IS YOUR TENNIS SERVE READY FOR WIMBLEDON?
Our physiotherapist and former elite tennis player, Susana Tous, will give you her advice on this crucial part of the game that when performed well will give you some easy points – and when performed poorly will give your opponent some easy points…
Susana used to play in the WTA circuit, training with Conchita Martinez and Arancha Sanchez – both Grand Slam winners.
Most tennis players will try to ‘jump’ to get the highest advantage on the ball whilst serving resulting in an increased serve speed.
The inertia of the lower body (ground reaction force) is created by the hips, lower legs and trunk.
The force is then transferred up into the upper body and out through the dominant arm and racket into the ball.
If any of these actions is not synchronised effectively, the serve won’t be as effective and overuse injuries are likely to occur.
Repetitive faulty movements will slowly develope as the body adapts to moving less effectively, ultimately creating muscle imbalances along the chain.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the serve is the tossing of the ball.
For professional tennis players ball tossing comes very naturally it’s not something they need to think about.
If one fails to toss the ball correctly, either too far to the side or too far forward or backwards the
outcome of the serve won’t be as good.
The speed and the intention of the direction of the serve will suffer.
By attempting to hit a serve when the tossing of the ball is a bit off, the back and shoulder would be at a greatest risk of injury.
If the tossing is too far to the side, your back will have to side flex and rotate towards the side, increasing the amount of pressure on the facet joints of the lower back.
At the same time the shoulder would have to compensate for the increased range of movement in the back increasing the risk of injury.
We can improve ball tossing by practising.
Get yourself into the serve position and toss the ball without hitting it (no racket needed), let the ball drop, notice where it lands.
For the serve to be effective, the ball should land approximately about 10 cm forward from your front -leading-
Practise this as much as you can, remember, practice makes perfect!
From my experience as a former tennis player and now a Physiotherapist, acute shoulder injuries are uncommon (if a proper warm up has taken place), on the other hand, overuse shoulder injuries, such as rotator cuff impingement and shoulder stability are conditions I treat frequently.
During the objective part of the assessment I first observe structural postural faults of the upper
extremities, such as joint position and scapular position at rest and during movement of the shoulder.
The aim is to identify faulty movement strategies cause by tissue compensation/adaptations resulting in muscle imbalances.
Treatment is aimed at restoring joint kinematic through joint mobilisations, decreasing muscle tension of overactive muscles (upper trapezius), scapular stability and implementing specific rehabilitation strategies to restore normal movements.
As with all injuries (sport and non-sport related), it is best to catch
them early. If you experience pain, stiffness, decreased range of movement,
come to see me, it will help you in the kind run.
Now, warm up, get your racket and enjoy playing the beautiful game of tennis
Jerzy Janovicz serving during his first round win at Wimbledon 2017.