Stroke Mechanics: Serve
Published May 05, 2010 03:12
The most important single shot and the strongest "weapon" in the Tennis Game is the Serve. It permits the player to assert control over how the game unfolds, as the serve dictates how a particular return shot must be made. A successful serve is the product of a kinetic linkage that begins with the ground and ends with the impact of the ball.
Have a close look at the following service technique tips to make your serve a strong point of your game!
"Off the ground…"
• A stable start position permits an effective response to the next shot from your opponent: the front foot is parallel to the base line with the back foot behind it, either a step back or tucked under.
• 50 - 54 % of the force in your racquet comes from the ground: bend your knees at least 10 degrees for adequate push off as you toss the ball and counter rotate your hip/trunk for a synchronized movement pattern.
• The engine for force development is hip/trunk counter rotation: the hip furthest from the net counter rotates toward the net in a sit-back motion.
• Proper arm position driven by trunk rotation allows even greater force generation: the shoulder blade is pulled down and back with the arm following into the cocked position (avoid hyperextending it), then moving to a straight arm overhead at ball contact.
• The upward drive from a strong back-leg push off puts power and speed behind the racquet as the arm directs the ball: finish the serve with long arm rotation to control ball placement and spin but be cautious not to waste energy by holding your racquet too tightly in your hand.
"The more Technique you have the less you have to worry about it." (Pablo Picasso)
Read your opponent, consider the court surface, analyze your best serve and choose the best technique for you:
• Push through: drive from the legs to push the body up and over the ball
Good use of the ground—push off from back leg
Leg drives arm up, into the ball
Non-dominant hip is stable point for rotation
Efficient force production
Allows good arm position
Typically a Top Spin serve
• Pull Through: trunk motion pulls arm up and around the ball
Limited to no use of the ground
Limited bending of knees
Both hips face the net
Trunk flexes and side bends while rotating away
Body pulls arm into the ball, difficult to achieve good position
Typically a slice serve
• Kick: Use of ground to jump up and come over the ball—typically used to enhance push- through technique.
Improper technique and inadequate physical conditioning create a high risk for injury. Concentration on your physical work out (eg: core stability exercises) and technique development and refinement are essential in your preparation. Common injuries related to the service stroke include:
• Lumbar spine and pelvis dysfunctions (low back pain)
• Abdominal muscle strains (typically on the non-dominant side)
• Thigh and hip strains
• Shoulder strains or impingement
Find Your Base
To get the best foundation for your most successful serve, work with your coach, fitness coach, physical therapist, and /or certified athletic trainer to meet the following physical requirements:
• Maintain a good range of motion of both ankle joints--possibly limited by tight calf muscles which should be stretched regularly.
• Maintain good flexibility of your hips, your low back and your upper trunk (thoracic spine) with specific stretching exercises and if needed mobilization of the joints.
• Increase your core strength with training such as pilates and be sure that you include both concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) abdominal muscle strengthening to protect you during the extension of your trunk when you toss the ball.
• Strengthen and dynamically s warm-up both your hamstring and quadriceps (front and back of your thigh) muscles to decrease the risk of strains during the push off and landing of the serve.
• Have your coach or athletic trainer video tape your serving motion and analyze it together to determine how to adapt your technique to reduce your risk for injury and improve your performance. Based on this information, visualize how you want your serve to look before you hit the court to serve.
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