When do you GET the serve?

D

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I have always served/volleyed/OH with a conti grip. I'm always trying to do everything right though things don't always pan out the way I envision. Where the problem's standing right now (if I speed up too much) it's a shallow racket drop and the timing, ie I'm not used to a larger toss/swing yet. Probably just like a very compact FH when most of us started out. (A compact, shorten backswing isn't technically wrong. It's just a bit weakened, imo)
i only s&v/oh the last 10y... first 25y were spent hitting my groundies wrong (arguably still so)
was always a "go to net to shake hands" kind a guy.
 
Can you expound on what you mean by body alignment?

I "get" the serve off and on. When I'm on, I feel like my body is completely in sync and flows. When I'm off, it feels jerky and unnatural. Focusing on small pieces of it makes my jerkiness even worse.

I like your approach of ignoring details and focusing on whole body. Do you have any tips?

This is my personal finding and approach.

It was very tough thinking about trophy position, swinging up and pronating, etc while the pros look very natural, smooth, powerful and with "a correct intent". So I asked myself why.

It eventually dawns on me that it's like a typical wood chopping action, or like people praying with the arms up/hands together, that kind of motions. Easy.

A few things you need to notice:

1. the arm needs to go from over the head to down/in front of the body (axing/praying motions, who cannot get it?), which is the last half of the swing/the "forward swing", absent of the take back. Gotta simplify and work back from there. Because it's a down chopping motion it's quite powerful.

2. So why do pple say it's hitting up? It's because we align the chest up at some point, to cater the swing path. So, however you start out with your stand and body plane alignment, *when you go thru your forward swing, your chest needs to point and face the contact point at one point*, to perform #1.

The problem that I (and many) had before was I misaligned the body, ie the body pulls one way, the arm swing another way. I didn't know the correct intent of the swing.

Elaboration: Because now I understand #1 (chopping the racket down/forward), to load up more, I have to bend back more. The more highup and fartherest takeback of the axe position is the deepest drop of the racket and the highest contact point. You get the idea.

Go the the gym. Work out the motion for strength and familiarity:




Go thru the motion slowly. Pay attention to aligning the chest up at one point (a must) and "chop down" bodywise. In reality it's chopping up and forward due to our correct body alignment. Don't think about racket drop, pronation. The correct desire to load up, correct swing path should point you in the right direction.


 
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How many years in? Or pretty quick for you?

Isn't it a great feeling to finally get it? It's probably similar to the other strokes but the serve feels super special being the toughest stroke to crack!

Share your experience, your journey to find the Holy Grail ? :)


For me, 8 months and a lot of youtube viewing, doing own thinking and analyzing.
I think you basically "get it" when you have the proper shoulder and hand path to contact. From there, it's just dressing it up.
 
FWIW ... I've whittled down the mechanics of a non-jumping serve to two aspects and I am happy to share them here ... I plan to make a video in the spring. This is a personal insight ... I've nothing to sell.

Before I give the steps here's a quick explanation of the key mechanic.

Stand in ordinary position; squat a little - like playing at the net - heels not touching the ground; (for right handers) turn your right leg counter-clockwise - pivoting on the front half of your foot, the knee moving toward the left until you feel your body weight shifting onto your left foot.

This is what you want with every 'closed' groundstroke ... to hit like a flamingo with all weight on the front half of one foot such that it does not move during the swing - SOLID (like Rory McIlroy's leading foot when he swings ... it's the same deal with golf as tennis).

That said

1) Take the above position to start the serve ... but you need not bend your knees.

2) As you toss your upper torso bends back ... the ball needs to end up above the area between sternum and chin.

3) Ball in the air, bend your knees a bit and turn the lower torso weight onto the front half of your left foot. (A lot if you're going to serve hard ... very little if you're only going to tap the ball.
* Your upper torso does not move ... you're creating torsion between upper and lower torso.

4) KEY PART ... the upper torso doesn't move ... your waist does not bend forward as you swing, it's 95% arm. You need to see the racket not just strike the ball but go through it.

This is hard to get ... don't move your glance from the ball as you watch the racket go through it ... if you bend your waist as you swing the ball is going long (most of the time) or in the net because you're in-effect blocking your arm from passing through.

Only when your arm has passed through then you can turn your body onto the court.

I have received unsolicited applause from the top-pro when I showed him this method. I call it 'Noon O'Clock' serving as there's no more 1 p.m. tossing (which indeed is a better way *if* you've got the height and jump). This is a better method for mortals.
 
Good stuff, @randzman

You seem to emphasize on the torso and what not.




I, and I believe many other players as I observe, seem to have an issue with the swing itself. Specifically, if you pay attention, the swing by rec players is all over the place. Some swings are too shallow or too open toward the sky or too fast, too slow to take advantage of the kinetic chain.

I theorize that the root cause, at least in my case, is that they don't know the intent path of the swing PLUS how to work their body mechanic into it. (this is the best description that I can put for it :)).

The serve is ultra "delicate" in term of body parts' turning and body alignment, which I emphasize in this thread. If you miss your boarding window, you'll miss the whole train. Well, a lot of guys try to catch up anyway they can, eg. forgo the deep racket drop, a decent trophy position, etc. that's why you always see something obviously very off with rec player's serve.


I think this is why it's much better to break the serve down to several separate parts, and systematically train each part. I tend to liken important part to a more familiar activity, eg axing wood.
 
Share your experience, your journey to find the Holy Grail ?


Alright... you asked for it... and I feel like yapping today... so here's my looong story... hope it doesn't bore you to death!

My story started in 1977, at age 7 randomly catching the Wimbledon men's singles final on TV one summer. I was hooked on the game at that point and for the next several summers, "Breakfast at Wimbledon" for me was sitting on the floor in front of the TV in our Philadelphia suburban home at 5 am, hours before anyone else in the house was awake, watching Wimbledon matches while eating Honeycomb cereal and wearing tennis themed pajamas.

It wasn't until a few years later that I actually picked up a racquet and started trying to play the game. Up until that point I was playing little league baseball and that was my true passion. I was tall, skinny, and left handed, and so my coach got me started pitching right away at age 8 and it came pretty naturally to me.

In the northeastern US in the 1970s, tennis was pretty much a country club sport - and it was MUCH more expensive than baseball. Back then, your kid played little league baseball in the spring and early summer, MAYBE an all star traveling team into the middle or late summer, and then in the rest of the year it was catch in the back yard with dad, or maybe some unorganized pickup sandlot games with your pals. There were none of the high performance baseball camps around (or at least none that I knew about, and certainly none that my dad could afford). So if you wanted to play tennis, you played scholastically - and for me, the tennis and baseball seasons were at the same time of the year, so I never really got any instruction with tennis, but had a racquet and farted around with pals (from the baseball team) when the wather was nice and we weren't playing baseball.

The thing I remember thinking about then with tennis was that hitting the ball was like hitting a baseball, and so I swung my racquet like a baseball bat, which is not to say that I used two hands, but rather, just a flat swing with what amounted to an Eastern grip (not that I knew what that really was at the time). I couldn't figure out how to hit the ball as hard as the pros did and keep it in play, so that became tedious for me trying to hit that fast hard shot with the infinitessimally small margin of error.

Serving had to be similar in my mind - it wasn't like throwing or pitching in my mind, it was like hitting - I could hit the crap out of a baseball in addition to pitching one, so I should be able to smash the crap out of a tennis ball on the serve too, right? Just swing REAL hard with the rackquet face square, and aim for that super tiny little window that will let the serve go over the net but still stay in the service box... yeah... frustration. I had purchased a book when I was probably around 10 or 11 or so, for a quarter at a garage sale: Pancho Segura's Championship Strategy - and I remember reading about grips and none of it made sense to me and the only thing I took away from it was to keep the racquet face square to the direction you wanted to hit the ball. Back then, I thought tennis racquet handles had bevels on them because it was easier to cut the corners off of a square than it was to machine a round handle (hahahaha). I remembered a few things from the book about tossing the ball to serve - try to throw it only as high as you need to because the physics said that the ball would stay the longest amount of time in the most stationary position righ at the apex of a toss, so toss it only as high as you intend to swing your racquet when you hit it and hit it at or very near the apex for the most repeatability.

The only thing I knew about spin on a tennis ball was that I could slice the hell out of a one-handed backhand and swing pretty hard, keep the ball more or less in play and if I hit a really good slice backhand it might skip and stay low on the bounce, or I could hit a short, soft drop shot with slice that might jump and/or bounce in a way that my opponent didn't expect and give them a hard time returning it. I knew all about spin on a baseball, I threw a sinker that I could make cut either to the left or right, a nasty curve ball, and a knuckleball that I knew danced around because it had so little spin, but I didn't really put too much of that together with tennis except for slice. I remember my cousin getting pissed at me when we were goofing around on a tennis court at around age 14 and I kept hitting backhand slice shots to him, and he couldn't figure them out and kept whiffing them... he chucked his racquet over the net at me and cursed me for cheating haha... The rest of that time of just goofing off with my baseball team buddies was all frustration - having to play this game where I had to hit it so softly so it didn't go out... ugh... extreme frustration. During that time, I always served a first serve as hard as I could, with a total waiter-tray form - like a freaking missile and with extremely predictable results - about 1 in 30 would actually go in for an easy ace, the rest would go wildly out and I'd have to dink a second serve in. So I put tennis away by the end of high school and stopped watching it too, it was just too damn hard and there was no way I could spend the time on it that it obviously required, just to be able to decently hit the ball back and forth. Man, if I'd only reread that Pancho Segura book again when I was 16... I still have it, btw and have read it a few times in recent years. Much of it is outdated, but all of it would have been hugely beneficial to me in terms of fundamentals at that time, and much of it is still relevant to today's game and has helped me with my own...

I went off to college, pitched there, and didn't have the stuff to progress with baseball any further, so I hung up my glove and cleats after I got my degree. About 3 years later, my roommate at the time and I were watching some Wimbledon match in the summer, I don't even remember who was playing, this was around 1995 or so and he mentioned that he used to love to play tennis. It turned out that he had some instruction in his younger years and while he never played scholastically, he did play in some sort of coached league type of play in and around the same years as I was playing little league (around age 8 to 12). So I figured what the hell, and rolled down to the K-mart, bought a Wilson Hammer racquet off the shelf there for like $40 or so, and me and my roommate went out to hit at the nearby municipal courts. He had great ground strokes and I still had no idea WTF I was doing. He tried to instruct me on topspin, but I didn't understand at all, and neither of us really had the patience to figure it out any further, so 30 minutes later, we went for a beer, and tennis was still a mystery to me... (continued in next post)
 
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Fast forward to 2013, I'm 43, I had moved to GA and my girlfriend at the time and I were watching the US Open final, Rafa beat Djoko. My girlfriend wasn't into playing tennis but she loved watchng it and had read all the biographies and was pulling hard for Rafa... I was living in a subdivision with a tennis court right out my front door and watching this match in HD on my brand new 60" flat screen TV, and... something happened... something very interesting... I could make out what these guys were doing a little bit with their racquets on the serve, how they were slicing the ball a bit, kind of vertically doing what I had happened to figure out with a backhand... hmmm.... the commentator, might have even been my boy, Johnny Mac, I can't remember, was talking about the serves, talking about the kicks and slices, and of course Rafa's a lefty... and I was watching some graphics showing the path of the slice serve... and they were talking about Rafa's extreme RPMs on his groundies and so on and so forth... and now I'm thinking... quick google for a nearby tennis shop after the match... go there, buy an old demo Head Instinct for $100 - this time I'm going to make a real go of it and a few cans of tennis balls.


That evening I'm out on the courts in the neighborhood trying to hit slice serves, trying to remember the way Rafa and Djoko stood, and held their bodies, and how they swung their racquet... only I find out that I can't generate the kind of spin on the ball holding the racquet in what I later learned was the "eastern grip"... so I switch to a continental because it just seemed like the natural thing to do... clearly after you serve, you must change your grip on the racquet... light bulb moment for me... I'll be damned... maybe those bevels aren't just tradition because it was harder to machine a round handle... who knew??? I hit a slice serve and it is this floating mess of a thing, and I see it curve like hell, it started in the middle of the service box and the damn thing curve all the way to the sideline and bounced in the alley... no... that couldn't be right, could it? It's just my eyes playing tricks on me, that was just going to be the ball's regular path, it wasn't spin curving the ball THAT much was it??? Hit it a few more times, some go into the net, some go off the edge of the frame... slow it down... *whisk* the ball sounds off the strings and it curves and sort of goes down instead of this floating mess... curves a solid 4 feet before bouncing in... GET THE F*CK OUT!?!? I spend 2 hours hitting that serve 6 times, chase 6 balls, pick them up, repeat... holy crap my arm is tired... but... I'm onto something here... I can see that with practice... I could learn to hit this ball hard, so it curved fast, and just like my curveball from my days pitching, could make it land where I wanted... hot damn! Go inside and ice my shoulder because damn... it's sore.

At this point, I wasn't really doing anything else with tennis since I had no idea what else I could do by myself and my girlfriend isn't interested in trying to play... so I practice that serve for a few weeks and while I can't hit it hard, I can hit it in, and it's FILTHY with movement... this feels as good as when I first learned to throw a real curveball back when I was 14... unfortunately, that didn't go any farther for me because I couldn't really do anything but serve and I never saw anyone else out at the courts in the neighborhood so... I hung it up for a while... time goes on... that girlfriend and I break up, I don't watch tennis anymore, and a few weeks after the 2014 US Open, I meet the woman that would become my wife... we get married in June 2015... we spend a year and a half in wedded bliss, we're both quite skilled home cooks and we each gain 40 lbs cooking amazing food for each other, lazing around the house, watching football, watching my Phillies suck, but life is good. It's late 2016 I'm almost 47, now and my wife says "honey, let's get in shape, let's get a gym membership, we're not getting any younger"... damn... I knew that was coming... I tell her "sure" let's make it our New Year's resolution.

I take some time off over the Christmas/New Year's holiday and I'm farting around on Youtube, I can't even remember what I was doing, but I see this video link on the side "How to crush topspin forehands" or something similar... oh yeah... Tennis! ah what the hell, I've got time... I check this guy's video out. He explains how you use topspin to get pace on the ball and how it improves your margin for error by letting you hit the ball high enough over the net to reliably clear it, but spins down into the court to keep it from going long... he's got the motion broken down into small, digestable parts, and there's a whole video series with his "system"... I spend the next hour or so watching these videos. At some point during them, I pull out a note pad (I am a gen-xer after all) and begin writing down his tips. That afternoon I'm out on the courts again, it's a mild, not too chilly December day, maybe low 50s... I've bought a bucket full of pressureless tennis balls now and I am just bouncing balls and hitting forehands with this technique and using an Eastern grip (now I know what this means!!!) and I spend the next couple hours until it gets dark bouncing and hitting those 40 or so pressureless balls and picking them up and repeating the process... my shoulder isn't too sore, but I still ice it down... jeez I'm an old man and out of shape...

I tell my wife about this as New Year's approaches. She says she's never picked up a tennis racquet in her life. I beg her (even though we've already bought our Gym membership) to not make me go into a Gym... "I'll do Weight Watchers with you baby, but I just can't bear the thought of running on a treadmill or pushing plates around, how about if we go out and play tennis for our exercise, the courts are RIGHT here, and this guy on Youtube has all these videos that break everything down so it won't be so frustrating. We can watch them together and I'll help you. What do you say?" She says yes... New Years happens, we begin our diet and on January 3, 2017 a few days before my 47th birthday we go out to the courts for the first time in my life, with the actual intent to learn how to play tennis. We are fumbling around. I've bought her a $20 racquet from Wal Mart for now and we begin the painstaking process. A week or so into that, I am watching more of this guy's videos about serving now - proper grip (hot damn, I lucked onto that?!), breaking it down into small parts, grooving them with reps, etc. I understand that serving is more like throwing a baseball than hitting it, and I start to work those serves into my near daily practice sessions with my wife. We do this for a while, I've watched and have learned (more or less) how to hit a slice, kick, and flat serve, but am wildly inconsistent. BUT... BUT when I am having a "good" serve day, I feel the same way I used to when I was standing on the pitcher's mound, totally confident that the batter wasn't going to hit me... oh man this feeling has been gone too long in my life!! (continued in next post)
 
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A few months of near daily practice and I have a thorough knowledge of how important spin is to tennis, even if I don't have enough technique or skill to translate that to actual execution consistently, I'm getting there, and I'm serving decently for me. It's like all my old baseball pitching stuff is coming back, except it's going into my serves. I can hit the ball HARD... REALLY HARD and keep it in now and then, or I can hit it only PRETTY hard and keep it in a lot more... I can move it around a little wide, body, T, slice or kick and on a good day a nasty flat serve... some neighbors have been watching my wife and I out there daily for these past couple months. It turns out that they play on the ALTA team that plays out of this neighborhood. I had no idea this even existed as I spent VERY few weekends around the house before I met my wife, and even after meeting her, we spend very few weekends at home, so I never saw them playing. They come out and introduce themselves to us - the sweetest couple in the world close to their 60s. They came to the US in the late 90s as refugees from Eastern Europe and they're telling us all this in somewhat broken English and tell us all about how much they love tennis and how they play on the ALTA team out of the neighborhood and all that stuff. They tell us they've been watching us and are so impressed at our rapid improvement and on and on and on... just the greatest people you can imagine.


Anyway, a few months later, they've invited us to their ALTA mixed team and I talk my wife into it, promising her that there is no pressure - she's only even been holding a racquet for a few months now and is hugely self conscious and so forth. Meanwhile my wife and I have become tennis addicts - we watch everything we can on TV - remember the AO final in 2017? Yeah... my wife becomes a Rafa fan, and I am a Fed fan - odd because ordinarily I would have chosen Rafa since he's a lefty, but Fed's form just looks so damn perfect and he seems like such a fantastic human being in addition to being a superhuman player... not that Rafa isn't as well... but anyway... my wife and I quickly learn several things playing tennis "for real". The first thing I learn is that I really DON'T have my serve down - I haven't gotten it yet, and the second thing we learn is that we can't play mixed together. I suspect a ton of husband/wife mixed players know what I'm talking about here. On a good day with my serve, I love tennis. On a bad serving day, I don't even want to play. For me, serving is like pitching - if I wasn't a decent pitcher, I probably would have given up on baseball years ago even though I was a competent hitter and fielder, pitching was *it* for me and there was just nothing like the rush of that whole thing... I could go on and on... but let me just say that this is how I feel about serving in tennis. If I couldn't serve any better than a lot of the guys I see playing, the game would have very limited interest for me.

So I get us a coach and start taking lessons twice a week. He mostly works on her serve and gives me some limited coaching on mine, but that's at my request. I'm still not getting to the point of consistency that I want with my serve though. Sure, on a "bad serving day", I can avoid double faulting, but I have to practically patty cake the ball in - there's not enough pace for it to be a challenge, and as a former pitcher, that just won't do. On a "great" serving day, my service game is truly dominant. I have the techniques to hit the various serves I want, but there is something wrong with my mechanics and I just can't seem to get it to fall into place to the point that I can at least serve decently even on a "bad" serving day... my bad days are HORRENDOUS... months go by with this coach and his only advice to me is to toss the ball higher... I keep trying to do that, but things aren't getting better. He is either unable to articulate what the flaws are in my mechanics, or can't see them, and I'm growing frustrated. That was in the fall of 2017 and led me to make this thread: https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...ce-on-serve-consistency.602519/#post-11732608

I got a lot of good advice in that thread, but couldn't really get the hang of things for a while until the spring of 2018. I was at my wit's end with tennis, about to hang it up for good and just become a tennis husband, watching my wife and being her hitting partner as she was THOROUGHLY addicted to tennis by then and now plays about 60 or 70 matches a year. In a pretty much last ditch effort to keep playing tennis, I stopped using the coach I had been using and by luck, found a new coach. I went to him, told him my situation, and he was able to spot a fairly significant flaw in my mechanics that was leading to my inconsistency with my serve. It turns out I was opening my shoulders too early (very much like what would be a proper baseball pitchng motion, but very much NOT good for high level tennis serving). We fixed that and at that point, I FINALLY felt like I could say that I *got it* with serving. I posted about that in that old thread with post #27, about 7 months after I started the original thread.

Certainly I am no pro level server, and I will probably never be able to serve a tennis ball as well as I could pitch a baseball 30 years ago, but I'm pretty damn pleased with myself. I think that my serve is legitimately on par with 4.5 level players and I'm pretty pleased with that given that I picked up a racquet with serious intent only two years ago. My "bad" serving days now are still challenging for my opponents at the 3.5ish level I play in mens and bordering on dominant in the 3.0/3.5 mixed matches I play. My "good" serve days are utterly dominant at this level. When (if - I hope) the rest of my game improves to the point that I move up, I have no doubt that I will not see as many aces, but I also am quite confident that I will be considered a challenging server for my opponents to deal with, and at age 49, I'm pretty damn happy with that... for now.

So there you go, there's my own long and fraught journey to "getting it" with the serve. I can't speak directly to all of the mechanics that got me here, because I am refining them every time I go out and trying to get them better. I feel like I can TOTALLY identify with Rafa when someone asked him about his service game in some press conference in 2017 if I remember correctly, asking something like "would you say that you've been working on your serve since last year and that this is the reason for your success so far this year?" Rafa responded: "I have spent my whole life working on my serve." This comment I get, even if it is sacreligious to compare myself to Rafa, which, to be clear, I am not doing. I just understand what he meant there.

The end... haha!
 
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the swing by rec players is all over the place..
Ok, I can speak to that as well because I solved that by creating a serve ball toss trainer with telescoping PVC pipe.

At the top is a 1 foot diameter circle of white nylon tubing. I named it Arc Angel as it's like a halo.

Here's the logo I made. (Why does it show here as blurry?)



So you toss the ball so it drops through the halo on the way down. It's just a toss trainer, you don't serve the ball.

But what I found, for everyone, is that the diameter of toss error is around 2ft ... in other words a 1 ft. error radius ... it ain't close as you think.

And if you don't believe just stand under a basketball hoop with the hoop itself directly under your chin/sternum area and you'll be quite surprised how hard it is to hit that rim. It took me a good three dozen tosses to get it through my hoop once.

As with the serve training it took about three sessions, lets say six-dozen tosses, because you start to get some consistency.
 
Ok, I can speak to that as well because I solved that by creating a serve ball toss trainer with telescoping PVC pipe.

At the top is a 1 foot diameter circle of white nylon tubing. I named it Arc Angel as it's like a halo.

Here's the logo I made. (Why does it show here as blurry?)



So you toss the ball so it drops through the halo on the way down. It's just a toss trainer, you don't serve the ball.

But what I found, for everyone, is that the diameter of toss error is around 2ft ... in other words a 1 ft. error radius ... it ain't close as you think.

And if you don't believe just stand under a basketball hoop with the hoop itself directly under your chin/sternum area and you'll be quite surprised how hard it is to hit that rim. It took me a good three dozen tosses to get it through my hoop once.

As with the serve training it took about three sessions, lets say six-dozen tosses, because you start to get some consistency.

I like your Arc Angel idea. I will try to find a basketball hoop to practice my toss.

Can you write about your SWING PATH? What's it like? What's your intent for it?

For example, as I described above, I see mine as an axing motion and I intent the swing path as such.
 
Can you write about your SWING PATH?
It's straight across the bow -- the racket is vertical at the top ... an overhead with your waist bent back so you can look up and stay affixed to the ball position at contact *while the racket is moving across*.

Another way I explain this is imagine you are facing a wall - the wall is perpendicular to the baseline. The center of the ball when hit is on, 'in', the wall *and your head never touches the wall* ... cause the only way that can happen is it your waist bends forward.

You know in golf when they say 'keep your head down!' ... well that's nonsense ... the waist is bending backward as they accelerate the club - like an olympic hammer throw - ball and chain, the shoulders are raising... become aware of that and you will never never ever hit the ball in the net.

If your eyes follow the racket (they should not) you will probably hit it long. When your eyes stay on line where the ball is hit it's pretty damn hard not to get that ball in the court --- even if you really hammer it (which is harder to do of course because everything wants to turn to accelerate the racket...there's far more torsion between the upper and lower torso and harder to keep the weight on your left foot without it moving ... and that's a LOT easier to do if your thinner because the moment of inertia around your center of gravity has a smaller radius!).

Lets say vertical is zero degrees (0°) ... looking at the ball you will see the racket enter your visual frame at about -15° and leave about 15°.

Drew a quick picture.



And thank you for liking Arc Angel!
 
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@randzman

I like your "wall" analogy.

So, my understanding is: you toss straight upward that your eyes can look at the vertical line (as shown in the picture) connecting to the ball. I got that.

You swing the racket "straight across the bow -- the racket is vertical at the top" -- at the contact?


Shouldn't it be, according to Federer's photos below, the swing going from the head down to the chest? And at contact the racket is tilted a little?

 
Shouldn't it be, according to Federer's photos below, the swing going from the head down to the chest?
What is the "it" ... the 'right' serve?

Their serve is correct ... for people who can jump.

Mr. Federer jumps with feet separated.
Here is Serena serving with feet close together.
They are pros. They can jump.

My method is for non-jumping mortals.

I created this Serena analysis to try and understand the basics.

Then I found it can't possibly work for me and reduced it to a non-jumping format ... but the third frame pretty much stays the same as the body is compressing to create the torsion ... her upper torso is 'behind the wall'.

Because she can jump she has the liberty of hitting the ball 'down' ... she has a wider angle range.



Here are a few diagrams that helped me figure that out.

I guesstimated each 1/2 ft. of height gives you 1 foot more space to serve into.

(If I'm even right ... it looks complex but I didn't use trajectory equations, but I know the path the ball travels is a parabola so I guesstimated).



This one speaks to launch angle ... tossing the ball 'into' the court (easier to hit if you can jump) vs. straight up.

This convinced me I have to launch the ball parallel to the ground, which means the racket is vertical ... zero degrees because every degree of offset translates to some number of feet of error - which is why the ball toss can't have much error ... a perfect swing with an iffy toss is destined to be a fault.

 
What is the "it" ... the 'right' serve?

Their serve is correct ... for people who can jump.

Mr. Federer jumps with feet separated.
Here is Serena serving with feet close together.
They are pros. They can jump.

My method is for non-jumping mortals.

I created this Serena analysis to try and understand the basics.

Then I found it can't possibly work for me and reduced it to a non-jumping format ... but the third frame pretty much stays the same as the body is compressing to create the torsion ... her upper torso is 'behind the wall'.

Because she can jump she has the liberty of hitting the ball 'down' ... she has a wider angle range.



Here are a few diagrams that helped me figure that out.

I guesstimated each 1/2 ft. of height gives you 1 foot more space to serve into.

(If I'm even right ... it looks complex but I didn't use trajectory equations, but I know the path the ball travels is a parabola so I guesstimated).



This one speaks to launch angle ... tossing the ball 'into' the court (easier to hit if you can jump) vs. straight up.

This convinced me I have to launch the ball parallel to the ground, which means the racket is vertical ... zero degrees because every degree of offset translates to some number of feet of error - which is why the ball toss can't have much error ... a perfect swing with an iffy toss is destined to be a fault.

You just need to push off the ground like your jumping , that force initiates the kinetic chain, don't necessarily have to get any height to use regular pro motion, imo
 
You just need to push off the ground like your jumping , that force initiates the kinetic chain, don't necessarily have to get any height to use regular pro motion, imo
If you're able to do that then that's more conventional.

It's not yet worked for me so I created my method - no pushing off the ground, my feet are definitely pushing INTO the ground, just as a golf swing.

My kinetic chain is mostly arm. The torso torsion creates a solid (static) footing.
 
If you're able to do that then that's more conventional.

It's not yet worked for me so I created my method - no pushing off the ground, my feet are definitely pushing INTO the ground, just as a golf swing.

My kinetic chain is mostly arm. The torso torsion creates a solid (static) footing.
Lotta pros warm up like this,, lets say say push on the ground
 
Good analysis. I think I got what you're saying. You can certain stay grounded like frame 3, rotate hip and shoulder and slam the ball. In your case, you are not pushing too hard off the ground and you are not trying to reach a higher contact point (to take advantage of height = higher margin). If you're doing those things, you are indeed "jumping".
 
Good analysis. I think I got what you're saying. You can certain stay grounded like frame 3, rotate hip and shoulder and slam the ball. In your case, you are not pushing too hard off the ground and you are not trying to reach a higher contact point (to take advantage of height = higher margin). If you're doing those things, you are indeed "jumping".
I don't do what Serena does. There's no shoulder rotation for me. The hip rotates solely to get the weight onto the left foot.
I'm not pushing AT ALL off the ground ... the foot stays completely solid until the arm goes across ... then the swing is done, then the weight comes off, hips turn, etc.

I am locking the lower torso in a high tension/torsion position to create an anchor for the swing. In effect I'm creating a wall so all the arm power is transferred to the ball. A wall 'hits' the ball back at pretty much the same speed ... does it turn? (no).

It's exactly the same for groundstrokes. I'm trying to get my foot to stay in the exact same spot from the point of contact to when the ball exits the strike zone and my arm can't go across any further.
 

mxmx

Professional
(continued)
A few months of near daily practice and I have a thorough knowledge of how important spin is to tennis, even if I don't have enough technique or skill to translate that to actual execution consistently, I'm getting there, and I'm serving decently for me. It's like all my old baseball pitching stuff is coming back, except it's going into my serves. I can hit the ball HARD... REALLY HARD and keep it in now and then, or I can hit it only PRETTY hard and keep it in a lot more... I can move it around a little wide, body, T, slice or kick and on a good day a nasty flat serve... some neighbors have been watching my wife and I out there daily for these past couple months. It turns out that they play on the ALTA team that plays out of this neighborhood. I had no idea this even existed as I spent VERY few weekends around the house before I met my wife, and even after meeting her, we spend very few weekends at home, so I never saw them playing. They come out and introduce themselves to us - the sweetest couple in the world close to their 60s. They came to the US in the late 90s as refugees from Eastern Europe and they're telling us all this in somewhat broken English and tell us all about how much they love tennis and how they play on the ALTA team out of the neighborhood and all that stuff. They tell us they've been watching us and are so impressed at our rapid improvement and on and on and on... just the greatest people you can imagine.


Anyway, a few months later, they've invited us to their ALTA mixed team and I talk my wife into it, promising her that there is no pressure - she's only even been holding a racquet for a few months now and is hugely self conscious and so forth. Meanwhile my wife and I have become tennis addicts - we watch everything we can on TV - remember the AO final in 2017? Yeah... my wife becomes a Rafa fan, and I am a Fed fan - odd because ordinarily I would have chosen Rafa since he's a lefty, but Fed's form just looks so damn perfect and he seems like such a fantastic human being in addition to being a superhuman player... not that Rafa isn't as well... but anyway... my wife and I quickly learn several things playing tennis "for real". The first thing I learn is that I really DON'T have my serve down - I haven't gotten it yet, and the second thing we learn is that we can't play mixed together. I suspect a ton of husband/wife mixed players know what I'm talking about here. On a good day with my serve, I love tennis. On a bad serving day, I don't even want to play. For me, serving is like pitching - if I wasn't a decent pitcher, I probably would have given up on baseball years ago even though I was a competent hitter and fielder, pitching was *it* for me and there was just nothing like the rush of that whole thing... I could go on and on... but let me just say that this is how I feel about serving in tennis. If I couldn't serve any better than a lot of the guys I see playing, the game would have very limited interest for me.

So I get us a coach and start taking lessons twice a week. He mostly works on her serve and gives me some limited coaching on mine, but that's at my request. I'm still not getting to the point of consistency that I want with my serve though. Sure, on a "bad serving day", I can avoid double faulting, but I have to practically patty cake the ball in - there's not enough pace for it to be a challenge, and as a former pitcher, that just won't do. On a "great" serving day, my service game is truly dominant. I have the techniques to hit the various serves I want, but there is something wrong with my mechanics and I just can't seem to get it to fall into place to the point that I can at least serve decently even on a "bad" serving day... my bad days are HORRENDOUS... months go by with this coach and his only advice to me is to toss the ball higher... I keep trying to do that, but things aren't getting better. He is either unable to articulate what the flaws are in my mechanics, or can't see them, and I'm growing frustrated. That was in the fall of 2017 and led me to make this thread: https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...ce-on-serve-consistency.602519/#post-11732608

I got a lot of good advice in that thread, but couldn't really get the hang of things for a while until the spring of 2018. I was at my wit's end with tennis, about to hang it up for good and just become a tennis husband, watching my wife and being her hitting partner as she was THOROUGHLY addicted to tennis by then and now plays about 60 or 70 matches a year. In a pretty much last ditch effort to keep playing tennis, I stopped using the coach I had been using and by luck, found a new coach. I went to him, told him my situation, and he was able to spot a fairly significant flaw in my mechanics that was leading to my inconsistency with my serve. It turns out I was opening my shoulders too early (very much like what would be a proper baseball pitchng motion, but very much NOT good for high level tennis serving). We fixed that and at that point, I FINALLY felt like I could say that I *got it* with serving. I posted about that in that old thread with post #27, about 7 months after I started the original thread.

Certainly I am no pro level server, and I will probably never be able to serve a tennis ball as well as I could pitch a baseball 30 years ago, but I'm pretty damn pleased with myself. I think that my serve is legitimately on par with 4.5 level players and I'm pretty pleased with that given that I picked up a racquet with serious intent only two years ago. My "bad" serving days now are still challenging for my opponents at the 3.5ish level I play in mens and bordering on dominant in the 3.0/3.5 mixed matches I play. My "good" serve days are utterly dominant at this level. When (if - I hope) the rest of my game improves to the point that I move up, I have no doubt that I will not see as many aces, but I also am quite confident that I will be considered a challenging server for my opponents to deal with, and at age 49, I'm pretty damn happy with that... for now.

So there you go, there's my own long and fraught journey to "getting it" with the serve. I can't speak directly to all of the mechanics that got me here, because I am refining them every time I go out and trying to get them better. I feel like I can TOTALLY identify with Rafa when someone asked him about his service game in some press conference in 2017 if I remember correctly, asking something like "would you say that you've been working on your serve since last year and that this is the reason for your success so far this year?" Rafa responded: "I have spent my whole life working on my serve." This comment I get, even if it is sacreligious to compare myself to Rafa, which, to be clear, I am not doing. I just understand what he meant there.

The end... haha!
Thanks for a good read. Enjoyed it.
 
D

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changed the timing/location of my toss,... basically lost the feel of my kicker,.. in exchange for a much better flat/slice/kick serve potential.

can’t wait til spring to practice it more



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heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
lol i have glimmers of "omg i got it"... ie. ii'll hit 10 flat serves at the T, and explode the targes i put there...
or i'll serve out games at love...
but then i'll miss 70% 1st serves in the next match...

so i don't think i've gotten it... like life, it's an ongoing work in progress
that said, practicing serves almost daily in 2018 spring/summer/fall has greatly improved my serve...
but ironically, rather than thinking i'm that much closer to "getting it", i feel i'm much farther away from getting it (ie. a serve being automatic/unconscious), but i'm on the right track..
and then any time i introduce a tweak/improvement (ie. more coil, or more hip load, etc...), i get knocked down 10 pegs, and it feels like i start all over again

also depends on what your bar for "i got it" is. for me the bar is constantly moving (more pace, more spin, better consistent placement, consistent depth, etc...)

so i'll go with "never".
Did you learn your serve style independently? You seem to have a low toss, lightning bolt serve which no one teaches.Some teach a low toss but not with the fast action .


I think getting the serve is when you learn how to tie a good toss, leg drive and pronation together. After that there's a ton of variables and tweaks, kick, slice, placement but getting that initial pop sound off the racquet is a eureka moment. For old skaters it's like learning to ollie. Ollie kick flip comes way later if ever. I'm reseting my serve after back injury, I had to change many things and re-analyse had to make some compromises in the stance and etc.
 
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D

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Did you learn your serve style independently? You seem to have a low toss, lightning bolt serve which no one teaches.Some teach a low toss but not with the fast action .


I think getting the serve is when you learn how to tie a good toss, leg drive and pronation together. After that there's a ton of variables and tweaks, kick, slice, placement but getting that initial pop sound off the racquet is a eureka moment. For old skaters it's like learning to ollie. Ollie kick flip comes way later if ever. I'm reseting my serve after back injury, I had to change many things and re-analyse had to make some compromises in the stance and etc.
self taught :(
which is why i’m trying to rebuild it.

I have a low lightning toss because I didn’t want to put the time in to fix a poor high toss decades ago. but now with so much info out there, and some good cos hong advice that made sense to me, and some promising results when everything clicked, i’ve decided to revamp my serve. plan to toss a bit higher to give myself time to load properly.

dolgopolov is the only other guy i can think of that has a lightning serve motion,...


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heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
self taught :(
which is why i’m trying to rebuild it.

I have a low lightning toss because I didn’t want to put the time in to fix a poor high toss decades ago. but now with so much info out there, and some good cos hong advice that made sense to me, and some promising results when everything clicked, i’ve decided to revamp my serve. plan to toss a bit higher to give myself time to load properly.

dolgopolov is the only other guy i can think of that has a lightning serve motion,...


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I will miss your sub-6 foot Kyrgios serve.
 
D

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I will miss your sub-6 foot Kyrgios serve.
looks like a kyrgios serve? hmm. ironically regarding the timing of the toss and load, I though my serve was more like dolgo.

from a timing stand point (toss, then load), i feel like i’m moving toward kyrgios

I had dabbled with this last summer, but didn’t want to commit to the change usta seasons were over.

one metric: old kicker, sometimes barely reached the back fence/curtain on one bounce. new serve, occasionally bounce halfway up the fence/curtain.


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Bryan brothers.
Sam Groth [retired].
I think dolgo has a much lower toss (and shorter time to load) than those guys.

when I think of “lightning” serve, it’s more than just the “abbreviated” roddick like take back.

I trying to get to more like bryan’s/groth with a higher toss, and more time to load


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IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
I think dolgo has a much lower toss (and shorter time to load) than those guys.

when I think of “lightning” serve, it’s more than just the “abbreviated” roddick like take back.

I trying to get to more like bryan’s/groth with a higher toss, and more time to load
Goran also had a pretty low toss, somewhat similar to Groth in that Goran used a low toss and hit just as the ball was about to descend from its apex. I think his quick service motion helped keep his opponents a little bit out of rhythm...

 
Doesn't matter how you rotate and tilt, the chest and face at some point have to directly face the ball and the swing is simply going from the back to over the head. Let the arm pronate naturally.


 
For me, what works to "reset" my serve when it's not working is to eliminate the lower body completely. Casually toss the ball up and just hit it. No thinking. Shoulders facing the fence. Focusing on not turning towards the net. Throwing my racquet to the moon. If I can do that, i have a serve again. When I start trying to add leg drive, more torque, different spins, etc is where it starts to break down and lose the throwing flow.
 
I started playing tennis at a young age. I remember that in the beginning i used the waiters tray technique. The tennis pro taught me how to use continental grip (with the use of a stone between my handpalm and my grip xD). After some practice i was able to execute and developed a good serve. I always got compliments about my serve and technique which i guess gave me the confidence that i 'get' the serve. Always considered my serve as my weapon. Eventhough i definitely have days that its not working. Then i'd think it will come around. So my point is that a big part of getting the serve down is confidence. So when you say that you got it, you got it :D. No matter if its perfect.

For me personally i recently started looking for improvements on my serve. Because its never been a problem for me i didn't feel the need, but lately im trying to play more serve and volley and realized that theres much unused potential. Im trying to rotate my shoulders more, pronate and use my legs. Its throwing off my timing/rythem a bit but sometimes i hit better serves than before. I need to get everything dialed in still and become consistent again but i have that confidence that ill get there.
 
Confession: I remember exactly the time I got a very good shoulder-safe motion, but still fast. It was like (cliché alert) the clouds parted and the sun shone through.

I played only occasional tennis as a kid, social doubles later if someone asked. I'm 67 now. When I was 41 I had a 7-year-old son. We arranged tennis lessons for him. At about the same time one of my brothers suddenly got a major social motivation to learn tennis. So, we played. A lot. I could serve very fast and flat, and keep it in, but was killing my shoulder, coming straight over the top with my swing, though with decent UB rotation. Pain. Every single time I started to serve. I had never had a lesson.

I finally got fed up. I didn't want the pain. I wanted a greater base for twist serves. I wanted to be able to teach my son to serve well. So: I started watching Tennis One slo-mo's with fanatical patience hours every Sunday. What was I doing wrong? My timing was good. I was hitting up. Then, one day I was actually watching a Roddick serve slo-mo. Very carefully. And (shows you what I didn't know) I was just amazed when I noticed that he was throwing his tossing arm forward as he extended his legs...but his racquet was still going down behind his back...even though he was already off the ground.

I took that to a local court (very private) and tried to copy that timing. It felt impossible. It was very frustrating. Then, after a few days, I just got "it." In my mind the image still is "throw the tossing arm forward, simultaneously extend the legs energetically....and with a split-second delay toss the racquet the other way. (And yes, tilt the hitting shoulder back, then up with the swing.) The ball just rocketed. It actually made me laugh. It took a week before I could keep the ball in. The racquet goes up to the ball almost by itself. Ever since, serving has been comfortable and valuable. Even today I can get an occasional game off my 32-year-old son, who is a very good player, and very fit. Only serving ever lets me get a game or two per set. I'm not great, but good, and happy with my serve. And, I could teach my son to serve while he was still young enough to make it very useful. Without obsessing on the slo-mo's I never would have got it. End of confession.

A few years later (I had other things to take all my time) I did the same with the forehand. Pure copying after obsessive slo-mo watching. Very different understanding of what works. Very good result. "Too soon old, too late smart." Also too late -the internet. Yeah, I know, "post a video." I was going to do that 3.5 years ago, but came down with the big C. Friends dragged me onto the club courts and rehabilitated me. I'll get around to it in the summer. Laugh.
 
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