ETI 010 | The Pete Sampras Snap


Learn the secret that unlocks the power of the Pete Sampras serve – call it forearm rotation

But first experiment at the net before putting it into your own service delivery.

At the net put your forearm at net level and parallel to the net strap, with the racquet head at right angles to your forearm.

Now practice quickly turning your hand and wrist such that the racquet head snaps forcefully against the net strap.

Take your time, keep experimenting – and once this feels somewhat natural – toss up a few (rather than tossing down a few) and see how it feels on the serve.

You may be pleasantly surprised!

123 Comments

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  • Ian Campbell

    Reply Reply December 17, 2015

    Hi Jim
    Very interesting work and made me think of how I managed to develop this pronation at an early age by playing badminton . I took up tennis at 14 and could serve decent from the word go with my badminton technique already in place which means I dont need to think about how to serve.
    Surely for Andy Murray a major issue is that his grip is slightly towards eastern forehand which makes it difficult to probate? The correct grip is fundamental to allowing yourself the opportunity to even attempt a Sampras serve?
    However yo could have a good grip like Nishikori but poor instruction as you demonstrated him trying to reach up to the ball (as Bollitieri was saying) thereby impeding his rotational forearm speed?
    Thanks as it reminded me to get my young students to play some badminton when young allowing them to feel the motion without overloading the shoulder at an early stage of physical development.
    Would you say it’s too late for Andy Murray to change his serve grip or should he in your opinion Jim?
    Ian Campbell
    PCA Master Coach

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2015

      Ian – thanks for the note on badminton – most of what I learned about the serve (playing and teaching) came from Don Kerr in New Orleans who was a badminton coach – and as to pro servers who could “experiment” I am never sure after years of habit building that anyone can truly move outside of the “box” – but there are simple drills that anyone can try – my favorite is telling time – that create the feeling of this action – placing a wrist watch on your right wrist – and choking up on the racquet – can you serve the ball across the net – and when totally done arrest the follow thru such that you can look UP to see your wrist watch – to do this the ball must be more above you and less out in front – keep me posted
      Jim

  • paulf

    Reply Reply August 23, 2015

    Jim
    the Sampras snap
    great video. My problem is that the service motion is so fast that I struggle to transmit the net snap to a serve snap. You illustrate the Sampras snap but it is so fast I don’t know where the racquet is going.
    Just see the start and the end. Wonder if we can have a slow motion video of yourself or the master Sampras going through the snap?
    Many thanks
    Paul Fitz

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply August 24, 2015

      Paul – this is a good idea re the slow motion – give me a few days to work on this – sometime in mid September as we are away on holiday right now
      Jim

  • Bud Light

    Reply Reply August 20, 2015

    There is no question but what Pete Sampras’ serve was dominating and that he could put the ball anywhere he wanted on either a first or second serve, and with lots of speed, and spin. I’ve tried to use that “Sampras Snap” with some success but certainly not with the same success, so obviously I’m doing something wrong but I need to keep at it. Roger Federer has a beautiful serve and can also put the ball anywhere he wants, tho to me his serve resembles a trophy pose which is very hard for me to emulate at my age. The thing I most appreciate about your lessons is their simplicity and brevity. You do in a few minutes what other online instructors take a lot longer to cover. I also appreciate your obvious knowledge and experience, which comes thru loud and clear. I read and try to pass on anything you put on the internet. So keep it coming. You are the best, and I mean that.

  • Bruce

    Reply Reply February 11, 2015

    The forearm roll makes sense to me on the “flat” serve but is difficult for me to envision on the slice.
    Any clues?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply February 11, 2015

      Bruce – of upper grip moves to the eastern backhand this may work for you – but know that if the roll occurs more after rather than before contact – the ball has left the racquet face as the racquet continues rolling – hard to describe but true
      Jim

  • Nathan

    Reply Reply January 14, 2015

    Thank you Jim. Just to clarify the exercise. The player stands at the back fence and serves to the opposite back fence? And then from the baseline to the opposite back fence??

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 14, 2015

      Nathan – try this where you are on the baseline – facing the court and the service box – then 20 serves across the entire court to the top of the back fence (100 feet away) and then 20 serves to the opposite baseline (78 feet away) then after this begin practicing your serve normally
      Jim

  • Nathan

    Reply Reply January 13, 2015

    I watched a video of yours where you said that Sampras used to warm up serves from the back fence to get the feeling of hitting up. I cannot find this video. please could you let me know where i can find it. Thanks

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply January 13, 2015

      Nathan – with apologies, that particular video is within a product – Building the Serve from the Ground Up – the drill is called 20 and 20 but the instructional material is very similar to the podcast – but just for that drill the emphasis is different – and Sampras did that – so the coaches said – to imprint the feeling of swinging up
      Jim
      does this make sense?

  • Shmuel Goldberg

    Reply Reply October 28, 2014

    Good point. You identified Sampras’ rotation properly. His rotation remains in his body plane: his left to right foot line, his hips line and shoulders line remain in almost the same plane during his entire service stroke. There is almost no rotation about an axis along his spine. At the end of the stroke his racket remains at the right side of his body. He “fuels” his rotation by stretching the left side of his body and then releasing it into rotation about an axis that goes perpendicular to his spine and to his hips line. There is more of rotation (angular momentum) when rotating the body in this plain, than when rotating at the same angular speed about the spine line, so when it finally gets into rotation about the wrist joint, the final step before striking the ball, the palm with the racket will move faster. This what makes Sampras’ service fast.
    Of course, players’ Sampras included, use both rotations in their service strokes, in different proportions. The players must understand these two rotations, so when they get to their pick performance, they will know where to look for more.

  • Larry Kosowsky

    Reply Reply September 11, 2014

    If you turn your forearm like Pete Sampas’ model, where on the ball are you hitting?

    With this motion it would seem you would hit the ball at 9 o’clock. Can you hit the ball at 3 o’clock and still turn your forearm this way?

    Can you still hit the ball from 8:00 to 2:00 with this motion?

    • ming

      Reply Reply February 8, 2017

      Good question! 🙂

      I think that facing to the right side of the court, changes the diagrams a bit? Also facing a bit upward. Also…

  • Tim Puckett

    Reply Reply November 8, 2013

    Excellent – I know that Sampras also finished on the same side of his body and that is what really gave him the pronation snap and speed. I really have taken to heart several on-line instsructors that have used different techniques / examples to help simplify what pronation is. Brent Abel recommended wearing a watch and you should be able to read the time if you are pronating correctly. Jeff Salzenstein compared the pronation to holding a “dirty diaper” in the air when pronating – especially when attempting the kick serve. The serve is so counter intuitive because you think if you hit up on the ball (instead of out), you will hit the ball over the fence, but it is the hitting up that gets you the speed and over the net and the pronation that brings the ball down (spin applied) into the court with pace. Simple once you understand this.

  • rick

    Reply Reply July 9, 2013

    Great stuff love it thanks so easy to see

  • Franco

    Reply Reply April 28, 2013

    Amazing words, amazing new teach, amazing coach. I think you can add pretty much every big server on the pro tour to the list of players who “naturally” serve with extreme forearm pronation… Marat Safin… Ivo Ljubicic… Goran Ivanisevic… the list is long. One interesting aspect is that it happens naturally if you do it right, and you can’t “feel it” until after the hit, when you become conscious of the hitting side of the racket facing out instead of in. But the thing that’s interesting for me here, coach (I’ve been trying this way of serving for years) is what you say here about unlocking the pronation by aiming up instead of forward. That might be the whole “secret” of it. However, congratulations for finally trying to teach something that has been wrongly taught for years… Imagine, even Novak Djokovic doesn’t understand this dynamic. He does it right, but when asked about his serve, said that he “snaps the wrist forward” (showing a bending forward of the wrist) because that’s what his coach taught him, without realising that’s not at all what he actually does when he serves! The mind is truly a mystery….

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 28, 2013

      Franco – thanks, I will send you something about the “badminton clear” – that is where I got all this info and it took a while but ultimately made sense – I played badminton with our young son – and the clear gave him the same Sampras snap
      Jim

  • Andy Gray

    Reply Reply April 25, 2013

    I know this process but have not seen it illustrated in such a clever but simple way. This will help me a great deal thank you.

  • Ahsen

    Reply Reply April 12, 2013

    Dear Jim all I can say is WOW ! This was awesome for me as I added another 15 % atleast on my serve. Very easy to understand and implement, Well Done.

    I was wondering do you have anything on the kick serve.

    Thanks

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 12, 2013

      Ahsen – check out our full product line – we have quite an extensive lesson sequence within MTKS as well as articles in the ETI Network
      Jim

  • hans brink

    Reply Reply November 7, 2012

    I have to find out how to pay but I definitely order your instruction because for me it’s so clear the way you explain it

  • Klaus

    Reply Reply September 12, 2012

    Hi Jim, thank you so much for these last videos on the serve. I have always had difficulties understanding what pronation really means in this context – but this about that “you should be able to tell the time” is just a genius way to explain it – thank you for that it has made a huge difference giving me a much harder serve going high over the net – still it works best for me if I still emphazise the follow through – otherwise the serve tends to become too short. Is that because I need to optimise the pronation?

    Cheers

    Klaus

  • Peter Christ

    Reply Reply July 16, 2012

    This snap, coupled with the lower toss you’ve suggested in the past, gives me much more control for the kick serve. With practice, I suspect I’ll get more “kick” too. I did experience some drop off in speed whether trying it “kick” it or not. Any suggestions?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 16, 2012

      Peter – hard to say without truly seeing your serve – but generally this is about racquet speed and whether you can get a comfortable swing which spinning the serve
      Jim

  • harlan

    Reply Reply June 12, 2012

    Great stuff Jim. Your analysis and common sense style are truly eye opening, and easy to follow/understand. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  • doug wilson

    Reply Reply June 12, 2012

    Hi Jim… Can this snap and forearm roll work for the slice serve?

    Cheers Doug.

  • Simon

    Reply Reply May 31, 2012

    Hi Jim – firstly love the quick video clips and your style of preaenting.
    Question- what grip would you use best for the Samparas sanp serve to avoid hitting inside out on the ball, ( dad used to call it the american reverse swing back in the Pancho days)
    Ive tried very succesfully with an extreme backhand grip in practice but inevitabley when playing for real the brain kicks in saying”no way jose” .
    Essentially I know I need to train my brain to understand the technical logic with the correct grip -hence the question – which grip is correct?
    Cheers
    Simon

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply May 31, 2012

      Simon – yes an extreme backhand grip does the trick – but it takes time to master it – there is another issue harder to explain – if you start rolling your arm too soon you will hit the reverse (as your dad called it) so the other issue is to “lead with the edge” as long as possible
      Jim

  • Joe DeRosa

    Reply Reply May 1, 2012

    Jim,

    you are the best on understanding the serve and how important it is even when it comes to the top guys. Did you see how much better Rafa served against Novak in MC? I know Novak had a tough day but Rafa did hit some big serves and did not get broken. ( not so good though in Barcelona
    guess he knew he could win by spinning them in.

    Joe

  • Dino

    Reply Reply April 29, 2012

    Jim, tried your Sampras snap and it works great. My serve percentage even increased with this method. My opponent told me that the balls kick up after the bounce. I also likes your response to Andy 38 days ago. Thank you so much.

  • Charles Kurzweg

    Reply Reply April 5, 2012

    Playing badminton is a good way to learn this pronation which creates a lot of racquet head speed. Donald Kerr showed me this when I was on the Tulane University tennis team in 1975.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 5, 2012

      Charles – thanks, Don was an excellent mentor to me – and has inspired nearly all of the work I have done on this over the last 25 years – includes a master thesis on elements used to teach the tennis serve – would you have a picture of Don anywhere or know where his family is these days – he passed away many years ago, and had been living in Waveland (which was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina)
      Jim

  • andy

    Reply Reply March 21, 2012

    Im in southern CA, no teaching pros here really talk about this concept – they say “it happens automatically” for lack of knowing anything about it. I video taped in slow motion all the major ATP guys at Indian Wells and guess what – they ALL did this sampras pronation after contact. Even though I bring this up locally and even show pictures to local pros of the top ATP guys, they all say don’t worry about that part, and it may even damage your shoulder to forefully perform this exaggerated pronation. Anyway, you are one of the few guys that actually talks about it intelligently. Bravo! My question is, can you incorporate this sampras snap motion with all serves, or is it just for kick serve? can you use it on slice? on flat? on topspin serve? Thanks and great work!!! Semms on slice you should penetrate through the ball and carve it – how can you pronate to this degree on a slice serve to the duece court for a righty?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply March 22, 2012

      Andy – to my mind that action occurs on all serves (if the server can use and feel it) but the spin is a matter when the racquet face snaps thru in this manner – for if the elbow leads every so slightly more and the action occurs a hair later the server will hit wicked sidespin (both Pete and Rpger do that) even though the action is the same – if you have any good camera angles on your footage – could I use some of it – if so who did you film?
      Jim

  • Buz Couturier

    Reply Reply February 13, 2012

    YES!!!….kick serve al a mode!!

  • A. Scott

    Reply Reply February 12, 2012

    Jim what a great teaching tool. Kids and some adults have such a hard time understanding the pronation concept. You have made my job much easier. I cannot thank you enough. Your the man.

  • RANDOLPH SCOTT

    Reply Reply January 21, 2012

    GREAT TIP! IT INCREASED MY RACKET HEAD SPEED, WHICH AMPED UP MY FLAT SERVE AND IMPROVED MY SLICE SERVE. THIS TIP REALLY SIMPLIFIED MY SERVE MOTION.

    THANKS, RANDOLPH

  • Mary

    Reply Reply January 5, 2012

    Jim: I learned this from a Van Der Meer video 5 years ago. It worked for me, though I was a novice then. In the meantime I learned from too many different clinics and they all have said something different and more than once I got tennis elbow from what they were teaching. The serve became my weakest part of my game. I am going back to this tomorrow. Thanks for bringing this up

  • Sally

    Reply Reply December 4, 2011

    My serve is getting so much better thanks to you Jim and i’m 52 yrs old :-))

  • Imran

    Reply Reply November 29, 2011

    Hi Jim,

    I tried this last week and it works, big time for me. At practice, I was consistently getting more pace and spin to hit the back fence with my serves. During match play, I hit double the number of aces and many more unreturnable serves. It takes some getting used to and I find during the match my serve tends to wonder back to what it was and I have to practice the horizontal supination/pronation routine between points to keep the feel going. I’m sure with some persistence it will feel more routine. Thanks Jim.

  • Dario Miranda

    Reply Reply November 28, 2011

    Jim.
    Very good instructional video. I have been already practicing a lot with this forearm rotation movement. Sometimes I get good results and other times don’t. How to be sure that the ball doesn’t go like a crazy stone to anywhere when rotating the forearm? This happens so frequently to me when trying to rotate the forearm: the head of the racquet faces left or right in the moment of the impact with the ball, shooting it out of the court…. How can I correct this? I’d appreciate very much your valuable help…

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 28, 2011

      Dario – this speaks to the art of the game and also to the thought that were this easy everyone could master the serve in one lesson – it takes practice, also the correct grip, and lots of rehearsals – I have products on this including Building the Serve from the Ground Up – as well as personalized stroke reviews – stay with it and be patient
      Jim

  • Sigurd Vitols

    Reply Reply November 25, 2011

    Jim,
    what do yoy recommend, the Sampras forearm rotation or the wrist snap in the smash? My smash has always been weak and without pace.
    Kind regards,
    Sigurd

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 25, 2011

      Sigurd
      a lot depends on your style, your rhythm and your grip – it is more common to flex the wrist – (wrist snap) but that may be a misnomer because that type of snap brings the racquet down and thru the ball – whereas this forearm roll brings the racquet across the ball with less down in the hit – at the end of the day anything that Sampras (or gonzalez or federer) did is good enough for me – consider a stroke review so I can see your serve
      Jim

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