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The Ball Toss: Your key to a killer serve

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The ball toss

Today we’re talking about the ball toss for adult players. After watching a Summer filled with adults on tennis holidays in Mallorca and witnessing the lack luster response each day around serve time I realize players dread serving. It’s easy to see that most intermediate adults players main problem on their serve (post the wrong serving grip) is the ball toss. They don’t understand the importance of it. There seems to be an overall confusion about where to place the ball toss and why it’s important to your serve.

Trust me, it’s not just a simple throw in the air. It’s the way to unlocking a consistent and powerful serve. Picture the ball toss as the foundation of a house. You might not see it once the structure is complete, but its stability determines the integrity of the entire home.

Most adults brush off the ball toss, assuming it’s a minor detail in the serve. But, in reality, it’s the linchpin for a powerful and consistent serve.

The ball toss sets the stage for the dance between racket and ball. Ignoring the toss is akin to dismissing the GPS in your car when it tells you to get off and you ignore it. You might still move forward, but the destination becomes uncertain. Just like your serve.

The Two Culprits: Grip and toss

Now, as a tennis coach with years of experience, I’ve seen the game evolve. Two common culprits arise for adult players looking to improve their serve. The wrong grip and a haphazard ball toss.

The serve grip is continental. Not your forehand grip. But in your lessons if your tennis pro isn’t correcting your grip and letting you get away from your familiar forehand grip then you’ll go down that wrong path from the foundation stage of your game.

Today, we’re focusing on the latter because, believe me, nailing that ball toss sets the tone for everything that follows.

How to guide the toss every time …

1. Relax those shoulders

Your serve doesn’t need Herculean power from the get-go. Start easy, relax those shoulders, and remember, it’s a journey from slow to fast. The explosion happens at contact, not at the toss.

2. Lock the elbow, extend the arm fully

Plant that arm on your left thigh (for you right-handed folks), lock the elbow, fully extend the arm straight up, and hold it there. A fully extended arm clears the net and sets you up for success.

A bend in the elbow likely will flip that toss behind you.

3. Don’t close your fingertips

Relax your hand. Channel your inner Federer and keep your fingertips light & gentle around the ball. As you gently hold the ball and release the ball make sure the fingers are open. No last-minute jerks or closures. Release the ball gracefully for your best & most consistent toss.

4. The Height Matters

Control is key.

Don’t toss it too high. Timing will be a nightmare.

On the flip side, don’t toss too low, sacrificing power. Keep that toss where wind can’t wreck havoc and you’ll have a contact point built in where the ball stops in the air. If you develop a medium height toss, than the moment the ball stops in the air let’s you know the moment to explode upwards to contact the ball.

I see so many players throw up a high toss only to let it fall too low.

I see other adults who barely throw it up at all. This leads to zero extension upwards. If you don’t extend upwards to contact the ball from the baseline you will wind up hitting a lot of balls into the net. The extension of your hitting arm upwards is what begs the ball to clear the net.

The wrist snap over the ball {post toss} is what brings it down into the box, after it clears the net.

There is no limit to the number of bad tosses that a player may choose NOT to hit.

Deliberate Practice

In the meantime, stop hitting bad tosses.  Keep practicing deliberately! You can do tossing drills on your own for free at your local court or in your driveway for that matter.

Remember! There is no limit to the number of bad tosses that a player may choose NOT to hit.

You can always take another toss. Try not to let the peer pressure dictate you trying again or hitting anything you put up simply because people are waiting. Keep the people pleasing here to a fair minimum. They can wait. It’s legal in tennis to take your toss as many times as you need.

Ladies pull out your graceful game and guys channel Federer here and get that ball in the air as thoughtfully as possible to begin building your serve.  The toss is only the 1st step 🙂

Remember to deliberately practice the contact point positioning at 1:00 PM on a clock in which you’re shoulders are sideways – your feet at 45 degrees. Make sure your comfortable, drop the racket on the floor and aim for that sweet spot at 1:00 pm.

As kids we start practicing that ball toss early. So by the time we’re adults we have years under our belts practicing the toss. But for adult players getting a later start you don’t have that practice time. You’ll need to create it on your own.

Don’t overthink it. Practice here won’t ever make perfect but it will make a damn fine ball toss.

See you on court.



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