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post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 02:50 AM Thread Starter
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Developing a real serve at 18

When I was like 13, just starting tennis, I had a weird, but semi-real serve. Then I somehow broke a rib playing tennis and sort of abandoned it.
Since then, I have had a "pancake serve." It is like I am a 12 year old 3.0 level player based on form alone, but it has actually gotten acceptably good. I play D3 college tennis, played top 6 this last year, played disappointingly badly but stayed top 6 all year. Still with a serve like a 6 year old. I had a player (who beat me 6-0 6-1) tell me he'd never seen a pancake serve be as good as mine.

But I do recognize it is not right, and can't get better really. So I am trying to develop an actual serve. I have some coaching from someone who I am actually better than, but who has a real serve. I will try and upload a video of my efforts soon. It's progressed pretty well, allows me to get much more spin and hit a much better second serve but it's still unreliable and double faults infinitely more than the old one. So please help.

I will try and post a video of my new work-in-progress serve tomorrow.

Here is a youtube video of 15 year old me (I am about to turn 19 now) hitting a serve- I will try to find a newer one soon. It, and the rest of my game, has progressed quite a bit since then, but the form sadly isn't much better.



Matosevic, Hanescu, Lorenzi, Kukushkin, Chiudinelli, Gulbis, Bozoljac, Gabashvili, Hernych, Brown, Garcia-Lopez, Rosol, Zeballos, Istomin, Kohlschreiber, Tursunov, Robert, Gonzalez, Monaco, Thiem, Seppi

Last edited by emotion; 04-20-2014 at 04:16 PM.
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post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 05:11 PM
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

I am hardly Karlovic myself, but the first thing you need is the continental grip, then add some slice and spin.

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post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 08:20 PM
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

My god, that serve

You must have a heck of a baseline game to compensate.

Have you tried studying videos of Tsonga? He looks like he had somewhat of a pancake serve.
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post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 08:30 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

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My god, that serve

You must have a heck of a baseline game to compensate.

Have you tried studying videos of Tsonga? He looks like he had somewhat of a pancake serve.
I do have a pretty damn good baseline game. Have to, as I start on the defensive on basically every return point and every second serve point... I have really good anticipation (my greatest strength) and good speed. When I'm on my forehand just doesn't miss from any position and can generally get to neutral off any shot. My backhand isn't great by any stretch but well, I just don't hit very many of them. But it's not good enough to make up for the serve. Lesser opponents I can grind down, but I'm just constantly on the defense against anyone better- I am the king of embarrassing losses. I beat the guy who played above me on our team 6-1 6-0, but if I play a set with someone he can get to 4-6 with, it's 0-6 for me. I resolved to get an actual one in the off season, because we are getting better players next year and I'm in danger of not being top 6 next year.

The serve is better now, it's not that bad anymore. I am about to go try and hit some, will try and take a video if I can. Actually, Tsonga is basically the one player in the top 10 whose serve I haven't looked at at all in the past week. Will do that now.

I've hesitated to put a vid of my serve on here for some time because it's just so bad. Makes Groove look like Isner.



Matosevic, Hanescu, Lorenzi, Kukushkin, Chiudinelli, Gulbis, Bozoljac, Gabashvili, Hernych, Brown, Garcia-Lopez, Rosol, Zeballos, Istomin, Kohlschreiber, Tursunov, Robert, Gonzalez, Monaco, Thiem, Seppi

Last edited by emotion; 04-20-2014 at 08:35 PM.
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post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 11:17 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

Third day of trying to make a real serve



Matosevic, Hanescu, Lorenzi, Kukushkin, Chiudinelli, Gulbis, Bozoljac, Gabashvili, Hernych, Brown, Garcia-Lopez, Rosol, Zeballos, Istomin, Kohlschreiber, Tursunov, Robert, Gonzalez, Monaco, Thiem, Seppi
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post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-20-2014, 11:56 PM
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

That's a very bizarre service motion . You seem to slice it a lot you might get some joy with it but I think a lot of people will crucify it . You seem to chop the ball , some are pretty fast to be fair . You could get it so much better if you just hit the ball down into the court instead of chopping at it . Your taking away a lot of power , at 18 thought this is no biggie . I am sure you could get some success with it .

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post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-21-2014, 02:05 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

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That's a very bizarre service motion . You seem to slice it a lot you might get some joy with it but I think a lot of people will crucify it . You seem to chop the ball , some are pretty fast to be fair . You could get it so much better if you just hit the ball down into the court instead of chopping at it . Your taking away a lot of power , at 18 thought this is no biggie . I am sure you could get some success with it .
Yeah, like I said, this is my third day with a motion that is even a tennis serve motion at all. Very much a work in progress. Thanks for advice, though I was planning on learning to spin it well first before adding pace- funny because my old serve (one in OP) got to where it was pretty fast, but had zero spin ever.



Matosevic, Hanescu, Lorenzi, Kukushkin, Chiudinelli, Gulbis, Bozoljac, Gabashvili, Hernych, Brown, Garcia-Lopez, Rosol, Zeballos, Istomin, Kohlschreiber, Tursunov, Robert, Gonzalez, Monaco, Thiem, Seppi
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post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-21-2014, 03:20 AM
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

Ask someone with a decent service motion to hand-hold you through the serve. It will be embarassing but worth it.

Though it's much faster than your old serve.
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post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-21-2014, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

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Ask someone with a decent service motion to hand-hold you through the serve. It will be embarassing but worth it.

Though it's much faster than your old serve.
That's more or less what I'm doing. He deemed that one acceptable though not ideal (though he's no expert, he is someone with a pretty enormous serve). Main thing he changed was my grip which was very incorrect and is now more mildly so.



Matosevic, Hanescu, Lorenzi, Kukushkin, Chiudinelli, Gulbis, Bozoljac, Gabashvili, Hernych, Brown, Garcia-Lopez, Rosol, Zeballos, Istomin, Kohlschreiber, Tursunov, Robert, Gonzalez, Monaco, Thiem, Seppi
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post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-21-2014, 08:59 PM
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

A couple of progressions:

1. Practise your throwing motion at first. Just throw 150-200 tennis balls from the "trophy position" and make sure the angles of your non-hitting hand and hitting hand are correct before throwing each ball.

2. You need to switch to continental grip (see this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJCyMldkGM8). It's a must, if you want to have an effective serve.

3. Practise your serve by starting from the trophy position. Don't practise the full motion, but focus on your upper body and the correct throwing motion (don't use your legs at all at first). See this video for instance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9QU8_pAVTM. I'd say stick with this one, until you can do it fluently. Mastering this will also require a consistent ball toss and I'd say you should work on that as well (see this for more information https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnG4txyeBaM).

4. I'm not even going to explain the last progression because I seriously recommend that you'll work on the first three progressions at first.

But I'm sure you can do this. You'll struggle and be unsuccessful at first but eventually you will improve. It just takes hard work and a lot of high-quality repetitions.

Last edited by The Hands; 04-21-2014 at 09:04 PM.
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post #11 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-22-2014, 02:48 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

Another day of attempting to refine- largely focused on grip correction and also a higher ball toss. It's slow AF though at the moment. Just hit serves for an hourish and then played a bit. Seeing this bit on video made me realize how ugly my other strokes are as well. It's hard to make a one-handed backhand angle winner ugly, but I actually even manage that at 0:55




Matosevic, Hanescu, Lorenzi, Kukushkin, Chiudinelli, Gulbis, Bozoljac, Gabashvili, Hernych, Brown, Garcia-Lopez, Rosol, Zeballos, Istomin, Kohlschreiber, Tursunov, Robert, Gonzalez, Monaco, Thiem, Seppi
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post #12 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-22-2014, 05:52 AM
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

1. Don't worry about hitting the ball hard and focus on getting the motion right. Don't even worry about getting the ball in the service box - get it over the net at first.

2. If you want to copy someone's serve, copy Serena Williams' - that's a bomb-proof serve. John Isner's is a nice simple serve as well.

3. Have someone show you the Continental Grip because you are NOT using it when you serve, even in your "Tennis shit #2" video (if you can bounce the ball with your racket without cocking your wrist awkwardly, you do not have the continental grip). Yeah, it may feel weird initially and yeah, you will want to drift back to your old serve grip, but you should fight the tendency. Eventually Continental will feel natural on serve (and volleys).

4. Slow down your ball toss. Right now you're flinging the ball up. You want to gently place the ball where you want to hit it - having a straight tossing arm helps reduce variability. Practice the ball toss until you can get it to consistently peak at the same height and land at the same spot (place a bucket there to catch the balls). I suggest doing this with the correct shoulder tilt and racket hand up to reinforce the proper trophy position.

5. You need to simplify your service motion - there are way too many things going on and they change with each serve. Forget your feet for now, forget the backswing; start at the trophy position. Toss the ball then reach up towards it so that you are fully extended. (The first few times you might want to try to hit the ball over the fence - this is harder to do than you'd think specially as you have a tendency to let the ball drop too low on your serve.) You can play effectively with this kind of abbreviated serve. You can add the knee bend and hip tilt later on.

6. Don't think you can fix your serve in a matter of weeks. When my serve grip was changed from Eastern forehand to Continental, my coach and I worked on it all summer constantly adjusting and reinforcing the correct grip - and I didn't have near as many issues with my serve as you do. When my service motion was analyzed and compared to Azarenka's the worst the pro could say was that my knee-bend wasn't as deep and I didn't land as far into the court.
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post #13 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-22-2014, 12:16 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

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1. Don't worry about hitting the ball hard and focus on getting the motion right. Don't even worry about getting the ball in the service box - get it over the net at first.

2. If you want to copy someone's serve, copy Serena Williams' - that's a bomb-proof serve. John Isner's is a nice simple serve as well.

3. Have someone show you the Continental Grip because you are NOT using it when you serve, even in your "Tennis shit #2" video (if you can bounce the ball with your racket without cocking your wrist awkwardly, you do not have the continental grip). Yeah, it may feel weird initially and yeah, you will want to drift back to your old serve grip, but you should fight the tendency. Eventually Continental will feel natural on serve (and volleys).

4. Slow down your ball toss. Right now you're flinging the ball up. You want to gently place the ball where you want to hit it - having a straight tossing arm helps reduce variability. Practice the ball toss until you can get it to consistently peak at the same height and land at the same spot (place a bucket there to catch the balls). I suggest doing this with the correct shoulder tilt and racket hand up to reinforce the proper trophy position.

5. You need to simplify your service motion - there are way too many things going on and they change with each serve. Forget your feet for now, forget the backswing; start at the trophy position. Toss the ball then reach up towards it so that you are fully extended. (The first few times you might want to try to hit the ball over the fence - this is harder to do than you'd think specially as you have a tendency to let the ball drop too low on your serve.) You can play effectively with this kind of abbreviated serve. You can add the knee bend and hip tilt later on.

6. Don't think you can fix your serve in a matter of weeks. When my serve grip was changed from Eastern forehand to Continental, my coach and I worked on it all summer constantly adjusting and reinforcing the correct grip - and I didn't have near as many issues with my serve as you do. When my service motion was analyzed and compared to Azarenka's the worst the pro could say was that my knee-bend wasn't as deep and I didn't land as far into the court.
2. I'm not really trying to copy one at the moment, just get something in with a correct grip
3. I'm not bouncing the ball with the same grip I'm serving with. I know it's odd, but I'm just used to bouncing the ball that way. Of course, I'm sure the actual service grip still has issues.
4. I actually did that a bit yesterday. This is actually the improved version. I've always had major issues with ball toss.
5. Thanks, I'll try that
6. Yeah, I know it's going to take a while to make anything with even semi-correct form actually be acceptable as a serve. Yesterday I had 15 double faults in a 6-3 6-2 win I'm planning on going to an actual coach in a week or two (after exams) and getting further help from him

Thanks for all the help by the way



Matosevic, Hanescu, Lorenzi, Kukushkin, Chiudinelli, Gulbis, Bozoljac, Gabashvili, Hernych, Brown, Garcia-Lopez, Rosol, Zeballos, Istomin, Kohlschreiber, Tursunov, Robert, Gonzalez, Monaco, Thiem, Seppi
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post #14 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-06-2014, 02:30 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

I worked on it a bit with a coach, it's better form now, much simpler motion. But tons of doubles and serving about 30% still. Channeled Johnny Groove and lost to a 15-year-old girl 0-6 0-6 1-6 today (she's top 5 in the state for her year, okay?!) and I had tons of doubles. Don't even think I ever had game point though I had like 10 BPs (awful conversion) and it seemed to get worse as the match went on. Ball toss seems a major issue, and when I get tired it gets even wilder.



Matosevic, Hanescu, Lorenzi, Kukushkin, Chiudinelli, Gulbis, Bozoljac, Gabashvili, Hernych, Brown, Garcia-Lopez, Rosol, Zeballos, Istomin, Kohlschreiber, Tursunov, Robert, Gonzalez, Monaco, Thiem, Seppi
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post #15 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-06-2014, 04:13 PM
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Re: Developing a real serve at 18

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I worked on it a bit with a coach, it's better form now, much simpler motion. But tons of doubles and serving about 30% still. Channeled Johnny Groove and lost to a 15-year-old girl 0-6 0-6 1-6 today (she's top 5 in the state for her year, okay?!) and I had tons of doubles. Don't even think I ever had game point though I had like 10 BPs (awful conversion) and it seemed to get worse as the match went on. Ball toss seems a major issue, and when I get tired it gets even wilder.
I'll give you one tip with the ball toss that worked for me: look at the space where you want the ball to be when you toss (basically the contact point) and only hit the ball when it's there. This way you only hit the good tosses. If you look at Djokovic specially, you'll see he's not looking at the ball during the toss but at the location where he wants the ball to end up.

ETA: also relax when you serve. i know it's difficult when all you can think about is not double-faulting. what i usually do is loosely my racket (still continental grip) and kind of sway it back and forth with my wrist limp, arm relaxed while on the line. it's just a reminder what loose relaxed muscles feel like and it loosens me up.

Last edited by T.C; 05-06-2014 at 04:23 PM.
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