Newbie seeking advice on serve (with video)

Pctopcool

Rookie
Hi there,

This is my second "newbie seeking advice" post here. From my first post, I received tons of great advice and encouragement that helped my game a lot. So, hopefully I can get some feedback again this time.

I started playing tennis last fall, and am recently focusing on my serve. As a beginner, I don't have different first and second serve, but just try to develop a "second serve-like" serve. As you can see from the video, my serve was very weak and slow. Although I try hard to generate top spin, the ball just doesn't kick at all. More importantly, the consistency is really bad especially under pressure or when I'm tired. Looking at the video, there are a million differences between my serve and the pros'. But, it's hard for me to figure out the most important aspect to improve.

I really appreciate if you can take some time watch the video, and offer your comments or advice. Please don't be shy to criticize, since that help me to learn from the mistake, and improve my skill.

Many thanks
Mike


 

aurablaze

New User
If you're trying to hit a topspin serve it's going to be really difficult without the proper grip, and it looks like you're using a forehand grip. You definitely want to be in a continental grip, or even just a little further up closer to bevel 1 as described in this article (scroll down a little bit till it talks about grip). Changing the grip is pretty big and you're probably going to revert back to your old habits since it's going to feel completely foreign to you. I recommend slow shadow swings as well as plenty of video review to get comfortable.
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
If you're trying to hit a topspin serve it's going to be really difficult without the proper grip, and it looks like you're using a forehand grip. You definitely want to be in a continental grip, or even just a little further up closer to bevel 1 as described in this article (scroll down a little bit till it talks about grip). Changing the grip is pretty big and you're probably going to revert back to your old habits since it's going to feel completely foreign to you. I recommend slow shadow swings as well as plenty of video review to get comfortable.
Thanks for the advice and the link!
You are right about the grip. I did hold with continental, but always unintentionally bend the wrist outward (like forehand wrist lag), so it effectively becomes a forehand grip. I'll try the shadow swings, and hopefully can get some correct muscle memory.
Thanks again!
 

vex

Hall of Fame
Those are good second serves actually.

If you are locked in on that and hitting a high percentage move on to 1st serves.

For you first serve you will absolutely need to toss the ball higher and reach/hit from a much higher contact point. You’re a whole foot or more too low for a first serve on ur current contact point. Hold your right arm up with ur racket extended pointing up to 1:00 or 12:30. You’re contact point will be a little above that reach when u add in a small jump. Your toss needs to float a bit higher than that to facilitate that contact point.

Basically your second serve looks good for Rec play and you need to start working on your toss to build a first serve

After ur toss is going to the right spot practice some shadow swing 1st serves. Imagine ur Indiana Jones cracking his whip way up there at 12:30/1:00. That’s you reaching up for your max contact point and whipping your racket thru your pronation. The pronation should involve ur racket face swiping up the ball adding topspin AS you also plow thru the ball with power. It’s a lot to put together. But no chance til ur tossing consistently to max reach 12:30/1:00.
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
Those are good second serves actually.

If you are locked in on that and hitting a high percentage move on to 1st serves.

For you first serve you will absolutely need to toss the ball higher and reach/hit from a much higher contact point. You’re a whole foot or more too low for a first serve on ur current contact point. Hold your right arm up with ur racket extended pointing up to 1:00 or 12:30. You’re contact point will be a little above that reach when u add in a small jump. Your toss needs to float a bit higher than that to facilitate that contact point.

Basically your second serve looks good for Rec play and you need to start working on your toss to build a first serve

After ur toss is going to the right spot practice some shadow swing 1st serves. Imagine ur Indiana Jones cracking his whip way up there at 12:30/1:00. That’s you reaching up for your max contact point and whipping your racket thru your pronation. The pronation should involve ur racket face swiping up the ball adding topspin AS you also plow thru the ball with power. It’s a lot to put together. But no chance til ur tossing consistently to max reach 12:30/1:00.

Thanks for the advice (and encouragement)!
Yes, I did notice my serve was better when I tossed high. Just don't have the consistent high toss yet. Will practice more and focus on the height. Hopefully the warm weather will help, since I can finally practice outside, rather than in the garage as in the winter :)
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
@Pctopcool

Um, there are people that have been playing for years that don't have as good a motion as yours. You've got a great base upon which to build because you have good balance and hand-to-eye coordination.

Check out some of the following [try not to get overwhelmed by watching 473 serve videos and trying to incorporate every piece of advice; start simple and build from there]:



 

dennis

Rookie
After your trophy pose you drop the racket with you wrist / hand and then there's an element of pushing the ball with your arm (as opposed to rotating the whole arm/shoulder after the trophy pose). Is this how you would throw a ball over the back fence? I would work on that type of throwing motion and incorporate it into your serve. What I'm trying to say is, is your throwing motion a lot different from your serve action?
 

FiReFTW

Legend
Wow last fall? You have been playing for not even 1 year? Your serve looks great for the amount of time you are playing! You have alot of little issues to fix, but you have alot of good fundamentals and a nice base, wow good job!



The 3 most key elements I would focus on

Pic1
Your shoulders are barely tilted at an angle, you need to tilt them more at the start of the motion, so focus on dropping your right shoulder way lower and extend ur left arm higher into the air.



Pic2
You get a good start of the motion and get the racquet on edge, but then immediately open the racquet face and push the racquet through the ball, you need to stop manipulating ur racquet and have a loose grip and throw the racquet and allow the edge of the racquet to go up to the ball and then turn around naturally at the last moment before impact.



Pic3
Finally, you need to keep ur left arm tucked instead of extending it away, your weight is being pulled sideways and away instead of INTO the court and INTO the ball, and losing alot of power this way




Focus on this 3 things and try to fix them, and your serve will be miles better and infact it will be a very very solid serve.

But START SLOW, and really focus on 1 thing at a time and work on it, slow motion first.. then gradually speed it up, nothing wrong with going slow motion for 1 full hour of practice, then next practice a bit faster, you need to build muscle memory for these movements, it takes time.

Goodluck
 
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Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
...........................
Pic2
................... and allow the edge of the racquet to go up to the ball and then turn around naturally at the last moment before impact.


.....................................
That word description is not what is seen in videos of high level serves. The upper arm (upper = between the shoulder joint and elbow) rotates from the position in the above picture. That causes the racket face to also rotate as it rises to the ball to face the ball for impact.


Here is the position of the racket vs time. There is no last moment turn before impact. Toly composite picture.
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...nd-2nd-serve-aha-moment.593895/#post-11390127


Thread.
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...nd-2nd-serve-aha-moment.593895/#post-11390127
 
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FiReFTW

Legend
The word description is not what is seen in videos of high level serves. The upper arm (upper = between the shoulder joint and elbow) rotates from the position in the above picture. That causes the racket face to also rotate as it rises to the ball to face the ball for impact.


Here is the position of the racket vs time. There is no last moment turn before impact.


https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...nd-2nd-serve-aha-moment.593895/#post-11390127
Well yes, but the OP does not do this, he turns the racquet square facing the ball much much sooner and lower, and also seems like its forced with him, instead of letting this momentum turn the racquet away and on edge and then into the ball.

Im not exactly sure why OP does not have this, its hard to know for another person or how exactly he can fix this, I just know that from the video he seems to be turning the racquet around to face the ball very soon and very low and forced and then the racquet goes through the ball without changing any angle.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.


The the racket position in the middle picture, racket face to the sky, shows that your technique is not a high level technique. Yours is probably a Waiter's Tray technique.

http://www.hi-techtennis.com/serve/big_l_student.php


The Waiter's Tray technique is used by a majority of active tennis players. It is a lower performance technique that does not use internal shoulder rotation (ISR) for racket head speed. Don't try to figure out what internal shoulder rotation is from the words. Look it up on the internet, ISR is a defined shoulder joint motion.

You should study ISR until you understand it. To start, Search Forum or Google: internal shoulder rotation Chas
Search Forum: Waiter's Tray _select posts by Chas Tennis

You should find a well qualified coach to teach you. That may be difficult.

Todd Ellenbecker has a video "Rotator Cuff Injury" that describes how the shoulder joint works and the orientation to use in serving to minimize the risks of shoulder impingement. This upper arm to shoulder orientation is shown in high speed videos by nearly all high level ATP servers. Unfortunately, the video is no longer available free on Youtube. The video is available on joining Tennis Resources for a month.
 
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Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Well yes, but the OP does not do this, he turns the racquet square facing the ball much much sooner and lower, and also seems like its forced with him, instead of letting this momentum turn the racquet away and on edge and then into the ball.

Im not exactly sure why OP does not have this, its hard to know for another person or how exactly he can fix this, I just know that from the video he seems to be turning the racquet around to face the ball very soon and very low and forced and then the racquet goes through the ball without changing any angle.
He does not have this because he is not using a technique that uses ISR. He has not studied the available information on the serve because there is too much inaccurate information out there.

I was not referring to what he was doing. You were telling the OP how to do the stroke but your description had the often stated myth to "allow the edge of the racquet to go up to the ball and then turn around naturally at the last moment before impact." This important point - that does not make sense regarding the way ISR works - can be very misleading. Over the decades, I have believed many false tennis beliefs and now recommend always checking our ideas vs what is shown in clear high speed videos.

Everyone interested in the biomechanics of the serve should write down for themselves how internal shoulder rotation adds to the tennis serve. How it is set up and how and when it is used before impact. They should then check their views against clear high speed videos. I have posted many references and video frames on many of the issues.

The scientific publications that established the part played by ISR were published in 1995, 23 years ago, and endorsed by the ITF.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2577481/

Welcome to the Tennis Serve Nuthouse...........
 
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D

Deleted member 754093

Guest
He does not have this because he is not using a technique that uses ISR. He has not studied the available information on the serve because there is too much inaccurate information out there.

I was not referring to what he was doing. You were telling the OP how to do the stroke but your description had the often stated myth to "allow the edge of the racquet to go up to the ball and then turn around naturally at the last moment before impact." This important point - that does not make sense regarding the way ISR works - can be very misleading. Over the decades, I have believed many false tennis beliefs and now recommend always checking our ideas vs what is shown in clear high speed videos.

Everyone interested in the biomechanics of the serve should write down for themselves how internal shoulder rotation adds to the tennis serve. How it is set up and how and when it is used before impact. They should then check their views against clear high speed videos. I have posted many references and video frames on many of the issues.

The scientific publications that established the part played by ISR were published in 1995, 23 years ago, and endorsed by the ITF.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2577481/

Welcome to the Tennis Serve Nuthouse...........
Tell me how studying the information on ISR translates to actually implementing it. Empirical evidence is preferred over pure theory, please and thank you (maybe post your serve?)
 

samarai

Semi-Pro
your serve does not look bad for the years that u have played. What i would do is to slow down the initial stages of serve. Try to get a pattern going so that
u can replicate it over and over. I know no one whats to be label as having OCD but it has helped my serve tremendously. I get into position, bounce the ball 3-4 times and slowly initiate the toss. I feel like the toss is the most important aspect of the serve. If u can consistent toss to the correct spot, u'll develop a good serve.
Also swing up. Dont drop your head to look at the other player( dont worry about looking at the court). Look at the ball until after u have hit it. u dont even need to jump. it is very unlikely your serve is ever going to look like a pro serve, you just have to pick certain crucial aspects of the pro serve to develop.
 

Nellie

Hall of Fame
If you are trying to hit a topspin/kick serve, you are extending your elbow forward too early and opening your shoulders/chest toward the net. So you are mostly hitting the ball up and without much spin. To hit top spin, you need to brush the racquet face up the back of the ball, and this is bio-mechanically hard/impossible once you open your shoulders toward the net (or will tear up your shoulder). A big part of your problem is that you are stepping through the serve with your back (right) leg before contact, which causes you to rotate your shoulders and body.

I would suggest simplifying the movement to get the feeling of the topspin serve. Specifically, start with your back toward the net and serving to the ad court (for righties) and feet lined up with the base line. Toss over your head and softly swing (with a continental grip) so that your swing path is parallel with the baseline, finishing with your racquet head on the right side. Do not move your feet. You can even do this while on your knees or sitting on chair, if it helps quiet your feet. For the 2nd serve, think of brushing up the back and not making contact, so the contact with the ball sounds like a swish and not a hard pop. Good luck
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
ISR is not widely understood by tennis players. A majority of tennis players have a Waiter's Tray technique with ISR mostly absent. They have never studied ISR.

High speed videos are the best affordable method of observing tennis strokes. They provide detailed feedback on the technique.

I have seen that a majority of players that post serve videos have differences in their serving techniques from high level serves. In particular, the majority of the servers have differences that involve ISR. ISR has some specific characteristics and sometimes useful checkpoints. The feedback tells posters where they are with respect to a high level technique. Feedback is useful to know for certain that what you have been doing for years can never lead you to an ATP type serve technique, most likely because of ISR. Not having ISR in the serve is a lifetime show stopper.

Videos of junior players (particularly tennis balla broadcasts) and players applying for college scholarships, players that have presumably received some years of instruction, have also been posted. A considerable percentage did not have a high level serving technique. Some ATP and WTA players also have flaws in their serves involving ISR.

None of the above players that are serious about their serving techniques and have video feedback would be satisfied - if they had studied ISR.

I'd say that understanding how ISR functions and should look for the purpose of feedback is a critical contribution.

Another study area is the use of the Stretch Shorten Cycle. The serve is an amazing use of the SSC. The message for all tennis players is to put the right amount of SSCs into your strokes. And learn to see the SSCs in videos.

The reference book Technique Development for Tennis Stroke Production, B Elliott, M. Reid and M. Crespo provides biomechanical information especially on ISR and the serve. The ITF endorses the references. Their courses has been widely presented to coaches and instructors for many years.

Maybe some instructors have some comments about how to teach ISR.
 
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bitcoinoperated

Professional
We need to keep it simple to start with, people are going way way too technical here given how long he has been playing!

OP, google Waiter's Tray serve and how to fix it, that will get you a long way towards a proper serve. Most people go through this phase and based on your vid and how long you've been playing you will get through it fast.

You have identified why self coaching is hard, a vid will look different to pros and it is hard to pinpoint why.
 
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ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
Hi there,

This is my second "newbie seeking advice" post here. From my first post, I received tons of great advice and encouragement that helped my game a lot. So, hopefully I can get some feedback again this time.

I started playing tennis last fall, and am recently focusing on my serve. As a beginner, I don't have different first and second serve, but just try to develop a "second serve-like" serve. As you can see from the video, my serve was very weak and slow. Although I try hard to generate top spin, the ball just doesn't kick at all. More importantly, the consistency is really bad especially under pressure or when I'm tired. Looking at the video, there are a million differences between my serve and the pros'. But, it's hard for me to figure out the most important aspect to improve.

I really appreciate if you can take some time watch the video, and offer your comments or advice. Please don't be shy to criticize, since that help me to learn from the mistake, and improve my skill.

Many thanks
Mike


Big thing that jumped out to me was your balance and body alignment. In your finish you can see you falling forward and to the side a lot. Try your same toss and motion but focus on trying to keep your body position more centered over your base. See if you can balance out and post some more video.
 

Friedman Whip

Professional
Thanks for the advice and the link!
You are right about the grip. I did hold with continental, but always unintentionally bend the wrist outward (like forehand wrist lag), so it effectively becomes a forehand grip. I'll try the shadow swings, and hopefully can get some correct muscle memory.
Thanks again!
Actually you do pretty well with that incorrect grip you are using. I have no idea what you mean when you say you have (or had) a continental grip but then somehow it morphs (or morphed) into a forehand grip along the way. That's a bunch of malarkey. You start out with an incorrect grip, you swing through with it and you end up with the same wrong grip that you started with.
My guess is that you will continue with what you have rather than make the painful change to a good serving grip because you can do pretty well with what you have. But if you want to be really good you need to fix that grip NOW. Every day you keep what you have makes it that much harder to change later on. Like some of us you may be playing tennis for many years into the future. Doesn't it make sense to get it right now?
And by the way all this other advice about doing your elbow like this and your ISR blah blah is just putting lipstick on a pig if you don't change that grip.
 

nvr2old

Hall of Fame
Hey my friend. My advice is to find a legit local instructor and take an in person lesson or lessons. Gonna get a more immediate and better more consistent advice that you can follow than by the myriad of advice (although well meaning) here (some good and some not so). Just my 0.02.
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
@Pctopcool

Um, there are people that have been playing for years that don't have as good a motion as yours. You've got a great base upon which to build because you have good balance and hand-to-eye coordination.

Check out some of the following [try not to get overwhelmed by watching 473 serve videos and trying to incorporate every piece of advice; start simple and build from there]:



Thanks for the advice and the videos!
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
After your trophy pose you drop the racket with you wrist / hand and then there's an element of pushing the ball with your arm (as opposed to rotating the whole arm/shoulder after the trophy pose). Is this how you would throw a ball over the back fence? I would work on that type of throwing motion and incorporate it into your serve. What I'm trying to say is, is your throwing motion a lot different from your serve action?
Good point on the push motion! That's something that I haven't noticed before. Thanks a lot!
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
Wow last fall? You have been playing for not even 1 year? Your serve looks great for the amount of time you are playing! You have alot of little issues to fix, but you have alot of good fundamentals and a nice base, wow good job!


Goodluck
Thank you so much for the screenshot and detailed instruction!
Like your comment about "stop manipulating ur racquet", which is exactly the problem I have.
Really appreciate!
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
The word description is not what is seen in videos of high level serves. The upper arm (upper = between the shoulder joint and elbow) rotates from the position in the above picture. That causes the racket face to also rotate as it rises to the ball to face the ball for impact.


Here is the position of the racket vs time. There is no last moment turn before impact. Toly composite picture.
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...nd-2nd-serve-aha-moment.593895/#post-11390127


Thread.
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...nd-2nd-serve-aha-moment.593895/#post-11390127
Awesome pic! Thanks for the advice!
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
your serve does not look bad for the years that u have played. What i would do is to slow down the initial stages of serve. Try to get a pattern going so that
u can replicate it over and over. I know no one whats to be label as having OCD but it has helped my serve tremendously. I get into position, bounce the ball 3-4 times and slowly initiate the toss. I feel like the toss is the most important aspect of the serve. If u can consistent toss to the correct spot, u'll develop a good serve.
Also swing up. Dont drop your head to look at the other player( dont worry about looking at the court). Look at the ball until after u have hit it. u dont even need to jump. it is very unlikely your serve is ever going to look like a pro serve, you just have to pick certain crucial aspects of the pro serve to develop.
Excellent points! My friend once pointed out that the tempo of my serve was too quick. I tried to slow down, and it helped at least for consistency. But I probably just didn't remember. Will definitely keep in mind next time.

Thanks for the advice!
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
If you are trying to hit a topspin/kick serve, you are extending your elbow forward too early and opening your shoulders/chest toward the net. So you are mostly hitting the ball up and without much spin. To hit top spin, you need to brush the racquet face up the back of the ball, and this is bio-mechanically hard/impossible once you open your shoulders toward the net (or will tear up your shoulder). A big part of your problem is that you are stepping through the serve with your back (right) leg before contact, which causes you to rotate your shoulders and body.

I would suggest simplifying the movement to get the feeling of the topspin serve. Specifically, start with your back toward the net and serving to the ad court (for righties) and feet lined up with the base line. Toss over your head and softly swing (with a continental grip) so that your swing path is parallel with the baseline, finishing with your racquet head on the right side. Do not move your feet. You can even do this while on your knees or sitting on chair, if it helps quiet your feet. For the 2nd serve, think of brushing up the back and not making contact, so the contact with the ball sounds like a swish and not a hard pop. Good luck
I'll definitely try this drill. Really appreciate your help!
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
We need to keep it simple to start with, people are going way way to technical here given how long he has been playing!

OP, google Waiter's Tray serve and how to fix it, that will get you a long way towards a proper serve. Most people go through this phase and based on your vid and how long you've been playing you will get through it fast.

You have identified why self coaching is hard, a vid will look different to pros and it is hard to pinpoint why.
Yeah, from the video, I'm not even sure I'm playing the same sports as the pros do ;D
Thanks for the keyword! Seems that is where I'm at.
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
Big thing that jumped out to me was your balance and body alignment. In your finish you can see you falling forward and to the side a lot. Try your same toss and motion but focus on trying to keep your body position more centered over your base. See if you can balance out and post some more video.
Excellent but often forgotten point! Will keep that in mind!
Many thanks!
 

Pctopcool

Rookie
Actually you do pretty well with that incorrect grip you are using. I have no idea what you mean when you say you have (or had) a continental grip but then somehow it morphs (or morphed) into a forehand grip along the way. That's a bunch of malarkey. You start out with an incorrect grip, you swing through with it and you end up with the same wrong grip that you started with.
My guess is that you will continue with what you have rather than make the painful change to a good serving grip because you can do pretty well with what you have. But if you want to be really good you need to fix that grip NOW. Every day you keep what you have makes it that much harder to change later on. Like some of us you may be playing tennis for many years into the future. Doesn't it make sense to get it right now?
And by the way all this other advice about doing your elbow like this and your ISR blah blah is just putting lipstick on a pig if you don't change that grip.
I totally agree with your point that fixing it now is better than repeating the mistakes. And it is indeed painful: I lost all matches in my first recreational tennis league for too many double faults, simply because I refused to use a safer but "more wrong" serve to just put the ball in. But if this is the correct patch, I'll take it.

Really appreciate your advice!
 

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
I totally agree with your point that fixing it now is better than repeating the mistakes. And it is indeed painful: I lost all matches in my first recreational tennis league for too many double faults, simply because I refused to use a safer but "more wrong" serve to just put the ball in. But if this is the correct patch, I'll take it.

Really appreciate your advice!
Have you seen the "feel tennis" guy on youtube? He has this idea of swinging the racquet in a figure 8 around your body...


Try that.

Theres a lot to break down in the serve, but if you try this and get it down pat - i think you'll get a lot of things right without having to think about it. TIP: When you swing from trophy pose, you should be swinging towards the right net post.

Also as others have said, you MUST hold a continental grip. Never hold a forehand grip again when you go to serve! Never! Not ever in your life!
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
Excellent but often forgotten point! Will keep that in mind!
Many thanks!
Was trying to find a good break down and correction video for you and found Jeff S did one hitting exactly the bigger issue I see. Take a look at this and see if you notice the similarities of your swing/balance to what he talks about correcting. You can start at around 2:40, but the bigger correction or piece I would recommend to work on first is that big after step which he talks about around 4:53. Cheers.

 

Friedman Whip

Professional
I totally agree with your point that fixing it now is better than repeating the mistakes. And it is indeed painful: I lost all matches in my first recreational tennis league for too many double faults, simply because I refused to use a safer but "more wrong" serve to just put the ball in. But if this is the correct patch, I'll take it.

Really appreciate your advice!
I probably should have added that you need to make grip changes in the off season because it will screw your game up good for at least a few weeks before it starts getting better again. My guess is that based on where you are now there is no reason you shouldn't be able to develop a really good if not overpowering serve. Good luck to you.
 
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