It’s time for another episode in the Simple Serve Tips series! In this series, we’re getting up close and personal with the tennis serve. We all know that there are so many moving parts to the serve and it can be hard to get a handle on all of them. So, in this series, we’re looking at the entire serve picture – every little bit of it and how each piece can be improved upon to make your serve a better, more reliable tool in your game.
So far in this series, we've talked about where you should stand when you serve, how and why to use the continental grip on your serve, what service stance to use, and what the qualities of a good serve really are. Today, we're focusing on the toss and specifically on how to hold the tennis ball as you prepare to toss.
The Most Important Part of the Tennis Serve – The Toss
If you've listened to Tennis Quick Tips for awhile, you know how I feel about the toss. In fact, I have three previous Tennis Quick Tips episodes just talking about the toss. That's because I happen to think the toss is the most important part of the serve. And the reason I think that is, number one, because the toss is what gets the whole service motion going. And, number two, if your toss isn't in the right spot, it's nearly impossible for you to hit a good serve.
Probably the biggest problem with getting a good toss is getting control of the toss. This means having control of where you place the toss and how high or low it travels. If you don't have control of your toss, it can travel too far away from you, it can end up behind you, it can be too far to your right or to your left, it can be too high, or it can be too low. The list of things that can go wrong with your toss is a pretty long one.
What the Toss Is Not
Before I get any further in talking about the toss, I want to make sure we're all on the same page in understanding what the toss is not. The service toss is not a true toss in the sense of being a throw. When we hear the word “toss,” we have a tendency to think of it like the kind of toss where you throw something to somebody. That's not what a service toss is at all.
What the Toss Is
Instead, you need to think of the service toss as more of a way to place the ball. You are moving the ball up in the air to get it in place for your racket to make contact with it.
When you throw a ball up in the air, your elbow may bend and your wrist you also bend to help you get the ball up as high as possible.
But when you toss the ball for your serve, you need your arm and wrist movement to be kept to a minimum. This helps ensure that you can actually put the ball where you want it and it minimizes any spinning the ball might do or any curve in the ball's path as it travels up into the air.
How to Get Control of Your Toss
Now you're probably thinking, well, just how do I do that? How do I toss the ball so that it is not spinning or curving but is actually traveling to the place where I want to hit it. And the good news is – it's actually not all that hard to get control of your toss.
In fact, the way I'm going to explain this is so simple that it’s going to seem a little ridiculous. But this is one time where practicing some very minor changes can produce some very nice results.
So, first, when holding the ball for your toss, try holding it to the sides of the ball with just your fingers, instead of holding it in the palm of your hand or even resting on top of your finger tips. Try to picture holding the ball the way you would hold a glass of water. You hold a glass on the sides, not underneath, right?
What this does for your toss is to take a lot of the throwing motion away because now your arm is not in that position that you take when you are trying to throw a ball up in the air as high as you can. Instead, you're holding the ball as if you're holding a glass of water and you want to think of carefully tossing that glass of water up in the air without spilling any of it. That's the same kind of path that your ball should be traveling – in a straight line, up into the air, without a lot of spinning motion to it.
This is What Happened To My Toss
When I changed just this one little thing in my toss – holding the ball with my fingers on the sides of the ball instead of holding it in the palm of my hand – I eventually ended up with a much better toss, one that I could control and more consistently put in the right spot for my serve.
So I'm going to tell you up front right now – if you decide you want to give this new toss a try, this holding the ball on its sides toss, just expect that at first, it may feel weird for you and you may not like the results you get. And you may be tempted to just go back to your same old toss. But if you will practice it and keep at it, I promise that within a week or so, this toss will feel normal to you and you will be able to get control of the placement of your service toss.
Give this a try and then let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. I would love to hear how this “tossing a glass of water” toss works for you and I'd love to hear your simple serve tips.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE
Check out the other episodes in the Simple Serve Tips series:
- Simple Serve Tips: Where You Should Stand When You Serve – Tennis Quick Tips Episode 103
- Simple Serve Tips: How and Why to Use the Continental Grip on Your Serve – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 105
- Simple Serve Tips: What Is The Right Service Stance For You? – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 107
- Simple Serve Tips: What Makes a Good Serve? – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 110
If you want to hear more about the toss, check out these previous Tennis Quick Tips episodes:
- Get a Better Serve with a Better Toss – Tennis Quick Tips Episode 14
- For A Good Serve, Hit A Good Toss – Tennis Quick Tips Episode 76
- Keep Your Tossing Arm Up – Tennis Quick Tips Episode 94
Happy Holidays and (as always) –
© Kim Selzman 2015 All Rights Reserved