PDA

View Full Version : NY Times on Women's horrible serving: Toss the Ball. Hit the Ball. Oops! Oops!


Bijoux0021
Sep 2nd, 2009, 09:41 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/sports/tennis/02crouse.html?_r=1&ref=sports

Toss the Ball. Hit the Ball. Oops! Oops!

By KAREN CROUSE
Published: September 1, 2009

The serve in tennis is the only shot completely in the player’s control, the one part of the script in every match in which the same person is director, writer and star. That has been little comfort to some of the top players in women’s tennis, whose serving has bombed on the biggest stages this summer.

On Tuesday, it was Dinara Safina’s turn. Although she won her first-round match at the United States Open, she scattered 11 double faults throughout her three-set victory against Olivia Rogowska, including set point in the first-set tie breaker. Safina, a 23-year-old Russian seeking her fourth title of the year and the first Grand Slam championship of her career, recovered with help from Rogowska, an 18-year-old Australian with deep ground strokes and a thin résumé.

Cliff Drysdale, who was calling the match for ESPN, at one point said of Safina: “Her mind is in the way. She’s just terrified.”

Safina avoided becoming an ignominious footnote in history as the first top-ranked woman to lose in the first round at the Open in the modern era. Afterward, she told the fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium to serve as she says, not as she does. “Please try to see your ball when you serve,” she said, looking as if she wanted to exit stage left and keep on going all the way back to Moscow.

Between them, Safina and Rogowska collected 24 double faults in what is becoming a familiar script. In the final of a Women’s Tennis Association event last month in Toronto, Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova, a former No. 1, combined for 17 double faults.

That dark comedy masquerading as a match caught the eye of Bob Thate, a former shooting coach for the Nets. For him, it was like watching the N.B.A. stars Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard play a game of H-O-R-S-E from the foul line.

It was so awful, it piqued his professional interest. “It’s like I cringe when people are serving second serves on key points,” he said. “You can see it in their faces — it’s almost like their mind is freezing up and they just look like they’re not going to win this point.”

Tuesday offered the potential for a triple bill of double faults at the United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Dementieva, who has re-engineered her serve since struggling with it in 2004, and Sharapova, the 2006 Open champion who is on the mend from shoulder surgery that cost her half a year on the competitive circuit, both won their matches.

Sharapova, once the world’s No. 1, now has the dubious distinction of leading the tour in double faults with an average of 8.14 per match. Dementieva averages 5.4.

Assessing today’s top women against their predecessors is difficult because the WTA, the governing body for women’s professional tennis, has complete double-fault statistics for only the past two years, according to Kevin Fischer, a spokesman for the organization.

Why does bad serving happen to great players?

Thate, a recreational tennis player, suspects he has the answer. He views free-throw shooters and servers as practitioners of essentially the same art — one more positivist than impressionist, its strokes predicated on rhythm and routine.

“There’s a great correlation,” he said Monday night from Dallas, where he was summoned by the point guard Jason Kidd to deliver a weeklong free-throw tutorial. “You’re not going up and down the court or side to side, you’re standing at the line and 10,000 people are watching you hit the ball.”

The serve and the free throw share key components: foot placement; body balance; weight shift; toss and follow through. Misses happen when players’ minds are willing but their mechanics are weak, or vice versa. Then there’s Safina, who committed 17 double faults in an ugly loss in Toronto in her final Open tune-up and then said: “It’s not the serve. It’s just my brain.”

After enumerating the numerous flaws in her technique, Safina laughed ruefully and said, “I know this, and I’m still so stupid that I continue doing it.”

Even the strongest athletes have minds fragile enough to form cracks through which doubts can seep. Roger Federer was bounced in Montreal, in his first tournament after winning his 15th Grand Slam singles title, when he double-faulted on match point in the quarterfinals.

“Sometimes when things go bad on the serve during a match, it’s hard to change them,” Federer, the five-time defending champion, said Monday after starting his Open defense with a victory against a young American, Devin Britton. “You try to find what it is, if it’s the toss, is it the wind? Is it the swing? Are you going too fast in the beginning? But then you’re asking yourself many questions, and the next thing you know you’re not focusing about playing the baseline points anymore.”

When she is struggling with her serve, Dementieva said, her mother tells her not to think about it. She finds the advice counterproductive, like telling a hungry dieter not to focus on food. “It’s easy to say,” she said, “but hard to do.”

Holding serve tends to be much more of an adventure for the women than the men. As the ESPN analyst Mary Carillo explained during Monday night’s telecast, the women’s game is predicated on power. “You get tired, you get tight, you have nowhere to go,” she said.

Kim Clijsters, a former No. 1 who recently returned from a two-year retirement, hurried the follow through on her serve in her first-round victory against Viktoriya Kutuzova and racked up four double faults. “I want to recover really quickly to get the return back because a lot of girls really like to step in now,” she said. “I’m kind of already preparing myself for the next shot while I didn’t even finish my serve yet.”

Clijsters prepares to serve by bouncing the ball three times. Her husband, Brian Lynch, who played professional basketball in Belgium, did the same thing before every free-throw attempt. Comparing the free throw and the serve in an e-mail message, he wrote: “It’s the only shot where all eyes are on you, and nothing else around is happening. This is where the pressure comes in.”

Professional tennis is not like the N.B.A., where a few teams have shooting coaches on the payroll. It is not like major league baseball, with its hitting coaches. On the WTA and ATP tours, there are no serving gurus.

Brad Gilbert, the ESPN analyst, said, “It’s probably the next wave.”

Leave it to Serena Williams, the fashion-conscious favorite on the women’s side and arguably the best server on the tour, to identify her sport’s next trend. After her win Monday, she attended the news conference in a T-shirt with “Aces” emblazoned across her chest.

Sam L
Sep 2nd, 2009, 09:47 AM
A reliable second serve is probably the best asset on a tennis court.

It's not about how fast your first serve is, it's about how reliable your second serve is.

doujyr
Sep 2nd, 2009, 09:58 AM
Safina avoided becoming an ignominious footnote in history as the first top-ranked woman to lose in the first round at the Open in the modern era.

What rank was Steffi when she lost in 1r?

Sam L
Sep 2nd, 2009, 10:06 AM
What rank was Steffi when she lost in 1r?
She lost in 1r in 1984. She was probably outside Top 20 then.

eck
Sep 2nd, 2009, 10:27 AM
You are only as good as your second serve ;)

ZODIAC
Sep 2nd, 2009, 10:39 AM
Serena has the best first and second serve in the game and she is fearless

doujyr
Sep 2nd, 2009, 11:54 AM
She lost in 1r in 1984. She was probably outside Top 20 then.

Ah sorry. She lost in 1r at Wimbledon when she was no 1.

Golovinjured.
Sep 2nd, 2009, 12:59 PM
Surprised they didn't mention Ana "The Toss" Ivanovic in there somewhere. What a mess that is.

fnuf7
Sep 2nd, 2009, 01:01 PM
Ah sorry. She lost in 1r at Wimbledon when she was no 1.

I think when they say first top ranked player out in the 1st round they only meant at the USO, not GS in general.

Beat
Sep 2nd, 2009, 01:07 PM
the case of safina is especially worrisome because with her hight and her power, she should be a fantastic server. but she simply isn't.

sammy01
Sep 2nd, 2009, 01:15 PM
i think women are generally more emotional than men (which is many peoples arguement for liking womens tennis over mens, more drama, bitching ect) but the downside to this is a struggling of emotions when 2nd serving at important points.

im pretty sure serena never says in her head 'just get this in' when hitting a 2nd serve on mp, but you can just see the negative thoughts of a safina, dementieva ect when throwing up their ball toss for a 2nd serve. the serve is the one thing you have control over but if you are emotionally a mess its not going to result in great serving.

when dementieva is returning, her tennis is reaction tennis, shes reacting to the serve, her emotionalness is being dictated to by the other player, as its out of her hands. for most girls there are some technical problems but the major issue is how they approach 2nd serves, its almost a scared of hitting attitude, that the greats like seles, graf and serena would never let happen to them. how do you teach dementieva to be as fearless in the moment as a seles or serena, i don't think you can, you can only give her tips and advice to help stop the negative thoughts taking over.

spartanfan
Sep 2nd, 2009, 01:25 PM
The NY Times has been really harsh on womens tennis this season. Why is that?

darrinbaker00
Sep 2nd, 2009, 01:36 PM
The NY Times has been really harsh on womens tennis this season. Why is that?
Because women's tennis has been really bad this season, that's why.

perseus2006
Sep 2nd, 2009, 01:37 PM
Rant Warning

Yeah, the women serve like crap, do they? It took Pova a few games to settle down and then knocked Pironkova's serve to some where in Jersey! Andy Murray, on the other hand, consistently had second serves in the 50 to 60 mph range, slower and not as well placed as Pironkova's and the mighty Gulbis couldn't hanle them!?! Murray didn't DF much though but the awesome Andy Murray wouldn't fare too well on the Women's side with his serve!

Critics like to jump all over the girls for just about anything. But the boys get a pass on playing pattycake for eight, ten, even twelve strokes at a time before either player will even attempt to move up to the baseline, much less cross it!

Pova's match was exciting. Murray's match was a total bore: something to be ashamed of.

I didn't see Safina's match but, as bad as it sounds tennis wise, I'll bet it was more exciting and dramatic than watching Murray and Gulbis play pattycake, in spite of Murrays awesome 50 mph second serves!

End of Rant!

faboozadoo15
Sep 2nd, 2009, 01:41 PM
the case of safina is especially worrisome because with her hight and her power, she should be a fantastic server. but she simply isn't.

:shrug: But her serve was great. Loads of aces, lots of free points. Maybe she didn't have the best second serve or the most consistent toss... But this is the worst we've seen her serve.

The Dawntreader
Sep 2nd, 2009, 01:48 PM
This isn't a rule in women's tennis. Serena still has a seamless first and second delivery.

Safina's serve is so contorted, with that huge toss and her side-on positioning. She's so much side-on that she has to turn so quickly to time her serve, but by the time she does so, it's too late. Rarely in any match does Safina have great rythm on serve, if any. It really mirrors the rest of her game, which is basically bereft of any natural timing.

I don't think there's ever been a number 1 player, who hits the ball so laboriously.

phelbyn
Sep 2nd, 2009, 01:53 PM
Ah sorry. She lost in 1r at Wimbledon when she was no 1.

Steffi Graf lost in the first round of Wimbledon in 1994 as the #1.

The only other #1's to loose in the first round were Hingis at Wimbledon in 1999 and 2001, and Virginia Ruzici at the Aussie Open in (I think) 1978. She was the #1 seed, but I know she was never ranked #1. Guess the top guns didn't make it to the Aussie Open that year.

Vincey!
Sep 2nd, 2009, 02:02 PM
Rather interestin articles :D...the guys doesn't seem ot know much about tennis but he did have some relevant quote there! Interesting but hmm not good for the image of the WTA...I'M not sure what he really wanted to say with that article lol

BuTtErFrEnA
Sep 2nd, 2009, 02:12 PM
This isn't a rule in women's tennis. Serena still has a seamless first and second delivery.

Safina's serve is so contorted, with that huge toss and her side-on positioning. She's so much side-on that she has to turn so quickly to time her serve, but by the time she does so, it's too late. Rarely in any match does Safina have great rythm on serve, if any. It really mirrors the rest of her game, which is basically bereft of any natural timing.

I don't think there's ever been a number 1 player, who hits the ball so laboriously.

sserena is now the exception rather than the norm...sad to say....

Vlover
Sep 2nd, 2009, 02:30 PM
The NY Times has been really harsh on womens tennis this season. Why is that?
I think it is just piling on due to the equal pay dissatisfaction mostly among men. They are all willing to jump on all negatives in the women's game in order to discredit women's tennis as an equal. While I do agree that some Russians have serving woes (Safina, Pova, Dementieva etc)it is not fair to impy the whole tour is shit. The Safina match is an exception but to date the more entertaining matches that the crowd seem to enjoy came on the women's side.

Patrick345
Sep 2nd, 2009, 02:40 PM
Rant Warning

Yeah, the women serve like crap, do they? It took Pova a few games to settle down and then knocked Pironkova's serve to some where in Jersey! Andy Murray, on the other hand, consistently had second serves in the 50 to 60 mph range, slower and not as well placed as Pironkova's and the mighty Gulbis couldn't hanle them!?! Murray didn't DF much though but the awesome Andy Murray wouldn't fare too well on the Women's side with his serve!

Critics like to jump all over the girls for just about anything. But the boys get a pass on playing pattycake for eight, ten, even twelve strokes at a time before either player will even attempt to move up to the baseline, much less cross it!

Pova's match was exciting. Murray's match was a total bore: something to be ashamed of.

I didn't see Safina's match but, as bad as it sounds tennis wise, I'll bet it was more exciting and dramatic than watching Murray and Gulbis play pattycake, in spite of Murrays awesome 50 mph second serves!

End of Rant!

Well it´s not the best idea to give Murray speed to work with. Not taht I believe Gulbis can think that far.

As for the rest, it certainly is no coincidence that every retired player on earth wants to make a comeback now. They all probaly fancy a fairly succesful return given the poor performances by players currently inside the top 20.

Donny
Sep 2nd, 2009, 03:15 PM
It you look at the ace and double fault counts for the year, almost all of the ace leaders are also somewhere near the top of the double fault count list, with the exception of Serena. That's worrisome, to say the least. Players shouldn't go from ace to double so frequently.

Donny
Sep 2nd, 2009, 03:18 PM
Thate, a recreational tennis player, suspects he has the answer. He views free-throw shooters and servers as practitioners of essentially the same art — one more positivist than impressionist, its strokes predicated on rhythm and routine.

“There’s a great correlation,” he said Monday night from Dallas, where he was summoned by the point guard Jason Kidd to deliver a weeklong free-throw tutorial. “You’re not going up and down the court or side to side, you’re standing at the line and 10,000 people are watching you hit the ball.”

The serve and the free throw share key components: foot placement; body balance; weight shift; toss and follow through. Misses happen when players’ minds are willing but their mechanics are weak, or vice versa. Then there’s Safina, who committed 17 double faults in an ugly loss in Toronto in her final Open tune-up and then said: “It’s not the serve. It’s just my brain.”

To be fair, pro ball players have to make three throws in front of thousands of jeering fans knocking together distracting noisemakers. I think it's a little different.

Then again, there are a lot of ball players, especially at the high school or college level, who can average down near 50% free throw shooting. Can you imagine if Maria of Safina missed 50% of their second serves.

BuTtErFrEnA
Sep 2nd, 2009, 03:50 PM
unfortunately they do :lol: and still win :tape:

Williamsser
Sep 2nd, 2009, 04:34 PM
Men's tennis is superior.

fatty sausage
Sep 2nd, 2009, 05:56 PM
is this article really NYT front page worthy? must be a slooow news day.

Morrissey
Sep 2nd, 2009, 08:12 PM
ONe of the reason Serena is the best is because she can HOLD SERVE. So many female tennis players have horrible second serves. Serena has an explosive first serve and a powerful second serve.The serve is the one shot a player can control unfortunately so many female tennis players have crap serves.

Donny
Sep 2nd, 2009, 08:54 PM
is this article really NYT front page worthy? must be a slooow news day.

On a lot of editions, the NYT devotes their front page image to a human interest/sports story, because they have the most interesting pics. The bulk of this story was in the sports section.

BuTtErFrEnA
Sep 2nd, 2009, 10:00 PM
Men's tennis is superior.

bla bla bla we get it...post something else

mdterp01
Sep 2nd, 2009, 10:13 PM
At the majors these days...its so much about serve which is why Serena has won 3 of the last 4. She has such a reliable serve in terms of mechanics and consistency. If people are looking to teach their players what a first and second serve should look like, tell them to watch tape of Serena J. Williams baby!! Some of these ball tosses are a hot mess and the ball toss on some of these fools are so high its ridiculous. The more quirkyness you add to your ball toss, the more it adds to everything having to be timed pretty much exactly right.

The women had it going for some time but men's tennis has clearly taken over again. The women's tour is really becoming almost a sideshow minus a handful of players.

Darop.
Sep 2nd, 2009, 11:18 PM
If you look at stats, almost always the player with the higher percentage of points won on the second serve is almost always the winner (especially in mens tennis, but also in womens)

For example, this stat is true for all today's match results at the uso except for 2 matches (where the difference in extremely small)

Steffica Greles
Sep 2nd, 2009, 11:23 PM
Guess the top guns didn't make it to the Aussie Open that year.

The press were featuring prize draws for the winning pet to gain a wildcard into the maindraw in those days. Hardly any bugger turned up. Was the same at the French for a while in the 70s. The Australian Open wasn't an event the top players took all that seriously until the late 1980s.

Puts Evert and Navratilova's 18 slams each into context. How many more could there have been?

KournikovaFan91
Sep 3rd, 2009, 12:09 AM
Kournikova would have a super serve if she played nowadays.:lol:

Leo_DFP
Sep 3rd, 2009, 01:02 AM
A reliable second serve is probably the best asset on a tennis court.

It's not about how fast your first serve is, it's about how reliable your second serve is.

Yet having said that, Venus still has 7 Grand Slams. And that's with an unreliable second serve yet booming and varied first serve.

The service issues are becoming a bit ridiculous at this point. Even though the poster child for problems on serve, Miss Elena Dementieva, has improved her ball toss and service motion (and thus double faults less and finds the opponent's backhand more), we have top stars like Safina and Sharapova double faulting more than ever before. And it's like you'll see a player nearly complete a very solid and complete service game and then, oops, completely out of the blue, she will lose the game with a string of double faults. I mean what about Sam Stosur? Her serve is supposed to be one of her biggest weapons launching her into the Top 20, but all the matches I have seen her play this summer have been full of service inconsistencies. Ana Ivanovic also used to have one of the best - and it set up her big forehand for beautiful winners - but now look at her toss and technique under pressure. So nervous, frightened, faulty. I couldn't believe how bad Ivanovic's toss got during that final set tiebreak against K. Bondarenko. :o :(

I went to qualifying matches all of last week at the US Open, and wow. I watched both Fedossova and Pivovarova lose to Marta Domachowska. At her very worst stretch, Fedossova had hit six double faults in eight service points! This included three double faults in a row to drop serve in one game and then another two double faults to drop serve in the very next game. Pivovarova was also an absolute mess on her serve under pressure, and some of her second serves missed by several yards long.

We need more women following in the footsteps of Serena. To say the least. :o

bandabou
Sep 3rd, 2009, 11:52 AM
Serena baby... this only serves as more prove of how great Serena's serve really is!