Watching the Ball During Serve

RetroSpin

Hall of Fame
Interesting topic. I put it in the personal preference category, but SA and others are right that just because Groth can do it, doesn't mean it is a good idea for rec players. For one thing, pros have grooved their motion. They could probably hit it with their eyes closed.

I know that I personally find it difficult to watch the ball to impact on serve but I do seem to serve better when I do. Maybe you lose a tiny bit of pace though, depending on your motion.

For most players, I would say it is better to try to see it through impact. If it doesn't work for you, you can know plenty of pros don't watch it either. You better believe they watch it through impact on ground strokes and volleys though, the odd Nole pic nothwithstanding.
 

RetroSpin

Hall of Fame
Tsonga is looking at the ball at contact in this video. So do many other past and present big servers:

Murray



Raonic



Karlovic



Stich



Ivanisevic



Philippoussis



Becker

Some seriously great pictures. The thing that struck me was how many of them seemed to be using more of a semi-FH grip.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
Some seriously great pictures. The thing that struck me was how many of them seemed to be using more of a semi-FH grip.
That semi-forehand service grip seems to have been a trend over the past few decades starting with Becker. In the past, Rosewall and Newcombe served with that type of grip. I prefer something closer to an Eastern backhand grip on serve. Another phenomenon that I have observed is where some players start with more of an Eastern backhand grip and allow the grip to wander a bit toward Eastern forehand at contact.
 

BackhandDTL

Hall of Fame
\bump

Idk how anyone can serve without looking at the ball, especially on the second serve. I have no idea how to brush the back of the ball if I can't see the point of contact. Sometimes the ball goes feet long, sometimes it goes like 8 inches below the top of the net tape. I think my grip changes and palm opens up if I have no idea how to judge the ball.

If I remember to look at the ball through contact usually the problem is eliminated and I get good kick.

Is this abnormal.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
\bump

Idk how anyone can serve without looking at the ball, especially on the second serve. I have no idea how to brush the back of the ball if I can't see the point of contact. Sometimes the ball goes feet long, sometimes it goes like 8 inches below the top of the net tape. I think my grip changes and palm opens up if I have no idea how to judge the ball.

If I remember to look at the ball through contact usually the problem is eliminated and I get good kick.

Is this abnormal.
If you look at high speed videos of ATP player's serves, side view, most are not looking at the ball at impact. Some are, Tsonga, Karlovic.

Watch the head motion. Single frame on Vimeo, hold down the SHIFT KEY and use the ARROW KEYS.

Most use a kick serve often on the second serve. That serve is impacted with the ball above the head where it is impossible to be looking at impact - unless you orient your head left ear down (Stosur). Can Stosur see it? I have had this discussion many times and my earlier posts have videos to illustrate this point. I posted earlier in this thread.

Do you believe that most ATP players look at the ball at impact for the serve? That's a false belief.

A player can toss the ball over their head - not move forward - and look at the ball, but then they limit how they move forward. You don't see ATP players not moving their bodies and heads forward.

Looking at the ball at impact for the serve, probably limits how the body moves and might stress the neck. I have seen ATP players with the head more on its side like Stosur. It might be possible to see the ball if the head in on its side.

Typically at impact the trunk and arm is tilted forward for the slice and flat serves.

If you look at the ball until just before impact - about 5 milliseconds before - and break off the position of the ball is known.

I believe it's Pat Cash that breaks off looking at the ball the earliest. Impact does not show. At impact racket shaft appears vertical from the side view and the trunk & arm is tilted forward with the wrist extended,

Don't trust anything that you read on the internet but for tennis strokes look at high speed videos............
 
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Bagumbawalla

Hall of Fame
Somewhere, in another post, is a video of an instructor who can serve quite well with his eyes closed.
I do not recommend that, but if you practice to the extent that you can do the same-
Then you should have more success when actually paying attention to what you are doing.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Serving with closed eyes, I'll put that on my bucket list of things to do but it will be down in the list. Almagro, often, maybe always, has his eyes closed at impact.

When I learned about Thoracic Extension and Retraction on the serve I decided that the flexibility of the upper back, the Thoracic spine, was a tennis issue I needed to look into. I bought a foam roller and rolled on it as described for the Thoracic spine. The next day my lower back was sore. I decided I needed to learn more about the basic flexibility of the back.

I came across this video of ice skaters.

See spins starting at 1:17 to end.

Last year, I stopped looking at the ball for the kick serve. It was not so hard to impact the ball. If you look at a high speed video of an ATP player you can see, especially for low tosses, that the ball is moving slowly relative to how fast the server moves. If you see where the ball is 1/10 second before impact you can break off looking and the ball can only move so far in a predictable way, provided your toss is reproducible.

The head on its side is something that I don't understand - maybe Stosur sees or maybe she doesn't see impact? Her kick serve is very acrobatic.

It is not necessary on the serve to be looking at the ball at impact. I don't know if that is good advice for everybody especially if the toss moves around.

Try breaking off your looking at the ball before impact and see if you can still impact the ball.
 
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Curious

Legend
Somewhere, in another post, is a video of an instructor who can serve quite well with his eyes closed.
I do not recommend that, but if you practice to the extent that you can do the same-
Then you should have more success when actually paying attention to what you are doing.
 

TennisDawg

Professional
There's a couple of things. More knowledgeable people may shed more light on it but my understanding is that when you keep the palm down throughout the swing, it's literally impossible to have that waiters tray motion. Because anatomically you can't keep the palm down and also bend your wrist back at the same time. And it forces you to have a strong pronation which he says in the video that 50% of the power comes from ( I don't know how true this claim is ). The 3rd thing I can think of is that by keeping the palm down the swing path of the racquet seems to be more smooth, I can't explain this any further but it looks like the racquet head moves edge on throughout, rather than string face on until it opens with pronation just before ball contact ) Now the interesting and exciting part for me is that I have tried this and felt awesome, just awesome. It feels a bit weird initially because the wrist almost wants to bend back and I had to force myself to keep the wrist in the flexed position until it felt normal. Enormous increase in pace and spin as well. I'll try to film my serve this weekend and post it here. I have already posted my serve a few months ago so it will be interesting to compare them.
Thanks for posting this off-topic post, Lol. I did some shadow swings and I’m excited to try this crinkle in the wrist topic. I’ve changed the take back on my serve and already am allowing the wrist to hang very loose similar to the takeback used by the instructor in the video. Now, I’m going to focus on the crinkle on the front of the wrist. My general approach is “if it feels natural” then accept it”, if not it’s probably not right for me.
 
Personal choice. Need to experiment to see what works best for you. Your body goes where your head goes. Watch a diver or gymnast. What you do with your head will affect your stroke. Try keeping your eyes on that contact point for a full second after contact. That will be a problem. Whether you break eye contact with ball early or a split second after, you need to pull your head to allow shoulder to come through shot.
 

nyta2

Semi-Pro
If you look at high speed videos of ATP player's serves, side view, most are not looking at the ball at impact. Some are, Tsonga, Karlovic.

Watch the head motion. Single frame on Vimeo, hold down the SHIFT KEY and use the ARROW KEYS.

Most use a kick serve often on the second serve. That serve is impacted with the ball above the head where it is impossible to be looking at impact - unless you orient your head left ear down (Stosur). Can Stosur see it? I have had this discussion many times and my earlier posts have videos to illustrate this point. I posted earlier in this thread.

Do you believe that most ATP players look at the ball at impact for the serve? That's a false belief.

A player can toss the ball over their head - not move forward - and look at the ball, but then they limit how they move forward. You don't see ATP players not moving their bodies and heads forward.

Looking at the ball at impact for the serve, probably limits how the body moves and might stress the neck. I have seen ATP players with the head more on its side like Stosur. It might be possible to see the ball if the head in on its side.

Typically at impact the trunk and arm is tilted forward for the slice and flat serves.

If you look at the ball until just before impact - about 5 milliseconds before - and break off the position of the ball is known.

I believe it's Pat Cash that breaks off looking at the ball the earliest. Impact does not show. At impact racket shaft appears vertical from the side view and the trunk & arm is tilted forward with the wrist extended,

Don't trust anything that you read on the internet but for tennis strokes look at high speed videos............
interesting...
any chance you've seen if someone like fed or sampras do the same?
 

nyta2

Semi-Pro
Somewhere, in another post, is a video of an instructor who can serve quite well with his eyes closed.
I do not recommend that, but if you practice to the extent that you can do the same-
Then you should have more success when actually paying attention to what you are doing.
i do this drill all the time! (i don't serve well when i do, but helps give me an idea of how badd my toss/timing are)
also use this to demo to beginners the importance of a good toss (ie. toss the ball into your continuous swing - particularly those that pause in a frying pan back "trophy pose")
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
interesting...
any chance you've seen if someone like fed or sampras do the same?
Several times I've posted high Q images of Federer, Sampras, Murray and others with their eyes still on the contact point at the moment of contact. Don't really need a video to show that in these cases.

Most elite players will keep their eyes for a good portion of their upward swing -- at least 2/3 or 3/4 of the upward swing. This means they are likely fixated on the ball/CP within 0.01 seconds of contact -- I would guess a lot less than that.

Sure, you will have some top players, like Roddick and Wawa, who pull their eyes / head closer to the Big-L position. But I would still suggest that non-elite players attempt to keep their eyes glued to the CP as long as possible -- until contact or close to contact.

If they pull their gaze off the CP before impact, that will probably be okay as long as the gaze is there for much, if not most, of the upward swing.
 
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Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
For those that want a ring side seat of the head, neck and Thoracic Extension and Flexion approaching impact --

To single frame on Vimeo, go full screen, hold down the SHIFT KEY and use the ARROW KEYS. There is a millisecond time scale that counts down to 0 ms at ball impact (or closest frame).

This post shows Thoracic Extension & Flexion on the serve. If you look at the first video, as the server is doing Thoracic Flexion, it appears to show why this high level server brings his head down. Because he had his neck bent back to look at the ball during Thoracic Extension, when he did Thoracic Flexion, his head went forward. I believe that this could be the reason that many servers break off looking at the ball before impact. ?

Each camera angle shows something or some sub-motion of the serve at a very informative angle. This camera angle looks very good for head, neck and Thoracic Extension/Flexion.

Google TE & TF if you are not familiar with these joint motions. TE is also know as in tennis lingo as 'chest up to the sky'.

Thoracic Extension then Thoracic Flexion on the tennis serve (slice). Timing.
Use full screen. Single frame on Youtube use the "."& "," keys.
This video has brief messages that last only a few frames.
1) Leg Thrust Starts (at 408ms)
2) Maximum Thoracic Extension (at 133ms)
3) Near Straight Back (at 50ms)
The back goes from 2) to 3) in 83 milliseconds (100ms = 1/10 second).

With 4 second pauses on frame with messages.
Thoracic Extension then Thoracic Flexion on the tennis serve (slice). Timing.

Camera view along the ball's trajectory.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Looking up during Thoracic Flexion can be rough, Robredo.

Notice how straight his back is at impact.
 
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Keendog

Professional
interesting...
any chance you've seen if someone like fed or sampras do the same?
If you find videos of Wawrinka he definitely doesn't have his eye on the ball as his head has already rotated forward at contact.

I lost the pics I had of it.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
If you find videos of Wawrinka he definitely doesn't have his eye on the ball as his head has already rotated forward at contact.

I lost the pics I had of it.
Don't bother. Yes, he pulls his head down early. And serves very big. But not a fan of the Wawa serve at all. Not an optimal use of the kinetic chain.Too much reliance on shoulder. I've counted five or six times where he's been on the DL during his career for shoulder issues.
 

Keendog

Professional
Don't bother. Yes, he pulls his head down early. And serves very big. But not a fan of the Wawa serve at all. Not an optimal use of the kinetic chain.Too much reliance on shoulder. I've counted five or six times where he's been on the DL during his career for shoulder issues.
So that was early in career and his current motion is the result of consulting a baseball coach. I don't think he had a shoulder problem since
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
So that was early in career and his current motion is the result of consulting a baseball coach. I don't think he had a shoulder problem since
Stan has been on the ATP tour since 2005. I've really only looked at his various injuries for the past 8 yrs or so.

Some years back (2014 or '15), some TT posters had been suggesting that Stan's serve was quite fast, yet simple and would provided a great model for amateur amateur players who wanted to serve large. I took a look at his serve mechanics and found a number of issues that I regarded as a suboptimal. At that time, I had speculated that Stan would likely develop shoulder issues from hitting big serves with such a motion. (Little did I know, at the time, that he had already experienced some shoulder problems).

A few years later, the same subject came up again & some here were advocating his serve mechanics as a good one to emulate.

At that point I decided to dig into it & discovered that, in the past decade, Stan had pulled out of tournaments at least 5-6 times in the past decade. Dug up 3 of those for you. These are from 2015, 2016 & 2018.

 
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SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
(continued from post #74)

The 3rd article is from Tennis World USA (Aug 11, 2015). Access to links from their website are are censored by the TT forum robot. Try a Search on:

Stan Wawrinka: I´m at 100% after my shoulder problems


https://www.******WorldUSA.org/tennis/news/Tennis_Stories/25497/stan-wawrinka-i-m-at-100-after-my-shoulder-problems/
 

Keendog

Professional
I mean that's all good but you're drawing a long bow here. He still serves the same way, if his motion caused the injury wouldn't you have thought he would have to change it. You kinda sound like "mother knows best, tsk tsk"

If I said people who play full bed poly at tight tensions will inevitably get wrist injuries, then point to Del Po and Nadal as proof I was right way back in 19 dickitee-three it would be the same thing.

You trust your judgement I get it but still I'm not picking up what you're putting down if you know what I mean
 
Sophie Kenin's "unorthodox" toss is doing it right! She IS watching the ball in her tossing hand--(can't watch the racket as it's moving to back-scratch and is behind you). She then follows the ball up to impact putting it in front of the racket--looks weird, but as the saying goes for all hand-eye ball sports : "eye on the ball", and she does that with her toss/placement.
 
Sophie Kenin's "unorthodox" toss is doing it right! She IS watching the ball in her tossing hand--(can't watch the racket as it's moving to back-scratch and is behind you). She then follows the ball up to impact putting it in front of the racket--looks weird, but as the saying goes for all hand-eye ball sports : "eye on the ball", and she does that with her toss/placement.
Are you sure? I don’t see her looking at the ball as it is going up. Her eyes stay down.
 
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