Gerry has contacted me recently to do a tennis serve analysis for him and since he is a lefty, I found a clip of another lefty who in my opinion is one of the most talented servers out there – Feliciano Lopez.
If you want to study the serve in tennis, then make sure you study Feliciano’s fluid and effortless service motion that produces tremendous ball speed without much effort.
Gerry mentioned in his email that he believes that his hand is too far from the head when he is in the trophy position and that this may be the reason why he doesn’t get a good racquet drop.
I suggested that it’s because he activates his arm too early. So take a look at the video below, make sure to pause in the sections where I have added some text and then proceed to my analysis below.
Here are my first thoughts after I sent the video to Gerry:
I think your motion is fine. Perhaps you are thinking too much about the trophy position and try to reach it or find it, so you stop to “observe”.
As for your racquet drop, it’s ok. It’s not as Lopez but it’s far from being bad.
The reason why the racquet drop is not deep is because you are activating “strength” too early. I’d say that 90% of the service motion is very comfortable without any straining.
The power comes only at the last moment and it is not through strength but more through pulling and accelerating.
Don’t think “hitting hard”, think “swinging fast and loose” and through the ball, not at the ball. Try the drill with the racquet with no strings.
Swing many many times through the ball and look for comfort and nice speed of the racquet. Do the same with the strings and DON’T aim, just swing through the ball straight.
Also, as I said in my analysis, serve many many serves without aiming into the court. Just serve horizontal, far, and let it go. (perhaps 50-100 per day)
There is too much “aiming” into the court in your serve and it is locked. You create a lot of strength / force before contact but at contact and a moment after your are not swinging any more but rather
you’re stopping and you’re trying to control the face of the racquet so that the ball will go in.
See the video in Unlocking your Mind on how to deal with that. (by this I mean the section in my Serve Unlocked video instruction course)
Gerry replied with his thoughts and I wanted to point out this one:
“You are much move positive about my serve then I. Guess I am so focused on “correct” technique that I do not see some things I do OK. As an example you do not seemed concerned that my racquet hand is set so far back from my head. This surprises me since it limits my racquet head drop.”
And these were my final thoughts on Gerry’s serve:
You mention the racquet hand positioned far away from the head:
Pause this video at 0:17:
You’ll see how far the hand is from the head.
The distance does not create the problem of a “shallow” racquet drop, your tension does. Meaning your feel that you have to hit with the arm.
So when the arm is tense, it won’t “dangle” that deep.
These top pros completely let go of the arm so the arm is swinging around their body as if you were swinging a whip or a lasso.
Only at the last moment they activate the arm, but before that they use momentums to swing it around.
A good angle to see this is from 0:26 onwards here:
The racquet is thrown into the ball, or even better, into the swing and not “pushed” as the feel would be when we want to be strong and “hit hard”.
The key problem for all servers is to re-conciliate between this loose throw which gives us very little control (at first) and the desire to put the ball in.
See, you need to swing thousands of times if not tens of thousands of times to allow your body and brain to figure out how to put the ball in while you’re “just swinging” and not controling the racquet face.
What most club players do is what they have to do – they need to put the ball in. So they sacrifice the free swing for control.
You may think that pros do the same except better, but it’s not so.
I can tell you this because I think I have a good serve and I can tell you from my experience and feels that I don’t do what you do, “except better”.
I do something very different – I throw the racquet with full speed through the ball and let go almost completely. Not completely, but very close.
And because I have been playing volleyball for 16 years I developed a free swing while spiking and training. I also played a lot of tennis where I was not under pressure like playing friendly matches with my friends.
So even though I wanted to win I was still willing to experiment with my serve.
Because of my good swing I would occasionally (maybe in 10%) hit a really good serve and that encouraged me to keep swinging even though I was missing a lot.
Through thousands and thousands of serves the percentage went up to probably 90% on the second serve eventually where I am still swinging almost freely.
I did not sacrifice a free swing for the control – but that’s the main problem I see with club players – hence Serve Unlocked course.
Your serve needs to be unlocked, freed. You need to swing and throw because that motion is natural and inside of you. What is stopping you is the desire to hit the court.
It may seem logical but it won’t work. You can’t develop a good swing if you really really want to hit the ball in the court.
So it’s best to have no targets and just hit many balls and FEEL the connection in your body. Feel the power that goes into the ball while you swing effortlessly.
You first need to find this through lots of free hitting. Once you do, you’ll know what it is.
Then you’ll RETAIN this feel even when you aim into the court and you’ll feel when the control takes over and starts to slow down your arm.
Then you’ll be on the right path to improve your serve even more.
Sure, you can polish the 10-15% technique that is not perfect but that WILL NOT make your serve fly.