Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Federer Serves His Way Towards the US Open

Last week, Roger Federer won the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters tournament for the third time. Only Mats Wilander, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras have done the same (Wilander actually won it four times). This tournament is part of a series of tournaments leading up to the US Open, and the players use it as an opportunity to reacquaint themselves to the hardcourt surface. After having been in a bit of a slump, partly due to injuries and a formidable opponent by the name of Rafael Nadal, Federer appears to have returned to winning form as of late, and is once again considered a favorite in the upcoming US Open.

Although Federer's serve is quite respectable in terms of speed (averaging around 120 mph for his first serve), it is his ability to disguise the spin and direction that make it extremely effective. As Federer has demonstrated, blistering serves can be returned consistently if the returner can anticipate where the ball will be hit. By keeping his opponents from being able to easily read his serve, adjusting the pace only increases Federer's effectiveness.

One of the main ways Federer is able to disguise his serves is with a consistent toss. As is true with most sports, keeping your eyes on the ball throughout a point/play is one of the basic concepts that helps you play well; tennis is no different, and a server can give away a lot of information about the type of serve he will hit by significantly moving his toss around. By tossing the ball in the same location, and instead adjusting his swing path to direct the ball and apply various spins, Federer gives his opponents just a fraction less time to anticipate where the ball will go; and at 120 mph, that lost time can make a big difference whether the serve is returned successfully.

Of course, just knowing your serve's effectiveness can be improved by having a consistent toss is only half the battle; having the ability to do this and make minor adjustments to your swing path/grip (not to mention having perfect timing) are just some of the skills that separate us amateurs and weekend warriors from the pros. Below is a slow-motion video of one of Federer's serves at Wimbledon. Enjoy, and learn what you can from perhaps the greatest tennis player of all time (to this date, anyway - keep practicing kids!).

1 comment:

J said...

I really have no hope of being naturally good at tennis, so this is a good article for those of us interested in improving form and consistency, or learning enough to serve the tennis ball and help coach our kids.

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