aces or nonreturnable serves - but a consistent heavy ball hitter(or defender) makes you pay.
So, I agree with your ATP coach - work on your backhand to be more competitive! For the rest who don't already posses killer forehand, develop one if you can.
Hahahaha you ever play someone who holds in a minute and twelve seconds and it takes you 8 minutes and three deuces most games?

It's a tough way to make a living.

It's one thing to play a league match on a Wednesday night and have a week to recover, but in a tournament where I have to play 5 matches in 3 days I'll take the serve.

J
 
interesting that you think i don't attack the ball with feet & core (i mentally try to)... any chance you could point out where in the vid?
also interesting that you said i hit float mid court balls (i thought i was doing a decent job hitting through the court in the match).... though i have been focusing on attacking mid court balls for the last year or so, so maybe it was in a different mindset at the time.
i'll have to review the vid again... though alot has improved, so might have to post up another one.
what about my match vs. TopspinShot? (older - circa 2014, so alot has changed, but better overview of how i typically try to play)
I don’t recall that either. It looked like you outclassed shroud pretty handily. In fact, I thought he mentioned having trouble handling your topspin fh? If so, you couldn’t be rolling in floaty forehands mid court. And finally, your feet are always active in all the videos I’ve seen you in.
 
I don’t recall that either. It looked like you outclassed shroud pretty handily. In fact, I thought he mentioned having trouble handling your topspin fh? If so, you couldn’t be rolling in floaty forehands mid court. And finally, your feet are always active in all the videos I’ve seen you in.
thx. i do like to ack all feedback, i never know if i'm missing something that someone else has seen (maybe it was something they specifically had to fix or something)...
tennis is funny like that,.... i find that sometimes the smallest change(s) in my mental model, aggregated, could reap big benefits.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
Just finished an hour of practice with the cart, 5 minutes of warm up, 40 minutes serving, 10 minutes backhands, 5 minutes surfing TTW tips and instruction.

I'll hit groundies for an hour and a half later then play a few sets of dubs to finish off the day.



J
 

atp2015

Hall of Fame
I don't think anyone gets flustered by a "few". We certainly get flustered by a "lot" of unreturnable serves. All of a sudden you know in your heart you can't break the opponent and you have to really bear down and hold your own serve. .
if the serve is placed so well, there's nothing you can do. But if you are getting to it, but unable to return well, time to tune up your ground shots.
If you "know" you can't break, you are playing someone highe level.
 

atp2015

Hall of Fame
interesting that you think i don't attack the ball with feet & core (i mentally try to)... any chance you could point out where in the vid?
Your feet are very active between shots.
Take any return of serve on your FH side or regular FH shot ( I didn't watch BH returns either it was cutoff or I didn't pay attention)- you don't step into hit the ball. You turn and swing, and never moving in to attack the ball.
Here's a snapshot of a gimme fh. Where do you think you hit the ball? and what's the ideal attacking contact point and placement?
marker 1,2,3. Before 1, at 1 , between 1 and 2, between 2 and 3 or after 3? For me attacking shot is the one where you begin to step in to meet the ball right after it bounces.




 
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Your feet are very active between shots.
Take any return of serve on your FH side or regular FH shot ( I didn't watch BH returns either it was cutoff or I didn't pay attention)- you don't step into hit the ball. You turn and swing, and never moving in to attack the ball.
Here's a snapshot of a gimme fh. Where do you think you hit the ball? and what's the ideal attacking contact point and placement?
marker 1,2,3. Before 1, at 1 , between 1 and 2, between 2 and 3 or after 3? For me attacking shot is the one where you begin to step in to meet the ball right after it bounces.




thx for taking the time to analyze this!
100% agree.. that's definitely something i've been focusing on too (since the vid)... i've actually tweaked my return technique (based on some yt links)... elim loop, focus on solid contact, and move forward to "power" the shot... in that pic, i think i took too big a backswing already (not sure if it was a sitter or not)...
based on your feedback (and my memory of how i approached returns...) i'm guessing i made contact at 3... nowadays, i think i'd strive for 1.5.

though for purposes of noting where things break down... a vid of me losing to someone is probably a better vid to analyze (ie. there are no gimmes, no mental lapses, no "taking it easy", etc...)... will try to record me getting beat this spring
 
Lol now ive heard it all, @nytennisaddict balls floaty lol.
A testament how d*mb people judge balls from video.
I bet 90% of this board couldnt handle the kind of spin he was hitting there.
But ttw at it again, with their amazing analysis of video footage.
 
if the serve is placed so well, there's nothing you can do. But if you are getting to it, but unable to return well, time to tune up your ground shots.
If you "know" you can't break, you are playing someone highe level.
Well that's generally true. Everyone I've played with a killer serve also had a killer FH and was therefore an automatic 4.5. I've not faced a 3.5 where I had no chance of a break and only a handful of 4.0's that had serves I was worried about. But that just goes to show that level is probably most determined by your serve. And to a lesser degree your return of serve.
 
Lol now ive heard it all, @nytennisaddict balls floaty lol.
A testament how d*mb people judge balls from video.
I bet 90% of this board couldnt handle the kind of spin he was hitting there.
But ttw at it again, with their amazing analysis of video footage.
video footage is just a collection of moments in time... so maybe for that match i was, hard to tell... then again, since we were forcing ourselves to s&v that day for practice, i might have also been trying to roll in low to his feel (knowing he was s&v'ing).
but i do agree with his return comment... i know at the time i was doing taking big swings on the return, thus i tended to stay back more... vs. split stepping, moving forward, etc...
either way, it's something i recognized too, and have addressed (continue to address) now...

also, one man's "power drive" might be another man's floaty ball... if atp2015 hits like jolly, i can see why he sees my groundstrokes as "floaty".
 

atp2015

Hall of Fame
thx for taking the time to analyze this!
100% agree.. that's definitely something i've been focusing on too (since the vid)... i've actually tweaked my return technique (based on some yt links)... elim loop, focus on solid contact, and move forward to "power" the shot... in that pic, i think i took too big a backswing already (not sure if it was a sitter or not)...
based on your feedback (and my memory of how i approached returns...) i'm guessing i made contact at 3... nowadays, i think i'd strive for 1.5.

though for purposes of noting where things break down... a vid of me losing to someone is probably a better vid to analyze (ie. there are no gimmes, no mental lapses, no "taking it easy", etc...)... will try to record me getting beat this spring
You are right, the main thing for me is the feet not moving into meet the ball.
The rule for attack - forward after ball bounces at least. Your prep is great even in this old video, but don't see the intention to attack.(stay right there waiting for the ball to come up on you). You swing fast, so great potential to hit heavy by putting weight behind the ball.
 

atp2015

Hall of Fame
Lol now ive heard it all, @nytennisaddict balls floaty lol.
A testament how d*mb people judge balls from video.
I bet 90% of this board couldnt handle the kind of spin he was hitting there.
But ttw at it again, with their amazing analysis of video footage.
Floaty is relative. nyta preps well, swings fast but the result is not what you expect because of reasons he has already identified - I think this was a 3 year old video. So a lot has changed for sure.

I have no intention in name calling, so let me leave it there.
 
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As the two best servers in the history of the game, how many grand slams did Ivo Karlovich and John Isner win? You don't need to answer the question as framed, just think why they could not win any major while a player like Nadal with a sub-par serve (by top 10 standards) won more than a dozen.
To shorten the points by providing a good serve, that’s why Nadal changed his service motion, and it worked for him.
 
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