Many tennis players around the world are marveled by roddick’s tennis serve and in particular his serving technique.
Most club players, junior players and college players would dream of being able to hit an astounding serve similar to the andy roddick serve.
In this article we will discuss the andy roddick tennis serve technique and the elements behind what makes up a world class serve. A lot of the discussion behind Andy Roddick’s serve is based on biomechanical principles of the tennis serve, but few players have the athletic ability to execute this type of serve motion. Nonetheless, we will examine some of the critical factors and explain what and any commonalities shared with other top pro servers on tour.
In 2000, when Andy Roddick first made waves on the professional tour, he lit up the world of tennis with his incredible enthusiasm, athleticism and extreme power.
Like any young, hyped player, he was exciting to watch and seemed to be just as excited himself to be playing against the men he grew up watching on TV, like Pete Sampras. Sampras predicated his game around his god-like serve, a stroke that has been one of the most studied and analyzed in the whole history of the game. But when Roddick came on the scene, people were startled: this kid’s serve had power quite like never before, and they started thinking if he’d be the one to continue the Sampras legacy.
The Background Behind Roddick’s Serve
Nonetheless, the power of the Andy Roddick serve also made people nervous. His motion was radically different from Pete’s. He has a very abbreviated take back and an exaggerated snap through contact. He was also not at all graceful. Whereas Sampras had smooth and efficient mechanics, Roddick was jerky and snappy. Also, he was using a bigger, lighter and stiffer racket than what Pete used. All this made people believe, at that time, that he would be prone to eventually injure his shoulder, elbow, wrist or all of these; jeopardizing his chances of fulfilling his future as the great American hope.
Fast forward to the present and things have turned out pretty okay for Andy Roddick. The Roddick serve is still one of the most dangerous on tour. Andy Roddick’s serve has already set the world record for the fastest serve ever at 155 mph. He fulfilled the hope of his countrymen by winning the US Open and getting to number one in the world. He just didn’t achieve as much as Sampras because Roger Federer happened (and then Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and some more, but that’s a whole different story). Nevertheless, his serve is still producing aces and unreturnables. Perhaps more significantly, his shoulder, elbow and wrist have all throughout been fine, thank you.
Andy Roddick Serve Technique
The Andy Roddick serve is simply a ball of tremendous kinetic energy. From slow motion camera studies using ultra high frame rates, certain things come into view. The balls that he hits average a speed of 130 mph and 2400 rpm. No one else comes close to putting that combined amount of speed and spin on the ball. That translates into one ultra-heavy ball. Sampras, who used to be the standard, averaged 118 mph and 2500 rpm
Studies also reveal exactly why the Andy Roddick serve is such a lethal shot in terms of biomechanics. The best way to analyse it is to look closely from the ground up. His stance is a narrow one, with his front foot at a slight angle from the baseline and the back foot virtually parallel. As he tosses the ball and his knees start to bend, the front foot moves very slightly backward, narrowing the stance even more.
The Andy Roddick Serve: Coiling of the Lower Body
One of the elements that distinguishes roddick’s serve is his ability to create a strong loading and coiling of the lower body through a pinpoint stance. Andy Roddick goes into a deep knee bend very quickly, and this is what gives the motion its jerky quality. At the end of the knee bend, his weight is almost equally distributed to the balls of both feet. As he begins to launch up into the serve, he is pushing off both feet and getting a very powerful leg drive into the shot.
Other players who use a wider stance push off mainly with just the front foot. Still others who also may use a narrow stance like Roddick do not get the same leg drive from both legs because their back foot takes off a little before the front foot. In other words, this is one of the truly unique traits of the Andy Roddick serve.
The torso is the next thing that should be analyzed. According to textbooks, in order for the serve to be as powerful as possible, the body has to rotate as much as possible to store maximum potential energy which will be transferred into the shot. It is as if the torso was a coil that you twist and then release. Roddick has a very good amount of trunk rotation as he winds up to hit – for a player with such a narrow stance, that is.
Andy Roddick’s Serve Versus Pete Sampras’s Upper Body Coil
Biomechanically, it is very difficult to rotate like Pete Sampras if the stance you use is a narrow one. Sampras uses a wider stance so he is able to rotate more fully. Roddick make up for this minor limitation by being faster in his movements. This is another factor that makes him look snappy and ungraceful. When analysed in super slow motion, he isn’t really ungraceful per se; it’s just that he’s too quick to be seen as graceful. Roddick’s toss isn’t as very high so he has to move quite quickly. He goes into a full coil and uncoils more quickly than other players, including Sampras.
Roddick Serve: Arm Action & Swing Technique
Perhaps the most obvious and studied part of the Andy Roddick serve is the action of the arm from the shoulders to the racket head. This is the part that made people nervous that he’d get injured using such a violent service motion. Holding the racket in the continental grip, Roddick takes it up with an abbreviated backswing. This means that he makes the racket go up at the same time as the tossing arm.
The advantage of this motion is that it is less difficult to time, especially when you factor in things like the wind affecting the ball toss or something like that. The right shoulder drops below the level of the left, as with any good server, as he readies to launch up to the ball. Overall, his shoulders don’t rotate as much as Sampras, again because of the limitation in overall torso rotation discussed above.
The next thing to look at is the tossing arm or left arm (obviously, since Roddick is right handed). All great servers have a very consistent toss. The left hand holds the ball near but not exactly at the tips of the fingers.
Although holding the ball at the tips of the fingers is recommended for greater consistency, Roddick makes up for this by bending his left arm slightly and then going straight up to toss the ball. His fingers open up to release the ball. The wrist is locked into position at the top of the tossing action, fully extended. This further gives it the consistency and reliability. Additionally, his head looks up to the ball with the chin up, not just the eyes.
The Andy Roddick Serve Technique & Use of the Kinetic Chain
All great shots take advantage of the biomechanical concept known as the kinetic chain. The serve is no exception. The kinetic chain in the serve starts from the legs launching up from a deep knee bend, into the torso uncoiling, into the right shoulder going up and over the left shoulder, into the elbow, straightening from a 90-degree bend at the “racket drop” position, to the wrist pronating and snapping the racket through the ball.
We’ve already established that the Andy Roddick serve is made up of motions that are all included in this kinetic chain. At the same time, each motion is considerably quicker than most other players. But there are no weak links or “disconnected” elements in his kinetic chain. In other words, there are no hitches in his motion, despite the fact that overall, it looks jerky. This is one of the reasons why Andy has never had any major injuries related to his serving motion. Let’s continue analysing the action of his hitting arm.
Andy Roddick Serve During the Swing to Contact
As Andy launches up into the ball, the wrist of the hitting arm drops the racket head behind his head at the same time as the elbow going up and bending 90 degrees. At this moment, he is completely off the ground with his legs already having straightened out, propelling him upward to the ball.
The torso is also midway in its uncoiling action. Then, the elbow begins to straighten out but the wrist remains cocked back at first. The wrist only straightens as the elbow approaches full extension. The racket head is approaching the ball sideways but there will be a very quick pronation to make the racket head strike the ball squarely at contact. At contact, he is fully extended, from feet to hitting wrist. The wrist continues pronating, bringing the racket head up and across the ball for topspin and sidespin.
Roddick Serve Follow through
The Andy Roddick serve ends with the follow through. His arm starts going down on the right side of his body, but the rotational action from his torso to his shoulders eventually brings it over more to the left side. The tremendous upward leg thrust has carried over the baseline and into the court, allowing him to dictate the point onward. He lands, split-steps and recovers for his next shot.
Everything in this shot happens so quickly that the result is a shot with sheer speed and vicious spin unlike any other. Because the serve is considered the most important shot in the game, coaches have begun to recommend the Roddick serve to their students. So in a sense, he did continue the Sampras tradition of having his serve technique analyzed, copied and taught.
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