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The Service Toss
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

The toss of the serve, how insignificant one may see it, can play a large role in your serve. In order to be able to hit a good serve, you must have a good consistent toss. Some players have problems with their toss, and some do not. If you are someone who has an inconsistent toss, it is well worth practicing just the toss. If you struggle with your toss it can get in your head during match play. If you are someone who is thinking about your toss during the match you are probably someone who hits a lot of double faults. The toss needs to be something that is completely automatic, no thought required. If you are not to the point where your toss is automatic I highly suggest practicing your serve until you are extremely comfortable with your serve.

Eye Contact:
Always watch the ball from the very beginning of the toss. Avoid tossing the ball up and then start looking for it in the air. Keep your eye on the ball until contact is made! If you take your eyes off of the ball and look at the court that means you just dropped your head. Where the head goes the face of the racquet usually follows, and you will most likely not come up with a good serve, but instead a fault. This is where nerves can play a role especially on the second serve of big points. When some players get nervous they tend to look to the court before they hit the ball. You will have to remember to stay calm and watch the ball the whole way through.

Toss Height:
Do not toss the ball too high or too low. Tosses that end up too high will be affected by the wind and cause timing problems, and tosses that are too low are subject to all sorts of problems. Not only will balls that are tossed too high be affected by the wind, they will also test your timing to the fullest. The toss should be high enough so that when you extend to hit your serve you hit the ball at the peak of the toss while the ball is in equilibrium. How high is that for you? That depends on how tall you are and how high you like to jump (assuming you jump) to get to the ball on your serve. You should be able to figure that out quickly. Tossing the ball too low, or letting the ball drop too low before you serve, will not let you hit a powerful serve. Instead you will get jammed because the ball is too close to you and you will be lucky to hit a solid serve. Learn to be consistent with your toss.

When learning the 4 types of serves, many players get accustom to throwing their toss in different places for the different serves. This is not a big deal, but it may not be a good thing either. If you have to toss the ball in different places to hit different serves you have already told your opponent what serve is coming before you hit the ball. Good players will read your toss to be better prepared. My suggestion to those who are learning the different types of serve is to learn to hit all four serves from the same ball toss. This will make your serve much more effective. The same theory is applied to the placement of your serves. If you are going to tell your opponent where you are serving, you might as well just tell them verbally as well. When you get a chance to watch the top players pay attention to their serve, see how they toss the ball, and watch the consistency of their toss. John McEnroe and Pete Sampras were experts at disguising their serves.

Be sure you are a player with a consistent toss. If your toss is not consistent, do not hide from the problem. Get out and practice your serves outside of match play. During a match is the wrong time to work on your problems.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker