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View Full Version : Maria's Serve - too vulnerable.


xan
Jan 26th, 2006, 01:43 PM
I've said this before, but Maria really needs to concentrate on her serve to move up that extra stage.

Against lower-ranked players her winning point percentage on serve is good. But watching Maria's matches in Melbourne, I could see that this was because of Maria's shotmaking in the rallies, rather than the serve itself.

This exposed itself against higher ranked players. Maria's play is world-class in all departments.

Her main weakness is her serve. She loses it too often.

In order to win easily, you really have to have easy serve games. And this has been Maria's weakness. You can never relax like you can with players like Petrova or Davenport, that once Maria has got a break she is home and dry in a set.

She has only been first serving arounf 50-60% at the AO. That's one weakness. It needs to be nearer 70%

Worse though, she is getting very few free points on serve. This is what she needs to concentrate on. While davenport's serve, Henin's, even hantuchova's gets a lot of free points, aces or unreturned serves. Maria's doesn't (except on grass) - even though it is hit nearly as hard and deep. The ball keeps coming back, and a tiring rally results.

Maria really needs to modify her serve so that it does more damage, aiming for about 2-3 free points per service game. That would make her serve holds so much easier, increasing her confidence, and improving her whole chance in each match.

madame_maria
Jan 26th, 2006, 02:00 PM
haven't seen the match, but still your analysis is great.

i understand where you're coming from. her serve is extremely vital to complete her rather complete game. when i mean complete i mean a game whereby she has a winning strategy. for Maria, you definitely would think of her strategy as "chip and charge" or "serve and volley".

a powerful serve completes her game. i used to think that she had a superior serve. she used to go all out with her serves, daring enough to take risks on her second serves, and her serve percentages were spectacular.

i guess her game has been modified a little. maybe she has been focusing on her fitness for the past weeks, we never know since we don't coach her. and still, even if she DOES work on her fitness, well we all know she's rather weak in this area as well AND her performance so far at the AO has been rather encouraging in terms of how well she holds her own on a slower court that requires more stamina and consistency.

i think the girl would have to work on her serve again, thrust herself forward a little, instead of just the upward reach. she's been doing well so far, and improving her serve would be extremely vital. hopefully by Wimbledon, our baby's gonna be the favourite again =).

Maria Croft
Jan 26th, 2006, 02:49 PM
I would agree with you on this if it wasn't that Maria didn't say herself that she wasn't going for all the power serves and that she couldn't train her serve as much as before previous slams

I agree that it needs to improve, but you can't expect it now, I want her to be healthy now, her serve will improve over time, Davenport or Petrova aren't 18 you know

Doc
Jan 26th, 2006, 06:49 PM
Maria's first serve needs something to add that extra Pep. Her 2nd serve is there already. But she lost so many serve breaks against Justine. :o

I agree that she just doesn't get the Service Winners she should get. Even against Harkleroad, all her serves were coming back. If Maria can be more secure on her serve games, she'll be almost unstoppable.

Steve-o
Jan 26th, 2006, 07:38 PM
Yeah, it is the vulnerability at the moment but that's cos of the injury's IMO. ;)

xan
Jan 26th, 2006, 10:22 PM
Yeah, it is the vulnerability at the moment but that's cos of the injury's IMO. ;)

I'm not so sure. If you look through Maria's matches off grass, she has had a tendency to lose her serve too easily. This means she has quite often lost three, four or five games in a row in matches, even with people like Myskina and Zvonareva in 2004.

This is because she has not been able to rely firmly on holding serve. Here at the Australian, Maria lost all her serve games in set 2 against Justine, letting her right back into the match, even though Maria's serve speed is back up around where it was before the injury. There seems to be a problem of technique as well as power. Even against low-ranked players, she is not getting enough free points (points where the ball does not return in court) on serve.

A top server should only normally lose serve around once in a two-set match. maria is certainly strong and tall enough to reach this standard. If she can do this, her matches would be so much easier.

Steve-o
Jan 26th, 2006, 10:35 PM
You may have a point about technique. There is the possibility that Maria's action has changed slightly to compensate for the problems she's been having.

Dan23
Jan 27th, 2006, 12:04 AM
I wouldnt say Maria's serve is a weakness. The speed of her serve was up maybe 5-10km/h on average from last year with the improvement on her injury and thats even with her backing off a little on power. The 1st serve % though was no where near good enough and we know Maria is capable of 70-80%. I think the lack of work shes been able to do on her serve in practice due to the injury is the reason for this. Quite often she still found a big serve when it was really needed in the last few matches.

A more worrying current weakness might be her net play and her BH slice which would also be effective in shortening rallies. Since Maria has an amazing lob off either side and the abililty to hit brilliant short angled passing shots, drawing her opponents forward with a short slice would give her the chance to use brilliance rather than just firing groundstrokes all day at players sitting 4m behind the baseline.

lakan kildap
Jan 27th, 2006, 12:04 AM
unless she's having problems physically, there's nothing wrong with her serve pace. When she's healthy, her first serve pace is average for today's power players (which means it's fast), but it is her 2nd serve pace that is amazing. Broadcasters often say Maria really goes for her 2nd serve. At Wimbledon 2004 (old news, I know, but it remains her best performance), her 1st serve was about 105 mph, while the 2nd serve was about 100, a mere 5 mph difference. (By contrast, Serena on that day had a faster 1st serve, but an average 2nd serve of only 89 mph.)

But why is she able to do this? My theory is because her location is also on the "safe" side. She rarely goes for the sideline, or the corner of the service box, or the T down the middle. She rarely jams her opponents by serving into the body. Often her balls end up right in the opponent's swinging zone. In the 4th round match with Hantuchova, she was actually being outserved by Daniela, never mind the equal number of aces (Maria's 1st "ace" was actually wide/out). Daniela served better that day.

Rohin.
Jan 27th, 2006, 12:21 AM
Here i was thinking she had a really good serve!

I agree with what Dan says, and I'm not a fan just an observer. Also stats wise she was kicking ass on first serve points won % etc..

lakan kildap
Jan 27th, 2006, 12:48 AM
well, it is a strong serve. she's just not experimenting much with it, IMO.

JoJoCircus
Jan 27th, 2006, 02:15 AM
She had way too many games where she couldn't buy a first serve, those dropshots gave me nightmares last night

msharafan
Jan 27th, 2006, 07:00 AM
your theries are good, but i think marias serve is as it is due to her injury, like she said coming into the aussie she could not serve 100%, the injury didnt seem to trouble her, but i think it affected her practising on it over the off season, now that its healing though she will soon be on the practice court, getting more timing rythm and accuracy on it, i wouldnt say marias wekness is her serve, but she does make up for it when shes vunreble with her beautiful return of serves, if you lookk back to marias match against lindsey at the yec i think she served 17 aces! she was serving great, then low and behold when it came to playing petrova she had to save herself for amelie, but she still lost, this would suggest to me that maria may still have some worrying thoughts in her head when it comes to her serve and injury, these thoughts are not her fault but natural, but i think we will see a great improvement in the next few months, not only on her serve but her all round game! so good luck maria! and win tokyo again!

xan
Jan 27th, 2006, 10:10 AM
I wouldnt say Maria's serve is a weakness. The speed of her serve was up maybe 5-10km/h on average from last year with the improvement on her injury and thats even with her backing off a little on power. The 1st serve % though was no where near good enough and we know Maria is capable of 70-80%. I think the lack of work shes been able to do on her serve in practice due to the injury is the reason for this. Quite often she still found a big serve when it was really needed in the last few matches.
Yes. The speed of the first serve is up, but her %age in is down. I agree this is probably lack of practice. The problem is that even when it goes in fast, except on grass, the 1st serve seems to be ineffective. Where even Daniela gets quite a lot of free points off serve in the form of unreturned serves, Maria does not, except on very fast courts.

I was watching the Harkleroad and Hantuchova matches, and I kept getting frustrated that even when she got a good 1st serve in, it kept coming back deep in court. She was getting very few cheap points with unreturned serves, or weak returns that could be put-away easily. Maria was still winning most of these points, but she was having to do it by rallying. Have a look at these matches.

What this means is that even against average players, Maria is having to use too much physical and mental energy holding serve. Against very good players, Maria is having to defend too often on serve, which is tiring and confidence-sapping, and any small lapse in concentration can mean a disastrously lost service game. Maria really needs to be winning at least two cheap points off her serve each game, (hopefully more), giving her Less ehausting serve games. and Making her a lot harder to break.

A more worrying current weakness might be her net play and her BH slice which would also be effective in shortening rallies. Since Maria has an amazing lob off either side and the abililty to hit brilliant short angled passing shots, drawing her opponents forward with a short slice would give her the chance to use brilliance rather than just firing groundstrokes all day at players sitting 4m behind the baseline. Maria's net play is another area which could certainly improve. No argument. But this is a notoriously difficult area to make quick improvements. Even some good doubles players seem to lose-it at the net in singles.

xan
Jan 27th, 2006, 10:28 AM
Here i was thinking she had a really good serve! Maria gets good speed and depth, but for some reason (except on fast courts) her first serve just isn't doing the damage it should. Opponents keep getting it strongly back in play. It's like a bullet that hits the target but doesn't actually bring down the lion. Something needs adding to the serve to make it far more effective.

I agree with what Dan says, and I'm not a fan just an observer. Also stats wise she was kicking ass on first serve points won % etc..
Not against the dangerous players. Look at these stats:

...........................Henin-Hardenne (BEL)............ Sharapova (RUS)

1st Serve % ............43 of 80 = 54 % ..................54 of 91 = 59 %

Aces.............................. 1.................................... 2

Double Faults ...................4.............................. ..... 1

Unforced Errors ...............33 ..................................34

Winning % on 1st Serve ...32 of 43 = 74 % .............28 of 54 = 52 %

Winning % on 2nd Serve... 14 of 37 = 38 % ............19 of 37 = 51 %

Winners (Including Service) ....22 ..............................17

Break Point Conversions ......7 of 13 = 54 % ...............4 of 8 = 50 %

Net Approaches................. 4 of 8 = 50 % ...............9 of 16 = 56 %

Total Points Won ...................90 ..............................81

Fastest Serve..................... 180 km/h .....................178 km/h

Average 1st Serve Speed ......168 km/h ....................164 km/h

Average 2nd Serve Speed ......141 km/h ....................139 km/h


The main area where Maria was down on Justine was points won on 1st serve. She was actually significantly better than Justine with her 2nd serve! The 1st serve is the problem. it's not giving her enough advantage.

ceiling_fan
Jan 27th, 2006, 10:41 AM
well i dno if this helps but i think she definitely needs better rhythm on her serve instead of just trying to belt it

Andy.
Jan 27th, 2006, 10:58 AM
She definatly has the power but it is not the most reliable with some players im very confident when they serve but Maria's serve can be broken and returned. if that aspect of her game was improved she would perhaps have been in the final but it has definatly improved from last year which is a good sign. And about the backhand slice im not to worried its not a hugely important shot to her game she will never use it that much her ground game is really good without it and although it would add something different to her game its not essential in my book.

Steve-o
Jan 27th, 2006, 06:26 PM
A more worrying current weakness might be her net play and her BH slice which would also be effective in shortening rallies. Since Maria has an amazing lob off either side and the abililty to hit brilliant short angled passing shots, drawing her opponents forward with a short slice would give her the chance to use brilliance rather than just firing groundstrokes all day at players sitting 4m behind the baseline.

A reliable slice would also improve Maria's defence on the BH wing greatly, the lefty shots are a nice party piece but in defence a deep slice is so effective, this would give her time to recover court position and contest rallies she would of otherwise lost.

I think Maria's Drive-volley is ok, however the conventional volleys are pretty unsound. It's an area of her game that needs attention so Maria can shorten points on the slower surfaces and against players who have good defence like Justine.

xan
Jan 27th, 2006, 10:23 PM
Mary Pierce is a good example. She has perfected her serve action nicely. She gets 60-70% 1st serves in with great effectiveness.

Other serves Maria should emulate are, Lindsay, Alicia, and of course Serena.

Dan23
Jan 27th, 2006, 11:32 PM
Yes. The speed of the first serve is up, but her %age in is down. I agree this is probably lack of practice. The problem is that even when it goes in fast, except on grass, the 1st serve seems to be ineffective. Where even Daniela gets quite a lot of free points off serve in the form of unreturned serves, Maria does not, except on very fast courts.

I was watching the Harkleroad and Hantuchova matches, and I kept getting frustrated that even when she got a good 1st serve in, it kept coming back deep in court. She was getting very few cheap points with unreturned serves, or weak returns that could be put-away easily. Maria was still winning most of these points, but she was having to do it by rallying. Have a look at these matches.

What this means is that even against average players, Maria is having to use too much physical and mental energy holding serve. Against very good players, Maria is having to defend too often on serve, which is tiring and confidence-sapping, and any small lapse in concentration can mean a disastrously lost service game. Maria really needs to be winning at least two cheap points off her serve each game, (hopefully more), giving her Less ehausting serve games. and Making her a lot harder to break.Certainly true...but I think Maria has also been struggling to put much spin or slice on her serves which makes them less effective. I saw her gesturing with her racquet towards Yuri a few times, after serves that got hammered, that she couldnt get spin or was trying to get spin on her serves. Maybe its to do with her shoulder/rib or maybe the change of racquet? It'll be interesting to see if it improves with time this year as she gets closer to full fitness.

Dan23
Jan 27th, 2006, 11:35 PM
A reliable slice would also improve Maria's defence on the BH wing greatly, the lefty shots are a nice party piece but in defence a deep slice is so effective, this would give her time to recover court position and contest rallies she would of otherwise lost.

I think Maria's Drive-volley is ok, however the conventional volleys are pretty unsound. It's an area of her game that needs attention so Maria can shorten points on the slower surfaces and against players who have good defence like Justine.
Maria's drive volley is excellent...one of her best shots. Another point this brings up is how few of them shes been playing per match which shows the lower number of short balls shes been getting. Its also got to do with the slow surface as well as a less effective serve. Im certain Maria is thinking during matches about how to find a way to the net but her confidence seems to take a battering each time she misses a volley.

Steve-o
Jan 28th, 2006, 10:19 AM
Maria's drive volley is excellent...one of her best shots. Another point this brings up is how few of them shes been playing per match which shows the lower number of short balls shes been getting. Its also got to do with the slow surface as well as a less effective serve. Im certain Maria is thinking during matches about how to find a way to the net but her confidence seems to take a battering each time she misses a volley.

Good point. I feel Maria's been struggling of late to hit hard and deep consistently into the corners especially on the FH wing, which produces the short reply. I agree Maria is looking to come in more, but when she gets to the net, she looks so uncomfortable and clearly lacks confidence.

Netplay is going to be the hardest facet of the game to for Maria to improve. However, I don't see why Maria can't reach a level of competance where she can come in when she needs to and be effective, like Lindsay for example.

xan
Jan 29th, 2006, 08:42 PM
Certainly true...but I think Maria has also been struggling to put much spin or slice on her serves which makes them less effective. I saw her gesturing with her racquet towards Yuri a few times, after serves that got hammered, that she couldnt get spin or was trying to get spin on her serves. Maybe its to do with her shoulder/rib or maybe the change of racquet? It'll be interesting to see if it improves with time this year as she gets closer to full fitness.
Interesting observation.

The Eurosport commentators noted that Maria seems to have been remodelling her serve over the winter. Maybe these are just teething problems. Either way, hopefully she and her team realize that she needs to make the serve a much better weapon. The serve is allegedly one of her favourite shots to work on, so she needs to concentrate her efforts there, I think.

xan
Jan 29th, 2006, 08:54 PM
Good point. I feel Maria's been struggling of late to hit hard and deep consistently into the corners especially on the FH wing, which produces the short reply. I agree Maria is looking to come in more, but when she gets to the net, she looks so uncomfortable and clearly lacks confidence.

Netplay is going to be the hardest facet of the game to for Maria to improve. However, I don't see why Maria can't reach a level of competance where she can come in when she needs to and be effective, like Lindsay for example.
Maria's strengths are at the back of the court, so I don't think she should change the balance of her game all at once, but I do agree that she needs to be able to volley well when the need arises.

morningglory
Jan 29th, 2006, 10:01 PM
no. her serve seemed 'weak' on the slow AO surface, but after watching all the women's match, I must say Maria's serve is up there with the top.
The surface nerfs the serve anyway, otherwise Justine would've been crushed at AO already.

Maria Croft
Jan 29th, 2006, 10:09 PM
Just watch her serve go on the fast indoor courts in Tokyo ;)

But I do agree that some things can be improved, but I know for sure that Maria works on her serve more then enough

Sharapower
Jan 30th, 2006, 06:50 AM
Here's what Maria had to say about it :


Q. How much was your serve, would you say, diminished during the tournament?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think the main thing, I didn't really have a lot of preparation going into the tournament. I wasn't able to serve as normal as I usually would, you know, speed‑wise and amount‑wise. Usually I practice my serve more. But I'm not ‑‑ coming off an injury that I had for six months, I'm not just going to go out there and bang every serve, you know. I have to be logical about that.

Mafia_Sharapova
Feb 1st, 2006, 05:01 AM
I think Maria had known what she ought to improved
we'll wait and see her :)