What can you do to add MPH to serve?

dknotty

Semi-Pro
Simplistic answer is to get bigger, stronger, quicker, younger, taller.
However, those options aren't for every tennis player, or you'd see ATP pro looking like Hulk on steriods.
Look at Nishikori, Kohlshreiber, Meltzer, Hewitt, Ferrer, Ferrero, and notice there is an upper limit constrait due to physical HEIGHT. That upper limit is somewhere around the 130's.
Only taller guys can serve faster and expect to get some IN.
130 is fast enough not to have any real world implications.

Federer has one of the best serves ever and he doesn't often break 125.
 

GoudX

Professional
For 15 years this debate has been going on and it's not going to be resolved here. But here are some thoughts to ponder:

For starters what Brian Gordon says about the original myth of the wrist article: "Based on this quantitative data we can conclude that John Yandell pretty much had it right."

The biggest confusion about the wrist is the distinction between extension and flexion. No one is arguing or has argued that the wrist doesn't move in the upward swing. It goes from a laid back position at the drop to a neutral position at contact. That's extension. And yes! This contributes to racket head speed. Is it a conscious contraction? Or is it the result of the the other forces driving the upward swing?

I tend to agree with Rod Cross the Australian physicist who argues that the extension of the elbow and the internal rotation of the shoulder drive the wrist movement and that consciously trying to aid this will actually reduce racket speed. Brian calls this concept of one motion driving another a "dependent" torque.

But anyone who has looked at high speed video with an open mind will agree that the wrist doesn't break or flex or "snap" forward past neutral before, during, or immediately after contact.
The driving force is the rotation of the hitting arm. The "flex" forward comes from gravity well out in the followthrough light years after the ball is gone.

On many serves, like the one Toly posted you can also see ulnar deviation or the flex of the wrist to the right. That is a function of spin and ball direction however. If it was fundamental to the motion you would see it in all serves and in the majority the wrist arm and racket stay perfectly aligned, rotating as a unit.

As for the angle of the racket face at contact, this comes from the forward tilt of the hitting arm. Again the angle of the wrist remains unchanged.

You want your wrist loose when you serve. And your whole arm. You can feel the wrist move if you choose to pay attention to that. If this means "snap" to you then that can be a great cue. But trying to mechanically break the wrist forward will limit the mechanics of the serving motion and reduce racket head speed.
To me, those are the really big points to take from this if you want to improve serve MPH. Focusing on one tiny movement and trying to force more effort into that particular part will reduce racquet head speed, because you will mess up the timing of the kinetic chain.
 

GoudX

Professional
Big servers have a few things in common, in order of importance:
  1. A very fluid/efficient swing
  2. A high contact point
  3. A deep knee bend
  4. Lots of upwards/forwards motion into the court
  5. A deep racquet head drop
  6. A low rear shoulder during the trophy stage

Have a look a the best three servers at different heights
Any height - Karlovic 6'10 156mph max - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0RbHNOCaws
Under 6'4 - Roddick 6'2 155mph max - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdHTtbIFlxE
Under 6' - Bagdhatis 5'9 140mph max - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEcXfTck8qg

All three have a very fluid swing with a deep knee bend/racquet head drop/shoulder drop.

To anyone trying to serve big, first you want to really focus on getting the fundamentals right to get a very efficient swing with good contact - or everything else is a waste. Focus on - a solid trophy position, a proper racquet head drop when the elbow moves up, and extension through the ball with the correct racquet face angle. If you do these three parts quickly and fluidly then you have to do be doing the correct arm movement.

There's a drill for improving this:
- First you move between these three positions of the arm pausing for half a second at each stage - you want to make sure the positions are perfect using a reflection or camera as any mistakes here will be very hard to fix in the actual motion.
- Then you want to start shadow swinging from the trophy position in slow motion making sure you are going through the three arm positions. Once you have it right you want to slowly increase the speed until you have memorized how the swing should feel.
- Then you take the swing on to the court and start hitting serves with a slow swing, making sure you are timing the swing and contact correctly. Then you slowly increase the pace up to your regular serve pace, making sure to keep the fundamentals very solid. Making this motion very efficient and fast will allow you to hit the ball very cleanly and fast.

With the fundamentals down you then want to work on your knee bend and forward movement. The depth of the racquethead drop and shoulder drop should increase naturally over time if your technique, strength and flexibility are good.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
:):):)
Once again, Toly is wrong!
Notice, Ivo's wrist doesn't snap, his whole arm turns into the serve, pronates, and it looks like the wrist straightens, when in fact, the angle we see changes.
 

julian

Hall of Fame
Please elaborate

:):):)
Once again, Toly is wrong!
Notice, Ivo's wrist doesn't snap, his whole arm turns into the serve, pronates, and it looks like the wrist straightens, when in fact, the angle we see changes.
Toly did not make a single statement.
Do you know what he meant?
 

julian

Hall of Fame
I saw Karlovic at Newport last week

"Karlovic flat serve wrist snap".
I didn't write that, you didn't write that.
Switching a topic a bit-
I saw Karlovic last week at Newport last week.

I have thought his serve was OK but i am not a bionic man
so my opinion is worth nothing.
Karlovic is 29th in the world and he made to a final in Bogota.Colombia.
Is he any good?
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
???????
Is Ivo good?
Well, Ivo plays the game I wish I could play.
He's making money in the pro ranks, while I"m retired on 490 a month.
He probably travels first class all over the world while I"m stuck in windy SanPablo.
I guess he's somewhat good. I"m sure I can beat him in surfing, windsurfing, snowboarding, motocross, and waterski jumping.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
I don't see Waiter's Tray motion in that Karlovic serve, maybe the 'edge-on' is not as square as most. ?

I have seen a considerable percentage of serves, ~10%, that are off of edge-on in comparison to most serves. This racket orientation could depend on the type of serve attempted, individual motion, or just be an error. ?

Anyway, the issue needs statistics, not one serve. And how do we know what type of serve or whether a fault?
 
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Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Switching a topic a bit-
I saw Karlovic last week at Newport last week.

I have thought his serve was OK but i am not a bionic man
so my opinion is worth nothing.
Karlovic is 29th in the world and he made to a final in Bogota.Colombia.
Is he any good?
Here are the ATP rankings.
http://www.atpworldtour.com/Rankings/MatchFacts.aspx

Karlovic is well ahead in aces.

1 Karlovic, Ivo 662 41
2 Isner, John 578 35
3 Raonic, Milos 567 34
4 Cilic, Marin 510 45
5 Gulbis, Ernests 487 46
6 Anderson, Kevin 434 38
7 Lopez, Feliciano 427 43
8 Querrey, Sam 411 29
 

JonC

Banned
Obviously the wrist is bring the racket head from horizontal to vertical to make contact with the ball - that should end all discussion right there. If you don't snap the wrist, you'll hit the ball over the fence! I don't care if Yandell wants to say this wrist movement is involuntary or not the fact is that it happens and so it IS part of the serve.

Thanks for the pics.

Yandell is right on most things - I was a member of TennisPlayer.net for a while but he's simply wrong to push this no-wrist idea. He also says that the wrist should be laid back on contact on a forehand - are you kidding me?

Better tell Nadal he's doing it all wrong

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO8XXsmJDxs
 

TennisCJC

Legend
Obviously the wrist is bring the racket head from horizontal to vertical to make contact with the ball - that should end all discussion right there. If you don't snap the wrist, you'll hit the ball over the fence! I don't care if Yandell wants to say this wrist movement is involuntary or not the fact is that it happens and so it IS part of the serve.

Thanks for the pics.

Yandell is right on most things - I was a member of TennisPlayer.net for a while but he's simply wrong to push this no-wrist idea. He also says that the wrist should be laid back on contact on a forehand - are you kidding me?

Better tell Nadal he's doing it all wrong

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO8XXsmJDxs
This doesn't end all discussion at all. Put your arm in the position going up to contact like Ivo with the palm facing your ear. Arm can be nearly extended like Ivo's too. Then keep wrist position frozen and simply extend arm, pronate forearm and move arm forward. You can move into the exact contact position without any wrist snap simply by pronating the forearm and extending the arm while moving it up and forward.

Personally, I think a loose wrist with some movement is normal but I don't think a violent snap is the correct concept either. The driving force comes from shoulder, arm and forearm rotation with the wrist adding a little.

But, just for discussion, you most definitely can make the Ivo service motions depicted in these photos without any or practically no wrist movement. Pronation of the forearm and rotating the arm outwardly from the shoulder will move the racket into the contact position quite easily without any wrist snap. Shadow stroke it right now from where you sit and it can easily be demonstrated.

Also, the wrist is laid back to varying degrees on most pro forehands too. Especially on inside out FHs as the wrist lags more to direct the ball on the inside out path. There are hundreds of stills photos that show this. Granted there are exceptions but majority of contact positions have a degree of wrist lay back at contact. Go here and scroll around for a lot of high speed stills showing laid back wrist at contact: http://blog.tennisspeed.com/ Scroll down main page or review analysis on menu on right (part 9, part 10, etc) for various still photos.
 
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ohplease

Professional
What are your mental cues for your serve? Do you have any? You should have some simple checks at different stages to remind yourself you're doing the right things. Those checks will differ from person to person, as everyone has different ways to slack off from what they should be doing.

For me - if I'm tired or distracted I find I don't bring my shoulders around enough horizontally, don't incorporate enough shoulder over shoulder motion vertically (hitting shoulder low, opposite shoulder high to start, the opposite at contact), and finish standing relatively straight up instead of bent at the waist and lunging into the court, landing on non-hitting leg.

I can put tons of effort into the less efficient motion, and still won't reach the pace I see with a lazy, but better put together motion.

Try slowing things way down. You should be able to serve effectively with what feels like a laughably slow motion. Figure out what cues you need for when your motion starts to break down. See if you can hit those cues even when you start to speed things up.
 

JonC

Banned
This doesn't end all discussion at all. Put your arm in the position going up to contact like Ivo with the palm facing your ear. Arm can be nearly extended like Ivo's too. Then keep wrist position frozen and simply extend arm, pronate forearm and move arm forward. You can move into the exact contact position without any wrist snap simply by pronating the forearm and extending the arm while moving it up and forward.

Personally, I think a loose wrist with some movement is normal but I don't think a violent snap is the correct concept either. The driving force comes from shoulder, arm and forearm rotation with the wrist adding a little.

But, just for discussion, you most definitely can make the Ivo service motions depicted in these photos without any or practically no wrist movement. Pronation of the forearm and rotating the arm outwardly from the shoulder will move the racket into the contact position quite easily without any wrist snap. Shadow stroke it right now from where you sit and it can easily be demonstrated.

Also, the wrist is laid back to varying degrees on most pro forehands too. Especially on inside out FHs as the wrist lags more to direct the ball on the inside out path. There are hundreds of stills photos that show this. Granted there are exceptions but majority of contact positions have a degree of wrist lay back at contact. Go here and scroll around for a lot of high speed stills showing laid back wrist at contact: http://blog.tennisspeed.com/ Scroll down main page or review analysis on menu on right (part 9, part 10, etc) for various still photos.
No way. If he only pronated, the racket would be horizontal at contact.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Do you have the high speed video?

Toly, Do you have the high speed video for those pictures?

Some clear high speed videos that show Karlovic's serve and wrist action.

https://vimeo.com/101431225
https://vimeo.com/101431226
https://vimeo.com/101431227
https://vimeo.com/101432735

For stop-action single-frame on Vimeo - hold the SHIFT KEY and press the FORWARD or BACKWARD ARROW KEYS. If that does not work let me know. For best stop-action single-frame, download video, open and examine the video in Quicktime.

BTW - Unlike the majority of high level servers that I see Karlovic appears to be looking at the ball at impact.
 
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TennisCJC

Legend
No way. If he only pronated, the racket would be horizontal at contact.
Yes, way!

With the front shoulder dropping and the hitting shoulder going up, and rotating the arm and forearm outward, the racket will be nearly vertical at impact. Of course, the hand is outside the ball at contact a small amount so the line from the hand to contact looks like this slash angle \ when viewed from behind a right handed server. But, that is universal to all serves.

I have a small mini-racket in my office and I just did it with practically no movement of the wrist. It is easy to do. From the L shape going to contact to the straight line from arm to racket tip at contact (as viewed from the side angle in Dr Ivo photos) can be accomplished quite easily with just shoulder action and forearm action.

But, I do not advocate a stiff wrist for serving and I honestly believe there is some wrist action. But, you stated that it was impossible without a wrist snap and that simply is not correct. If you use shoulder over shoulder motion, rotate the arm and forearm outward from the shoulder, you end up with the racket in the contact position with little or no wrist action. I just did it several times in my office.
 
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sundaypunch

Hall of Fame
Big servers have a few things in common, in order of importance:
  1. A very fluid/efficient swing
  2. A high contact point
  3. A deep knee bend
  4. Lots of upwards/forwards motion into the court
  5. A deep racquet head drop
  6. A low rear shoulder during the trophy stage

………..
This is a good list. I think that #1 (fluid swing) is, by far, the most important. The fact that some skinny women on the WTA tour can serve in the neighborhood of 120 mph tells you that it is not about strength. It is about maximizing your technique and efficiency through staying fluid and having a proper kinetic chain.

This is one of my favorite videos. It is nothing groundbreaking and is basically a version of the "tennis balls in a sock" serve drill-

Learn To Serve In Tennis With A Loose Wrist: The Bag Trick

If you can't do this drill with perfect form and an extremely fluid swing, it is very unlikely that you will be able to come close to your potential as far as serve speed. As simple as it looks, most of the people I deal with that are unhappy with their serve cannot do this drill with correct form.

If you can't do this with extreme fluidity, practice it until you can. I have found that getting the feel for really accelerating the bag as it goes from the highest vertical position and drops down behind your back and up is the key to getting the whip-like kinetic chain feel.
 

JonC

Banned
Yes, way!

With the front shoulder dropping and the hitting shoulder going up, and rotating the arm and forearm outward, the racket will be nearly vertical at impact. Of course, the hand is outside the ball at contact a small amount so the line from the hand to contact looks like this slash angle \ when viewed from behind a right handed server. But, that is universal to all serves.

I have a small mini-racket in my office and I just did it with practically no movement of the wrist. It is easy to do. From the L shape going to contact to the straight line from arm to racket tip at contact (as viewed from the side angle in Dr Ivo photos) can be accomplished quite easily with just shoulder action and forearm action.

But, I do not advocate a stiff wrist for serving and I honestly believe there is some wrist action. But, you stated that it was impossible without a wrist snap and that simply is not correct. If you use shoulder over shoulder motion, rotate the arm and forearm outward from the shoulder, you end up with the racket in the contact position with little or no wrist action. I just did it several times in my office.
He's not raising his shoulder any further from pic one to two and the time from the first to second pic is miliseconds.

Here's those same two pics in video form - you can see his shoulders are not doing anything.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya61tRChLwM

For the record - yes, he is pronating as all thrower do and he is flexing his wrist - it's both ulnar deviation (flex towards pinky side) and simple flexing (breaking wrist) - no his wrist is not broken but it went from extended to neutral.

Here's Djokovic in the same pronated,flexed wrist (now broken) finish as the Taylor Dent picture. Exactly the same.

http://www.top-tennis-training.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/djokovic-serve.jpg
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
A qualitative idea of the relative joint motions of the wrist and internal shoulder rotation [axial rotation of the upper arm at the shoulder joint] can be seen from these high speed video frames.

17 milliseconds before impact. Federer has stretched his ISR muscles using the various phases of the kinetic chain. Here he lets these muscles rapidly shorten, rotating his entire arm to accelerate the racket to just before impact. Probably about 70° arm rotation in 4 frames at 240 fps, the internal shoulder rotation rate is about 2800°/sec. Muscle shortening using pre-stretch is 'passive' and probably does not give the feeling of much effort. Impact was on the next frame, not shown.

The rapid wrist flexion may be a result of the ISR or earlier elbow extension and not wrist flexor muscles. ?

The racket 'edge-on' to the ball to the racket strings on the ball results mostly from the ISR turning the racket face as shown in these frames.

On the last frame just before impact, the angle between the forearm and racket is about 40° as viewed. (Probably a kick or slice serve.)

The angle between his shoulders and the upper arm is 145° (arm 35° up from shoulder line extended) as viewed in this frame. That is a little more than most, 10-20°(?) up. See Ellenbecker video on the shoulder, serve and orientation to avoid impingement.



This is what determines the pace and quality of the serve. How can you see it without high speed video?
 
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julian

Hall of Fame
2 frames representing a contact

Obviously the wrist is bring the racket head from horizontal to vertical to make contact with the ball - that should end all discussion right there. If you don't snap the wrist, you'll hit the ball over the fence! I don't care if Yandell wants to say this wrist movement is involuntary or not the fact is that it happens and so it IS part of the serve.

Thanks for the pics.

Yandell is right on most things - I was a member of TennisPlayer.net for a while but he's simply wrong to push this no-wrist idea. He also says that the wrist should be laid back on contact on a forehand - are you kidding me?

Better tell Nadal he's doing it all wrong

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO8XXsmJDxs
Just a very minor remark about a contact for a serve.
For a frame rate of 1000 Hz one can "see" a contact represented by two frames,
not one.
Additionally a ball is expected to slide during the contact.
So a real picture/pictures are a bit more complex.
There is a notion of a projection angle varying between plus one degree and
minus eight degrees.
I think Karlovic is in this range ( I saw his serve at Newport).
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Elliott's table from Biomechanics and Tennis gives for joint contributions to racket head speed at impact:

Internal Shoulder Rotation joint motion as 40% and

Wrist ("palm/ulnar") as 30% of racket head speed at impact.

Anyone can look up the definitions of these joint motions.

Biomechanics and Tennis (2006), B. Elliott
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2577481/

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wrist motion is consistent with your original picture of Karlovic. Unfortunately, the internal shoulder rotation does not show well from the popular side view of the serve.

Wrist motion is also consistent with my pictures of Federer from the back view where the wrist joint motion shows less and internal shoulder rotation shows more.

Some of the readers might not see the internal shoulder clearly especially when they look at side camera views.

Behind the arguments is usage of an undefined term 'wrist snap' that means different things to different readers. Some readers may not understand or see internal shoulder rotation because it is harder to see in pictures and videos. I looked at serves for 30 years and missed it! But now when I look back at Vic Braden's strobe pictures I can see where it was hiding.

Even earlier than Vic Braden's strobe pictures is Edgerton's famous one of Gussy Moran.
http://webmuseum.mit.edu/detail.php?type=related&kv=96343&t=objects

Edgerton's strobe picture of Gussy Moran serving.


For decades, I did not see the internal shoulder rotation and I don't believe that anyone else did either, including the big servers and tennis researchers - until the 1990's.

One clue is that the racket appears longer at the beginning of the wrist motion that a bit later (the two strobe flashes before impact). That is because the racket is tilted away from the camera by the entire arm rotating from ISR. Now I can always see that racket shortening.

Measure the racket lengths...
 
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Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Here it is http://youtu.be/KRnTBNYxCJs

Next is from your video.
Around contact Karlovic wrist flexion is 40° and wrist ulnar deviation 60°.

You are measuring wrist extension at two different times so that gives an average joint velocity over those pictures. Same for ulna deviation.

This is an interesting issue. But for racket head speed you need instantaneous wrist joint angular velocities to millisecond accuracy at impact - you would need higher speed video, close up views, multiple cameras, wrist markers..... Because the ISR arm rotates rapidly, the direction for flexion-extension and ulna & radial deviation change and are difficult to separate and measure. That is probably why Elliott's table lists flexion (palmar) and ulna deviation together at 30%.

I believe that Elliott's measurements, that were used for the table (see "Biomechanics and Tennis" review paper, Table 2) were taken with 200 fps multiple cameras. 200 fps catches only one frame every 5 milliseconds. That would tend to give average measurements over 5 milliseconds. Given the racket head speed, arm and wrist motions, probably 5 millisecond averages are not fast enough. ? With faster cameras instantaneous wrist joint velocities measured to millisecond accuracy might be different. ?
 
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