Background: An observational tennis serve analysis (OTSA) tool was developed using previously established body positions from three-dimensional kinematic motion analysis studies. These positions, defined as nodes, have been associated with efficient force production and minimal joint loading. However, the tool has yet to be examined scientifically.

Purpose: The primary purpose of this investigation was to determine the inter-observer reliability for each node between two health care professionals (HCPs) that developed the OTSA, and secondarily to investigate the validity of the OTSA.

Methods: Two separate studies were performed to meet these objectives. An inter-observer reliability study preceded the validity study by examining 28 videos of players serving. Two HCPs graded each video and scored the presence or absence of obtaining each node. Discriminant validity was determined in 33 tennis players using video taped records of three first serves. Serve mechanics were graded using the OSTA and categorized players into those with good (≥ 5) and poor (≤ 4) mechanics. Participants performed a series of field tests to evaluate trunk flexibility, lower extremity and trunk power, and dynamic balance.

Results: The group with good mechanics demonstrated greater backward trunk flexibility (p=0.02), greater rotational power (p=0.02), and higher single leg countermovement jump (p=0.05). Reliability of the OTSA ranged from K=0.36-1.0, with the majority of all the nodes displaying substantial reliability (K>0.61).

Conclusion: This study provides HCPs with a valid and reliable field tool used to assess serve mechanics. Physical characteristics of trunk mobility and power appear to discriminate serve mechanics between players. Future intervention studies are needed to determine if improvement in physical function contribute to improved serve mechanics.

Level of Evidence: 3

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, v. 12, no. 3, p. 437-449.

© 2017 by the Sports Physical Therapy Section

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.