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Andy Roddick: Serve

Rick Macci

Printable Version

All the tennis experts and commentators say that the way Andy Roddick serves, he is going to hurt his shoulder. And I say they're all missing the point.

The bomb goes off, but do people know what they are seeing?

I think that all the people who analyze, and all the people that commentate on TV, and all the people that write, and the general public all say, "It looks like he's going to tear up his shoulder," because they're seeing this explosive, electrifying, accelerated motion, and all of a sudden there's an atomic bomb going off.

You know what? They said the same thing about Bjorn Borg when he first came in the game, that he's going to have elbow surgery because of how he whips that racket. And to my knowledge, 25 years later, he's never had elbow surgery. So the John Newcombes and Tony Traberts of the world, and all these other people, were a little off base in their analysis.

It's the same with Roddick. The perception is, boy, there's a lot of smoke there. There's a lot of electricity. They're seeing something they've never seen before. They don't really understand it and so the conclusion is, he's going to hurt his shoulder.

I don't see it. I don't see it whatsoever. When it comes to injuries, I'll tell you that sometimes the luck of the draw plays into it. You can have the best looking strokes in the world and hurt a shoulder or an elbow. It's not a beauty contest. It's not about cosmetics.

The abbreviated backswing works for Andy, but it's not the secret to his serve.

The fact that he has an abbreviated back swing is insignificant. In you look at the top players you can find many things in their serves that are far more idiosyncratic than Andy's.

When I see Andy get his racket up, it's perfect in my mind. He's very relaxed, he's going to go straight up with the racket, he's going to bend his knees, load it, get the racket in and out of the back, and Boom. Very simple. There's not a lot to go wrong.

The fact that everyone is missing is that Andy has tremendous, natural racket head speed. He gets his racket in and out of the back quicker than anybody on the pro tour. That's his serve. He had the same serve when he was 4'10". And nothing has really changed.

The textbook says that the arms should go down first and then up. And, there's nothing the matter with that and that's what I teach to most kids.

Andy gets the racket in and out of the drop faster than anyone.

Andy on the other hand brings the arms straight up. That works for him, but it doesn't mean it's the right way or the wrong way. It's just a better way for him.

It's different, it's better for him. But actually, I don't think that his windup is the key to the success of his serve.

It's not the wind up or his turn, or the bending and the jumping that make his serve great. Sure those elements are all there and they are important. Check out John Yandell's article on Roddick's motion to see all those elements in detail. Click Here to Read John's analysis.

But in my mind, that's not what sets Roddick apart. What sets him apart is the fact that he gets in and out of the back faster than anyone else.

The "whip" comes from Andy's shoulder and hands.

Andy has a very flexible shoulder. He has fast hands. They work together to create a whipping effect. There's just a lot of whip in his arm, similar to his forehand. The end result is this tremendous racket head speed. He has a fairly low toss, and the whole thing happened so fast, it just gets on top of you.

He does the same thing on his second serve. His racket head gets in and out of the back so fast. That's why his second serve has so much action on it. He can make the ball dance. It has tremendous heaviness because of that racket speed. There's so much energy. It's deadly.

Second serve: Roddick's racket speed makes the ball dance.

So you start with a player that is 6'2", has a lot of racket head speed, fast hands, great timing-those are the things that makes his serve so huge. It's just very, very explosive.

But it's not just Andy's serve. It's his mindset. His mindset is that he wants to just knock you out. It's the same for the serve and the forehand.

Again, a lot of so-called experts say both of those shots are unorthodox. I think it's ironic that he has one of the best forehands on the tour and one of the best serves on the tour and neither one is "classic." So what does that say about the credibility of the "experts"? Click here to read my analysis of Andy's forehand.

"Classic" is not the same as world class.

I don't think it's about the "right way" or the "wrong way" when you are developing young players. If you think a player is on a path that can lead to world-class, you shouldn't jump off the bandwagon, you should let it play out. And I'll tell you that Andy had his racket speed at a young age. He always had a very quick motion and the fast hands.

So what if anything does all that mean for the average player? If you want to imitate something from Roddick to get more power on the serve, change your timing. A lot of players throw the ball too high. They pause too much, they wait too much, they don't really have the timing to maximize their power. Your motion needs to uncoil in the right sequence to be explosive. You don't want to be waiting for the ball.

Another point: you can see Roddick's knee bend and how he catapults into the court. This is another issue for club players because they have a tendency to come straight down, or actually go backwards when they hit the serve. Their hips are locked and they jackknife themselves.

Club players should use their legs to go forward into the court like Roddick.

It's the same when it comes to the right grip to hit with spin. So many club players complain about their serves. But they don't even start with the right grip.

Sure it's more difficult to learn with a true serving grip. That's one of the problems you have with coaching kids when they are younger.

But I show young players the right grip, day one. And then, if necessary, I just let them suffer for a month. That's much better in the long run, instead of having them hold the racket like a frying pan for a couple of years, playing tournaments with the wrong grip and then trying change over. I don't even go there.

It's scary, you know, but to be honest, the average club player doesn't want go through that. The reason why people don't improve is they don't experiment. They are afraid of what will happen in the short run if they experiment.

But if they would take more time to experiment they would eventually learn to execute. And once they learned to execute, they'd get confidence. Once you get confidence, then you improve.

Click Photo.
Confidence means the ability to execute.

That's another thing you can see about Andy's serve. He has a tremendous amount of confidence. He knows he can execute. He can hit his first serve 150mph, and he still serves 60% in most of his matches. So I don't care what everyone is saying about it. When I watch Andy serve, to me it's a beautiful thing to see.

You can study his serve frame by frame in the click through movie at the left. The windup, the whip of his arm, the shoudler turn, and the explosion from the legs. Click here for the Stroke Archive to study more movies of Andy's serve and the rest of his game.

Read more Rick Macci articles analyzing strokes of his famous students:

Jennifer Capriati: Ground Strokes
Andy Roddick: Forehand
Venus Williams: Forehand
Venus Williams Two-Handed Backhnad

Rick Macci has coached some of the greatest players in the modern game during their critical, formative years. He is widely regarded as one the world's top developmental coaches. Rick and his staff have shaped the strokes of Jennifer Capriati, Venus and Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, and dozens of other successful tour players. In the last 20 years, Macci students have won 98 USTA national junior championships, and have been awarded over 4 million dollars in college scholarships.

The Macci Tennis Academy is located in Deerfield Beach, Florida at the beautiful Deer Creek Resort. Macci Tennis offers a full time boarding academy, a non-boarding weekly academy, and a summer academy, all for juniors from beginning to the world class level.

For more information about Rick's Academy, email him at: or call Rick Macci directly at: (561) 445-2747

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