Trying to understand the serve

Gazelle

G.O.A.T.
Watching Federer in slow motion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXkAK_iFBuQ) I noticed something.

When he goes from trophy to racket drop, the arm doesn't seem to do much. The angle between upper and lower arm doesn't change much. Looks like he's rotating his right shoulder instead, where when I serve (very weak) I think I use the arm more.

So if shoulder rotation is the key, how do you rotate your shoulder without it feeling unnatural? It feels very weird right now.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Roger is just warming up, often footfaulting even. Not a good example.
Need vid of real match serves.
The takeback from prep doesn't give him his power, it's his up and forward swing that provides all the power.
Forget the technical stuff, learn to serve fast by swinging the racket faster.
 

geca

Semi-Pro
the arm can move a little, but the key is that the initial part of the swing up needs to be towards the inside of the ball, this will cause the racket head to move to the outside, which loads the shoulder in an externally rotated position. this loaded shoulder will then will unload and rotate internally.

hence, the snap.

most beginners drop the racket and swing straight up to the ball. no loading on the shoulder, no snap. all arms.
 

WildVolley

Legend
When he goes from trophy to racket drop, the arm doesn't seem to do much. The angle between upper and lower arm doesn't change much. Looks like he's rotating his right shoulder instead, where when I serve (very weak) I think I use the arm more.

So if shoulder rotation is the key, how do you rotate your shoulder without it feeling unnatural? It feels very weird right now.
Could you restate your question?

By shoulder rotation, do you mean racket drop?

The drop action is mostly a result of the shoulder line changing and the hand being allowed to lag the upward drive to the ball. It is sort of like throwing the racket up in the air. The motion of the shoulders should be driven by the hips and legs and turning of the torso.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Trophy to drop, the motion needs an initiation phase, usually the forearm going forward slightly, to trigger the loop swing and racket head drop.
Slightly.
Loose wrist and relaxed grip promotes an easy RH drop and loop swing.
 

shindemac

Hall of Fame
The arm isn't doing much because he isn't doing much with it. Just let the arm stay relaxed and hang loose. This is a complicated topic to talk about, but in simple terms, the racket drop is not forced. Having a looser arm will let you have a deeper racket drop. Don't force anything with your arm or shoulder lest you want to suffer an injury.

Most beginners arm the ball, and can't stay relaxed. Practice serving slow, and try not to use any muscles in your arm. If you do it right, you'll find that your serve is actually almost as fast as before. Once your arm is relaxed, you can proceed to the next step.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Watching Federer in slow motion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXkAK_iFBuQ) I noticed something.

When he goes from trophy to racket drop, the arm doesn't seem to do much. The angle between upper and lower arm doesn't change much. Looks like he's rotating his right shoulder instead, where when I serve (very weak) I think I use the arm more.

So if shoulder rotation is the key, how do you rotate your shoulder without it feeling unnatural? It feels very weird right now.
Great observation. Many non-elite serves will increase the elbow flexion (angle decreases) to get the racket to drop. However, Federer and many elite servers will not flex the elbow any more than the 90 degrees seen at the trophy. If there is any additional elbow flexion (to less than 90 degrees), it is usually slight.

Note that there is already some ESR (external shoulder rotation) just to get the racket up to the trophy position. At best, I will only get another 15 degrees of ESR to get the racket head to drop from the trophy. Roger might get a bit more than that. Gumby (aka Novak) will get even even more.

You should feel a stretch as you try to externally rotate more to drop for your racket drop. Don't worry if your ESR is not quite as much Roger's appears to be. Several factors should facilitate the racket drop. Notice that Roger is driving upward with his legs as the racket head drops. He is also uncoiling his torso and driving his chest (and right shoulder) upward while he maintains the ESR stretch. All of these factors should help to get the racket head to drop more (than just the ESR itself).

His wrist may also be bending back somewhat to facilitate the drop. However, some of that wrist loading might be happening a little bit later -- at the start of the upward swing. Check this page for more about ESR (or EAR).

http://somaxsports.com//photo.php?analysis=federer-djokovic
 

WildVolley

Legend
Great observation. Many non-elite serves will increase the elbow flexion (angle decreases) to get the racket to drop. However, Federer and many elite servers will not flex the elbow any more than the 90 degrees seen at the trophy. If there is any additional elbow flexion (to less than 90 degrees), it is usually slight.
As long as the angle isn't too small, I don't think a little more flex is a problem. Watching slow motion video of Goran Ivanisevic, I noted he flexes to less than a 90 degree angle. Nothing extreme, but enough for me to think that maintaining the 90 degree angle entering the drop isn't really necessary.
 

snvplayer

Hall of Fame
Watching Federer in slow motion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXkAK_iFBuQ) I noticed something.

When he goes from trophy to racket drop, the arm doesn't seem to do much. The angle between upper and lower arm doesn't change much. Looks like he's rotating his right shoulder instead, where when I serve (very weak) I think I use the arm more.

So if shoulder rotation is the key, how do you rotate your shoulder without it feeling unnatural? It feels very weird right now.
What do you mean by weird?
There are actually a lot of muscles involved with shoulder movement. It's more than just your arm rotating at the shoulder joint.

Your scapula has to get into certain position for your arm to get into racket drop, and there are a number of back muscles (serratus anterior, lower trapezius, etc.) that have to work well to allow scapula to get into that position.
 
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