The Return of Serve in Six Phases
This month I thought we would take a look at the return of serve and it’s six phases.
1. Preparation: Athletic stance, balanced position, feet shoulder width apart, upper body leaning slightly forward, knees bent having just finished the split-step and head and shoulders are level with arms in front of the body.
2. Unit Turn: This phase marks the beginning of the stroke where the shoulder turning gets the racquet moving back and the body begins to store energy which will later be trans-ferred to the contact with the ball. You will also see the first step to the ball. Notice the swing path of the racquet. Whether you bring the racquet back with a loop or take it straight back, the fundamental to look for here is the early unit turn where the player is balanced and beginning to move to the ball.
3. Loading: Notice the tremendous rotation of the upper body. The shoulders rotate the most with slightly less rotation of the torso and a little less from the hips – thus creating a corkscrew effect and the ability to store energy. This rotation creates tremendous angular momentum. The upper body rotation helps the flexion in the knees and ankles, which then allows the legs to generate maximum force from the ground up.
*Tip … most of the energy for the stroke is initiated, loaded, and generated from the ground up.
4. Hitting: As the hitting phase begins the racquet head drops below the height of the ball. From here the swing forward and up to the ball begin. Point #1: The player unleashes the stored energy loaded in the muscle groups in sequential order from the ground up. The energy is first use in the leg drive, and then moves up the body via trunk rotation and shoulder rotation to the upper arm, forearm, and then the flexion. Point #2: Notice the sequential order goes from large muscles of the legs and trunk to the smaller fine motor skills muscles – forearm, wrist and hand – which control the racquet through the swing path. Point #3: Note the incredible angular momentum (rotational force) being generated as the body rotates forward into the contact point with the ball.
5. Contact: In this phase we witness the outcome of a great preparation, an early unit turn and the full use of the Kinetic Chain. Notice how still the head is at contact, how level the shoulders are and how the eyes are still forward downward towards the ball.
6. Follow-Through/Recovery: In this phase deceleration of the arm in the follow-through is essential after that acceleration through the hitting zone. Great dynamic balance is again shown as the racquet contains to wrap around the body as the stroke finishes. The actu-al position of the racquet in the follow-through will depend on the type of shot played. The head stays still throughout and the player is already recovering and preparing for the next shot.
* Explanations of each phase courtesy of the USTA.