Tips for my serve?

#1
Here's a video of me serving (you can slow down the playback speed and itll still play smoothly)


I'm looking to improve my serve, but I'm not quite sure where to start. I'm trying to emulate Raonic's serve a bit, (at least from where the racket is curled up at the start), but not sure what else I can do.

Thanks so much in advance!
 
#5
toss a bit erratic... doesn't seem like you're getting your body wieght into it... you're going up, that's good, but maybe not up & out into the court?
toss seems a bit high, cause you to pause for a second (imo kills momentum)
also looks very "squatty"... i prefer more hip snap, than raw legs (sam has similar big knee bend, but look how far his hip juts out:
)
i'm paraphrasing from the serve doc vids (what i'm using to tweak/develop my own serve)... so look at those for comparison.
 
#6
Excesive low squat down position

Jumping up with no purpose and hitting ball while ur already falling down

Bodyweight going to the left
 
#7
toss a bit erratic... doesn't seem like you're getting your body wieght into it... you're going up, that's good, but maybe not up & out into the court?
toss seems a bit high, cause you to pause for a second (imo kills momentum)
Yeah my toss is something I need to work on...i have a bad habit of tossing it over my head, would a shorter toss help keep it more in front of me?
 
#9
is it harder to throw a ball closer or further from you?
could you learn to throw a ball further from you?
Idk which is harder between throwing the ball closer or further from me. And yeah i feel like i should toss it further from me, but im not sure how. I've seen stuff where it says that my toss should align with the baseline and also some stuff where it says that my arm toss should be towards the pole of the net, which one would be better?
 
#11
What has already been said.
Less knee bend, you need to go into the court.
If you do that it will increase your serve speed!
when you say that i need to go into the court, do you mean that my jump needs to take me forward into the court instead of directly up? I guess this follows from tossing the ball into the court?
 
#12
when you say that i need to go into the court, do you mean that my jump needs to take me forward into the court instead of directly up? I guess this follows from tossing the ball into the court?
Yes. That's why I was going to ask you the following: "Are those second serves or first serves?".
As far as the theory that was taught to me, the second serve is 'shot' while only going up. It sacrifices speed, but improves your effectiveness of it going inside.
So your first serve must be 'shot', with you going up *and* forward, this increases speed a lot.
So tossing it a little bit ahead will help in forcing you to go into the court.
 
#13
Yes. That's why I was going to ask you the following: "Are those second serves or first serves?".
As far as the theory that was taught to me, the second serve is 'shot' while only going up. It sacrifices speed, but improves your effectiveness of it going inside.
So your first serve must be 'shot', with you going up *and* forward, this increases speed a lot.
So tossing it a little bit ahead will help in forcing you to go into the court.
The first one (right at the timestamp where i linked it) was a first serve. I normally try to hit flatter for first, and then just throw in more spin on a second serve
 
#14
Idk which is harder between throwing the ball closer or further from me. And yeah i feel like i should toss it further from me, but im not sure how. I've seen stuff where it says that my toss should align with the baseline and also some stuff where it says that my arm toss should be towards the pole of the net, which one would be better?
toss low vs. short... it's pref, but know that it takes more practice to toss high consistently (low: easier to be consistent, easier to time hit, harder to load all power sources, slightly less energy... high: harder to toss consistent, harder to time hit (ball is moving down trough contact), more time to load all power sources, more energy from ball descending)
toss location, i think that's a matter of prefernce... i toss toward the pole (tossing along baseline i think let's you coil more as part of the toss motion)... tossing to pole i think it's better to toss, then load/coil but easier to have consistent toss)
 
#15

Ok I went out to practice some serves last night, and I got this outta it. (I apologize for really ****ty video quality....was recording on 240 fps and not sure why the lights flicker like that)

A few things I tried to improve/change

1: My foot positioning, my left foot now point more towards the pole instead of parallel to baseline
2: I tried to toss a bit shorter
3: tried to use the ice cream cone kinda toss
4: tried to bend knees a bit less
5: tried to jump forward into court more
 
#16

Ok I went out to practice some serves last night, and I got this outta it. (I apologize for really ****ty video quality....was recording on 240 fps and not sure why the lights flicker like that)

A few things I tried to improve/change

1: My foot positioning, my left foot now point more towards the pole instead of parallel to baseline
2: I tried to toss a bit shorter
3: tried to use the ice cream cone kinda toss
4: tried to bend knees a bit less
5: tried to jump forward into court more
Looks real good, lot of good things going on. The one thing I notice is how you go into trophy then lift arm up before the drop. You do want to get that elbow up but usually see it go up during/after drop.
You might be losing some "cartwheel " power there
 
#17
Looks real good, lot of good things going on. The one thing I notice is how you go into trophy then lift arm up before the drop. You do want to get that elbow up but usually see it go up during/after drop.
You might be losing some "cartwheel " power there
Hm I see what you mean. I just compared my serve side by side with Raonic's

From what I can see is that once he gets into the trophy position, his elbow immediately starts going forwards into that racket "throwing", whereas for me, it seems i go from trophy -> lift arm a bit -> bend arm back into trophy -> racket throwing position. On that note, i'm not sure why i do that actually, it just seems to happen when i try to throw my racket at the ball
 
#18
Hm I see what you mean. I just compared my serve side by side with Raonic's

From what I can see is that once he gets into the trophy position, his elbow immediately starts going forwards into that racket "throwing", whereas for me, it seems i go from trophy -> lift arm a bit -> bend arm back into trophy -> racket throwing position. On that note, i'm not sure why i do that actually, it just seems to happen when i try to throw my racket at the ball
Yeah just part of your windup. Might not be bad, just noticed it
 
#20
Your Big L turns into a Big Y. Try throwing a football for warmup.
What do you mean by big L, do you mean my trophy position? If yes, do I need to stay in the L form the when I throw my racket at the ball? Cuz i looked back at my video and it seems like I bend it back into an L right before i throw racket.
 
#22
Yes. I would try to stay in that position. Your elbow is still too high when you begin to rotate.
So i was looking back at videos of my serve, and it seems that once i get into the trophy position i do raise my arm before throwing it and ended up wit a racket drop. I was wondering where i should try and kinda manually get into the racket drop position once i get into the trophy position. Kinda like how kyrgios and how he goes from the trophy position to the racket drop position without any pause. On that note....for the racket drop position, is that something that I should naturally feel when i serve, or is that something that I kinda have to move my arm into?
 
#24
Kudos for putting the video up and subjecting yourself to the criticism. Obviously, the toss. I don't have any tips, but you need to fix that thing ASAP. Think you had more poor tosses than good ones :)

I don't have a problem with the knee bend, but to echo above comments, you're not using that potential energy to come through the ball.

If you fix the toss, and you turn your shoulders/torso to the camera as your knees bend, and you do something different with your racquet to generate more RHS, and change your grip/pronation to have something other than a slice serve, you'll be fine -- there's something off about the way your right arm moves back that's significantly decreasing the amount of power you can get.

Edit- yeah - definitely something off about the way you bring elbow back and get into trophy position that is significantly decreasing your flow and speed. Compare your slow mo with this video over and over, you'll see it.

 
Last edited:
#25
Kudos for putting the video up and subjecting yourself to the criticism. Obviously, the toss. I don't have any tips, but you need to fix that thing ASAP. Think you had more poor tosses than good ones :)

I don't have a problem with the knee bend, but to echo above comments, you're not using that potential energy to come through the ball.

If you fix the toss, and you turn your shoulders/torso to the camera as your knees bend, and you do something different with your racquet to generate more RHS, and change your grip/pronation to have something other than a slice serve, you'll be fine -- there's something off about the way your right arm moves back that's significantly decreasing the amount of power you can get.

Edit- yeah - definitely something off about the way you bring elbow back and get into trophy position that is significantly decreasing your flow and speed. Compare your slow mo with this video over and over, you'll see it.

I guess I have a weird version of an abbreviated takeback on my serve. Would you recommend me trying a more loopy full backback like federer/raonic does?

http://www.138mph.com/experimenting-with-the-serve-take-back/ (what i found about the two takebacks)
 
#26
It seems like your elbow comes out low and down, not back and up a bit. Can you imagine throwing a baseball to feel that higher elbow spot?
 
#27
It seems like your elbow comes out low and down, not back and up a bit. Can you imagine throwing a baseball to feel that higher elbow spot?
I can't say I fully understand what you mean (because i've never really done much throwing sports). I recorded a short video (sorry it was wit my webcam and it goes outta focus a bit, but it should show what's necessary)


The first shadow swing is me when i'm relaxed and not too consciously thinking about where my elbow is going (I guess it's similar to the previous video that you saw). And the second one is where my elbow ends up a bit higher. So I'm wondering if the second part of the video would be a better takeback
 
#28
I think what atelic was saying is that, make sure your right upper arm is leveled with your shoulder that might put your racquet behind your head a bit, and pointing forward.

But I think the more important thing in serve is the use of legs, which I think you are doing it fine.
 
#29
I would say just do the half serve for sometime. Once you've perfected that, add the full motion. You may find that your serve goes up a few notches in power and consistency just with the half serve.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a video of half serve. It's what Todd Martin did later in his career.

 
#31
I think what atelic was saying is that, make sure your right upper arm is leveled with your shoulder that might put your racquet behind your head a bit, and pointing forward.

But I think the more important thing in serve is the use of legs, which I think you are doing it fine.
So - pretty much. I like the second takeback a lot more. The first is going to jam your arm up and limit RHS potential.

I'm a bit hesitant about giving specific advice because the last thing I'd want to do is help you develop another bad habit. I'm not a certified instructor or coach. I'm just a dude who has self-described good form.

The leg use is pretty good, but I'd like to see a little bit more torso turn and oblique strength in combination with that more exaggerated take back.

If you skip to 40 seconds in the Federer slow mo video and compare it with your slow mo vid - you will see how his elbow comes out back first, and as part of the drop ends up where yours starts.

You'll also notice he turns his body back toward the camera/back fence, before coming out, up, and toward the opposite fence.
 
#32
I would say just do the half serve for sometime. Once you've perfected that, add the full motion. You may find that your serve goes up a few notches in power and consistency just with the half serve.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a video of half serve. It's what Todd Martin did later in his career.

Thanks! will give this a try

So - pretty much. I like the second takeback a lot more. The first is going to jam your arm up and limit RHS potential.

I'm a bit hesitant about giving specific advice because the last thing I'd want to do is help you develop another bad habit. I'm not a certified instructor or coach. I'm just a dude who has self-described good form.

The leg use is pretty good, but I'd like to see a little bit more torso turn and oblique strength in combination with that more exaggerated take back.

If you skip to 40 seconds in the Federer slow mo video and compare it with your slow mo vid - you will see how his elbow comes out back first, and as part of the drop ends up where yours starts.

You'll also notice he turns his body back toward the camera/back fence, before coming out, up, and toward the opposite fence.
I think a difference between me and Federer is that he uses the full takeback, while I use an abbreviated one. i think one of the problems i have on my serve as well is that I have a tendency to tense up, so my hitting arm isn't as loose as it should be. Any tips for keeping the hitting arm loose? Because it feels a bit harder to stiff my left arm for the toss while keeping right arm loose to hit..
 
#33
Thanks! will give this a try



I think a difference between me and Federer is that he uses the full takeback, while I use an abbreviated one. i think one of the problems i have on my serve as well is that I have a tendency to tense up, so my hitting arm isn't as loose as it should be. Any tips for keeping the hitting arm loose? Because it feels a bit harder to stiff my left arm for the toss while keeping right arm loose to hit..
Unfortunately I don't really have tips on how to stay loose. How long have you been playing? Looseness probably comes from unconscious muscle memory. Once you're able to stop thinking about it, it's a lot easier. You never want to be thinking "need to X with left and Y with right" as you're playing. Need to find the zone.

I was simply lucky enough to start playing at 4, and also was a baseball pitcher growing up... and had colin dibley as a coach for years (speaking of big serves and all).

If you keep playing, and keep watching top players in slow motion video, and keep critiquing yourself and asking for feedback, I'm sure you'll nail it soon.
 
#34
Unfortunately I don't really have tips on how to stay loose. How long have you been playing? Looseness probably comes from unconscious muscle memory. Once you're able to stop thinking about it, it's a lot easier. You never want to be thinking "need to X with left and Y with right" as you're playing. Need to find the zone.

I was simply lucky enough to start playing at 4, and also was a baseball pitcher growing up... and had colin dibley as a coach for years (speaking of big serves and all).

If you keep playing, and keep watching top players in slow motion video, and keep critiquing yourself and asking for feedback, I'm sure you'll nail it soon.
I feel kinda ashamed to say it but I've been playing since i was 10. Had a coach when i was younger who taught me the basics to start off. My shots are mostly self developed....it's just the serve that I can't seem to get right. Like on my groundstrokes I can hit pretty loosely because I trust in myself to just hit it. But my serves have just been really frustrating and I don't get why :(
 
#35
So i was looking back at videos of my serve, and it seems that once i get into the trophy position i do raise my arm before throwing it and ended up wit a racket drop. I was wondering where i should try and kinda manually get into the racket drop position once i get into the trophy position. Kinda like how kyrgios and how he goes from the trophy position to the racket drop position without any pause. On that note....for the racket drop position, is that something that I should naturally feel when i serve, or is that something that I kinda have to move my arm into?
Right elbow seems to be all over the place. Initially, it is too low -- and then it gets too high. You want to get that elbow in line with the shoulder line (shoulder tilt). Prior to your trophy, during your "power position", you elbow is way too low -- appears to be tucked into the body -- way below the shoulder tilt line. As you move the racket from the power position up to the trophy position, your right elbow moves upward quite a bit. At your trophy and as your racket starts to drop, the elbow is way above the shoulder tilt.


Right elbow in line with the shoulder tilt:
 
#36
I feel kinda ashamed to say it but I've been playing since i was 10. Had a coach when i was younger who taught me the basics to start off. My shots are mostly self developed....it's just the serve that I can't seem to get right. Like on my groundstrokes I can hit pretty loosely because I trust in myself to just hit it. But my serves have just been really frustrating and I don't get why :(
Try to work on your (upward) throwing motion -- using balls and old rackets. Pay particular attention to what your elbow is doing during your throwing motion. Start with throwing tennis balls upward at a 45 degree angle. The increase your launch angle to 60+ degrees. Also do this with some heavier, 5 to 15 oz, balls. American footballs are typically 14+ oz.

Even better than ball throws are racket throws. If you have any older rackets, take them out to the park and throw them at a steep upward angle. Throwing rackets at an upward angle should result in greater ESR and a better racket head drop. Picked up this drill from Will Hamilton (FYB) some 12-13 years ago. Racket throwing is also been recommended by Clay Ballard (TopSpeedTennis), Jeff Cooper and Pete Freeman among others.


https://topspeedtennis.com/topic/2-2-throw-racket-tennis-serve-drill/

Racket throwing at 3:25
 
#37
Ok I went out to serve a bit more. Was trying to do more of a full take back on my swing to see if that helped. It did help my timing, however the way I get into the trophy position still seems weird. And when I think of throwing the racket, it seems that my arm rises a bit too high.



I tried some throwing exercises...but it seems like my throwing motion starts higher up naturally too...not quite sure how to lower it.
 
#39
Ok I went out to serve a bit more. Was trying to do more of a full take back on my swing to see if that helped. It did help my timing, however the way I get into the trophy position still seems weird. And when I think of throwing the racket, it seems that my arm rises a bit too high.



I tried some throwing exercises...but it seems like my throwing motion starts higher up naturally too...not quite sure how to lower it.
Yeah, I would try to keep right elbow and arm down through trophy, then as you exit trophy and racquet drops try to raise elbow up as hand and wrist drop and forearm supinates
 
#40
You throw your ball too deep into the court, ideally you should feel like you are throwing "UP" towards the ball, but you are way out of form and thus even if you feel like you are throwing "up", you are really not throwing "up".

And because your ball toss stretches you so much forward, it makes your body want to press downward instead, try practice throwing the ball a bit closer to the top of your head. I think that should help you serve better.
 
#41
......................
.................................................................................


Put an index card on your computer screen and make pencil marks for the length of her racket at positions #2, #3 and #6. What do you notice about the lengths? How long is #2 compared to #3?

Now go to the similar racket positions on your serve. Use the index card to mark the apparent lengths of your racket.

Are your relative lengths like those in the Gussy Moran picture?

Around 1952, Harold Edgerton, a leading researcher in high speed imaging including stroboscopic photography, photographed Gussie Moran's serve using stroboscopic techniques with light flashes of microseconds duration that are repeated.
http://edgerton-digital-collections.org/?s=hee-nc-49001#hee-nc-49001

See numbers on the picture.
#1 Her foot stays on the ground. Prior to 1962 the rules of tennis required that one foot remain on the ground. All serving techniques prior to that time required that one foot remain on the ground. The leg thrust/jump used in the current tennis serve is now much greater and that affects comparisons to serves before the rule change.

#2 The racket is oriented 'edge on' to the ball, a checkpoint for a high level serving technique. An estimated, 50% of active tennis players do not have their rackets oriented edge on and therefore have a lower performance serving technique. Most don't know.

#3 The racket head has rotated both forward and into the page between #2 and #3. The apparent length of the racket has shortened between #2 and #3 because the racket is viewed at an angle in #3. Place a paper on the screen to measure the apparent racket length difference. Between #2 and #3 the arm and racket are accelerated to high rotation rates into the page by the joint motion of internal shoulder rotation (ISR). There is some evidence that ISR stops accelerating before impact. ? At impact one estimate is that 40% of racket head speed is caused by ISR and 60% is caused by the other swinging motions. The significant part played by ISR was not understood for the tennis serve until about 1995, when researchers B. Elliott, R. Marshall and G. Noffal began publishing research results. In the 1970s, I had carefully studied similar strobe photos in Vic Braden's Tennis for the Future, but I had somehow missed noticing the important racket edge orientations produced by internal shoulder rotation. Upper arm rotation at the shoulder (ISR) never crossed my mind until 2011. Most tennis players don't understand what is shown in the strobe picture.

#4 Peak of the toss.

#5 Ball location at impact.

#6 Racket position after impact.The high speed arm rotation and racket head continue forward after impact probably from momentum with little ISR muscle forces.

#7 Ball trajectory with a downward projection angle as for nearly all serves including kick serves.

#8 Compare the hand and racket face orientations in #2 and #8. The thumb is up in both #2 and #8. There has been about 180° of rotation. That 180° rotation probably came from both ISR and pronation.

Leading up to impact, muscle forces cause ISR to accelerate the arm and racket very rapidly. But ISR continues into the follow through at high speed after the muscle forces have stopped.

You can see similar numbered serve positions in pictures and videos of current serves, except now both feet will be in the air.
As soon as you can, video outdoors. Outdoor direct sunlight has about 80-100X the light level of indoor tennis courts. Your camera's automatic exposure control will select a much faster shutter speed and the motion blur of your racket will be much less.

Also, take a video from behind looking directly along the ball's trajectory. This should show the arm and racket angles that account for the difference between your serve and Gussy Moran's. From behind indoors also should have less racket motion blur because the racket and arm are moving away from the camera (and thereby move less as seen by the camera).
 
Last edited:
#42
As soon as you can, video outdoors. Outdoor direct sunlight has about 80-100X the light level of indoor tennis courts. Your camera's automatic exposure control will select a much faster shutter speed and the motion blur of your racket will be much less.
It'll be a about 2-3 months till i can play outdoors, still a bit buried in snow over here atm xD
 
#44
I don't really know how to say this - but your takeback really doesn't look like Federer's. If you go to 5 seconds into that Federer clip you will see his racquet with the strings facing down to the ground (cocked and angled) If you then watch your video, you will see your racquet is vertical the entire time (like totally extended) Your wrist and elbow and everything are totally different.

I think the slow motion video may actually hurt vs help here. Because every movement happens so quickly it can be hard to tell exactly what is happening and when.
 
#45
I don't really know how to say this - but your takeback really doesn't look like Federer's. If you go to 5 seconds into that Federer clip you will see his racquet with the strings facing down to the ground. If you then watch your video, you will see your racquet is vertical the entire time. Your wrist and elbow and everything are totally different.
Oh yeah that part i know, i just meant in reference to the part where u said the arm is fully extended

Edit: sorry i misread your previous post, i i thought you meant extending the arm at all. Didn't realize u meant during the takeback, will give it a try!
 
Last edited:
#46
Rewatching slow and regular speed, it looks like you pause just as you get into the trophy position. This probably decelerates your overall RHS.

It's like you focus on getting into that position so that you can jump and swing.

Are you focusing on achieving that position? I feel like it's a natural and small part of an overall well constructed stroke. It will happen on it's own. You dont need to make sure you get there.
 
#47
Rewatching slow and regular speed, it looks like you pause just as you get into the trophy position. This probably decelerates your overall RHS.

It's like you focus on getting into that position so that you can jump and swing.

Are you focusing on achieving that position? I feel like it's a natural and small part of an overall well constructed stroke. It will happen on it's own. You dont need to make sure you get there.
I'm not really focusing on it, im just kinda trying to takeback my racket into a position where i can then start throwing the racket. I'm not actively focusing on getting into the trophy position
 
#49
I just had a thought...I was playing a match last night and I realized when I served that I was thinking more about hitting the ball down, could that be a reason why my arm extends higher than it should? I think i'll try throwing up at the ball instead and see if that helps. Thanks again to everyone in this thread so far!
 
#50
I hear people talk about this, but it's not something I necessarily consider. I just adjust based on whether my serves are going long or hitting the net. There's basically only two things that can go wrong on a shot. You hit it long (or wide) or you hit the net. Worry more about correcting whichever error you're currently experiencing in that moment than aiming in a direction / hitting up or down.

Is your toss improving, are you getting any more oblique stretch / torso rotation?

Those two items may help you more than your current takeback.

Any idea what you're currently serving at speed wise?
 
Last edited:
Top