How to hit the Drop Shot
Now that we've discussed where and when to hit the drop shot, this final installment in our video series discusses how to execute the drop shot. By making some simple adjustments to your slice you will be able to hit a well-targeted drop shot. Learn more about these techniques and continue to Play the Clay, Learn to Win and Play for Life!
To Jump or not to Jump?
Simplifying Service Elements
David W. Smith, Senior Editor, TennisOne
I often hear people discuss the issue of jumping on the serve. Some advocate it, others say it is wrong.
If we watch the pros, we can see that nearly every single pro is in the air at contact on the serve. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that people see this and say, “See, the pros are jumping.” I mean, how else can a pro get in the air if it isn’t through pushing off the ground? (If I had to define “jumping” I think it would have to include some verbiage that included ‘pushing off the ground’ with the legs!)
Yet, the confusion for many is the issue of jumping for the sake of jumping. It is a lot like the concept of pronation. If a player intentionally pronates the forearm on the serve, he will, in all likelihood, end up hitting the wrong side of the ball with the wrong spin in the wrong direction. Yet, pronation is an integral part of any good serve. Likewise, if a player consciously tries to propel themselves into the air, he more than likely will hinder the natural action related to the kinetic chain of movements.
For those unfamiliar with this term, the “Kinetic Chain” refers to a series of movements that usually, when done right, start with the legs, moves to the body, then to the arm and finally to the forearm, hand, and racquet. These movements are done in such a way that each segment of the chain contributes to the movement of the next so that the final ‘link’ of the chain (the racquet, technically) is accelerating at maximum speed and within a desired direction at contact.
One issue of this kinetic chain is that each link has a relative ‘start and stop’ modality. That is, for example, when the player rotates the hips into the serve or on a groundstroke, this rotation then stops or slows down as the next link begins to accelerate. It is a lot like cracking a whip. If each link didn’t decelerate or stop, then the next link would not be able to accelerate. It would be like if I hit a forehand by simply rotating my body without it stopping; as a right-hander, my forehand would end up being hit way too far to my left (if I also attempted to swing my racquet arm along with this continued rotating body).
On the serve, the sequence of the kinetic chain is usually first developed through conscious awareness of certain movements. Depending on the student’s development from other sports and movements, such consciousness can be increased or decreased. However, in time, the movements should become an unconscious series. These movements include creating the optimal swing path, the optimal body position, the optimal contact point, the optimal interaction of the racquet to create desired spin, and other factors. The goal is to allow these movements to occur in a naturally fluid, non-restrictive path.
Click photo: Arthur Ashe introduced the modern serve, allowing his momntum to lift him off the ground. Pancho Gonzales, is still on the ground after contact and steps into the court with his back foot.
This brings me back to the purpose of this newsletter: Should we jump as part of this conscious development of movements?
My answer is no!
As a player develops the kinetic chain (knee bending, then using the hips, torso, shoulder plane in a cartwheel-like action, and finally the arm and forearm, the act of ‘jumping’ will naturally follow. Being in the air is more of a reactive occurrence rather than a conscious, proactive event.
The Arthur Ashe Rule?
One thing a lot of people can’t seem to get past is how the rules of tennis changed to propagate the idea of being in the air on the serve. Prior to about 1968, players had to keep one foot on the ground on the serve at contact. When the rule changed (called the Arthur Ashe Rule) that allowed players to be in the air, there followed a significant change in several serve elements.
One of these changes came with the back leg’s movement. Prior to the “modern power game, the serve and volley was the dominant style of play. Thus, to decrease the time it took to follow the serve to the net (with the rule of having one foot on the ground), players would bring their back leg around on the serve and step into the court after contact with this foot.
Click photo: Big serving John Isner, like all pro servers, allows his upward thrust to lift him off the ground, the he kicks out his rear leg and lands on his front foot.
Few people realize this action forced players to torque their body so they were not facing the net too early as is generally predicated when players rotate the hips to bring this leg around.
When players are actually taught to ‘step through’ with the back leg, it is no surprise that these players generally have tremendous difficulty using the continental grip and end up pushing the ball in with a fairly flat motion. If they were to use the proper grip and action related to the slice or hybrid serves we see top players use, the beginner will almost always pull the ball well wide of the targeted service box.
When the rule changed, players found that Newton’s Third law was a critical factor in hitting bigger serves. This law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) help bring about the current modern serve top players use. The back leg, instead of stepping around, kicks back very aggressively as a counterbalance. For if we are going to swing our racquet around us in a very specific action, there needs to be a reactive force that creates balance within this aggressive motion.
Some teaching pros advocate stepping in with the back foot, claiming that the player will indeed get to the net quicker. This simply is not true. When a skilled server lands on the front foot, with the back leg kicking back, he is not only usually farther into the court (than if he had swung their back leg around as in the old days), the momentum carries the body forward. The back leg, now returning from the kick-back, then steps forward, bringing the player into the court even further, all in one fluid motion.
The draw back today is that this fluid movement often brings a player into “no-man’s land.” If the serve is fast and the return is fast, the player can sometimes be caught hitting a shot at the feet right after the serve.
Yet, all of this boils down to movements that will allow a player to develop a service weapon. Obviously, there are other factors that contribute or detract from a more effective serve: The grip, the strength and flexibility of the player, the depth of ‘collapse’ on the racquet drop, the placement and consistency of the toss, the stance, and the sequence of the kinetic chain.
So, back to the question of the jump. To purposely try to jump in the air while serving will most likely inhibit the natural flow of the kinetic chain. Instead, serve like the pros and allow the body's upward thrust to lift you off the ground.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
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