Serve tips!

Mungo

Rookie
I took some video tonight to solicit some serve advice—this is one basket after warmup with no edits. I am about one year into playing around with “advanced serve technique”, a bit less than two years into playing overall. I can pretty consistently land something in the box with a combo of slice and topspin, and I can dial up the topspin for a second serve, but not really getting any free points these days.

I seem not to be able to avoid tossing at 12, and based on my foot faulting I can see maybe I am tossing too far into the court. Have not settled on a fully comfortable take back yet. I was a habitual low tosser who would start my forward motion based on rhythm rather than where the ball actually was, but I see a little improvement there.

What is one or two things that you think I should concentrate on?

 

ballmachineguy

Professional
Bend your knees more. This will allow you to push off the ground and get a deeper drop of the racquet (longer stroke) and more racquet head speed.
 
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Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
I took some video tonight to solicit some serve advice—this is one basket after warmup with no edits. I am about one year into playing around with “advanced serve technique”, a bit less than two years into playing overall. I can pretty consistently land something in the box with a combo of slice and topspin, and I can dial up the topspin for a second serve, but not really getting any free points these days.

I seem not to be able to avoid tossing at 12, and based on my foot faulting I can see maybe I am tossing too far into the court. Have not settled on a fully comfortable take back yet. I was a habitual low tosser who would start my forward motion based on rhythm rather than where the ball actually was, but I see a little improvement there.

What is one or two things that you think I should concentrate on?

Your technique is a miscellaneous technique where you angle the racket face to pass to the right of the ball and produce a slice serve. There does not appear to be considerable internal shoulder rotation (ISR) before impact, so your serve is not a high level technique. ISR would turn your racket face as it travelled toward the ball, it doesn't.

There is a safety issue in that your upper arm is at too high an angle to your shoulder joint. If you were doing ISR as in a high level serve technique, that high an angle of the upper arm would increase the risk of shoulder impingement according my interpretation of Todd Ellenbecker's advice. In addition, high level ATP servers tend to follow Ellenbecker's recommendation and that can be seen in high speed videos.

High level slice serve. Single frame through all racket motion. To single frame on Youtube stop video and use the period & comma keys.
Notice the line between his two shoulder and the line of his upper arm. Now compare those two lines to yours. See the Ellenbecker video "Rotator Cuff Injury".

Since you have a miscellaneous technique you will not have luck in finding safety recommendations on how to perform your unknown technique.
This serve video completely misses the significant part played by internal shoulder rotation (ISR) during the serve, as do most other serve instructional videos. Why is that?

Is this because the most significant joint motion - Internal Shoulder Rotation - is widely misidentified as forearm pronation when discussing the tennis serve? (In many countries of the world, Internal Shoulder Rotation is called Medial Shoulder Rotation.)

This issue was settled by tennis biomechanics research in 1995. A follow up publication was written in 2000.

In the early 2000s, this research was endorsed by the ITF with reference books on the biomechanics of the serve and other strokes. See the Biomechanics of Advanced Tennis, 2003, B. Elliott et al.
Forum search: internal shoulder rotation Chas
Member: Chas Tennis

Forum search: Ellenbecker serve impingement Tennis Resources
Members: Whiteside, Chas Tennis

You should only concentrate on studying the high level serving technique and its biomechanics and apply critical thinking to all the information that you find.

There is no advice that I know of for unknown serving techniques like yours.
 
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Dragy

Legend
Hey mate, nice rhythm - you still toss relatively low, but manage to settle all you need in there, at least here in practice.

I have some suggestions for you, see the pic:


Check your grip, why your index finger is along a bevel? Well likely linked to other stuff: grip the racquet so that it has an angle with forearm through every phase of serve.
Let the ball drop a tad lower before you hit it. It will both allow to more efficiently deliver RHS, and to actually but topspin on the ball: as it looks now there can not be no topspin. For topspin racquet head needs to have room to rise after contact if only just a bit. Pro players have that even on some fastest, "flat" serve.

Here's how it's supposed to look:


Try it first grounded, in light manner - find the right racquet-arm angle and experience how it works.
 

Mungo

Rookie
I think I can comprehend the points on knee bend, toss arm, and height at contact, perhaps not able to address what sounds like a more fundamental problem which maybe amounts to starting over from scratch.

I had recently played around with extending my index finger a bit on the grip. I will admit that it has always felt lost. I must have misunderstood some tip (Serena) I read and interpreted / applied, had some initial improvement and therefore ran with it. To be clear I think the suggestion is to make sure the ring finger wraps around the handle rather than points up the side?
 

Dragy

Legend
To be clear I think the suggestion is to make sure the ring finger wraps around the handle rather than points up the side?
You textbook instruction is to have “trigger” position for that finger: wrapped around the handle, but not tight with other fingers. Just comfortable diagonal grip
 

Pumpkin

Semi-Pro
What I see is the aftermath of the serve your momentum is taking you to the left. Your body is collapsing to the left before impact. The reason for this is your ball toss is not in the right spot and you are "chasing" it.

I recommend going over to the fence or a wall and doing your service motion (without the ball). See where your racquet head would hit the fence/wall. Now just practice tossing the ball there.

It's no point serving a bucket of balls and consistently getting the ball toss in the same wrong spot. You will only engrain bad habits.
 

eah123

Professional
You don’t beginning accelerating until you get to the bottom of your racquet drop. Don’t think about the racquet drop, which is just a natural consequence of keeping a relaxed arm while acceleration up and forward into the ball from the trophy position.

Although you are able to keep the ball in by doing a spin serve, focus on producing a flatter serve, which will force you to learn proper pronation/internal shoulder rotation into contact.
 

Mungo

Rookie
Wow, thanks everyone, a lot to digest here. I could most immediately implement the grip change and the knee bend. Was surprised just how much more springy I felt with the bend and the upward push, which translated into more pop. I felt it even if it isn’t very visible on today’s practice. I wanted to implement the tip about keeping a high toss hand but it fell victim to “too much to remember”. And I really wanted to move my toss clockwise but can see that wasn’t very successful even though I practiced that this morning—old habits die hard. But on a couple of my better tosses I could definitely feel how it made everything work better and that will be a focus. I can also see that I am still hitting the ball close to my max reach, and I need to let it drop a bit (if I want some topspin which I do).

Here is a full basket after warmup and no edits.


 
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Digital Atheist

Professional
^^^Looks like a nice rhythm you have going there.

Don't rush the entire basket when making changes. Practice each serve like you have just stepped up to the line, and focus on one or two things until you have them down (that's going to be take more than one session). No need to make all the recommended changes at once, else your brain will overload, and I think you've already experienced that!

Good work!
 

Pumpkin

Semi-Pro
I will repeat. The ball toss is not in the right place leading to the stumbling to the left after the serve.

BTW a smart returner will notice this and return the ball away from where you are stumbling and you will have zero chance of tracking it down
 

Mungo

Rookie
Totally agree Pumpkin…gotta fix it. I played three sets tonight and on the less terribly placed tosses I could really feel things click into place. Will take some time to get it right but I am too much of an addict to let this prevent me from playing. But get it right I will!
 
Your pronation and wrist are good, but you're severely lacking internal shoulder rotation. Watch this video from RacquetFlex, it's the best resource on the subject:

This is pretty much it. After you get your arm exploding through an external/internal rotation whip, your mechanics will be pretty much perfect. That's a huge thing though, it'll add a ton of velocity without additional effort.
 

Mungo

Rookie
On the Raquetflex video they seem to advise a progression where the student uses only ISR starting from something close to a contact point and then holding the follow through after contact. Then doing the same but starting from trophy position and adding in the other motions. Is this the best progressive drill for adding ISR or would you recommend another approach (video)?
 

ballmachineguy

Professional
Mungo, ISR happens but it has to happen from what you do with the hand. At least that is how you need to think of it as a tennis player. Worrying about your humerus in the shoulder joint as if you can control it AT the shoulder is a waste of time. What happens with ISR AT the shoulder is passive. It is more for biomechanic nerds to focus on. Pinky edge of hand leads on way up to contact and thumb edge of hand leads just after contact. Don’t worry about ISR!
 

Mungo

Rookie
Wish I had videoed today….was rallying with my wife casually, she is coming back from a layoff. Decided to mimic the one thing that looked like a drill on Racquetflex—position the racket close to the contact point and just internally rotate the shoulder alone. I expected to just dribble the ball weakly towards the net. But I was blasting them into the box flat, probably 10 percent faster than my best previous full motion serves. I tried a few with a bit more motion (from trophy) and while more awkward feeling I was getting similar results. Will get some video tomorrow of the progression.
 

ballmachineguy

Professional
Wish I had videoed today….was rallying with my wife casually, she is coming back from a layoff. Decided to mimic the one thing that looked like a drill on Racquetflex—position the racket close to the contact point and just internally rotate the shoulder alone. I expected to just dribble the ball weakly towards the net. But I was blasting them into the box flat, probably 10 percent faster than my best previous full motion serves. I tried a few with a bit more motion (from trophy) and while more awkward feeling I was getting similar results. Will get some video tomorrow of the progression.
What did you initiate to rotate the shoulder?
 

Mungo

Rookie
What did you initiate to rotate the shoulder?
Not sure I take your meaning, but I did things that look similar to the video at the 13 minute mark. I only had it in the back of my mind so it looked like more aggressive versions of the first couple things he runs through. The movement was basically moving the racket from a pointing up position to a down position, only using internal rotation of the shoulder, limited to the endgame contact moment.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Draw a line between the two shoulders. Consider the line of the upper arm. Your upper arm line line goes up at too high an angle and does not follow Todd Ellenbecker's recommendation, in video "Rotator Cuff Injury" or look like the angle seen in use by most ATP servers. Your upper arm angle is what Ellenbecker warns against. See Raonic serve below from Dragy's post. ISR with your upper arm orientation adds to the risk of shoulder impingement. You should study and stop poorly informed practicing with this risky upper arm orientation.

If you rotate your upper arm with ISR how could your upper arm add speed to your racket head. It Can't. Because your racket shaft is in line with your forearm.

This looks like good practice for the upper arm orientation. [The upper arm is the humerus, the bone between the shoulder joint and elbow.]

If Raonic rotated his upper arm with ISR, can his ISR and upper arm orientation add to racket head speed? Obviously! Because of the angle between his forearm and racket shaft. (That forearm to racket shaft angle changes during the motion.) I recommend that you think about what you see in serve videos and pictures.
 
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Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.

Follow the same directions in this one hand backhand comparison below.

Compare your 1HBHs to ATP 1HBHs in this post. To single frame on Youtube stop video and use the period & comma keys. To select the video hold down the alt key and left mouse click, otherwise the video starts playing. For best accuracy, compare very similar camera angles. Start with both videos very close to the frame of impact. Then single frame back and forth over the entire stroke. Please list the times of all your one hand backhand drives.


Look first for how the line between your two shoulders turns back and then forward. Then list other differences between your backhand and the ATP 1HBHs.

I observed many sub-motions of the 1HBH drive that the ATP pros and Justine Henin are doing. Read through this long thread and find each sub-motion. Read minimum of post 1, 51, and others on submotions. I consider the "chest press" technique to be bettter than Federer's 1HBH technique that uses more shoulder joint earlier. "Chest Press" is more widely used among the top 100 ATP players.


List the differences that you see and I'll be glad to discuss them.
 

Mungo

Rookie
Got in a groove today. Grip, yes. Knee bend, a little, Toss, improving. Not contacting quite at the right angle (pointing up). Still foot faulting. But I am tapping into a new power source….could it be ISR?

 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
12 May video is same as 9 May video. Incorrect and if ISR is added, shoulder impingement risk should be increased according to my interpretation of Ellenbecker's video "Rotator Cuff Injury."

My rotator cuff surgery - where they stitched the torn supraspinatus tendon back onto the bone had a 9 month recovery, mostly of retaining shoulder joint range of motion while avoiding tearing the new surgery off the bone, then strenthening slowly, then start tennis. The Dr said that second surgeries were not recommended if the first one failed.? My small (10 mm) 'full thickness tear' had a '95% chance of a good outcome'. (with a great surgeon) But that good outcome chance got worse quickly as the diagnosed size of the tear increased. I tore mine on a escalator, lost balance and grabbed the rail. My cousin was mad that his neignbor's trash can was in his driveway and he threw it off, tearing his supraspinatus tendon. They say 'that full thickness tears' are more common with older people like me than younger ones. ? Full thickness tears have less chance of healing without surgery than partial tears. A very slow and unpleasant recovery.............

If your shoulder shows pain, stop serving, see a Dr and let it heal, some months?, Don't play on it to see how you do......
 
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Mungo

Rookie
12 May video is same as 9 May video. Incorrect and if ISR is added, shoulder impingement risk should be increased according to my interpretation of Ellenbecker's video "Rotator Cuff Injury."

My rotator cuff surgery - where they stitched the torn supraspinatus tendon back onto the bone had a 9 month recovery, mostly of retaining shoulder joint range of motion while avoiding tearing the new surgery off the bone, then strenthening slowly, then start tennis. The Dr said that second surgeries were not recommended if the first one failed.? My small (10 mm) 'full thickness tear' had a '95% chance of a good outcome'. (with a great surgeon) But that good outcome chance got worse quickly as the diagnosed size of the tear increased. I tore mine on a escalator, lost balance and grabbed the rail. My cousin was mad that his neignbor's trash can was in his driveway and he threw it off, tearing his supraspinatus tendon. They say 'that full thickness tears' are more common with older people like me than younger ones. ? Full thickness tears have less chance of healing without surgery than partial tears. A very slow and unpleasant recovery.............

If your shoulder shows pain, stop serving, see a Dr and let it heal, some months?, Don't play on it to see how you do......
Yeah I don’t want to deal with an impingement, and I see what you mean about that aspect of my technique is not fundamentally changed (yet). I will check back in next week.
 

Digital Atheist

Professional
Yeah I don’t want to deal with an impingement, and I see what you mean about that aspect of my technique is not fundamentally changed (yet). I will check back in next week.
Might be difficult to change this by practicing hitting a bunch of serves, over and over. You are going to have to focus on this one aspect and try and isolate it to some extent. You still need to video to check progress, but I would be starting in a half serve position, working on tilting my body more to the left to get a straighter alignment at contact, and hitting into a back fence (and NOT into a tennis court, which will trigger your incorrect muscle memory).
 

Mungo

Rookie
I have made a lot of progress this week since I originally posted. Perhaps I will post today‘s practice after SwingVision finishes processing, but retrospectively I think the best advice I got here was “toss in the right place”. The reason is that some portion of my “problems” stem from a bad toss that I was trying to make work” and the only way to do that is to swing defectively. As I started putting it more consistently in the right place, it caused other things to fall into place. That is not to say that I don’t have other things to address, but trying to address them without first dealing with a key foundational problem unaddressed would have been senseless. So, biggest bang for the buck is improving the toss, from which all begins. So, Pumpkin, you really nailed it.
 

Digital Atheist

Professional
Sounds promising! You could just post a couple of your better serves instead of the entire video if you prefer; either works however, and I always enjoy observing someone make progress, so well done.
 

Mungo

Rookie
It is very tempting to just post my best, but gonna keep it real and unedited. Here is one of my last baskets for this session. I can see the toss is still not optimally placed in my “wheelhouse” every time, but moving it a bit to the right has helped a ton and I will keep trying to migrate it further. Still trying to get consciousness of a shoulder rotation “snap” but not feeling it just yet. I am just trying to swing fast at this point while staying loose (as far up the arm as I can perceive) and hoping that eventually causes things to fall into place.

 

Digital Atheist

Professional
Observing two of your faster serves starting at 52s (81 and 86mph respectively, nice!) just prior to contact through to a few frames post contact I see a wrist position that doesn't look too healthy. How does it feel at the end of one of these sessions?
 

Dragy

Legend
Observing two of your faster serves starting at 52s (81 and 86mph respectively, nice!) just prior to contact through to a few frames post contact I see a wrist position that doesn't look too healthy. How does it feel at the end of one of these sessions?
There was one marked as 91 around 14s mark, but I cannot see how it’s faster than other ones marked as 60… SwingVision still a mess with ball speeds
 

Digital Atheist

Professional
There was one marked as 91 around 14s mark, but I cannot see how it’s faster than other ones marked as 60… SwingVision still a mess with ball speeds
Yeah I was confused on some of those too, nothing is perfect I guess.

This still concerns me a little, but if there's no pain then maybe nothing to worry about:
 

Dragy

Legend
Yeah I was confused on some of those too, nothing is perfect I guess.

This still concerns me a little, but if there's no pain then maybe nothing to worry about:
This is definitely to work on... Despite what we feel, racquet head goes faster when pivoting around rather than over the top. We might feel hand travelling faster, but balls end up slower. That's why best servers keep angle between racquet and forearm from before to after impact:
 

Pumpkin

Semi-Pro
Wow!!! Improved a lot. It's great to see someone out practicing their serve. Most people just practice groundstrokes. I predict you will end up with an amazing serve. Already getting there.
 

a12345

Professional
Yeah I was confused on some of those too, nothing is perfect I guess.

This still concerns me a little, but if there's no pain then maybe nothing to worry about:
Feels great actually… feel at contact is excellent (except for the mishits) as is the sound. Really, they are both much improved over the last week.
This racket head is moving in the wrong direction. It should be moving inwards not outwards thats why the wrist is all twisted.

If you really hit hard with the wrist like this its gonna break something.

The best way to understand the feel is that the wrist position at contact point should resemble the same position as the trophy position.
 

Mungo

Rookie
The Swing speeds are definitely off. The owner has admitted they generally understate the speed (at least 10% low) because it averages the speed of the ball in flight rather than peak speeds, and I agree at times it shows some really high rates that don’t feel particularly deserved. The issue seems to have their attention though so hopefully it is addressed.

I know I have more work to do and will keep following the discussion here. I also have a challenging play date with a younger, stronger player tonight and curious how this will hold up.
 

Mungo

Rookie
Am interested in knowing more about the head not moving in the right direction. Will agree those frame by frames look, gulp, unusual.
 

justRick

Rookie
So much of the serve is in the wrist. If you have ever done fly fishing, use that same wrist motion as your mental picture. Don't forget to follow through with the arm downward too.
 

Mungo

Rookie
I stayed off the court last two days and did nothing but pronation drills. Here is a full basket today. I see that I go from string facing left before contact to strings facing right after contact, so I think that part is well. Results were a bit more speed but lost some consistency which I think is expected with a new technique. I paid some attention to the toss hand and knee bend. I am starting to focus on the contact position part and have a mental image of what I am trying to do, but I don’t see it translate on video. Will a further improved toss help solve the contact position issue or are they unrelated and separable?

 

Dragy

Legend
I stayed off the court last two days and did nothing but pronation drills. Here is a full basket today. I see that I go from string facing left before contact to strings facing right after contact, so I think that part is well. Results were a bit more speed but lost some consistency which I think is expected with a new technique. I paid some attention to the toss hand and knee bend. I am starting to focus on the contact position part and have a mental image of what I am trying to do, but I don’t see it translate on video. Will a further improved toss help solve the contact position issue or are they unrelated and separable?

Try to grip more across the handle - you are extremely “along” to my eye. I’d also check if you use true conti… edge of buttcap not covered by the palm is also not what I like, but it’s not actually too important for clean techniques

You can even overdo the “fist” grip to make angled position at contact inevitable ;) then settle with some mild pistol grip
 

Mungo

Rookie
Yes, I didn’t say it very well but the forearm-racquet angle thing is what I was trying to get at when I said contact position. I will go back to more of a fist grip and see what that brings. Dragy it is amazing your grasp of English to pick up on that….first or second language?
 

eah123

Professional
Your toss is too far to the right unless you are trying to hit a slice serve. For a flat serve it should be more in line with the service box T. Correcting your toss location should help you achieve better pronation/ISR. Also, your weight is going straight up and not transferring into the court, which means your toss needs to go into the court more instead of straight up or behind you in some of the serves. Try to land on the left foot 6” to 1 ft inside the court on every serve.
 

Mungo

Rookie
Your toss is too far to the right unless you are trying to hit a slice serve. For a flat serve it should be more in line with the service box T. Correcting your toss location should help you achieve better pronation/ISR. Also, your weight is going straight up and not transferring into the court, which means your toss needs to go into the court more instead of straight up or behind you in some of the serves. Try to land on the left foot 6” to 1 ft inside the court on every serve.
Thanks, I had been thinking that to reach the preferred contact point I needed to get it out there even further to the right, but it seems that isn’t the case. It definitely comes more naturally to do as you suggest but will try rainbowing it a bit further into the court.
 

xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame
Your toss is too far to the right unless you are trying to hit a slice serve. For a flat serve it should be more in line with the service box T. Correcting your toss location should help you achieve better pronation/ISR. Also, your weight is going straight up and not transferring into the court, which means your toss needs to go into the court more instead of straight up or behind you in some of the serves. Try to land on the left foot 6” to 1 ft inside the court on every serve.
No it isn't, no it shouldn't, no it won't, weight's going forward, not totally necessary.

In order of priority:
1) Toss lower. Your whole body is screwed up because someone told you to toss higher and raise your contact point and you heavily overcorrected. Either you learn to push up harder off your back foot and raise your whole body higher to fix it, or you lower the toss. Seeing as people who can get as much air on the serve as Federer are extremely rare, I suggest you lower your toss.

2) F*ck everything else, fix your damn wrist. You are heavily limited in how fast you can serve if you actively use ulnar deviation on the serve. I doubt it's because of a passive, super loose wrist, because the first thing I thought when I saw your racket drop is "wow, his wrist is so stiff he can't even drop his racket'". You might think you need active ulnar deviation to generate more spin on the serve, but you can easily generate more by just using the rest of the body and loosening up the hand, arm, and shoulder.



I want you to overcorrect and feel like you're making this wrist angle on contact. Don't force the racket through contact via pronation or ISR while you do this, just try to get some angle in the wrist. After that, learn to do the same while loosening up the arm and speeding up the swing. Once you can maintain the angle through contact at high speeds with a loose wrist, we loosen EVERYTHING - hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder. We want that racket pointing straight down at some point in the racket drop (basically at least around the same height as your hips, if not your butt), and then we want the racket head to flare out to the right of your hand as it goes up. As it is, the racket barely drops below your elbow and the racket head is basically to the left of your head the entire time. The range of motion ends up being tiny and you have no room to build up racket head speed. These are not things that we should actively focus on, but are a good indicator of how loose and relaxed the arm is.

3) Fix the shoulder angle. This should naturally be less extreme if we lower the toss. You might feel like you're making contact too low, but it's closer to your body, meaning it's easier to exert force without straining yourself. You want to feel like your body, and not your arm, is hitting the ball.



If you can follow the above picture, you can think of throwing your elbow forward at contact if your chest is pointed up. If you're reaching up, that's a problem. You want to throw up. When you throw a ball, the elbow is always roughly in line with the line of the shoulders, within a few inches. Below is a very simplified introduction into the idea. Don't take all the small details verbatim, but start getting closer to the mental image of throwing rather than hitting.


4) Push off the back foot, HARD. Just like pitchers push forward off the mound with their dominant leg to throw a ball at the catcher in front of them, we want to push upward off the ground with our dominant leg to throw our racket at the ball above us (ball toss should be above you and inside the baseline). Serve with 60% of your weight on your back foot and push up hard to initiate the serve. There are extreme versions of the drill where you serve only off the back foot (start off in one-legged stance), and even more extreme drills where you start from a one-legged squat position; don't bother, just get the basics down.
 
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