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Interactive Forum April 2023: Aryna Sabalenka Serve

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  • Interactive Forum April 2023: Aryna Sabalenka Serve

    Interactive Forum April 2023: Aryna Sabalenka Serve

    So here it is, Aryna’s 1st Serve front and back views, courtesy of Jim Fawcette.

    It’s been a topic of discussion, speculation, and controversy. I’ll hold off on my opinion for now.

    What do you guys say?

    Last edited by admin; 04-06-2023, 03:58 PM.

  • #2
    Hope these videos are helpful.

    Here is a third short of Saby's serve that might be helpful, this is a mobile phone video of a double fault that includes the ball path.
    Slow motion, 30 seconds on YouTube at: https://youtube.com/shorts/hNsknjNqdSs

    Together these three slow motion videos show

    1) Front view of her go-to hard slice
    2) Back view
    3) Longer view showing motion and trajectory of a fault.


    Comment


    • #3
      For anyone that hasn't been following the saga of Sabalenka's travails at the service line, here's a few items to catch up on:


      1) Sabalenka's double-fault troubles spiked in 2022, notably with what some called "The Worst Match in WTA History" at San Jose last August when Saby and Daria Kasatkina combined for 36 double faults in one match (23 for Saby vs "only" 13 for Daria). Now, I think that is a bit unfair. There was a WTA match in 1984 that included a 643 shot rally, lasting 29 minutes. One lady was a moon baller and her opponent decided to fight fire with fire. So, bad as it might have been, I doubt Saby-Daria was the 'worst ever' <g>

      2) Rick Macci said, "There is no biomechanical problem with her serve. Her mechanics are fine, the problem is 100% mental."

      3) Gigi Fernandez on Tennis Channel last week: "The problem is her toss. Her contact point moves around too much."

      4) Gavin MacMillan, the biomechanics trainer that claims credit for fixing the Belarusian's serve, whose YouTube interview was posted here by seano. As I understand his lengthy discussion, he claims her off hand moves to the wrong side of her body and that her palm needed to face the side wall. He also softly tosses in that when it isn't working she should move the toss back and hit kick.

      4) My discussion with some friends: For what it's worth - Arnya's arm movement at contact appears much like that of Andy Murray, who also has no or little kick serve (although none of her troubles with double faults). Both have little "long axis rotation" of the full arm, instead "snapping" their wrist over the ball toward the target, seemingly making it difficult to hit kick or twist.
      Last edited by jimlosaltos; 04-03-2023, 10:41 AM.

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      • #4
        Does that deep elbow drop hitch into trophy position play any part in her troubles?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by jimlosaltos View Post
          For anyone that hasn't been following the saga of Sabalenka's travails at the service line, here's a few items to catch up on:


          1) Sabalenka's double-fault troubles spiked in 2022, notably with what some called "The Worst Match in WTA History" at San Jose last August when Saby and Daria Kasatkina combined for 36 double faults in one match (23 for Saby vs "only" 13 for Daria). Now, I think that is a bit unfair. There was a WTA match in 1984 that included a 643 shot rally, lasting 29 minutes. One lady was a moon baller and her opponent decided to fight fire with fire. So, bad as it might have been, I doubt Saby-Daria was the 'worst ever' <g>

          2) Rick Macci said, "There is no biomechanical problem with her serve. Her mechanics are fine, the problem is 100% mental."

          3) Gigi Fernandez on Tennis Channel last week: "The problem is her toss. Her contact point moves around too much."

          4) Gavin MacMillan, the biomechanics trainer that claims credit for fixing the Belarusian's serve, whose YouTube interview was posted here by seano. As I understand his lengthy discussion, he claims her off hand moves to the wrong side of her body and that her palm needed to face the side wall. He also softly tosses in that when it isn't working she should move the toss back and hit kick.

          4) My discussion with some friends: For what it's worth - Arnya's arm movement at contact appears much like that of Andy Murray, who also has no or little kick serve (although none of her troubles with double faults). Both have little "long axis rotation" of the full arm, instead "snapping" their wrist over the ball toward the target, seemingly making it difficult to hit kick or twist.
          I tend to trust qualified biomechanics folk above coaches. They seem to know more...often a lot more. I like Gavin's 'tossed in comment', which is great advice, not just for Sabalenka, but for every player who has days where they can't buy a first serve. We've all been there. Good practical advice never should go amiss amongst the science.

          Stotty

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          • #6
            Originally posted by doctorhl View Post
            Does that deep elbow drop hitch into trophy position play any part in her troubles?
            Completely agree. It’s not a fluid motion.

            Comment


            • #7
              Looks pretty good to me. The only things that stands out to me is the extremely high toss. I’m almost certain it drops at least 5-6 feet.

              Her head comes down very early (when the racquet is several feet from contact).

              Also, she does not have continued arm rotation after contact.

              Comment


              • #8
                Here's what I meant by snapping her wrist forward with zero long-axis rotation. My photo from San Jose 2019

                filedata/fetch?id=100292&d=1680722894&type=thumb

                And here is Sir Andy, source unknown. His basic serve motion is slice. Although Andy may be similarly "kick serve adverse', he doesn't have the issues with doubles that I recall.

                filedata/fetch?id=100293&d=1680722904&type=thumb
                You do not have permission to view this gallery.
                This gallery has 2 photos.

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                • #9
                  Wonder what Don Budge has to say …

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    An observation from watching Saby at Indian Wells: Six times she tried to hit with a different slice serve motion, what I'd describe as throwing your serving shoulder toward the T, to hit the top quadrant and hit "kick-slice". That would give her a higher-margin alternative to her very flat slice on first and second, which has little margin for error. All 6 went into the net. But that she tried that in competition tells me she recognizes the issue and is searching for an answer.

                    We can discuss technique all day, but if she chooses to hit very low margin, aggressive serves the risk hitting a bad patch is there.

                    Sabalenka's hard-flat-slice second serve would be a good first serve for many WTA players.

                    Alternatives exclude.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Here's the original, higher resolution version of the front view of Sabalenka's serve, just FYI.
                      I recorded this in 4k at 120 frames per second, then slowed down further in software, and exported at lower resolution to run in TPN's forum.
                      If you play the original on YouTube, you can further slow down the video by clicking the "gear" icon in the lower right of your screen, and choosing a playback speed down to 10%, to better dwell on the details of her motion.
                      I'd encourage you to expand your browser window to full screen:


                      This is a screen cap of that video.

                      filedata/fetch?id=100298&d=1680730453&type=thumb

                      I get occasional questions on the photography/ videography aspects on this forum, so for those of you in that subset, some photo/video geek stuff.

                      The first, front view video was shot at 4k/120 on a Nikon Z9 with a 500 mm PF lens. I slowed the video down a bit further in FCPX. So, it's H.265

                      The second, back view was also shot on the Z9 but with a 40-120mm S lens at 120mm. Also, as I recall 4k/120.

                      The third, rear view of a double fault was shot on a Pixel 7 Pro phone, to get the wider view showing the ball trajectory and result. Using digital zoom on the phone reduced the resolution. I believe that was also at 120 fps. The phone can do 240 fps but doesn't zoom as far at that frame rate. That video is basically unedited, direct from the phone.

                      #
                      You do not have permission to view this gallery.
                      This gallery has 1 photos.
                      Last edited by jimlosaltos; 04-05-2023, 01:41 PM.

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                      • #12
                        I find her motion staccato-like and the moving parts don't sew together to well. Her ISR is pretty poor. It really isn't a good motion in my view...far from it.
                        Stotty

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I grabbed these stats from the WTA site. This image is sorted on "first serve points won", where Sabalenka is fourth. She is also fourth in percent of service games won, and 5th in Break Point %, although I'm not exactly sure what that means.
                          Keep track of your favorite female players on the official Women’s Tennis Association website. H1 Tag: Women’s Tennis Records and Statistics


                          filedata/fetch?id=100302&d=1680735053&type=thumb

                          You do not have permission to view this gallery.
                          This gallery has 1 photos.

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                          • #14
                            It will be interesting to see how her serve holds up over the next 12 months. Let's stay tuned and monitor the stats.

                            While I think biomechanics holds a lot of the answers, it's never so easy as putting an arm here, or a rotation there, or a flip over there. It never works quite like that. Segments of the body can have a mind of their own with some players, and many players are extraordinarily resistant to development or change. Players need to be very malleable and adaptable and pull a lot of the stuff off that's being asked. I think this is why many coaches simply give up and let players, within reason, go their own way. I think we are seeing much more freewheeling these days.
                            Stotty

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                            • #15
                              Let's compare her to Fed. Her right hand starts waaayy to her right, while Fed's hand starts at his right hip. Sabalenka has to then come all the way back to her left side while Fed simply goes upward. In the third picture Fed just raises the racket while Sabalenka taks her whole arm way back to her left behind her body. In the fourth picture her elbow is pointed down and to the left while Fed's elbow is pointed straight down in a perfect trophy position.

                              All this unneeded movement destroys rhythm and fluidity. How Rick Macci can say there is nothing wrong with is beyond me. Fed has absolutely zero excess motion. The arm and racket have really just lifted the racket upward to the trophy position. Sabalenka, however, has done like six different movements for Fed's one motion.

                              sab_fed.jpg

                              If we compare her to Serena we see the same thing. Serea keeps her arm along the side of her body. She doesn't go way to the right and then back to the left and they away from the body and then back in close. It's just a lifting of the racket to the trophy position - and that's it - in terms of arm movement. She needs to cut out about 90% of her arm motion here in my opinion. It's just awful for achieving any kind of rhythm or fluidity. Well that's my take anyway. I also agree with what Jim mentioned about "long axis rotation". She seems to be snapping her wrist, similar to Murray, rather then rotating the "long axis" from the shoulder.

                              serena_saba.jpg
                              Last edited by jeffreycounts; 04-06-2023, 04:51 PM.

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