The Raonic Serve and The Trophy Position

Who is Milos Raonic and Why is He Important

Yesterday, in Paris, Milos Raonic defeated Roger Federer 7-6, 7-6 to reach the semifinals of the Paris Masters, earning him a place in the ATP World Tour Year End Championships. For those of you who don’t follow tennis, Milos Raonic is one of the bright young stars of the game. At 23 years old, he is having a career year as he is currently ranked number 6 in the world. One of the keys to his success as a player is his serve, which I believe is one of the best serves I’ve seen in recent history and may be one of the greatest serves of all time.

Youtube has a wealth of information, including many slow motion, high definition clips of the best servers. Here is a clip of Raonic at the 2012 Australian open. Any player looking to improve their serve should take a couple notes from the book of Raonic.

When I watch Raonic serve, I can’t help draw the direct comparison to one of the greatest servers of all time, Pete Sampras, so I literally tried to draw a direct comparison (please excuse the poor editing skills).

Let’s compare the trophy positions of Raonic and Sampras.

Raonic vs. Sampras Comparison
Raonic vs. Sampras. Side by Side Comparison

There are a couple quick things I wanted to point out. At first glance, the resemblance is almost uncanny. The left arm position, The elbow tucked close into the body, and the way they both lead with the front hip are almost identical. Also, if you look at their eyes, you notice that they are fixed on the ball. From the trophy position, you can gather a lot of information about their serves that can be applied directly to your own game. Here are a couple quick tips for a better serve.

1. A consistent ball toss is key to having a consistent serve. The ball toss ensures that you are balanced and enables you to explode into the ball. You never want to be chasing that ball toss around the court.

2. The left arm position is key to consistency and power in the serve. I always think of the left arm and right arm being pulled up together like a puppet being pulled by a set of strings. As the racket goes back, the left arm raises. The greatest servers are so slow and controlled as they arrive in the trophy position. It almost looks like you could lay a tray on Raonic’s or Sampras’s left hand and it would remain perfectly still.

3. The right elbow remains close and tucked into the body. I’m constantly reminded of the way great quarterbacks set the ball right before they are about throw. The elbow tucked close to the body allows for more shoulder turn, resulting in a more explosive motion through contact.

Tom Brady's "Trophy" Position
Tom Brady’s “Trophy” Position

My Side of the Net

Not everyone can serve 155 mph like Milos Raonic, but by studying his serve and breaking down his mechanics, you may be able to add a little more power and consistency to your own game. I recommend using video analysis software such as Coaches Eye to break down your own mechanics and see how you compare to some of the greats. The trophy position is a key component to a great serve, so go out there and start perfecting yours!

The “Trophy” Position

Editor’s note: For those who want a better shot of the elbow tuck than the comparison I posted earlier, here it is below. My apologies for the confusion!

elbow tuck

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Stephen Shapiro says:

    Raonic’s elbow doesn’t look tucked close to the body to me!

    Like

    1. acattas says:

      Steve, thank for you for pointing that out. I had a hard time doing a good side by side comparison with the images clipped from the internet, so I added an additional image that really helps you really see the Raonic elbow tuck. Hope this helps!

      Like

  2. clyde says:

    i’ve decided my favorite serves are ones with the platform stance because they seem to allow a much more lively kick serve. the top speed seems a little slower than the pinpoint, but the variety of spins and the consistency on the 2nd serve is better. platform servers all seem to have a much more flowing serve rather than the popular 2-piece serve (huge toss that is kind of separate from the rest of the motion) all over the tour these days; e.g., berdych and sharapova. there’s nothing cooler than hitting a biting kicker in the ad side (as a righty) that hits the court and jumps outward for an ace.

    Like

    1. acattas says:

      I tend to agree with that as well. I think that’s largely because of the athletic base that you get from a platform stance. Look at Roger Federer’s serve or Andre Agassi’s. Great examples to watch. Thanks for the comment and keep them coming!

      Like

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