Tennis serve pronation is one factor that separates the professional tennis players from club players. Learning pronation requires proper tennis serving technique.
All tennis players would like to get more speed on their serve and a more consistent rate of first serves in.
Players try all sorts of tactics to boost their serve speed—some lift weights, some experiment with their toss, some practice and practice until they can hammer every serve, first and second, as hard as they possibly can. One technique that is not discussed enough is tennis serve pronation, a rotation of the arm and wrist that will guarantee a more flat racquet head to meet the ball at that crucial moment when the serve is placed in play.
What is Tennis Serve Pronation?
Are you the type of player that sits around wondering what keeps you from advancing a level or two higher in tournament play? Well, tennis serve pronation might give you part of that answer. It is no accident that all of the top amateur and professional players practice tennis serve pronation.
They do this because it works, because it adds power to the serve and more possibilities for exaggerated spins on the serve. Adopting tennis serve pronation could be the key to you taking your serve—and your overall game—to the next level.
Learning the Correct Technique of Tennis Serve Pronation
The term “tennis serve pronation” does not need to give pause; it is actually a very simple movement that is used most famously by Roger Federer. Let’s get to the details:
The first step in practicing tennis serve pronation is to undo some of the habits that you have formed as you’ve played for years and years. Let’s chat about grips for a few moments. When you pick up a tennis racket and serve, you naturally hold it like a frying pan. This is called a Western grip. It will give you a type of pancake serve with no pronation at all.
Perhaps you have served in this manner for decades. In order to adopt tennis serve pronation, you are going to have to abandon the Western grip as you serve. As you can surmise, this will take lots of practice, but once you master the movement, you will not want to change it again.
The Proper Tennis Serve Grip Leads to Proper Tennis Serve Pronation
With the Western grip discarded, you now open up your wrist to many more possibilities for movement. With the Western grip, you can only turn your wrist about 90 degrees, and that is usually clockwise, sometimes giving your serve a bit of spin. When you adopt a continental (or Eastern) grip, your range of motion will jump to 270 degrees.
Rather than gripping the racquet like a frying pan, pick your racquet up so that the knuckle of your thumb is aligned with the right ridge of the racquet, rather than the left ridge.
When you extend the racquet away from your body, rather than it being flat, it should be perpendicular to the court. This is the continental grip that will open up many new possibilities for your serve. It also will help immensely with any tennis elbow symptoms that you might have been experiencing.
With your new grip, you are now ready to practice tennis serve pronation. As you hold the racquet in this new way, you might quickly ask yourself, “How am I ever going to actually hit the ball with the strings? It looks and feels like I will simply make contact with the side of the frame!” This is a natural fear and has some logic behind it.
However, this is where the pronation motion comes into play.
Learning Tennis Serve Pronation
The best way to describe this movement is to say that it is a counter-clockwise rotation of the arm and wrist so that the racquet turns and meets the ball, strings-to-felt. If you know anything about baseball, this is the motion used to throw a screwball.
Another easy way to understand this motion is to hold your arms away from your body with your palms touching each other.
If you rotate your palms so that they face the ground, that is the pronation movement.
Some instructional pros also use this illustration: when you are talking on a cell phone or looking at the screen and someone asks to see what is on your screen, the movement you use to show your cell phone’s screen to your friend is pronation. Think of a karate chop that begins with your hand perpendicular to the wall. As your hand comes towards the wall, you rotate it so that the palm touches the wall.
The Biomechanical Explanation of Pronation on the Tennis Serve
That is the exact motion needed for tennis serve pronation and rather than your hand, the racquet will be rotating like a karate chop that ends up flat against the wall. It might not feel too natural the first few times that you do it, but your arm is actually better able to make this motion than many others that you do on the tennis court.
It will not cause any undue pain or strain. As you toss the ball and begin your service motion, twist your arm and wrist from knuckles facing you to the back of the hand facing you. This will enable your racquet head to align properly and ensure that you strike the ball with all strings and no frame.
The first few times that you try this motion, it will not feel natural and you might hit much more frame than strings.
Keep working! Soon, the movement will become second nature and you will have a more powerful serve thanks to tennis serve pronation. That power comes from a stronger follow-through as more muscles in the arm and shoulder are activated by this unusual movement.
You will feel that very soon after adopting tennis serve pronation. You will have much more force coming to bear on your serve. Essentially, you are giving the ball a “high five” with your arm, wrist and racquet as you pronate at the top of your motion.
Benefits of Achieving Correct Tennis Serve Pronation
Your serve will also gain power and speed due to the very quick rotation that occurs as you pronate. The racquet is rotated 90 degrees in a very short amount of time. That spin has a rotational energy that is transferred to the ball upon contact. This adds immense power and possible spin to the ball. If you want to combine a bit of spin with your newfound power, you will need to brush the strings of your racquet against the ball, as you would with any grip or movement in the service motion.
Tennis serve pronation could be the missing ingredient in taking your serve from adequate weapon to feared armament. These types of little tricks and rapid movements are what separate the pros from the average Joes. By rotating your racquet in a flash in a counter-clockwise motion (for right-handers, clockwise for lefties), you will add a burst of energy that will then enter the ball and cause it to zoom by your adversary. His/her next question will be, “Where did you get that serve?” You are not compelled to share your secrets.
Ingraining Pronation on the Tennis Serve to Produce a More Powerful Serve
Obviously, you will not want to debut this motion in a match. You will need to practice on your own until the movement becomes more natural and you have built sufficient muscle memory to the point that tennis serve pronation is an automatic rotation. For more information on this helpful motion, the Web is full of instructional videos that can guide you step-by-step. You will immediately notice that many of the examples cited in the video are the top professional players.
There are reasons why they are the best in the world; tennis serve pronation is one of them. You can edge toward that level as you unlearn previous service motions and adopt this new one. You will feel more power and a stronger follow-through immediately. The added rotation just before you hit the ball will add much more speed to your serve than you even thought possible. You might even go from someone who rarely serves an ace to a player who piles up the aces in the course of a match. That could get you to where you want to be in that tournament coming up this weekend. Pronate to victory!
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