Struggling with serve

squall

Rookie
Hi guys,

I recorded a few quick videos with slow motion of my serve. I feel like my serve has stayed in place for some time - it doesn't get either better or worse, but it's weak, slow, except some fortunate ones. I don't really know where the problem is - I've watched many videos with serve tips recently, but I feel like the more I watch, the more I want to change which results with many double faults in a match, that causes I go back to my old habits. The habit (mistake) I had for a long time was that when I was hitting slice serve, my arm was stopping in the middle of the motion, like I didn't carry the racquet behind my right shoulder.
There are five short videos, I'd be grateful for any advice.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Torso not bent, so you can't contract abs.
You fall right. Should be straight ahead.
At finish, you should be bent forward.
 

ballmachineguy

Professional
Try slowing the racquet down. You rotate it to the “drop” position (racquet head at lowest point) way too early. Try keeping it up (head at 12:00 grip at 6:00) until you start pushing off of the ground. The way you are going about it, you get very little benefit from the leg drive.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Leg drive is late. Maximum knee flexion should happen at the trophy phase. As the racket starts to drop behind the back from the trophy position, the legs should start to extend. Your leg (knee) extension starts a fair amount later.

At the bottom of the racket drop, the legs should be fully extended and the feet should already be leaving the ground. Not so in your case. Consider the images below. Full knee/leg extension when the racket drop is at its lowest -- just prior to the upward swing


 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Because of the late knee/leg extension, you are not driving upward as much as you should. You should be driving upward and forward into the ball contact. You seem to be driving forward (landing far in front of the baseline) but not driving upward as well.
 

a12345

Professional
Your commitment to the swing is half hearted. That is, after the ball toss youre looking for the ball to make contact and everything slows down to a halt. It looks like youre just doing your best to find the ball.

In order to hit with real power you have to cartwheel in a much more all or nothing manner.

This allows you to blast that ball. If you mistime it you will blast it into the net or you will blast it long, but nevertheless you will blast it. And then after that its just a case of repetition and getting the feel of the timing to get it right.
 

a12345

Professional
To get an idea of the motion the cartwheel is similar to how a fast bowler bowls in cricket:


You need to kind of rotate the body to drag the arm to drag the racket into the ball.

If you imagine a cricket fast bowler with a racket at the end of their hand you can imagine how they would sling the racket into the ball, rather then "hit" the ball.
 

a12345

Professional
So here with Roddick, hes not searching for the ball.


He lines up his cartwheel and then just goes for it 100%. He either gets a good contact or he doesnt, theres no in between. And with enough repetition and a consistent ball toss you get used to it,

So there's an element of fate involved, once you start the cartwheel you commit 100% its all or nothing. To get max power you need that level of commitment to the swing.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Google: Waiter's Tray Tennis Serve
Google: Waiter's Tray Error Hi Tech Tennis
Google: internal shoulder rotation
Google: internal shoulder rotation tennis serve

Forum search: Waiter's Tray Chas

There is a safety issue if you don't hold your upper arm at the correct angle, not at too high an angle.
Search: Ellenbecker
 
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squall

Rookie
Thank you guys for all the replies, if I have more time, I will try to ask all of you about the details, as for now, I'd like to know, what you

@a12345 mean by "searching the ball" and that Andy doesn't search for the ball. Does it mean that I shouldn't look at ball or what? I can't imagine not searching for a ball, if it's a ball, that you have to hit.
 

a12345

Professional
Thank you guys for all the replies, if I have more time, I will try to ask all of you about the details, as for now, I'd like to know, what you

@a12345 mean by "searching the ball" and that Andy doesn't search for the ball. Does it mean that I shouldn't look at ball or what? I can't imagine not searching for a ball, if it's a ball, that you have to hit.
You look at where the ball toss is and line up your cartwheel. But once you start the cartwheel youre committed fully, there's no time to adjust from here on.

Once the cartwheel commences you can take your eye off the ball and commit to the serve motion 100%. You can't slow down and change tack halfway through the swing and expect to get full power.

3 things will happen - you either blast the ball in, you blast the ball long or you blast the ball into the net.

But the high speed and power should be the same in all 3 scenarios.
 

a12345

Professional
You might think isn't that a bit scattergun and the answer is yes. It's also the reason why pro first serve in percentages are usually 60-70% down to 50% in some games. If they slowed it right down to get perfect contact they could easy get 90%
 

squall

Rookie
If you wanted to explain it in steps, what should I do in case of "not searching for ball". It's still very difficult to understand - do you mean that when players toss the ball, they don't really look at it?

@SystemicAnomaly, what would be the solution to slow the racquet speed, as for now it's very difficult for me to go up with my legs and keeping the racquet in the lowest point at one moment.
 

a12345

Professional
You still watch the ball as it reaches its peak but as it starts to drop you begin your cartwheel.

Think of it like this, imagine doing your fastest cartwheel serve motion without a ball. Just do it in thin air. I'll bet you swing twice as fast and twice as smooth compared to if you had a ball to aim for and hit.

Well that same motion and commitment should happen with a ball toss.

It should feel like your gonna do that cartwheel motion come rain or shine, and the ball is simply in the path of that cartwheel.
 
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Totally agreed that your leg drive is too late. Also you are keeping your left arm high too long. Try to drop it earlier and see if you can make the timing of leg drive earlier.

At this point, you are synching your leg drive with racket face travelling upwards, whereas leg drive should actually be synching with racket drop. The leg drive helps lift your chest up and drop racket due to inertia. (See how Fed's chest is facing up the ball and the racket head is down in @SystemicAnomaly 's post.) Because you keep your left arm high too long, it is difficult to lift your chest. This may be the reason why you may not feel comfortable starting leg drive early.
 

Dragy

Legend
@squall first of all props for posting your vid on here and for striving to improve! It's inspiring and it's fun (y)

I believe you put some good effort into using your whole body to produce energetic swing, and your serve is already at some healthy level, with only question being matchplay consistency - this one you respond to yoursalf.

First thing I suggest you to look at is your odd grip with index finger aligned with the bevel instead of wrapping around (even if in "pistol" position it still should be around):


This signals to me of some kind of uncertainty and trying to over-control your racquet instead of pulling, throwing and holding from flying away which I'd expect. Chsnge it.

Next I'll put up several critical things to sort out, but to be able to do so you should slow down the bottom part - leg drive etc. - for now. Stop going for deep squat and powerful thrust, just let your lower body provide some natural action to allow upper body do it's thing.

So let's go:


What @a12345 mentioned as lack of cartwheel is directly caused by lack of shoulder tilt (and consequtive reverse tilt started by off-arm drop):


So start with tilting your hitting side shoulder.

Next critical thing is what was pointed by @SystemicAnomaly as too late leg drive - or in other words, too early racquet leak from trophy. Your racquet should be tilted towards your front, or be vertical at max, by the moment you start your leg drive. Not already dropped behind torso plane:


The 3rd deadly thing is addressed by Ian Westerman in latest video for example: don't bend your elbow past 90 deg to "scratch your back". Here's Denis again going into drop:


Here's Ian's vid:

Work on these 3 in more or less casual manner, find relaxed and fluid motion, achieve solid and confident serve... THEN add more prominent leg drive, alter spins, seek more power, etc. That's my suggestion :cool:
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
Don't fret. Serve is the most overrated aspect of rec tennis.
The dirty little secret is that the weaker your serve, the more errors your opponents will make trying to crush winners
Underhanded serve has practically 100% win rate at 3.5 and below.
 

TennisDawg

Hall of Fame
I’m not sure. Try starting your toss with the weight shifting to front leg. The serve is about tweaking different parts of your technique. It’s not a bad serve. It’s not like Andy Roddick. But, if you look at his video, it looks like his weight is going forward as he tosses the ball.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
@SystemicAnomaly, what would be the solution to slow the racquet speed, as for now it's very difficult for me to go up with my legs and keeping the racquet in the lowest point at one moment.
Not sure I understand the problem as stated here. Try the leg extension sequence with shadow swings...

For now, start with your left arm & racket preset in the "salute" position. Simulate a ball toss with your right arm as you bend your knees. That is, as the passing arm goes up the body sinks down. A fraction of a second after your right arm is fully extended upward, let your feet & legs start to extend -- driving upward -- as the racket is moving thru the trophy phase and starting to drop. Note that after the racket starts to drop, the right arm should also start to come down.


Try to get the feeling that you are throwing the racket upward at the ball (as well as extending your body upward toward the ball). Your racket throwing movement gives the illusion that you are throwing forward rather than upward. Try to visualize the throwing the racket upward at a 60° to 75° launch angle. (You might be primarily less than 45° currently. Or it might be an illusion).
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
OP, your videos are clear. On a bright sunny day, do not wear a shirt that covers your elbow. Move the camera closer - but not bothering your comfort zone - to get a clear view of what your arm is doing. The final racket motion to the ball is the most important part of the tennis stroke and shows the biomechanics that were set up and are being used.

Here is a serve with internal shoulder rotation (ISR). Move frame-by-frame, back & forth, as the racket goes toward the ball. On Youtube, to single frame use the period & comma keys.

You do not do this.

Go to the frame when your racket face faces the sky as it starts toward the ball. That is a checkpoint for a Waiter's Tray vs a high level serve with ISR. Racket face faces the sky not a high level serving technique and probably a WT. Compare your racket position. To select back and forth between videos use alt key plus left mouse click, otherwise the video starts playing.

Stop on the frame when your racket face faces the sky. Compare.


It is very difficult to change techniques piecemeal. The racket face aiming is entirely different for WT. You swing forward but a high level serve swings forward and at the same time ISR is also performed. To do ISR, the earlier serve sub-motions stretch the ISR muscles............there are many other sub-motions that have been described and illustrated in earlier posts.

I advocate looking at clear high speed videos and not trying to remember the service motion using word descriptions. Words are OK after you understand the frames.
 
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SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru

This still from @Dragy is quite revealing. It looks like you are a candidate for a shoulder impingement here. Not good. That is, your left elbow is very high with respect to your shoulder line.

The primary problem here is actually your shoulder line. Compare this image to those of Novak and Roger in post #4. For their trophy position they previously had a shoulder tilt with the front shoulder higher than the back shoulder. At the bottom of the racket drop, as seen in those images, they now have a reverse tilt. That is the front shoulder is much lower than the back shoulder. Their racket elbow is pretty much in line with that reverse tilt -- whereas yours is much higher than your shoulder line

A large part of this problem is your tossing arm. It is still up at this point. Seems that it has only dropped a little bit, if at all, from it's vertical extension. Compare that to Novak & Roger. Their tossing arm it's not quite fully tucked (into the gut) at that point, but it is pretty close. As I mentioned in #22, the tossing arm should start to fall about the same time the racket starts to drop (after the trophy position)... that is, the racket and the tossing arm drop at nearly the same time.

Because your right arm is still reaching upward, you are not getting a reverse tilt. This can also impact (limit) your ability to accelerate your left shoulder and racket head upward
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
You can also see, in that same image, that your left leg is straight but your right leg has not yet fully extended (and that foot is still on the ground).

(EDIT: I had only skimmed the post from other posters. It appears that some of the things I brought up in these last two posts have already been mentioned. But it's always good to hear it from different sources stated in a someone different manner)
 
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Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
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These two pictures are an excellent display of Thoracic Extension (TE) and its very brief appearance during the high level tennis serve technique. The legs thrusting up appear to add to TE from the inertia of the uppermost body mass.



Trophy Position
Leg Thrust
Thoracic Extension
Thoracic Flexion
Other motions are going on.

The lat muscle originates from several attachments on the back and inserts at one location on the upper arm. The lat muscle is powerful and performs pull ups. The lat also is the largest muscle that performs ISR on the serve.

Now consider if the lat has been lengthened and stretched before Thoracic Extension, what is the effect of TE on the stretched lat. With this camera angle you can judge the distance between the origins and insertion of the lat. The distance is considerably shorter briefly with Thoracic Extension.

There are several possibilities -
1) More lat stretching could occur since the lat has been much slackened.
2) Or forceful Thoracic Flexion could once again increase the distance between the lat's origins & insertion. This is observed in videos from a position of maximum TE to impact.
3) The Thoracic Flexion could be used either for once again stretching the lat or for performing ISR itself. To be determined.

If anyone finds this part of the serve involving Thoracic Extension, the lat and other muscles that perform ISR, then followed by Thoracic Flexion, please post.

Of course, we can't ignore Thoracic Extension and Flexion and the parts that they play in the high level service motion.

The OP does not use much ISR for racket speed so this does not apply to his current Waiter's Tray technique.
 
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LeeD

Bionic Poster
No torso snap.
I used to play a 6'6" dude with close to 7' wingspan....great power on groundies but a paltry 100 flat serve that did bounce chin high...but slow at our level.
He had the same stiff, non arch back, and did not bend forward at the finish, just like op.
 
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