After the contact phase, it is all about directing the ball and deceleration of the whole movement in the way that the muscles, tendons and ligaments are protected from the chronic injuries.
After the contact the hitting arm and the racquet continue following the direction of the ball further. The shoulder internal rotation and the forearm pronation (which begun before the contact) are keeping the arm straight pointing to the direction of the leaving ball.
I call it the thumb down phase. Imagine having the arm straight in front of you with the thumb facing downwards. That should be the position of your arm, from the shoulder to the hand wrist, protected of injuries (front shoulder injuries, extreme wrist flexion etc) while securing the efficiency of the stroke and performing the perfect follow through deceleration.
Making sure that the arm is moving away from the body to the wanted forward and downwards direction after the impact point (over the net and down into the service box) is the most important technical element of the follow through phase.
Two body parts are crucial in the follow through stage:
1. Non dominant arm and
2. Rear leg from the hip to the toe
1. Non dominant arm through the acceleration phase is moving front and downwards (the importance of it explained in the acceleration phase blog). The elbow pulled down to the hip will ensure that the non dominant hip is blocked. This enables the perfect stability of the non hitting side and the efficient rotation of the hitting side. Elbow tucked in the area of the lower abdominopelvic area is a prerequisite for the further FORWARD follow through motion of the hitting arm, preventing the hitting arm from dropping down to early.
2. The elbow is blocking the non dominant trunk area, from hip to the shoulder, but the toe and the knee of the front leg are crucial in keeping the balance and the stability of the lower body area. At this moment the legs are spreading, having the rear leg going backwards to enable the forward follow through motion of the hitting arm. At the same time, the front leg need to provide stability for this motion to happen, through the toe and knee flexion. Toes with the plantar flexion, pushing downwards and the knee flexed forward are a key for the stability of the rotational phase of the serve and enabling the player to land strong into the court, putting more pressure on the ball.
I don’t think that players are aware how important the landing is in tennis. Landing is the finishing of the weight balance motion, that starts with the toss from the back foot. As the player begins with the weight at the rear foot, strong landing to the front foot is crucial.
Strong landing adds:
To the much better control of the serve. Stronger balance and stability of the finishing stage of the follow through. Enables the trunk to lean forward after the landing. Enables further and complete shoulder rotation having the hitting shoulder rotate in full.
These are such small details but when you serve at the full speed, you really need to think about the perfect control as the power without control is nothing but a mistake in tennis.