The Serves Of Pete Sampras & Andy Roddick
The Serves of Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick
By Rick Macci
One motion is a classic, the other is setting a trend. The styles may differ, but both serves more than get the job done.
The subtle differences in the way a player may stand or take the racquet back when he serves is a matter of individual style. Anything goes, as long as it’s not detrimental to the result. Sampras and Roddick have completely different styles when it comes to their serves, but at the moment of truth—contact—everything hits the mark exactly as it should. That’s why they’re two of the best servers the pro game has seen in the past 20 years.
1. FEET » Sampras has a nice wide base on his serve with his feet flat on the court. He uses more of a platform stance than Roddick, and, other than coming up off his heels, doesn’t alter the positioning of his feet during his motion. But he still gets great weight transfer into the serve.
2. KNEES » At this point in the delivery, Sampras doesn’t have much of a knee bend. His motion is longer and more deliberate than Roddick’s and it will take Sampras a bit more time to start to push down. But don’t let this picture fool you; Sampras has a terrific knee bend.
3. RACQUET HEAD » The length of the backswing is one of the obvious differences between Sampras and Roddick. Here you see that Sampras has dropped his racquet down at the beginning of his serve. It’s a very smooth and rhythmic motion. While his racquet speed is extraordinary, it’s the result of a gradual buildup of momentum.
4. SHOULDERS » One of the great features of the Sampras serve is the coiling of his shoulders and upper body. His back is practically facing his opponent. You don’t want to turn too much on the serve, as that can disrupt your timing, but you need to create torque with body rotation in order to get the most out of your delivery. Sampras strikes the right balance.
5. LEFT ARM » The left arm is completely straight as Sampras stretches to properly place the toss. It also shows what great elasticity and flexibility he has in his motion. He’s in what I call the power position—there’s a nice incline in the shoulders and you could practically draw a straight line from his left arm through to his right leg.
1. FEET » Once he tosses the ball and pushes down, Roddick almost immediately gets up on his toes. He positions his feet closer together than Sampras does, but other than shifting his front foot back a bit in the beginning stages of his motion there isn’t much movement. This is what’s comfortable to him, just as many players serve extremely well by dragging their back foot forward.
2. KNEES » Roddick gets into his knee bend much faster and earlier than Sampras does. It’s a very quick and hard push down that enables Roddick to explosively spring up to the ball. It also gives his serve a herky-jerky and violent appearance that belies the fluidity and relaxation in his swing.
3. RACQUET HEAD » When I worked with 12-year-old Andy Roddick, the backswing on his serve was very much like Sampras’. Today, the trademark of the Roddick serve, other than its overwhelming power, is that his racquet goes up with the toss. The backswing is practically nonexistent. Many players seem to like that it’s more compact and less complicated than the Sampras motion.
4. SHOULDERS » Roddick has a slightly less dramatic shoulder turn than Sampras. His right shoulder drops below his left, ensuring the shoulder-over-shoulder motion that occurs on his serve. Players need to understand that to maximize the consistency and speed of the serve you need an upward motion (like throwing a javelin).
5. LEFT ARM » Since his motion is shorter than Sampras’, Roddick has a slightly lower toss. Although his left hand is turned out more than Sampras’, both of their arms are completely straight and their wrists are locked. This leads to a more accurate and reliable toss. When there’s bend in the wrist, that’s when the toss tends to be difficult to control.