It's inevitable. When a player reaches the top of the pro game, players and coaches begin talking about his or her strokes differently. Slowly but surely the references to the dominant players of the previous generation fade away.
When it comes to the serve, we recently went through one of these transitions, from the glorification of Pete Sampras to the glorification of Andy Roddick.
I would often see the transition when I talked with junior coaches. Up until a few years ago, most coaches still wanted to study Pete. The Advanced Tennis high speed video of Pete and the talks I did about his motion at coaching conventions were phenomenally popular.
|The serve of Pete Sampras compared to that of Andy Roddick.|
I also did dozens of side-by-side filming comparisons using Pete as a model for competitive junior and club players. The impact of his unbelievable clutch serving and his gorgeous, fluid motion lingered well after his retirement.
But then the conversation shifted. Those same coaches then started asking me for high-speed footage of Roddick. No one talks directly about this shfit. It's more subtle than that. It's just become part of the atmosphere. When coaches discuss serving technique they say things like, "Andy does this," or, "Andy does that," as the reference points in their arguments.
It wasn't like that when Andy was coming up. It fact, it was the opposite. Many if not most coaches and "expert" commentators said that Andy's motion, in particular that distinctive, super-abbreviated windup, was dangerous and unsound. The conventional wisdom was that Roddick was going to tear up his shoulder and ruin his career.
One exception was Rick Macci, a coach who actually worked with Andy. Rick helped him develop his serving fundamentals when he was around 11 years old. In his article, Rick turns the argument about Roddick's "dangerous" motion on its head. He believes that the problem was never with Andy's serve.
The problem was with the so-called experts who didn't know what they were seeing. "Experts" fear what they don't understand. And Andy's motion was definitely different. Rather than really try to understand what was happening, the predominant response was to assume there must be something wrong with Andy's motion and dismiss it as dangerous.
|Andy Roddick's serve: dangerous and unsound, or a technical breakthrough?|
All that started to change when Andy got to number one in the world and won the U.S. Open. Suddenly Andy's serve didn't look quite so weird. Junior players started trying to emulate Andy's abbreviated windup. A poll showed that over 50 percent of adult club players wanted to copy Andy's motion! And across the country, coaches who had criticized him vehemently began telling their students they had the secret to hitting the 150 mph bomb, just like Andy.