The tennis serve toss is perhaps one of the most important phases of the serve in tennis. Learning a proper tennis serve toss will build consistency and accuracy into a player’s tennis serve motion.
Can anything be more discouraging on the tennis court than a tennis serve toss that seems to constantly betray you?
The serve cannot be overestimated in its importance to your total game. Your serve can be classified in one of three ways: a weapon, a stroke that simply puts the ball into play or a motion that actually costs you point after point after point.
What many players don’t realize is that the tennis serve toss is supremely important to making your serve a weapon and not a liability.
Is Your Tennis Serve Toss to Blame?
Most of the time, players that struggle with the consistency of their serve often have issues with their tennis serve toss. If they cannot get the ball toss for the serve in the right spot on a consistent basis, the contact point will be altered, and thus an inconsistent serve will be the result.
I have seen players nearly come to tears as they grow in frustration with their serve. One double fault leads to another; a first serve hit out leads to 10 more first serves hit out or into the net; the affected player can sometimes be reduced to contemplating an underhanded serve simply to get the ball in.
The serve is a fairly complicated stroke that requires excellent hand-eye coordination and an outstanding sense of timing. Tennis is a technique sport, and the serve continues to be one of the most difficult strokes to master for players of all ages and skill levels.
Refining Your Tennis Serve Toss
The first step to improving your serve, however, is refining your toss. The tennis serve toss becomes the foundation for a serve that will terrorize your opponents or, at least, enables you to avoid all double faults and actually get your first serve in on a consistent basis.
Do we need to discuss the importance of getting that first serve in? We know that pounding first serves into the box, even if they are not at rocket speed, helps you to establish a winning rhythm and forces your opponent to be on the defensive throughout the match.
You can cull any database that you’d like as you analyze match results—you will find that percentage of first serves in proves to be an absolutely crucial statistic in correlation to winning percentage. Take note of that first serve percentage the next time that you watch a match on television. You will quickly see that the player who consistently puts the first serve into play wins most or all of his/her service games.
Developing a Better Serve Through a Better Tennis Serve Toss
Thus, we are aiming for two simple and primary goals as we work to improve your serve: a) we want you to succeed in smacking a fairly hard serve that lands consistently in on the first attempt; b) we want you to forget what a double fault feels like because they will become so rare.
With that said, let’s consider some advice from an assortment of pros as to improving your tennis serve toss:
Tennis Serve Toss Tip #1: Relaxation of the Tossing Arm-
Relaxation of the Tossing Arm- Many players and pros confess that problems with their tennis serve toss actually begin between the ears. That is, if they are not totally concentrating on their serve, their toss will be wayward and their problems will compound from there. As you toss to begin the service motion, be sure that you are relaxed and focused on the serve, not the score, not the wind, not your opponent’s loud father in the stands.
Tennis Serve Toss Tip #2: Ball Positioning in Hand-
Take a look at how you are holding the ball. The ball should rest between the end of your thumb and the ends of two or three of your fingers. You should hold it lightly in this pincer-like grip. The ball should be well removed from your palm. The old adage about thinking of tossing an egg works pretty well here. Make sure the ball is on the ends of your fingertips as you go to toss it.
As you practice your toss, try to release the ball in a way that all of your fingers lose contact with the ball at the exact same time. This is not as hard as it might sound, but it is important. The ball should leave your thumb and 2-3 fingertips simultaneously. Practice to make this part of the toss perfect.
Tennis Serve Toss Tip #3: Avoid Bending the Tennis Serve Tossing Arm-
Most players and pros who instruct on this matter advise players to keep their arms straight with their elbow locked. Think of your arm as the catapult that will power the ball up into the air as you raise it and open your fingers somewhat like a flower. The motion of your arm upwards should be enough to give you a toss of decent height.
Tennis Serve Toss Tip #4: Ensure the Correct Tennis Serve Toss Height-
If your tennis serve toss is too low, then increase the speed of your arm being lifted into position. You should release the ball at eye level as your arm is held straight out. This will also help you to get a reasonable height on your tennis serve toss.
It will also keep you from releasing the ball too late or too early, which will cause the ball to be tossed too far in front of you or too far behind you, both of which will result in unnatural body positions for the striking of the serve. Remember: arm straight + ball released at eye level=toss at correct height and position.
Tennis Serve Toss Tip #5: Do Not Drop Your Head as You Toss-
As you are now thinking of your straight arm and soft release at eye level, it is important to remind you that you should be watching the ball at all times. You might not see it when it is at your waist or wherever you begin your service motion, but once it is tossed, you should know exactly where it is. You should never take a peek at your opponent or at the court or at the sparrow in the alley.
Your eye should be on the ball until contact occurs. By the way, many times when you take your eye off the ball at this point, it is because you have excessive nerves or are planning too much with your serve. Stay relaxed and watch the ball. Don’t tense up and make a huge plan in the millisecond that it takes for you to toss the ball.
Tennis Serve Toss Tip #6: Tossing Arm Position
Many pros recommend that your toss be up a shaft slightly to the right of your tossing arm, that is to say that the toss might not be entirely vertical in a straight line. This will leave the ball at the height of your toss more towards your right shoulder, a good position for it as your right arm swings through and strikes the ball.
To practice this type of placement, place your racquet or a used CD on the court about one racquet face to the right of your left foot in the service motion. You should be able to toss the ball onto the racquet face or CD again and again. Once you have mastered this placement, you can know with confidence that you are tossing the ball into a spot where your right arm can strike it with maximum effectiveness.
How High Should Your Tennis Serve Toss Be?
Now that we have established where the tennis serve toss should be made vis-à-vis your shoulders, now we need to decide how high your toss should be. As you have watched tennis and played against a wide variety of opponents, you have discovered that players toss the ball at an amazing array of heights. Some like a super high toss (which can be adversely affected by the wind) and some like a very low toss (requires even better hand-eye coordination than normal).
Both the very high and the very low toss have advantages in terms of the receiver’s timing. Nothing can throw the receiver off more than waiting, waiting, waiting for the ball to descend to the server’s outstretched racquet. Similarly, a quick toss and smash serve can catch the receiver off guard. If you are more concerned with getting the serve in rather than disrupting your foe’s timing, find a height that feels good to you.
Experimenting With Your Tennis Serve Toss
Most pros would recommend hitting the ball when it is at its highest point or shortly afterward. Toss the ball at different heights and see what feels best for you. You might be one of those skyscraper tossers, or perhaps you will go with the hurry-up tennis serve toss. Most players toss the ball somewhere in between, a couple of feet into the air and then strike it soon after it begins to descend.
Whatever toss you decide to utilize, one final point bears noting: this toss should be completely automatic for you if you want to have a consistent serve. That means that you are going to have to practice it for hours. You don’t have to rehearse the toss separate from the service motion for hours, but you do need to hit thousands of serves to make the toss automatic and your service motion a smooth one.
What a Perfect Tennis Serve Toss Feels Like
A great serve begins with a toss that is right for the server, gently launched upward slightly to the right in most cases. As that ball sits for instant on that invisible ledge caused by gravity—whoosh!—comes the racquet through to strike it with terrifying force. The toss rose to a comfortable height and now the ball is landing squarely in the box, again and again and again. You have now mastered the tennis serve toss.