Step 6The sixth part of the serve is getting from the trophy pose to something called the “racket drop.” It’s the first part of your swing. In this video we only focus on what the upper body is doing.

The video starts with me in the trophy pose. From the “L” position, I drop my tennis racket down behind my back so that it is pointed at the tennis court. Coaches sometimes refer to this position as “the scratch-back position” because it looks like I am trying to scratch my back with the tennis racket. Notice that my elbow comes up as I drop the racket down behind my back.

At 40 seconds in the video we now focus on my tossing arm. As i drop the tennis racket behind my back, I simply let my tossing arm fall straight down. Essentially, I let gravity do the work.

Finally, in the trophy pose my tossing shoulder is a little bit higher than my hitting-arm shoulder. However, when I get to the racket drop I want my shoulders to be about level. I always want my body sideways to the net. Another way to think about it is that I want my body to be facing the side fence.

At 1:15 in the video we look at some pictures of the pros transitioning from the trophy pose to the racket drop. We start with a picture of Serena Williams in her trophy pose. Her tossing arm is extended straight up in the air, her tennis racket and hitting arm are in an “L,” and her tossing shoulder is a little bit higher than her hitting-arm shoulder. In the next picture Serena is transitioning from the trophy pose to the racket drop. Serena is in the process of dropping the tennis racket down behind her back and, at the same time, she’s letting her tossing arm fall. That gets her to the racket drop in the subsequent picture. The tennis racket is pointed at the court behind her — kind of like she is scratching her back with the racket. Serena’s hitting-arm elbow has come up. Her tossing arm has continued to fall. Her shoulders have leveled out and her upper body is sideways to the net / facing the side fence.

At 2:12 in the video we see how John Isner transitions from the trophy pose to the racket drop. In the first picture Isner is in his trophy pose — tossing arm is extended straight up, tennis racket and hitting arm are in an “L,” and his tossing-arm shoulder is higher than his hitting-arm shoulder. In the next picture he is transitioning to the racket drop in the same way Serena was. The tennis racket is dropping behind his back and his tossing arm is coming down. That gets Isner to the racket drop, where the racket is pointed down at the court behind him, his elbow has come up, his tossing arm has continued to fall, his shoulders have leveled out, and his upper body is sideways to the net.


  1. Manny says

    great site but i think there must be a simpler way to teach the serve. i know this is the traditional method, breaking it down into its fundamental parts, but it’s very difficult to make use of all these different points of reference and to combine them into a relaxed fluid motion by consciously exerting control over all my separate body parts while simultaneously trying to hit the ball.

    what i mean is it’s an athletic movement that a non-athlete will struggle to learn this way, which is why you see so many recreational players with those stiff, choppy, fragmented motions that never improve.

    as an athlete, i know, and you know, the serve is a variation on a throwing motion — similar to throwing a baseball or a football. the differences between the serve and, say, a baseball throw, are a reflection of the fact that you are holding a racket, not a ball, and striking an object rather than throwing one.

    otherwise, the body is functioning in a very similar way in each instance, shifting weight back and forward, coiling and uncoiling to generate linear & angular momentum which is transferred into the ball.

    so i wonder if maybe the first lesson someone should have when learning to serve is a throwing lesson. i had a teacher with a phenomenal serve and he would line us up across the baseline with old wooden rackets and make us throw them overhand across the net which forced us to do a lot of these serve elements automatically.

    put another way, if someone learns how to properly throw, they stand a much better chance of being able to modify that basic athletic motion into a tennis serve than they do trying to learn that same serve (in a vacuum) from a complex dissection of its elements.

    just my 2 cents.

  2. Desertbobcat says

    This is probably the least understod+implemented part of the serve based
    on what I see. What you have done is excellent, and it is so much better than
    what was available a few years ago! However, I think you place to much focus
    on arm movement rather that body movement which will influence correct arm
    movement. I believe the ball toss is best intiated if you lean the body diagonally
    back the arm will come back closer to the body which otherwise will limit wt transfer.

  3. Manasi Ramadani says

    That was awwwssooooommmmmmmee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Can you please send me the continental grip serve video.
    Suggesstion: you can make a tennis Quiz if you want to!!!!!!

    • Asasd says


  4. joe says

    mike warren is not a quality tennis playeer

  5. cmarko says

    I want to thank will hamilton and my daughter’s coach david lloyd in venice for telling us about this great site

  6. HFL says

    This makes it unbelievably complex – there must be a more straightforward way!

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