How to think of the serve?

#1
Hi. So I'm currently in the process of learning how to serve and was wondering how the serve should be thought of. I was thinking of my setup and just wanted some clarification on serving. In an example of just a flat serve, are you technically:

A. in one spot, and directing the ball to either left or right? For example, like you are a turret standing in the center of the baseline, chest facing forward, and you are able to shoot the ball to the deuce and ad side without changing your chest position.

OR

B. in one spot and only able to serve straight ahead but adjust your body to hit to the deuce or ad side? For example, like you are a turret standing in the center of the baseline and you have to turn your chest to shoot the ball to the deuce and ad side.

I hope my question and examples make sense. You're obviously not a turret when serving but I wanted you to understand what my thought-process is.
 

Dragy

Professional
#3
If we don’t touch the “satraight ahead” and “chest facing the net” parts, then yes, initial alignment for deuce and as side serving should be different.
 
#4
View it that the ball is not in front of and above your hand. The arm tilts to the right (right hander) and the racket tilts to the left. The upper arm bone rotates at the shoulder joint around its long axis. Then because the near straight arm is rotating and the racket is at a changing angle to the forearm, the racket head picks up speed and also there is some swinging action. The face of the racket is changing where it points in two distinct ways: 1) it closes as it moves forward and 2) It rotates to point more to the right as it moves forward. The first motion affects high-to-low, in the net or long. The second motion affects side-to-side, it is not exactly a turret, it's more complicated. That being said completely avoid word descriptions of tennis strokes until after you understand them. High speed videos show everything above much better.

This shows both 1) the racket closing as it moves forward and 2) the racket face rotating as it moves forward (to the right, counterclockwise, as viewed from above).

From behind, slice serve. Note the directions of the ball's trajectory, the hand path and the path of the center of the racket head.


This technique is used by nearly all top 100 ATP servers. The important shoulder joint rotation is called internal shoulder rotation (ISR).

But most active tennis players don't serve like that, they use an entirely different serving technique that has lower performance. With that technique the side-to-side rotation is not present for racket head speed. That technique we call a Waiter's Tray technique. First thing you video your serve and see if that is the technique that you use.

All clear in high speed videos.

But if you try to understand tennis strokes with undefined tennis terms you will have many misleading visualizations of the strokes. People retain those misleading thoughts for decades. In my case, for 36 years. But videos are always true.

The Tennis Serve Nuthouse
 
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#8
OP,

It's more toward B.
Use your FH for example. Can you hit the ball to either corner by keeping your torso/chest in one position? Yes, you can but it's not optimal.

It's the same for the serve. You need to make subtle alignments to get the best, most powerful swing.

This knowledge is easy to come by. The hardest thing about the serve is getting the swing path correct + the necessary racket flipping and twisting to match it.
 
#9
Hi. So I'm currently in the process of learning how to serve and was wondering how the serve should be thought of. I was thinking of my setup and just wanted some clarification on serving. In an example of just a flat serve, are you technically:

A. in one spot, and directing the ball to either left or right? For example, like you are a turret standing in the center of the baseline, chest facing forward, and you are able to shoot the ball to the deuce and ad side without changing your chest position.

OR

B. in one spot and only able to serve straight ahead but adjust your body to hit to the deuce or ad side? For example, like you are a turret standing in the center of the baseline and you have to turn your chest to shoot the ball to the deuce and ad side.

I hope my question and examples make sense. You're obviously not a turret when serving but I wanted you to understand what my thought-process is.
Excellent job of thinking through a serving essential. A lot of developing players miss this issue and eventually find that they can serve easily to one box while the other is almost impossible.

Option B is the one you want. You should learn to orient yourself so that your aim is naturally directed toward your target - the service box - independent of the baseline in front of your feet. It's not rare for developing players to "square up" to the baseline at the same angle regardless of which direction they're serving toward out there and that can undermine their best swing path.

When I'm working with students who are honing a serve, I'll sometimes have them hit some serves from a step inside the baseline. Without the baseline to influence their setup, this lets them find a more natural alignment toward the service box. You can even try this style of serving without aiming for a box. Just step inside the baseline and serve toward the other end of the court a few times. This can give you some feel for your natural alignment without the lines on the court steering you one way or another.

I'm a righty and when I properly align myself for my serves, I feel as though the bony point of my left hip bone is pointed toward my target. If I were standing on a clock face and straight ahead is 12 o'clock, that point on my left hip is over at about 10 o'clock. This is what's natural for me, but your alignment may be a little different depending on a few different ingredients.

So what I forgot to add is that you'll probably notice the difference with how you set your feet when switching between the deuce and ad courts. Your feet will likely be "set" a little more open - open toward the net straight ahead - when aligned to serve toward the deuce box compared with serving toward the ad box where your feet will probably be a bit more closed.
 
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#10
A. in one spot, and directing the ball to either left or right? For example, like you are a turret standing in the center of the baseline, chest facing forward, and you are able to shoot the ball to the deuce and ad side without changing your chest position.
Your question is open to interpretation.

If we narrow your question to a serve hit to a specific serve box (say a deuce serve), then it is best to think of the serve setup being the same whether you intend to direct the ball to the backhand or the forehand. This is advantageous because it makes it more difficult for your opponent to "read" your serve and know how to prepare. Ideally, the part of the serve that directs the ball would occur at the last instance and would be done with just a slight change in racquet path and angle at contact. Servers such as Federer and Ivanisevic are successful because it is hard to read their serves based on the setup and movement of their bodies while serving.
 

Rubens

Hall of Fame
#11
B is easier so I'd go with that option. The serve is hard enough to master as it is.

Edit: if you're at the level of Federer and Ivanisevic, like 80% of the posters here, option A is better.
 
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#19
His initial question was if he should position himself same way against the baseline hitting deuce and ad serves. The answer is based on no reason for trying to disguise ad serves from deuce. It has nothing to do with disguising different serves to one same service box.
 
#20
Thanks everyone for the responses. Sorry for the confusing wording. I just didn't know best how to phrase my questions.

Essentially, I just wanted to know if you position/orient/align yourself the same way when serving to deuce and ad sides (just changing your swing path to hit to deuce or ad side) OR if you position/orient/align yourself different ways when serving to deuce and ad sides (using the same swing path). I think this wording is more clear.
 
#23
Hi. So I'm currently in the process of learning how to serve and was wondering how the serve should be thought of. I was thinking of my setup and just wanted some clarification on serving. In an example of just a flat serve, are you technically:

A. in one spot, and directing the ball to either left or right? For example, like you are a turret standing in the center of the baseline, chest facing forward, and you are able to shoot the ball to the deuce and ad side without changing your chest position.

OR

B. in one spot and only able to serve straight ahead but adjust your body to hit to the deuce or ad side? For example, like you are a turret standing in the center of the baseline and you have to turn your chest to shoot the ball to the deuce and ad side.

I hope my question and examples make sense. You're obviously not a turret when serving but I wanted you to understand what my thought-process is.
I think it is a mistake to start with the flat serve and would even suggest you never learn it. Starting with the flat serve is the genesis of most serve problems and misunderstandings.
 
#24
I think of it as, possibly, a two year process. The last piece in an impressive portfolio of skills. Once completed one can play park tennis with the grandeur befitting of a champion.

I will NO LONGER use your dead balls
I will NO LONGER use spinny arm serves to beat down retirees
I will NO LONGER require first ball in
I will NO LONGER poast in deference to Sureshs & LeeD
 
#25
Thanks everyone for the responses. Sorry for the confusing wording. I just didn't know best how to phrase my questions.

Essentially, I just wanted to know if you position/orient/align yourself the same way when serving to deuce and ad sides (just changing your swing path to hit to deuce or ad side) OR if you position/orient/align yourself different ways when serving to deuce and ad sides (using the same swing path). I think this wording is more clear.
Sorry, but your question is still not clear crystal clear as you haven't defined your alignment reference.

If a) means aligning yourself the same way with reference to the baseline, then the correct answer is b). You want to adjust your body position to the difference in geometry. Some people don't do this well, which also explains why they can have more trouble with one side versus the other (beyond that the geometry of the target is actually different on the deuce vs ad sides).

There is enough to focus on in terms of spin, serve box placement, and pace. There's no need to develop two different service motions for serving to the deuce versus the ad box. It is a fairly simple task to align your feet such that the same motion will hit the center of the box from either side. What I commonly see with beginners is that they don't adjust the angle of their feet when serving from the Ad side.
 
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#26
Alignment for the serve depends on the serving technique. Estimating, about 60%, of active tennis players have the common Waiter's Tray technique, maybe 30%? have miscellaneous techniques and maybe 20%? (very uncertain estimate) have a high level type technique using ISR the proper way,.... somewhat.

The OP's technique is unknown.

Advice for one unknown technique does not automatically apply for another unknown technique. But it might..............

The fire hose says "This is the Tennis Serve Nuthouse".
 
#27
Yeah telling whether the ball goes to ad box or deuce box. Problems?
I get what you're saying.

It's pretty hilarious to think a player is troubled at having to guess the server is gonna serve to deuce or ad box, ...lol....but that's the reality and the level of TT players! hahaha.



Essentially, I just wanted to know if you position/orient/align yourself the same way when serving to deuce and ad sides (just changing your swing path to hit to deuce or ad side) OR if you position/orient/align yourself different ways when serving to deuce and ad sides (using the same swing path). I think this wording is more clear.
OP, go with option A. Who knows, you might be successful at disguising and fooling some players into positioning themselves in the wrong box to receive your serve. That would be the easiest way to get aces!!! Hehehehehe....
 
#28
GRRRRRRRRR

All I bloody know is the experts said start with continental, or you’ll never get away from the frying pan.

My trouble is while I’ve got great kick and spin action there’s not enough juice. I can’t get above 150 kph.

I can’t hit a flat serve to save my life.

So whatever you do learn how to toss that ball in the right place first. Really really find some way to get it just inside the court so that your body weight is transferred into the serve.
 
#29
I taught myself how to hit a serve. At first, it was great - Roddick kind of style. Then I gave break, didn't play for a very long them - after that I picked up a weird serve style, so my back drop is gone (or it is just too shallow). Now, I have an effective, fast serve - but, I do not care about it. I want to hit it with the right technique which I believe will make my serve much much powerful.

So far, I have watched many serve tutorials. I tried them all, none works. What is the key element? Btw I hit with pin point style. For some reason, even if I toss the ball high, the drop doesn't happen on its own - but I also do not lag. I don't know what's wrong. Lately, I think of it as "keep elbow high" - it worked somehow but still no deep drop. Can someone tell me what they actually feel like doing when it is dropping back?
 
#30
I taught myself how to hit a serve. At first, it was great - Roddick kind of style. Then I gave break, didn't play for a very long them - after that I picked up a weird serve style, so my back drop is gone (or it is just too shallow). Now, I have an effective, fast serve - but, I do not care about it. I want to hit it with the right technique which I believe will make my serve much much powerful.

So far, I have watched many serve tutorials. I tried them all, none works. What is the key element? Btw I hit with pin point style. For some reason, even if I toss the ball high, the drop doesn't happen on its own - but I also do not lag. I don't know what's wrong. Lately, I think of it as "keep elbow high" - it worked somehow but still no deep drop. Can someone tell me what they actually feel like doing when it is dropping back?
You need high speed video of your serving technique. Look at it and compare it to a high level ATP serves. Probably more than 60% of active tennis players use the Waiter' Tray technique.

The motions of the serve have been described on the forum. Search: internal shoulder rotation serve

A reference including the serve is Technique Development for Tennis Stroke Production, Elliott. These have increased in price since the ITF stopped selling them. Look for a used one somewhere.
 
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#31
You need high speed video of your serving technique. Look at it and compare it to a high level ATP serves. Probably more than 60% of active tennis players use the Waiter' Tray technique.

The motions of the serve have been described on the forum. Search: internal shoulder rotation serve

A reference including the serve is Technique Development for Tennis Stroke Production, Elliott. These have increased in price since the ITF stopped selling them. Look for a used one somewhere.
Maybe I can find copy online. I deffo dont have waiter's serve, but also not the right one. Thanks. I think I do not understand how internal shoulder turn contribute to drop.
 
#33
I taught myself how to hit a serve. At first, it was great - Roddick kind of style. Then I gave break, didn't play for a very long them - after that I picked up a weird serve style, so my back drop is gone (or it is just too shallow). Now, I have an effective, fast serve - but, I do not care about it. I want to hit it with the right technique which I believe will make my serve much much powerful.

So far, I have watched many serve tutorials. I tried them all, none works. What is the key element? Btw I hit with pin point style. For some reason, even if I toss the ball high, the drop doesn't happen on its own - but I also do not lag. I don't know what's wrong. Lately, I think of it as "keep elbow high" - it worked somehow but still no deep drop. Can someone tell me what they actually feel like doing when it is dropping back?
You may want to allow the arm to be fairly loose exiting trophy position, think like a whipping action, this combined with the leg drive forces the racquet drop, the wrist is loose, the forearm supinates and the shoulder goes isr as the elbow comes in and up, not sure if this helps, video?
 
#34
You may want to allow the arm to be fairly loose exiting trophy position, think like a whipping action, this combined with the leg drive forces the racquet drop, the wrist is loose, the forearm supinates and the shoulder goes isr as the elbow comes in and up, not sure if this helps, video?
I see some players who can drop it with little to no leg drive force, how's that so?

Thank you. Maybe, without noticing, I do not loose my arm (but I do not feel tensed or something though), or maybe there is something wrong with my positionning.
 
#35
I taught myself how to hit a serve. At first, it was great - Roddick kind of style. Then I gave break, didn't play for a very long them - after that I picked up a weird serve style, so my back drop is gone (or it is just too shallow). Now, I have an effective, fast serve - but, I do not care about it. I want to hit it with the right technique which I believe will make my serve much much powerful.

So far, I have watched many serve tutorials. I tried them all, none works. What is the key element? Btw I hit with pin point style. For some reason, even if I toss the ball high, the drop doesn't happen on its own - but I also do not lag. I don't know what's wrong. Lately, I think of it as "keep elbow high" - it worked somehow but still no deep drop. Can someone tell me what they actually feel like doing when it is dropping back?
the strong launch up is very key to the deep lag
 
#36
There are varieties of tennis players and opponent players those tennis players are to play. Then, there are the strengths and/or weaknesses tennis players may have. This means that the way one plays depends on a few circumstances rather than what the book has to say.

With service, it's like how/where do you want your ball to go. So, all the technicalities of the service may lie in the players capabilities and plans for the game. Whether you want a top spin or just a rocket to fly somewhere in the corner of the service box remains up to you, i'd say.

Coaches, who preach one style, are dictators to me. Those ones would try to convince how good the service is when doing this or that without even considering the player's abilities. All in all, tennis instructors that teach one style of service only are low quality trainers.

Just imagine that you wish to charge the net right of your first service and see what technique may put you in the best position on the net right after you hit that ball. Then, think of your baseline coverage, if you are a defensive tennis player. How do you think you should serve then? Anyhow, whatever you do prior to, the moment when the ball contacts your string, or after you hit your service, is in your skills and talent and the necessities of the game to defeat your opponents whom you should study where they stand when receiving.

For recreational tennis, players' capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) count as well, although they don't have to pay so much attention to whom they'll play with. Not getting hurt, may be the set goal there. That is why the bowing may be considered or not.
 
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#40
share what you feel
My son, for instance, has learnt to serve throwing his ball up in the air a bit in front of him, so that he could make his move forward when swinging. He's strictly instructed by me to swing fast, move his right shoulder (he's right-handed) fast forward, and, of course end up with his tennis racket low at his left foot to allow the appropriate trajectory. As he ends up about 5 feet into the court, he has the choice to charge the net instantly or quickly return back over the baseline to get a shot at the returned service. This is a borderline style as the server steps over the baseline (at the right time) but the aggressive service may be faster although lower than the top spin with all the bending and bowing etc. Well, I hope I have explained this one ok to you.

Now, I sense this above style of service may be suitable for the reason that it takes the pressure off the player's elbow. The ball is thrown a bit in front which is why the impact on one's elbow is reduced and the swing (and the shoulder/body) takes more of a charge there. Players, who like going to the net, may love this style too. Then, players that have had issues with their elbows before may save themselves further troubles as well. In a nutshell, the approach to the service allows the player an alternative to be considered.

Throwing the ball overhead with all the bending and bowing, my son's 3-day professional coach may have hurt my boy's elbow as with such a service for the top spin the arm bending creates a sort of stress to the joint (elbow) there. My boy told the coach what he has been used to but was ignored and suggested another style instead. This is something that I am worried about in the professional world of tennis where flexibility may not be so common with some coaches.
 
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#41
My son, for instance, has learnt to serve throwing his ball up in the air a bit in front of him, so that he could make his move forward when swinging. He's strictly instructed by me to swing fast, move his right shoulder (he's right-handed) fast forward, and, of course end up with his tennis racket low at his left foot to allow the appropriate trajectory. As he ends up about 5 feet into the court, he has the choice to charge the net instantly or quickly return back over the baseline to get a shot at the returned service. This is a borderline style as the server steps over the baseline (at the right time) but the aggressive service may be faster although lower than the top spin with all the bending and bowing etc. Well, I hope I have explained this one ok to you.

Now, I sense this above style of service may be suitable for the reason that it takes the pressure off the player's elbow. The ball is thrown a bit in front which is why the impact on one's elbow is reduced and the swing (and the shoulder/body) takes more of a charge there. Players, who like going to the net, may love this style too. Then, players that have had issues with their elbows before may save themselves further troubles as well. In a nutshell, the approach to the service allows the player an alternative to be considered.

Throwing the ball overhead with all the bending and bowing, my son's 3-day professional coach may have hurt my boy's elbow as with such a service for the top spin the arm bending creates a sort of stress to the joint (elbow) there. My boy told the coach what he has been used to but was ignored and suggested another style instead. This is something that I am worried about in the professional world of tennis where flexibility may not be so common with some coaches.
If just doing rec tennis than keep the funky style, if he wants to play for a college then follow proper technique. Its not natural feeling at first but it works, has worked, and will continue to work. I am talking about general form of the serve we have seen among pros and top level amateurs for the last 60 years.
 
#42
If just doing rec tennis than keep the funky style, if he wants to play for a college then follow proper technique. Its not natural feeling at first but it works, has worked, and will continue to work. I am talking about general form of the serve we have seen among pros and top level amateurs for the last 60 years.
So, how "improper" is the technique that I have described here? Is the style really so "funky"?
 
#44
So, how "improper" is the technique that I have described here? Is the style really so "funky"?
A 'technique' is a set of motions that have biomechanical significance for a tennis stroke. 'Types' of serve are flat, slice, kick, top spin. 'Style' serves are not too well defined. For the serve the ball is tossed up. The toss is part of the service motion. A practice for learning the serve is to throw the ball in a certain way.

My son, for instance, has learnt to serve throwing his ball up in the air a bit in front of him, so that he could make his move forward when swinging. He's strictly instructed by me to swing fast, move his right shoulder (he's right-handed) fast forward, and, of course end up with his tennis racket low at his left foot to allow the appropriate trajectory. As he ends up about 5 feet into the court, he has the choice to charge the net instantly or quickly return back over the baseline to get a shot at the returned service. This is a borderline style as the server steps over the baseline (at the right time) but the aggressive service may be faster although lower than the top spin with all the bending and bowing etc. Well, I hope I have explained this one ok to you.

Now, I sense this above style of service may be suitable for the reason that it takes the pressure off the player's elbow. The ball is thrown a bit in front which is why the impact on one's elbow is reduced and the swing (and the shoulder/body) takes more of a charge there. Players, who like going to the net, may love this style too. Then, players that have had issues with their elbows before may save themselves further troubles as well. In a nutshell, the approach to the service allows the player an alternative to be considered.

Throwing the ball overhead with all the bending and bowing, my son's 3-day professional coach may have hurt my boy's elbow as with such a service for the top spin the arm bending creates a sort of stress to the joint (elbow) there. My boy told the coach what he has been used to but was ignored and suggested another style instead. This is something that I am worried about in the professional world of tennis where flexibility may not be so common with some coaches.
The joint motion that is very important for the high level serve is internal shoulder rotation (ISR). It is not easy to change from a Waiter's Tray serve to a high level serve.

Your son may be injured and it may be related to an unknown serving technique or other causes.?

There is no hurry.

I don't know the percentage of tennis instructors worldwide that understand internal shoulder rotation. I believe that most don't. You should study the issue so that you understand. In the US coaches of successful junior tennis players develop reputations and are in demand. Lessons are usually costly.

This publication is a review paper by a tennis researcher that did important work on ISR and the serve.
Biomechanics and Tennis, 2006, B. Elliott
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2577481/

I have posted on ISR in this forum. There are pictures, videos and many references.
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...rnal+shoulder+rotation+serve+Chas&o=relevance

Serve showing ISR. Look only at the elbow as it spins like a top. ISR involves the upper arm bone at the shoulder joint spinning around its long axis ( through the center of the humerus bone).
To do single frame on Vimeo, go full screen, hold down the SHIFT KEY and use the ARROW KEYS.

This video pauses at certain points with labels. Stop the video when it pauses to read the labels.

The elbow is near straight when much of the ISR occurs.

I once gave myself a Golfer's Elbow injury doing ISR with a bent elbow, about 90 d. bent, during a bad experimental volleying technique. ? There was sudden pain. Be careful with elbow angle on a serve with ISR. Know what technique is used with high speed video.
 
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#48
The racket dropped deep and when the isr happened naturally muscles got hurt.
For this high level serving technique, there are 8 video frames shown leading to and ending with impact. Starting with the earliest frame, frames #1-3 do not rotate the racket head that much. Frames #4-8 show racket head rotation to impact (with the higher red arrow). Frames #4-5 probably shows mostly the start of forceful ISR. ISR probably is strong from frames #4 or 5 through #8 at impact. Frame #1 is already at a later time then the deep racket drop. Why do you believe that there was ISR during the deep racket drop? Did you see something in a video? What muscle was injured?
 
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#49
You tell me, is the the coach teaching something odd?
Look, I don't mean to be rude but I have described the service and then asked you the question. Deflecting with questions on questions without providing any follow-up lacks any direction or perhaps brightness. You tell me how odd that may be :)

But, you've got plenty of really bright assistance that's come to the rescue after your dull post.
 
#50
The joint motion that is very important for the high level serve is internal shoulder rotation (ISR). It is not easy to change from a Waiter's Tray serve to a high level serve.

Your son may be injured and it may be related to an unknown serving technique or other causes.?
This is a good point. The shoulder rotation that you've brought in nicely here on the thread is something which I have already mentioned in my previous post. My son's used to rotate his shoulder deeper to the front with only mild emphasis on his elbow which the first example you've posted suggests. There's less of the importance to begin from behind and to use his elbow (and perhaps the wrist) as much that appears to be emboldened in the second choice you've posted. The second technique, in fact, may be the reason for my boy's complaints about his elbow. Anyhow, the unknown to my son serving practice has, in fact, been the source of trouble.

Today (a week after the unfortunate practices with another coach), my boy's back and kicking..well in a practice that's only about 80% of what we usually do. Just to keep him safe. So, there's not been a serious damage really but an experience to be aware of changes which we should take slowly.
 
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