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The Power Serve:
Part 1

By Bruce Elliot

Printable Version


Fluency or coordination of the body parts is the first key to the power serve.

Sometimes I am asked if the purpose of my research: is to show teaching pros how to teach the serve. Absolutely not! Teaching professionals can teach me how to teach the serve.

What my work does do is break the serve down into its mechanical parts. For teachers or players this means they can have a better understanding of the service action and how to modify technique to improve efficiency or to reduce the chance of injury.

Strength Base: The Prerequisite

If you want to serve with power, you must load the body. But here's the catch: two places that you typically load the body are where injuries now are occurring in tennis, particularly on the pro circuit. These are the shoulder and the elbow. So, some of the things I want to explain have to do with how you actually reduce the loading on those areas, while still developing the power serve.

The trick is to load the shoulder and elbow—but without causing injury.

It's very important to understand that, if you want to serve at a high speed, you've got to prepare your body physically. You cannot just learn the power serve without a strength base. So let's see what a strength base entails.

First, you must have core stability. To be good at tennis, you definitely need core stability. Basically, that's stability across the pelvis, or the lower abdominal area.

The other thing you need is shoulder stability. You can't just go out and rotate your arm as quickly as you possibly can, without having a stable shoulder. You need core stability and you need shoulder stability, before you start to introduce high speed serves.

So that's the cautionary tale, but what about the serve itself? How do players like Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick execute the power serve?

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Bruce Elliott is a leading figure in the history of quantitative bio mechanical research. He has published over 130 articles, including many of the earliest and most important quantitative studies in tennis. He was a major contributor to World-Class Tennis Technique, and to the recent ITF book Biomechanics of Advanced Tennis. As a player and coach, his focus is on integrating research into coaching and teaching. A professor in biomechanics at the University of Western Australia , he is a keynote speaker at major teaching conferences throughout the world.