Serve: shoulder angle at contact causing injury


New User
I'm battling my second bout of bursitis in my shoulder this summer. Both instances are due to my arm being at <90 degree angle from my body at contact on my serves, causing impingement in the shoulder. I own the serve video by "Serve Doc" but I can't seem to get my torso to lean left (I'm right handed) so that my arm at contact is at a 90 degree angle from my torso.

I'm consciously working on it, but somehow I often wind up leaning forward instead of to the side, which actually makes the angle *worse* for my shoulder because my torso then gets more in front of the ball.

Do you any of you have tips, drills, or maybe some way of breaking down the service motion to focus on getting the torso into the proper position at contact?

A video discussing the issue I'm having, but doesn't offer specific enough advice for me on how to fix the issue, is here:

Thanks for your thoughts!


Try a different serve motion. There are a couple of motions that the serve doctor has on youtube -- the abbreviated motion especially -- which can be very hard on some people. I personally tried the abbreviated motion and nearly threw my back out.

If you use a pinpoint stance, maybe try a platform? Or vice versa. Try serving with a very slow, deliberate technique in a few different motions. Then repeat with more force.

People should treat how they hold the racquet the same way. Extreme grips work for some... but for others... the wrists/arms just aren't comfortable bending that way.

The serve is the most violent motion in tennis. You should do it in a way that is most comfortable for your body.
Tip one is you've got to toss the ball further to your left (assuming you are right handed).
Fed recently was interviewed and asked for tips for a good serve. His number one tip was having a good toss.
Check out the following videos for some tips on your toss:
Tennis Serve Toss - How to Hold the Ball: Brent Abel explains that holding a ball "like an ice cream cone" allows you to toss to the left easier because you are not straining you forearm in supination or having your thumb get in the way while tossing to the left:
Tennis Serve Tossing Motion Tempo:
Federer Murray Hass & more ball toss common threads:

The second tip is to be sure your core and leg strength is strong enough to let you go into that aggressive trophy pose with the proper tilt. If there is any question about this, you need to be doing more squats to build up your strength.

The final tip is to keep your arm straight up as you let your body weight fall down (better description than bending your knees) as Sampras shows in this series from pictures 4-8, his final trophy pose:


That is, once you get to the position in photo 4, you allow yourself to be in a controlled fall, letting your body weight pull you down as you form a bow and assume that position with a leftward lean.
Notice also that to get that leftward lean, the heels come way off the court, and the bend is at the knees, not from arching your back.

The continuous controlled fall means you are in slow motion moving rather than trying to hold a position for any length of time. As soon as you get low enough and have enough lean, fire those legs with a vigorous upward thrust before you lose your balance. (The upward thrust with your legs actually accentuates your racquet drop - the first movements out of the trophy position.)

It will take time to develop this motion, but your shoulder health makes it worth it. (The added bonus will be increase in speed and spin on your serve, for both a faster, and more consistent, first and second serves.)
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Bionic Poster
Try 2 dozen or more shadow swings every day. Hopefully, repetition of the desired action will eventually creep into your actual serve motion. As the racket head drops (from the trophy position), the tossing arm should start to come down from its extended position. Tack the arm into the body -- this should help to pull the front shoulder down. Let your head move over to the left to allow the back shoulder to come up and over the top. This should result in a (reverse) shoulder tilt that puts less strain on your serving shoulder.