In the high-velocity tennis serve, the contributions that the upper limb segments' anatomical rotations make to racket head speed at impact depend on both their angular velocity and the instantaneous position of the racket with respect to the segments' axes of rotation. Eleven high-performance tennis players were filmed at a nominal rate of 200 Hz by three Photosonics cameras while hitting a high-velocity serve. The three-dimensional (3-D) displacement histories of 11 selected landmarks were then calculated using the direct linear transformation approach, and 3-D individual segment rotations for the upper limb were calculated using vector equations (Sprigings, Marshall, Elliott, & Jennings, 1994). The major contributors to the mean linear velocity of the center of the racket head of 31.0 m · s-1 at impact were internal rotation of the upper arm (54.2%), flexion of the hand (31.0%), horizontal flexion and abduction of the upper arm (12.9%), and racket shoulder linear velocity (9.7%). Forearm extension at the elbow joint played a negative role (-14.4%) and reduced the forward velocity of the center of the racket at impact.
Bruce C. Elliott and Guillermo J. Noffal are with the Department of Human Movement, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands WA 6009, Australia. Robert N. Marshall is with the Sports Science Program, The University of Auckland, New Zealand.