As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m on a mission to transform my serve from a weakness to a weapon. It’s a process that’s involving a lot of patience: I’m breaking down every aspect of the serve and, in the process, trying to break some deeply ingrained habits.

Last week while out in Denver I had a great private lesson with the awesome Jeff Salzenstein, a former top 100 ATP player and Level 1 USPTA-certified pro whose internet-based instructional videos are outstanding.

Jeff shared a simple philosophy that I think is dead-on:

If your body learns the correct start and end position for every stroke, it will figure out everything in between more naturally

For serve, it all starts with getting the “trophy position” right — that position made famous in the ATP logo.

You can see what my trophy pose looked like before my lesson in this video shot a week prior:

As always, video helped me see the truth, as I thought my body was doing something very different.

WRONG: Notice especially:

1) Straight arm/ failure to bend the elbow, creating tightness in the shoulder and impeding proper racquet drop and acceleration 

2) Shoulders level instead of tilted (right shoulder/hitting arm should be significantly lower) to maximize power potential

3) Chest is too “square to the fence” (perpendicular to net), which also detracts from potential power

Contrast this with what a model trophy pose should look like (Jeff Salzenstein’s) – the image taken from one of Jeff’s incredibly helpful instructional videos I got access to after subscribing to his “Tennis Serve Secrets Program.”

RIGHT: Model trophy position (Jeff Salzenstein) 

In our private lesson, Jeff spotted this in about 3 seconds and manually adjusted me until I felt the right position. Here’s a clip of me trying to find the right pose immediately afterwards, with Jeff making some fine-tuning adjustments:

I’ve been practicing hitting this pose every day and it’s starting to become more natural: when I get it right, my serve has so much more pop with so much less effort.

Finally – here’s a collage of photos I’ve taken of top players at the US Open and Wimbledon that I look at every day for inspiration.

* Photo credits: I took all photos, including cover photo of Novak Djokovic, at the US Open and Wimbledon 2011-2012. 

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