Watching the ball on the serve

HuusHould

Professional
Just wondering if anyone else has had issues with taking their eye off the ball on the serve. I think due to having a fairly slow spinny second serve I'm almost anticipating the ball being back while I'm still in the motion, which is of course more of a problem with a fast serve. Is it true that you should watch the ball right onto the strings, even to the point possibly of keeping your head there a bit longer ala the Fed on his backhand. I was once told by a very good player and tennis mentor to "pick your spot, then watch the ball right onto the strings". I've also heard from a part time coach and tennis fanatic that studies show that when the ball is moving towards you for a groundstroke you can only track it to a bit before the strings. After double faulting my Saturday afternoon away, I found I could control the direction of my serve better focusing on watching it all the way to contact. I'm told golfers watch the back of the ball with their left eye (right handers). Any thoughts/useful cues that people might have regarding this topic would be appreciated.
 

SinjinCooper

Hall of Fame
Watch the ball. Don't worry about whether you really can, or what is and isn't 100% physically possible.

It's partly about keeping your attention on the spot so you're more likely to make clean contact, and partly about keeping the head still to maintain good, balanced, athletic posture throughout the motion.

Let researchers worry about what's "actually" happening. As players, we try to do things the prescribed way because trying to do those things has a beneficial effect on court.
 

HuusHould

Professional
Watch the ball. Don't worry about whether you really can, or what is and isn't 100% physically possible.

It's partly about keeping your attention on the spot so you're more likely to make clean contact, and partly about keeping the head still to maintain good, balanced, athletic posture throughout the motion.
This confirms unequivocally what I suspected. I find I stop tracking the ball somewhere just before contact on my second serve in particular, I'll have to get video evidence, but I think I actually look at the ground, to the point where I hear it hitting the net before I see it.

Oh yeah, @SinjinCooper , do you think you can do an abbreviated toss with a classical take back of the racquet (I find as soon as I try to abbreviate the ball toss the other arm trys to follow suit) and do you think it's possible to do an abbreviated (not down to the thigh) version of Feliciano Lopez's ball toss?
 

FiReFTW

Legend
My serve is not nearly great, im working a ton on it and needs a ton of work, but I did lately notice some improvements when I watch and track the ball all the way till contact, when before I didn't.

If I explain my motion and what everything feels right now when I serve (which might not be perfect or great, but it offers more consistency than before so at least im doing something better) its something like this:

I place my feet and put my weight on my front foot, toss the ball a couple of times and watch it bounce which makes me a bit more focused and relaxed, then grab the ball between the hand and racquet.
Then as I start transfering my weight from the front foot and starting my toss motion I glance over at my opponent to see where he is standing and then decide what I want to hit, slice, flat, topspin slice etc.. and where I want to place my serve, down the T, body, wide or whatever.
After that I glance back at the ball as my tossing hand goes up and I place the ball up in the air by releasing it from my hand and my eyes are focused completely on the ball, my eyes basically track it, and then I focus on hitting the ball in a different way depending if I want more slice or more spin or not much spin or whatever, so I hit it in such a direction and way and focus where I want to hit it and what direction I want to hit it and brush it and then my racquet gets into the point of contact and hits the ball and my eyes are still focused on that point where the ball is as my racquet hits it, and as the ball shots from my racquet I start looking at the other part of the court to see where and how its going.

Before I didn't really focus on all this nor did I really track the ball at all times, I was too focused on the other side of the court wanting to see where the ball will go, and my serve seems more solid now, even tho it needs a ton of work still.

The biggest problem of my serve is 2nd serve in a match, because I get nervious and tight as I know I NEED to get it in or I gift the point away, so I get tight.

In practice I can easily hit 20 2nd serves in a row and maybe I miss one, but in a match its soooo much worse.
 

HuusHould

Professional
My serve is not nearly great, im working a ton on it and needs a ton of work, but I did lately notice some improvements when I watch and track the ball all the way till contact, when before I didn't.

If I explain my motion and what everything feels right now when I serve (which might not be perfect or great, but it offers more consistency than before so at least im doing something better) its something like this:

I place my feet and put my weight on my front foot, toss the ball a couple of times and watch it bounce which makes me a bit more focused and relaxed, then grab the ball between the hand and racquet.
Then as I start transfering my weight from the front foot and starting my toss motion I glance over at my opponent to see where he is standing and then decide what I want to hit, slice, flat, topspin slice etc.. and where I want to place my serve, down the T, body, wide or whatever.
After that I glance back at the ball as my tossing hand goes up and I place the ball up in the air by releasing it from my hand and my eyes are focused completely on the ball, my eyes basically track it, and then I focus on hitting the ball in a different way depending if I want more slice or more spin or not much spin or whatever, so I hit it in such a direction and way and focus where I want to hit it and what direction I want to hit it and brush it and then my racquet gets into the point of contact and hits the ball and my eyes are still focused on that point where the ball is as my racquet hits it, and as the ball shots from my racquet I start looking at the other part of the court to see where and how its going.

Before I didn't really focus on all this nor did I really track the ball at all times, I was too focused on the other side of the court wanting to see where the ball will go, and my serve seems more solid now, even tho it needs a ton of work still.

The biggest problem of my serve is 2nd serve in a match, because I get nervious and tight as I know I NEED to get it in or I gift the point away, so I get tight.

In practice I can easily hit 20 2nd serves in a row and maybe I miss one, but in a match its soooo much worse.
Sounds like you've had a similar enlightenment. Good point about looking where they are standing and deciding on the service type and placement. I know Sampras's coach used to get him to toss the ball up and he would call out the serve he wanted, but this was for disguise as opposed to enabling a late decision, I mean you aren't going to change your mind on the serve if you see them moving during the toss.
 

HuusHould

Professional
It's partly about keeping your attention on the spot so you're more likely to make clean contact, and partly about keeping the head still to maintain good, balanced, athletic posture throughout the motion.

Let researchers worry about what's "actually" happening. As players, we try to do things the prescribed way because trying to do those things has a beneficial effect on court.
So you advocate watching right onto the strings for groundstrokes as well obviously?
 

HuusHould

Professional
It's partly about keeping your attention on the spot so you're more likely to make clean contact, and partly about keeping the head still to maintain good, balanced, athletic posture throughout the motion.

Let researchers worry about what's "actually" happening. As players, we try to do things the prescribed way because trying to do those things has a beneficial effect on court.
So you advocate watching right onto the strings for groundstrokes as well obviously?
 
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