2 Hours to a Much More Powerful and Consistent Tennis Serve

Stanford Tennis Serve

I’ve been struggling to improve my serve for at least a couple of years now. After watching countless instructional videos on YouTube and practicing the various techniques I finally found one that really works – Pro Tennis Lessons – Ultimate Serve by Tommy Tran.

It’s just under two hours long, but give yourself some time to sit down and watch the entire thing – it’ll be worth your while. After watching a practicing Tran’s tips – and I’ve really only been practicing them for 2-3 months – I have seen a very noticeable increase in both my serve speed and consistency.

I’m particularly fond of the exercise, starting about 32 minutes into the video:

Image: “Stanford Tennis Serve” by joel. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Yet Another Stupid Professional Tennis Idea

You want to know how to improve tennis ratings and popularity, I’ll tell you:

  1. Reduce the number of tournaments and lengthen the major tournaments. Grand Slams should last 3 weeks and second level events should last 2 weeks.
  2. Add lights on the courts at all of these events. I mean really, how much does it cost to light some courts.
  3. Schedule big name players in prime-time matches. These will have to be tape-delayed of course for fans not in the same region, but the matches should be broadcast in primetime in all cases.
  4. Do back stories on players other than those ranked among the top 5.
  5. Promote doubles players. You have an entire sport of professional athletes that are basically being ignored. And in doubles there are break-ups, reconciliations, and most likely there are even a few romances. Not to mention most club players play doubles. This is great stuff that is currently being under exploited.

And what shouldn’t you do? Dream up another league idea that isn’t going to go anywhere.

Two Sports That Create Good Tennis Players

Rachel #10
Lcrward / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

In my previous post I proposed that throwing a football as a kid might lead to a weak tennis serve as an adult.

There are two other sports, however, that kids play every day and might actually help to improve their serves and overall tennis games as adults.

Those sports are volleyball and baseball.

Why do these two sports offer good prep for tennis? Both teach players to focus on the ball.

The volleyball serve might be the best practice for the tennis serve in terms of keeping an eye on the ball. In volleyball, the server first selects the intended direction of the serve, then tosses the ball and watches nothing but the ball until it is struck. Thanks to the rules of volleyball (bump-set-spike), the server doesn’t feel rushed to react to the opponents and is free to completely concentrate on the service motion.

So, while the tennis service arm and shoulder motion might more closely resemble the football throwing motion, the mental and visual focus is much more closely aligned with the volleyball serve. And in truth, many tennis players find learning the physical motion of the serve to be much easier than overcoming the urge to draw their eyes down to look across the net.

Whereas volleyball can help your tennis serve, baseball is inherently designed to improve your tennis stroke.

A baseball batter learns early on to keep a sharp focus on the incoming pitch. In fact, it’s a necessity if they hope to be able to collide their exceptionally small bat with that small, fast moving ball. And because there is no need to assign any attention to the players in the field, a baseball player’s mind is completely free to focus on making contact.

When a baseball player transitions to tennis, they’re used to watching the ball all the way to their bat, or racquet as the case may be, and they do it exceptionally well.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask your tennis friends what sports they played growing up, then watch how they play tennis. It’s a good bet you’ll find ex-volleyball players with good tennis serves and ex-baseball players making consistently solid contact on ground strokes and volleys.

Football Is Ruining Your Serve

Go deep
PittCaleb / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

If you’re a boy who likes playing sports and you grew up in the U.S. you probably played football. Even if you didn’t play on an organized team, you probably threw a ball around with your dad and played a game of touch now and then with your friends.

While you were tossing around the pigskin on those crisp fall days of your youth, you didn’t even realize you were setting your tennis game back years.

If you’ve ever taken serving lessons you might have heard a tennis pro tell you that serving is approximately the same motion as throwing a football. Some pros will even bring nerf footballs onto the court and have their students toss them over the net to get a feel for the service motion.

Don’t believe them.

Seriously, think about throwing a football. Where are your eyes? They aren’t affixed to the ball, that’s for sure. Your eyes are downfield, looking for an open receiver and oncoming rushers. The throwing motion might be similar to the service motion, but the all-important eyes are focused in completely different locations for each.

Boys who played football have been trained since childhood not to look at the ball, but to direct their attention out in front. The habit is ingrained, and exceptionally difficult to break. And in truth, it affects more than just the serve.

But it can be done, and being aware of the problem is a big step in the right direction.

The next time you’re practicing your serve, keep the football throwing motion in mind, but let go of the need to be looking down field. Your first serve percentage will thank you.

Next: How Baseball and Volleyball Help Your Tennis Game

A Cold One After the Match

day 61: it's bloody horrible having a bath with no hot water
estherase / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Us club players often like to enjoy an ice cold beer in the lounge after a long match. But if we’re to believe the pros, what we really should be enjoying is an ice cold bath.

That’s right. Dipping into a vat of icy water is all the rage these days when it comes to recovering from a match and getting your body ready to play again. That and stretching, rehydration, a massage, and maybe even an alternating hot bath.

At least, that’s what the pros do. Sure, their matches might be longer and more grueling than ours, but they’re also much more physically fit generally and so that offsets the differences a bit.

I have to admit, I don’t so much as flex my toes after a match. But I know I probably should. Stretching is an easy post-match exercise. My new plan for 2013 is to commit to a full stretching routine after every match and rehydrate with plenty of water and gatorade. If I can stick to that for a few months, then I’ll consider adding in an ice bath/hot bath mix.

I’ll let you know how it works, and if I feel like I’m able to recover any faster.

And if anyone wants to throw some discount massage coupons my way, I’m happy to give that a shot as well 🙂

Bryan Brothers Announce Retirement

The Bryan Brothers
Joe Shlabotnik / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Ok, that headline was just a teensy bit misleading.

Technically, the Bryan brothers did announce their retirement though …  after the Olympics in Rio … in 2016.

I’m mildly hopeful that their now definite end date will spur the major networks and the ATP to more actively promote the doubles game over the next three years to try to build up a following while these giant stars are still playing. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are slim and none. More likely we won’t hear much about doubles, or the Bryan brothers, again until approximately two weeks prior to the Rio Olympics – then we’ll get a heaping helping of emotional montages and heartfelt stories.

And the doubles game – a game that the vast majority of club players play, and would love to watch the pros play – will continue to languish in obscurity.


Still No Cure for Tennis Elbow

micah.woods / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

A recent study found that patients suffering from tennis elbow experienced approximately the same levels of non-relief after 12 weeks when injected with steroids, platelets and saline solution.

What does that mean exactly? Nothing really worked to decrease the pain.

Some doctors are saying the timeframe of the study (12 weeks) was too short to determine success/failure. Then again, these same doctors are saying that the best treatment for tennis elbow is really “watchful waiting” for up to a year.

Talk about your medical advancements. I mean, why aren’t they even mentioning leeches?