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Big 3 Service Toss Clusters Plus Zverve's 2nd.

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  • Big 3 Service Toss Clusters Plus Zverve's 2nd.

    My post on Stefanos Tsitsipas's service toss cluster from ESPN, and numerous serve details from Infosys got some interest, so John asked me to post what I had on the Big 3. So, here you go.

    First up, is a graphic I've only seen once, this from Tennis Channel in 2015.
    This combines HawkEye's "Service toss cluster", which shows where the ball is when players hit in while serving, with a ray-trace for the subsequent ball path. As Courier notes, you can see a "tell" for Djokovic that he'd never realized.

    Jim Courier: What's interesting about {the service-toss cluster graphic } is that the further left the toss went for Novak, the more likely the ball is to go out wide. Traditionally, people think about throwing the ball more to the right as a right-hander, to create that sidewinder spin when you slice the ball out wide. So, it is a microscopic tell, but the tell is if the ball goes a little further left he is going out wide in the deuce. That is something I had never picked up on that's beautiful from HawkEye."






    Note: Since Goren Ivanisevic worked with Novak to hit more slice wide on both first and second serves during this AO, I don't know if this graphic would look the same today. I'd love to hear if anyone knows or has opinions on what exactly Djokovic was doing differently this year.

    DjokovicTossClusterRay.jpg

    Here are clusters for Rafa, Fed and another slightly more recent one for Djokovic.

    Nadal first serves from this year's Australian Open via EPSN. So, Rafa's "spread" is less than half that of Stefanos's.

    Nadal1stServeClusterAO21_900k.jpeg

    This is a few years ago, showing Federer and Novak from, I believe, ESPN. 20 cm is ~7.9 inches. So, their cluster is just over 1/3 as wide as Rafa's.

    I'd add that any such image captures a period in time and doesn't show everything about a player's serve. For example, we hear former Fed-coach Paul Annacone frequently say after a Fed service winner, "Fed just hit that up the T out of a fake-kick-toss". {I've heard identical descriptions of Fed serves by Courier {Who said he had two tosses, one more to his left which, like Fed, he used for kick serves but could also hit up the T out of that toss to keep people honest}, Jimmy Arias, and Darren Cahill -- who actually told me in an email exchange "Fed has several different service tosses".}

    During their quarterfinal at the AO, I noticed the Tsitsipas did the opposite. That is he could hit his kicker up the T in the ad court, attacking Rafa's lefty backhand, then as Rafa started shading over to cover that, out of the same toss, Tsitsipas hit flat and wide often catching Rafa flat footed.

    But, Fed didn't hit either one of those so that doesn't show up in the toss cluster.



    Here's Zverev's much maligned 2nd serve toss cluster from one of the periods where he struggled with his second serve. In fairness, I believe he changed his toss midway through the match to hit more kick, so it is more like two, different clusters. I think this was Tennis Channel. Red here is a double fault. One sympathizes.

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    Last edited by jimlosaltos; 03-08-2021, 10:20 AM.

  • #2
    Thanks for putting all this together. It's a super thing to do. That's really interesting about Novak's serve and I hadn't noticed he was hitting more wide serves than previously. I wonder if any of the tour players get a read on it. You wouldn't think so because it's very effective and he wins a lot of point serving out wide. If opponents could read it you'd think they would be on it more.

    The only thing I noticed this year is he was serving a little harder and hitting more aces. He is a placer more than a fast server normally. It is a lovely motion and I am surprised he doesn't go for more all the time.

    Zverev needs to sort that second serve out. It would increase his level of play and confidence no end. He needs a lesson from our very own John Yandell in my view.
    Stotty

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by stotty View Post
      Thanks for putting all this together. It's a super thing to do. That's really interesting about Novak's serve and I hadn't noticed he was hitting more wide serves than previously. I wonder if any of the tour players get a read on it. You wouldn't think so because it's very effective and he wins a lot of point serving out wide. If opponents could read it you'd think they would be on it more.

      The only thing I noticed this year is he was serving a little harder and hitting more aces. He is a placer more than a fast server normally. It is a lovely motion and I am surprised he doesn't go for more all the time.

      Zverev needs to sort that second serve out. It would increase his level of play and confidence no end. He needs a lesson from our very own John Yandell in my view.
      Thank you !

      Hah! We should set up a go-fund me page to send John to Germany to help Zverev on his second <g>

      As for Djokovic's serve, either Cahill or Courier said, "Djokovic can only hurt you out wide on the deuce, second serve while Fed can hurt you to either side." Separately, a while back Fed said, "He gives you a sniff on the second serve", assuming that means a sniff at breaking him.

      So, my thought was that Djokovic hitting more slices, particularly on the second serve, was Goren's attempt at dealing with that.

      I do recall ESPN saying Novak was hitting his second faster (maybe 5 mph? Sorry, can't recall),

      Comment


      • #4
        Jim,
        Any idea on the spread width of the Zverev second serve tosses?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
          Jim,
          Any idea on the spread width of the Zverev second serve tosses?
          Disappointingly, the announcers dissed his toss but did NOT give dimensions. Mind boggling.

          But since you asked, let's try this exercise as unreliable as it might be. IF the ball icons are actual size, as I squint at them, the left group is 6 balls wide and the right one 4 balls wide.
          Getting out my abacus, that's around 16 in and 12 in -- which is hardly gargantuan. But, it's also a small sample.
          I suspect this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e. I bet if the balls had not been "red" for double fault, the announcers wouldn't have criticized his cluster.

          Perhaps the variation in altitude and depth makes them look more erratic.
          Last edited by jimlosaltos; 03-08-2021, 03:16 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Good estimates!

            Comment


            • #7
              The InfoSys graph of Novak’s deuce court extreme toss to the left shows how the ball “breaks” quicker and shallower into a drop curve. This means that the flight path will be harder to read and force the returner to move a little more forward/diagonally to meet the return.......more so than the traditional graduallly breaking and deeper curve drop serve that is often hit with a toss more to the right and “ carved” for lack of a better word. Can someone explain how to hit this serve? I can get it to drop and curve Early, but only once in awhile. It’s very effective when it happens. However, it seems to require that backbreaking leftward toss plus significant racket acceleration. I noticed the wrist angle and amount of racket face angle feels different, but I really can’t visualize the mechanics to duplicate it.

              Comment


              • #8
                I guess I need to reread John’s articles on the wide serves.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Not sure I have the explanation! But interesting...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by doctorhl View Post
                    The InfoSys graph of Novak’s deuce court extreme toss to the left shows how the ball “breaks” quicker and shallower into a drop curve. This means that the flight path will be harder to read and force the returner to move a little more forward/diagonally to meet the return.......more so than the traditional graduallly breaking and deeper curve drop serve that is often hit with a toss more to the right and “ carved” for lack of a better word. Can someone explain how to hit this serve? I can get it to drop and curve Early, but only once in awhile. It’s very effective when it happens. However, it seems to require that backbreaking leftward toss plus significant racket acceleration. I noticed the wrist angle and amount of racket face angle feels different, but I really can’t visualize the mechanics to duplicate it.
                    It's a kick/slice, you toss the ball straight ahead of you and swing up the right side of the ball, like you would swing up the left side of the ball for a kick. You get the same curve, with more net clearance so that you can land the ball shorter in the box but it jumps up and away instead of sliding away.

                    J

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I used to like Pete Sampras' slow wide aces out wide to the deuce court. Did't hit it that hard, pure angle and disguise. I have a friend who can do this - albeit at amateur level - and it is really effective. My friend (not a coach but a good player) describes it as 'hitting over and round the ball'.
                      Stotty

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by J011yroger View Post

                        It's a kick/slice, you toss the ball straight ahead of you and swing up the right side of the ball, like you would swing up the left side of the ball for a kick. You get the same curve, with more net clearance so that you can land the ball shorter in the box but it jumps up and away instead of sliding away.

                        J
                        Very helpful, but I guess I need slo mo to really grasp it .

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by J011yroger View Post

                          It's a kick/slice, you toss the ball straight ahead of you and swing up the right side of the ball, like you would swing up the left side of the ball for a kick. You get the same curve, with more net clearance so that you can land the ball shorter in the box but it jumps up and away instead of sliding away.

                          J
                          By tossing forward, do you mean toward the baseline? Using my old school visualization semantics, does the kick/slice in the deuce court require one to hit UPWARD from 5 0’clock to 1 O’clock to get that shallow and quick drop/curve versus hitting at 1 o’clock to hit the traditional, deeper and wide curve/ drop slice? I tend to manipulate the angle of my racket face, but I think toss location is better to force the correct racket face angle and just maintain the same throwing motion. Trying to keep the exact toss location for deception is hard to do without altering the normal throwing motion which usually results in deceleration at some point.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by doctorhl View Post
                            The InfoSys graph of Novak’s deuce court extreme toss to the left shows how the ball “breaks” quicker and shallower into a drop curve. This means that the flight path will be harder to read and force the returner to move a little more forward/diagonally to meet the return.......more so than the traditional graduallly breaking and deeper curve drop serve that is often hit with a toss more to the right and “ carved” for lack of a better word. Can someone explain how to hit this serve? I can get it to drop and curve Early, but only once in awhile. It’s very effective when it happens. However, it seems to require that backbreaking leftward toss plus significant racket acceleration. I noticed the wrist angle and amount of racket face angle feels different, but I really can’t visualize the mechanics to duplicate it.
                            Try this starting at around 10:29 into the vid. Might be what you're talking about.
                            https://youtu.be/TzUvhOBrdnM?t=629

                            He talks about hitting ball at 1 o'clock vs 3 for more slice, and "snapping" his arm to bring it down, short in the service box. One note: He's rotating his arm outward (call it pronation if you must?) at impact while some teaching pro's say to swoop around. It's beyond my pay grade, I just offer the sources <g>.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              That helps. The 1 0’clock makes the quick curve. The snap his wrist down most likely means the racket brushes up from 5 to 1 to add the quick drop. Hitting at 3 would be carving and mostly like the long breaking curve.

                              Comment

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