Oct/20

9

Sage Salzenstein: How To Fix The Coco Gauff Serve

One of the big surprises of the revival of professional tennis in August was the disappointing mediocre play of 2019 American teen sensation Coco Gauff.


The 16-year-old seems to have regressed this year after her headline making 2019 as a 15-year-old. Gauff’s results this year have been ordinary, she made no impact at Cincy Open, US Open or Roland Garros, losing first and second round.


Tennis world experts have identified the shaky serving of Gauff as the primary reason for her struggles. While the first serve has been effective when the percentage is high, Gauff’s second serve has been sloppy and inaccurate, producing too many double faults at inopportune moments.
Other talented, highly touted female players have also suffered in the past from serving “yips”, a pro tennis lingo term for unreliable serving, particularly Anna Kournikova, Gabriela Sabatini and Ana Ivanovic.


One of the best technical serve coaches in America is Jeff Salzenstein, a former ATP top 100 player and NCAA All-American at Stanford, and the founder of Tennis Evolution, one of the leading online tennis instruction websites in the world and a popular youtube Channel with over 700 videos lessons and over 16 millions views. When Salzenstein played on the ATP World Tour, he was known as having one of the biggest lefty serves in the world despite being only 6-foot tall. It was his best weapon, a potent strike that is still talked about today (amazing considering he had one of the worst serves in college tennis when he was a 19-year-old freshman at Stanford.)

And through his coaching, online serve instructions  and video analysis work with students over the last decade , Jeff is often referred to as the “Serve Surgeon” because of his ability to correct and optimize the serves of players of all levels including top touring pros.


I jokingly told Jeff a couple of days ago he needs to get in contact with Gauff as soon as possible to help fix her serve. He responded. “I’d love that opportunity and have reached out to her agents via email…hopefully, I’ll hear back from them because there are tangible things that can be corrected with Coco’s serve that would not take very long to fix, especially with her ability level and drive to improve.”


When asked to identify some quick teaser tips for this article idea, Jeff answered: “If she can create a more solid base with her stance and her ability to load properly into the trophy position, her serve can literally transform. Hopefully, they will check out my youtube channel where I give tons of free serve advice. The real magic would take place if I could get on court with her and her coaches to show them tangible ways to make the serve a real weapon.”


Gauff is such big business already, she employs two agents – Tony Godsick (who also manages Roger Federer) also a day-to-day direct agent named Alessandro Albano (also represents Alexander Zverev, who also could use help on his second serve). Jeff has been in touch with Godsick and is hoping for a reply back from Albano.


Salzenstein believes Gauff and Alexander Zverev are both extraordinary players that could each win major titles in the future but with mental and technical blocks on the serve, the dream of winning Grand Slam titles is considerably jeopardized. “Millions of dollars and legacy are at stake because Zverev and Gauff struggle with their second serves. If I had the chance to get on court with Coco and her father, we could make tremendous progress in just one  hour.”

“Not being able to serve with freedom creates tremendous mental stress, and I am concerned about frustration and burnout down the road if the serve is not corrected sooner rather than later.”


But is it fair to pin all the blame on just the serve of Gauff? Could it be possible the serving failures of Gauff and Zverev could be the manifestation outlet for the pressure, pressure, PRESSURE to win, win, WIN now expectations, which subsequently is freezing the natural athletic freedom and flow of these athletes?


Jeff would not rule it out. “Yes, lot’s of pressure. There are a lot of dynamics at play. All the attention. The pressure to be a star, the million dollar contracts, the family being involved in the coaching. That can take a huge toll on a young woman trying to find her way. There could be some under the surface self-sabotage going on that has to be looked at.  But if you fix the serve technique and give Coco a clear pathway and focus, the pressure to perform can dissipate.”


“You have to understand mindset dynamics and serve technique on a deep level to marry the two together to create serve tranformation and better performance on the court. It seems like Gauff is searching for answers and may not have them yet.”


A notable aspect about Team Gauff that no insiders or experts discuss publicly is that her mother and father have no experience playing or coaching tennis at the highest level. They are undertaking and are captaining the ship of a near impossible journey of building a young professional tennis player from scratch. They have done a wonderful job so far. Further complicating their complex endeavor is the reality that young Coco is already under a mircroscope at 16 and she already has huge pressure and expectation to win now, to be the next Serena Williams.

Jeff agreed with this challenging reality that the Gauffs are dealing with: “A thousand percent, they are going into murky waters not knowing exactly how to navigate the next steps. That’s is why it’s so important to work with experts who can support their journey and make sure it is successful, happy, and healthy.”


So the question beckons: What will Team Gauff do to get Cocomania back on track? Continue to keep everything in house? Serve a million practice buckets until the problem is solved? Or seek outside consultation from a proven source like Jeff Salzenstein?

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