Shoulder Over Shoulder Serve Technique Explained

May 02

The shoulder over shoulder technique in a tennis serve is a term that coaches use often to describe the position of the shoulders at the contact point and immediately after it.

The reason this technique is so important to work on is that, in most cases, the players misinterpret what they see when other players are serving and therefore hit their serve incorrectly and very inefficiently.

Why Is Hitting Down So Common?

I believe there are two main reasons why so many players pull the arm and the shoulder down too quickly.

1. Using “pushing” as a main generator of force instead of transfer of momentum

If we want to move something heavy, like a sofa, we will use the “pushing” type of force where the more resistance we get, the more force will be needed to move the sofa.

That type of generating force is very natural to us, and it also makes us feel that we are really exerting a lot of effort.

We also feel in CONTROL of the racquet head, which of course is possible only when we move it relatively slowly and have a stiff wrist.

The other type of generating force is transfer of momentum, where we use acceleration and deceleration of body parts in a certain sequence in order to achieve the maximum acceleration of the last part in the kinetic chain.

This type of generating force is not that natural to us although we all use it unconsciously in certain situations – like when we throw an object or dust off an old cloth.

2. Misinterpreting the proper serve technique

Because the serve motion is very fast through the contact zone, our eyes cannot pick every little detail of the movement.

Therefore our eyes and brain SIMPLIFY what we perceive.

In most cases, in a fast serve, we will “see” these three images before, at, and after contact:

Roger Federer serve shoulders

This is all what we “see” when we observe a serve from a pro. Image credit:

Once we perceive these three images, we will try to move our body parts very quickly “through” these body positions in order to copy what the tennis pro does.

Since the last image shows the shoulders almost in a horizontal position, we will consciously or unconsciously try to move our shoulders in this position and therefore “push” our shoulders and arm down.

And therein lies the biggest mistake most tennis players make – you are not aware that what you see is not what really happens.

What you see is a simplification of the movement, and when you copy it, you find it strangely ineffective.

The reality of the serve is that it is based on the transfer of momentum.

While the whole body from the legs to the forearm is engaged in this process, the main one that you’re missing is the deceleration of the body in order to accelerate the arm.

Once you focus on the moment of contact and just after it, you can see something that you cannot really explain.

shoulder over shoulder serve

What really happens in that split second at contact and immediately after. Image credit:

As you can see in the image above, Federer’s arm has moved from the contact point to an almost horizontal position while his body position has NOT CHANGED.

That means he has decelerated his body and stopped it, and this has caused a transfer of momentum to his arm.

Since the arm is much lighter than the body, it needs to accelerate in order to preserve the momentum.

That is how a tennis player achieves very high speed of the serve in the most efficient way.

If you don’t really understand it, you will simply IGNORE this part and persist with your idea of generating force through pushing.

Hopefully with this deeper understanding of the transfer of momentum, the shoulder over shoulder serve technique is now easier to implement in your serve movement.

How To Implement The Shoulder Over Shoulder Technique

In my experience, most players are somewhat uncomfortable with keeping their head and shoulders tilted while the arm is moving forward.

This is an uncommon body position, and most players are anxious to see what happens with the serve and where the return is going to go.

In order to become more familiar with that body position, follow these steps:

1. Lie on the ground on the side (bench also works fine) and hit a few gentle serves in that position.

serve shoulder drill

I have used this exercise quite a few times with my students with very good success. They “got” the idea very quickly.

Get used to being tilted THROUGH the contact zone.

Of course, lying on the side is an exaggeration of what you want to achieve in the final serve technique, but it gives you a very good idea of what you’re looking for.

tennis serve head position

Keeping a head sideways (tilted) controls the axis of your shoulders

2. Hit a few serves while keeping your head and body tilted throughout the contact and the follow-through phase.

Again, you need to exaggerate the position and the time you stay sideways in order to get a really good feel of what needs to be done.

3. Eventually implement the shoulder over shoulder technique into your serve while serving with 50% of your speed and see if you can feel a transfer of momentum.

You need to feel that your arm is being thrown forward when you decelerate the body.

There is a split second when the body is not moving and the arm is accelerating.

Immediately after that, you release the body so that the arm pulls it and it starts moving again.

Because this happens quickly, even if you watch a serve in slow motion, you might miss this short moment and “conclude” that it is the body that keeps pushing forward throughout the serve.

In reality, the sequence is this:

  • The body initiates the movement and PULLS the arm.
  • The body decelerates and stops, and the arm is accelerated through the transfer of momentum.
  • The arm now pulls the body as it has momentum, and the body now allows the arm to pull it and starts moving again.

See if you can spot this sequence in this slow motion video of Roger Federer’s serve.

Look at the moment of impact.

Note how the body stops moving for a moment and how he MAINTAINS a slightly tilted position of his head and shoulders through the contact and part of the follow-through phase before he allows the arm to pull his body forward and complete the serve movement.

In a serve where there is no transfer of momentum, there is also no sequence.

It is simply one action:

  • The body is moving forward together with the arm, and they both aim to produce as much force as possible.

That’s it. That’s the process to which you have probably simplified your serve dynamics, and that’s why the recreational serve almost never breaks 150 km/h – and that’s why your shoulder hurts. 😉

In order to learn the transfer of momentum and a more effortless tennis serve, you’ll need to work on the shoulder over shoulder technique and try to feel what the transfer of momentum is.


You’ll also need to let go of control and not try to hit the court!

One of the main reasons your serve is still “locked” is that you always want to hit the ball in. In the process, you start to control, push, and steer the ball toward the target zone.

That way you’ll never develop an effortless serve.

An effortless and powerful serve needs a lot of repetition where you just work on the dynamics of the serve (and not on mechanics!), meaning you try to accelerate the racquet head in the most effortless way through transfers of momentum.

Here’s an great video showing the difference in speeds of the arm and the racquet head for Roger Federer’s second serve.

Most recreational tennis players who use the “pushing / muscling / steering” approach to hitting the ball will have the same speed of the arm and the racquet head…

If you want to discover more about developing a natural and effortless serve, take a look at Serve Unlocked video course, where I discuss many other mental and physical locks that hold you back and show you drills that enable you to unlock them to finally have an efficient and technically sound serve.

Leave a Comment:

(57) comments

JonC May 2, 2014

I figured out how to hit the serve right by pretending that I was throwing the racquet at the ball. I think the throwing automatically gives you the slowing body/accelerating arm motion and you don’t have to think about it. Why don’t you teach your students the throw idea – is there something more to it than a throw directed up and to the right? Maybe some students just don’t know how to throw a ball.

    Tomaz May 2, 2014

    Hi Jon,

    My students often times warm up with throwing balls and even throwing racquets on the nearby lawn.

    But as it is so often the case, a natural movement that we already have does not transfer well into tennis technique. Mostly because of the reasons I pointed out in the article.

    If you throw the ball forward, your shoulders will be horizontal which is what we don’t want. But yes, there will be deceleration.

    While players do almost a proper motion when they throw the ball upwards, they can’t really see how that transfers to serving downwards into the service box.

    It takes some mental gymnastics to accomplish that and understand it.

      Jon C May 2, 2014

      After watching the video (wasn’t working last night), I’m now wondering if my shoulders are actually horizontal. Going to have to video myself. Thanks Tomaz.

Aggie May 2, 2014

Tomaz thank you so much for this fascinating lesson – it’s the best explanation of staying up on the serve and ‘shoulder over shoulder’ I’ve seen. Is there some way of using a vision technique like ‘gaze’ i.e. leaving your eyes and head still and focused for as long as possible on a certain reference point, maybe contact through the back of the string bed, to accelerate getting a feel for what you are describing? I know this works on the ground-shots. Maybe you already mentioned this and I’m just repeating. And also I understand that even using ‘feel’ to improve tennis play still involves hard work and sometimes there is no quick fix. Thank you again – your coaching is superb.

Henry May 2, 2014

Hi Tomaz,

Another great article. Thanks!

Concerning the throwing motion though, why are there very few writings about throwing motion in tennis in general? After following and testing all the internet tips now for over two years I find that (especially for forehand but also serve somewhat) that when I simply attack the ball with the racket as if I would throw a tennis ball or snow ball then all my movements become extremely similar to the “modern” forehand without even thinking about it… Loading with the back leg the movement with my non hitting arm the rotation the movement forward and so on!!!

But at first I was simply following all these internet tips step by step feeling strange and unnatural. Now when I am thinking or feeling that my plan is simply to throw my racket against the ball (similar to throwing a flat stone on a lake for this jumping stone effect) then everything becomes MUCH simpler. Even my footwork and positioning relative to the ball improves amazingly. I guess not all people are able to throw balls with this natural leverage thing that happens with the elbow and the lower arm (I think guys find this easier than girls) and therefore tennis teachers have to break down the movement in a step by step fashion.

Anyway for me it would have been enough if someone would have told me to just throw the racket against the ball (or maybe throw the racket handle at the ball). I told a guy at my club about this and tested immediately and he started hitting with tremendous power almost immediately and now we are both basically fine tuning this “new” shot -trying to control it.

What do you make of all this?

    Tomaz May 2, 2014

    Spot on, Henry, I often say to my students to throw the racquet at or through the ball. It’s a very good feel based analogy for the forehand, backhand or serve technique.

    Yes, you need to fine tune it but the concept is right. Thanks for bringing it up.

    Juan April 16, 2015

    My first coach told me this exactly. Don’t “hit” the ball, instead “throw” the racket at the ball.

    I’m not an advanced player but so far, another benefit to hitting this way is that I’ve never had any serious arm/elbow/wrist injury when I remember to swing like this. It forces you to be loose.

Andrew May 2, 2014

Hi Tomaz,

Looks like technical difficulties: the first video is not playing.


    Tomaz May 2, 2014

    Not sure, why, please try again.

Jaroslav May 2, 2014

Hi Tomas,

I have got the same technical problem with the first video as mentioned by
Regards Jaro

Gene May 2, 2014

Tomaz, great job again! I’ve certainly tried to teach this to my students and some get it but most don’t. It’s definitely not a natural position for them. I will try this out and let you know how it goes. One thing I’ve started recently, inspired by your looseness techniques, is the “heavy” racket. I found that it wasn’t enough to tell people to loosen up but I the racket is heavy in your hands it tends to loosen the grip and they use more momentum to hit the ball. Have a great day!

Glenn Beinfest May 2, 2014


Once again, you have explained an aspect of the serve that the others missed. It makes such perfect sense. Can’t wait to try and implement your instruction and see a change in my serve. I always enjoy your approach to how things should “feel” with the different tennis strokes. Thanks for your efforts.

Henry May 2, 2014

Hi Tomaz,
I just wrote to you about throwing the racket against the ball on forehand which seems to work for me. The comment has not been official yet or maybe it never past the system. Since I can throw balls with a “guy-like” throw this way of learning is speed of light compared to step by step learning Bollitieri style etc load your back leg do this and this with your non-hitting arm rotate move forward etc etc. Since I can throw a ball it is easy to pretend that I am throwing a ball at the incoming ball except it is a tennis racket which is heavier and the contact point is displaced since the racket head is not the handle that I am throwing…

Anyway I also have thoughts about tracking the ball which should be important for perfect court positioning and superb timing. It seems to me that top players track the motion of the ball over the net very exactly by mimicking the opponents balls up-and down motion over the net with their both hands (non-hitting hand is measuring ball height and feels and positions the racket head face to incoming ball and hitting arm holding the handle is also tracking the ball height) and actually the so called “magical unit turn” consists actually of a tracking motion -which is 1000 times more important than the concept of “unit turn” -right? Different players start the tracking at different stages. Federer seems to start tracking roughly when the ball from the opponent has reached maximum height over net whereas Wawrinka tracks earlier before maximum ball height and Dolgolov tracks extremely late prior to impact.
Very few people write about this but focus rather on the “unit turn”. It is really annoying to realize that the take back should be nice and slow and follow the movement of the opponents ball over the net, rather than hasty “early preparation” and early racket take back which messes up the whole rythm of the stroke (for me at least). It seems to me that I can hit much harder and with more control when I calmly track the ball during racket take back and then in the final movement starts to move the racket forward to impact the ball.

What do you make of all this? Am I completely wrong?

Youre whole idea of feeling tennis really makes sense in so many ways to me.


    Tomaz May 2, 2014

    Hi Henry,

    The tracking of the ball is actually done mentally, so it’s not consciously done by hands or any other body part. What you see if just an expression of the body based on what happens in the mind.

    Yes, most club players track the ball only after the bounce hence no timing. You can get in the rhythm of the ball early which I wrote about before and that helps you track the ball more accurately.

    I’ll try to explain tracking in one of my future articles. But again, you cannot rely on what you read from the body of the pros because I am certain that they track the ball extremely well from the moment it leaves opponent’s racket. They just use different rhythms to respond to it.

      Henry May 2, 2014

      Thanks Tomaz,

      Read your link to the old article. I realize my question was answered by you way ago. Sorry for asking silly outdated questions you already covered brilliantly. I am new here..:)
      I love this forum. It is relaxed and down to earth and real. No circus tricks. I should go to Slovenia for some master class lessons!! 😀
      I just started playing tennis and I have so many questions and get so few sensible answers by coaches and you seem to have thought about these things for decades.
      Thanks a lot!

Graham May 2, 2014

Hi Tomaz.
You’ve done it again! An excellent explanation. I already have a pretty good kick serve thanks to all your previous tips but this is the cherry on the top. I was feeling my serves were just missing a bit of “bite”. I also noticed that there was no natural follow through but I could not understand why. I read your explanation and watched Federer a few times and rushed off to the court with my racquet and a bucket of balls. I was amazed, I quickly got the technique and I could really feel the increased acceleration of the racquet through the ball and a natural follow through.
All I can say is – Wow! thank you!

Joe May 2, 2014

Have not taken this to the court yet but am very excited. I make most of my serve mistakes into the net and have been accused of muscling the ball. The harder I try to hit the serve the more apt it is to go into the net. I’ve tried aiming higher, keeping my head up, keeping my tossing arm up etc. I will practice shoulder-over-shoulder. Logically what you say makes sense. I’ve found you to be the best online tennis instructor out there (and I follow quite a few). Tks for all the help you are imparting, I’ll keep you informed as to my progress (or lack thereof).

john May 2, 2014

Hi Tomaz,
Thank you for the email. Like andrew above, I can’t make the first video run, either from the link you sent, or from utube. The other links, however, work fine.
Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.

luke May 2, 2014

Tomaz, while I agree with the practical aspect of the above tips, I disagree with the dynamics analysis.
The reason the arm continues rotating when the body has almost stopped is the greater transfer speed of the hand-racket compared to the shoulder (even when their angular speed is the same). Moreover the hand-racket subsystem has an additional relative angular speed which makes the absolute speed difference even greater. In fact if we begin from the shoulder and up, there is a first added relative-angular speed at the elbow and a second one at the wrist.
Now, regarding the tranfer of momentum, imo this is not what happens when you ‘pause’ your body, because at that time your arm has already ‘left’ your body and they are no longer connected systems, so that momentum transfer can happen. They only become a connected system again when the arm begins pulling during the follow through.
In other words, at first, the body pulls the arm, then they move independently for a while and finally the arm is pulling the body because of the greater velocity it has reached.

    Tomaz May 3, 2014

    Hi Luke,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I don’t think arm ever “leaves” the body and becomes disconnected – and I know how transfer of momentum feels.

    Meaning, I know what I feel when I serve and I know that I distinctly feel I need to stop my body in order for arm to effortlessly accelerate.

    I also know how to serve “down” with effort straining my shoulder – the incorrect way.

    You can say there is a transfer of speed but I think that’s transfer of momentum. Since arm has less mass than body, it has to accelerate to preserve the momentum.

    The principles of all tennis strokes are the same as the principles of many other sports. The best explanation I found is this video on baseball that explains perfectly why smaller body parts needs to accelerate because bigger body parts decelerate.

Jim May 2, 2014

Thanks Tomaz! You would think that a former pitcher,an avid player and a certified tennis instructor would have the perfect serve by now,but that is not the case.
Lets see if your tip passes the test of time, but I now understand the somersaulting/cartwheel technique better. For me, maintaining the “tilt” longer resonated with me. Of course, I headed to a court- it works for me!

    Tomaz May 3, 2014

    Hey Jim,

    Sometimes we get bogged down with too much information as tennis coaches and we just need to tap into our natural skills to find how well they transfer into tennis.

    My 16 years of volleyball helps tremendously in terms of understanding more deeply what goes on when serving (spiking). 😉

John C May 3, 2014

Tomaz – I agree wholeheartedly with the ‘concept’ that you are addressing here – but in the vein of ‘keeping it simple’ that you so often and eloquently espouse – I just like to think of it as needing to ‘hit up’ on the ball as opposed to ‘hitting down’ into the court. I am a big proponent of ‘practice’ swings where it is really easy to focus on and feel when you are ‘on balance’ and both hear and feel when your swings (ground strokes and serve) achieve peak acceleration. And – as you often note – it’s the ‘balance’ between swinging naturally and freely and maintaining optimal balance during and after the swing – that produces repeatable shots and maximum racquet head speed and momentum transfer

With the serve – your balance can be thrown off a lot by your toss – but the shadow/practice swings – create muscle memory as to what you want to achieve. As you note in your article – I often get into the bad habit of trying to swing too hard and too fast – which actually results in coming through the contact point too fast and hitting down (as opposed to up) and muscling the swing – and which results in slower rather that faster racquet head speed.

I can usually find my proper rhythm again if I do some practice overhead swings – because you naturally adopt a more simplistic swing pattern on an overhead with your non-racquet hand ‘up’ to track the ball and your shoulders turned and angled up to hit the ball. When practicing my ‘overhead’ swing – I naturally think of swinging ‘up’ to hit the ball and I just think about swinging freely and not about swinging overly fast – with the result usually being a very balanced and free flowing swing up through the hitting zone – snapping off at the top – just as you demonstrate here in your video – and usually find it very easy to get the ‘feel’ of hitting up to the ball and finishing the swing very much on balance. I execute 2-4 of those abbreviated set-up overhead swings and then do 2-3 practice serves trying to mirror the same natural swing speed, swing path and weight transfer – coiling and uncoiling easily and naturally into the shot and always maintaining optimal balance.

Loose grip, loose arm, arch into the shot and swing up through the contact point. As long as I don’t swing too hard – I’ll almost automatically snap it off at the top of the swing without having to think about it at all. It will just happen naturally.

    John C May 4, 2014

    IMO – Sampras (perhaps the best server of all time) executed the technique that you are alluding to better than anyone

      Tomaz May 4, 2014

      Yes, he did actually. You can see how many body parts he has decelerated in order to accelerate the racquet head.

      That’s why you can still see the shoulder up, the elbow up and yet the racquet head is way down.

        John C May 4, 2014

        Tomaz – Sampras’ textbook ‘snap’ follow-thru is captured at the 32 second mark in the linked youtube video.

        of course – as you so often point out – Sampras’ textbook snap finish is really the ‘end result’ – I would say the ‘natural result’ of the other things that Sampras does so right on his serve.

        It happens because his grip, wrist, arm and shoulder are all very loose and fluid allowing him to generate lots of racquet head speed in the split second that his racquet accelerates from the ‘so called’ trophy position through the contact point at the top of the swing.

        It’s really the exact same motion that a baseball pitcher makes when throwing his fastball, except that for all of us who aren’t John Isner – we also need to hit ‘up’ a bit on the ball at the point of contact to generate the spin necessary for the ball to get over the net and still come down into the service box. Of course ‘hitting up’ isn’t as necessary when executing a sidespin/slice serve, but the loose grip, wrist, arm and shoulder are still the same.

        The bent arm upon ‘deceleration’ is a natural result of a very loose grip, wrist, arm and shoulder through the swing.

        The reality is that one’s racquet head both accelerates and decelerates faster – the looser your grip, wrist, arm and shoulder are. Unfortunately, most of us naturally tense up a bit (the grip, wrist, arm and shoulder) – the harder we try to hit the ball. As such – I often find that you can achieve better racquet head acceleration (and deceleration) but making a conscious effort to not swing too hard – and just keep everything loose.

        IMO – Sampras’ motion and follow through is more loose and fluid than Fed’s – which is why the ‘bent arm’ ‘deceleration’ on his follow through is more exaggerated than it is on Fed’s follow through. Pete coils and snaps up and into the point of contact and then just completely relaxes – it’s like a whip – where all the energy is released at the point of contact and then it just completely releases and relaxes – without any conscious effort or thought.

        BTW – an easy way to ‘experience’ the preferred ‘loose arm’ acceleration/ deceleration – is to execute an overhead or serve swing with a hammer or other ‘head heavy’ object. The weight of the hammer head pretty much forces you to ‘just let it go’ and not ‘muscle the swing’.

        With a racquet – I continue to believe that it helps if you execute ‘shadow/practice’ overhead swings – where you start out with the racquet in the tropy position. If you are having troubling grasping the ‘loose grip/loose wrist/loose arm’ concept – it also sometimes helps if you ‘choke up’ on the racquet when executing the practice swings – because the students won’t fear that the racquet will ‘fly out of their hands’.

          Tomaz May 5, 2014

          Spot on, John.

          You’re right about swinging a heavy object, even sticking a tennis ball in your racquet’s throat will do the trick to help feel the weight, swinging and momentum.

Robert May 3, 2014

This answered a question for me. As I worked on reconstructing my serving motion, the last thing I was able to incorporate was the cartwheel, which I think you term shoulder-over-shoulder, and without making it too long a story, I have only occasionally attained the feeling you describe as the body stopping, as you describe in the Federer clip — and those are times when the ball went out at good pace and just exploded off the court, that is when the serving motion produced very good action on the ball.
And along the way I found that my body did not like to be tilted at contact. On numerous occasions when I tossed the ball more to the left, I found my self not falling but kind of bounding to the left so that I could still hit it in a more straight up position. Now I have a much better concept and a feeling for what to do so that I can have more consistency, and keep making progress.

Dan May 3, 2014

Feels good when I get this correct. Is the forehand the same sort of feeling? The transfer of momentum ie. slowing my hand down before contact to allow the head to pick up speed?

    Tomaz May 4, 2014

    Hi Dan,

    Same principle yes, meaning slowing down the body so that the arm accelerates.

    In a more complex way there’s also decelerating upper arm so that the forearm accelerates where the “hinge” is the elbow.

    There’s not much going on in the wrist unless you’re hitting a buggy whip Nadal forehand.

    But yes, in principle there is also an acceleration of the hand at the last moment through wrist although most of the movement you see if done through forearm.

Oscar May 4, 2014

Wow! You’ve described my serve accurately … All wrong. I thought the body was supposed to pull the arm. No wonder I developed a severe tennis elbow. Thanks again for your insights. I’m excited to implement your instructions.

Kristina May 5, 2014

I can’t get the video to load on ipad/safari or pc/firefox/IE morning or night. On ipad it says there is an error…on PC it just keeps spinning and loading. USA.

On a different note, I tried the 4 tennis balls in a bag technique from the other video and I’m shocked I can’t repeat your motion even with the bag! Mine looks more like a lasso motion. It doesn’t look like I’m throwing the bag effortlessly forward. It looks like I’m lassoing the bag too far over my head and then swinging more of a circle. The more I relax the worse it is. I’m frustrated! I understand the concept of joining the 2 momentums with the turn but somehow cannot get my body to mimick it.

    Tomaz May 5, 2014

    Sorry about the video, Kristina, not sure why it doesn’t play for some. It must be something with youtube servers, hope it is resolved soon.

    As for the bag drill, try adding more balls in the bag just to make it heavier. The heavier the bag, the harder it is to go wrong.

      Kristina May 16, 2014

      More balls in the bag worked! Thank you and I will keep practicing. The video is now working as well.

Arturo Hernandez May 5, 2014

I really like the idea of my head being kind of crooked. I noticed that recently when serving that if I take my arms up I am kind of crooked when I look at the ball and that if I hit up I stay crooked. My head does not drop until much later.

I really like your drill of serving it from the ground.

Do you think it would work for a 9 year old girl or are they low enough to the ground already?

    Tomaz May 10, 2014

    Hi Arturo,

    Yes, it would work for a 9 year old girl. It’s not so much how low to the ground she is, it’s more about getting used to being tilted and staying tilted through the contact zone.

Richard Bowie May 7, 2014

I think this was a great serve tip, I think she might have struggled to maintain the shoulder over shoulder through contact and follow-through because she did not tuck her tossing arm well into the body.

Mario May 8, 2014

Thanks for the article Tomas. I’ve been working on a few aspects of my serve lately which has made it more consistent. I added emphasis of shoulder over shoulder and its improved my serve tremendously. I feel the seemless energy shift from body to arm and my serves are getting a much better trajectory (I used to hit the tape a lot due to the dropping shoulder).Previously I was conscious of keeping the shoulder up, but infact I was interpreting it incorrectly and my shoulder was too static. Once again you have explained technique in a wonderful way!

    Tomaz May 8, 2014

    So did you, Mario:”seemless energy shift from body to arm”. That’s transfer of momentum and that’s exactly what happens when you do it right.

Jon C May 8, 2014

After videoing my serve I saw that I was not coming shoulder over shoulder but shoulder around shoulder and I had a very poor trophy position (almost horizontal) – I would open the shoulders and bring the right shoulder forward horizontally. I found that the trick for me was to think of staying sideways while doing the throw motion (the shoulder comes through after contact with the release of the body) – it’s not the same throwing motion that you would use to throw a ball up because with the serve you feel like you’re throwing sideways (I was wrong about that all these years). It is the same as a throw in that you are whipping the arm like a throw. On a baseball throw, you step forward with the right foot – on the serve you want your left foot to lead. The left foot can only come first if you think about staying sideways. Thinking of staying sideways seems to improve all my strokes actually (fixes early rotation). Further, staying sideways on serve takes away any thought of trying to direct the ball into the court – which you must eliminate from your thinking if you’re doing it.

There is whole realm of mental tricks for tennis strokes which are a much better way to learn than the stroke-breakdown (unit turn, take back, etc.) method – it’s weird that more teachers don’t talk about them like Tomaz does – you might think about a book Tomaz, the market is wide open. I played basketball when younger and they teach shooting the ball with analogies not steps – some teach the jump shot as trying to shoot the ball out of a phone booth (makes you stay balanced and jump) and then reaching into a cookie jar (wrist snap) – weird but it worked.

    Jon C May 8, 2014

    I should add that I get more power and better contact when I serve in this new way – and it feels much better on my shoulder.

Al Griffith May 9, 2014

I cannot believe how much your shoulder over shoulder serve technique has improved my serves. I am getting my first serves in consistently, firmly and with ease. It reminds me of the Sampras snap that Roanic is presently using. Thanks for your great work. Al

    Tomaz May 10, 2014

    Thanks for stopping by, Al, keep in touch!

alan vawdrey May 27, 2014

Thankyou tomaz. As usual your explanations, and demonstrations, make it simpler to understand. I will certainly practice these techniques.

Dennis Prinos June 5, 2014

hello Tomaz,what a wonderfull and informative post on shoulder-over-shoulder serving technique. My question is do you recommend any thought to the tossing arm regarding the serve motion? would you recommend “tucking” the tossing arm in so as to stop the shoulders? Or as in the video it appears your tossing arm comes down further to allow your shoulders to “tumble”. thanks very much for the best info out there. keep up the great work.

scott allan May 12, 2015

Hi Tomaz. This is really informative, thank you. One question for you which may seem a little silly but it’s something i am struggling with. It relates to the opening of the body and dipping of the left shoulder on the serve. Does one initiate the hitting motion (i.e. when the racquet begins to go to towards the ball) by throwing the arm, or by dropping the left shoulder. And how do these relate to each other? What “feel” should i be looking for?

PS: To explain a coach here has told me i need to open my body up more on my serve, but as a feel player, i want to know what i should be feeling.

    Tomaz May 12, 2015

    Hi Scott,

    I think in this case you are trying to break down and analyze something that needs to happen very dynamically.

    If you just throw the ball with your hand, like a baseball pitch, can you tell with which part of the body you initiated?

    Or do you just want the ball to go fast?

    I suggest you simply feel the weight of the racquet and make it go fast, without telling your body parts how to do it.

    You should feel that you can generate good force and good acceleration.

      scott allan May 12, 2015

      Thanks Tomaz. As a former cricket player i am used to throwing the ball on a high loop. So i will seek to combine that with feeling the weight of the racquet – this is a great tip. Thanks so much for your advice and videos.

Sigurd June 2, 2015

Hi Tomaz,

great advice shoulder over shoulder for the serve! You recommend the same on the OH smash?


    Tomaz June 2, 2015

    Yes, one of most common misses with overheads is hitting into the net because the shoulders are leveling too quickly. The cause for that though is usually the head coming down too quickly so it’s not an isolated mechanical issue but also a mental one.

orlando June 29, 2015

Hello Thomas:
I think is much better technique to guarantee the shoulder-over-shoulder rotation, to point the left shoulder towards the right net post for right-handers. The tossing is also more accurate this way. That is what Sampras used to do.
June 28/2015

    Tomaz June 29, 2015

    Thanks for a good tip, Orlando!

      maurizio November 9, 2015

      HI Tomasz
      can you explain in more details what Orlando suggested ? That is to pointi the left shoulder towards the right net post : what does tha mean exactly ?

Arun s August 18, 2015

The Tennis serve is the most complex stroke in any racket sport. It is great when you break it down with references to your body’s position w/head tilted etc. during the course of the serve. Vids of Roger Federer’s technically flawless delivery are very helpful.
Doing several overhead volleys at the net prior to doing the serve or teaching it from the baseline is what I recommend. Now the only thing to be added in is the toss. Usually they transition from overhead to serve fairly easily and quickly. Different people improve at their own comfort level. From the baseline the serve now needs more weight transfer and power.
The athletically inclined are usually quicker to improve.
Some people are more visually geared and can pick it up by watching it e.g. on video etc.
Others like it to be explained on court and guided through it and so on.
One thing that’s common to everyone is that they all like to be told they’re getting the hang of it. Be sincere when you say it though.

jackie August 4, 2016

The best serve technique breakdown I have viewed! it deals with pronation in a very simple and clear way(which is what most club level players lack). What the eye cannot see even in super slow motion serves is this important tilt and acceleration of the arm and wrist through the ball while body remains tilted and relatively sill. Excellent. Cleaner hits and less net shots AND a lot more pace! I notice your student was tossing more for a topspin serve initially. i would imagine with the tilt (shoulder over shoulder) the toss would want to naturally go back so maybe she was tilting too soon?

    Tomaz August 4, 2016

    Thanks for the kind feedback, Jackie.

    The student was just going down from the tilt too soon so I was helping her feel the tilt position with some exaggerations.

      Jackie August 5, 2016

      does the leg drive also complicate the tilt somewhat? seems the position of the head while arm comes through for contact is the most important part of ensuring pronation ? We all want to turn into it squaring the shoulders which actually slows down the arm? My coach used to call all the boys over to show them how far and fast I could throw a ball but i was never taught the same principle on my serve which should have been my biggest weapon had i learned this

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