The tennis serve is a shot that begins the point no matter who is serving. In professional tennis, holding serve is a normal routine – and the game really becomes more about trying to dictate play on your opponent’s serve, rather than worrying about trying to hold serve. At the club and recreational level, this is often not the case.
Many club players struggle with their tennis serve because they lack the fundamental technique they need in order to hit a better and more powerful serve. No matter how you put it, a better serve can make a big difference at any level of play.
One of The Best Tennis Serve Models is Federer
For any club player or elite player, I recommend you to study Federer’s serve. Roger Federer’s serve is a classic example of a fluid, circular wind-up that closely resembles the throwing mechanics of a pitcher.
And if you want to improve your serve, you need to take at least a few elements of his serving technique and put them into your own game.
Federer’s serve shares many of the same commonalities of all world class servers. That begins with Federer using a continental grip and maintaining that grip all the way into the follow through.
During the preparation, Federer’s racket is on edge with the tossing hand holding the ball at the throat of the racket. The left foot faces around a 45 degree angle pointing toward the net post. Essentially, Federer is looking at the target service box in preparation to serve.
One key notable point about Federer’s serve is that his motion is smooth and circular. Federer’s serve motion consists of a gradual wind-up with a slow and deliberate pick up of speed. His arm moves slowly up and then suddenly accelerates like a “whip.”
If you watch Federer’s serve in slow motion, the arm and racket slowly moves through a circular motion, similar to a throwing action.
One of the most important pieces of a world class tennis serve is the loading phase. On a pro tennis serve, the loading phase consists of a full & deep knee bend, with the torso rotated (or coiled) away from the net. This movement shares some similarities to baseball, where pitchers turn their body away from the target slightly.
- In essence, Federer’s coils his body, and turns his torso away from the court, allowing him to add additional spring action combined with a deep knee bend.
Federer utilizes what is called the platform stance, where both of his feet are separated during the coiling phase. Regardless of the starting stance, the important point is to properly coil and prepare the body for the upward swing to contact.
At the top of Federer’s wind-up he gets into the trophy position. This position gets its name from the body position in many typical tennis trophies. Check the “ATP” logo to see what I mean. This is very important… Most club players never reach a perfect trophy position.
In the trophy position, the body should be fully coiled, with the torso facing somewhat towards the back fence. Pete Sampras did this really well.
The hitting arm should also resemble an “L” shape which is optimal for generating power.
Here, we can see Roger Federer in the trophy position. Notice, the tossing arm is fully extended, helping to assist the coiling phase.
Racket Drop Position
Once the racket/body gets into the trophy position, there needs to be a dropping of the racket, where the tip of the racket points to the floor prior to the upward swing. Some pros loosely call this position the “back scratch” position, although, the racket never really touches the back.
This element is a major key of a world class serve, because as the racket drops seconds before contact, it builds up potential energy. In other words, this drop increases the amount of forward and upward velocity of the racket once Federer goes up towards contact.
Federer’s contact point is slightly in front, with the hitting arm fully extended. By the time Federer makes contact with the ball, his body has uncoiled and unleashed the stored energy that he had previously generated through the use of a body coil and at the height of the trophy position.
Once contact is made, all top servers (including Federer) pronate their forearm as part of the follow through. Though if all the previous elements are in place, this should happen fairly naturally. Pete Sampras was a great model for ideal pronation. Pronation is a sign that the player has successfully gotten full torque and wrist action going into the serve.
During the follow through, Federer finishes with his body inside the court. This indicates that Federer’s momentum is moving forward and into the court, which is important especially for the first serve – as well as for generating additional velocity on the serve. Typically, the racket will finish on Federer’s left side.
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Roger Federer’s serve is a great example for tennis players to emulate at every level of the game. His serve is a combination of smoothness, fluidity and elegance – similar to the rest of his game. Federer’s classic serve motion may be etched in the minds of tennis fans as an iconic figure that has brought the tennis world to new heights.
This article was written by Coach Ed of Optimum Tennis.