Your Strokes:
Alan Serve(s)

Analyzed by John Yandell

Alan before: a backswing that went behind him and a racket drop too far away from his body, affecting the path of the upward swing.

"No one has ever been able to teach me a kick serve," Alan told me when we scheduled his video analysis at my court in San Francisco. He felt sure he could do and had no idea why he wasn't, as he was an athletic 4.5 level player.

I told him that the so-called "kick" serve was not somehow a different serve, but actually a relatively small variation on the first serve motion so we needed to look at his overall serve technique to see what the limitations might be there.

I was pretty sure what the high speed video would show because I had seen the issue with so many players—usually something to do with the racket drop. If the racket drop position isn't great, that affects the racket path on the way to the ball, making it come too much from the left, limiting the critical topspin component.

When that's the case, there isn't some magical change that can somehow allow a player to hit a "kick." To this point, Alan had never seen himself in high speed video, and what he saw was I think a revelation to him.

Although his drop was better than many players I have filmed, it wasn't close enough to full to optimize his basic motion. It happened too far away from his torso to really allow him to hit up to the ball on the right path. We could see this is both in the angle of his racket at the drop and then of his arm in the upward swing, coming too far from the left in the last few frames before contact.

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John Yandell is widely acknowledged as one of the leading videographers and students of the modern game of professional tennis. His high speed filming for Advanced Tennis and Tennisplayer have provided new visual resources that have changed the way the game is studied and understood by both players and coaches. He has done personal video analysis for hundreds of high level competitive players, including Justine Henin-Hardenne, Taylor Dent and John McEnroe, among others.

In addition to his role as Editor of Tennisplayer he is the author of the critically acclaimed book Visual Tennis. The John Yandell Tennis School is located in San Francisco, California.

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