Coaching Tip - October 2023

The Serve Ball Toss Revisited

The tennis serve is a complicated stroke that requires good motor skills (hand –eye coordination) to achieve good timing.
Tennis a very technical sport and the serve is the most difficult of the strokes to learn for players of all ages and skill levels.

The importance of the Serve should not be underestimated as it is a vital part of your tennis game.
The serve is the only stroke in tennis where you can or should be in full control.
Your serve can be classified in one of three ways
1. A weapon
2. A stroke that starts off the point – puts the ball in play
3. The stroke that consistently costs you points as a result of double faults or weak serves and as a result many games during your matches or tournaments

The ball toss for the serve is therefore one of the most important aspects when learning to build consistency, accuracy and power in your service motion.

Players who struggle with the consistency of serve generally have an erratic ball toss.
The ball toss is very often in a variety of positions which means that the contact point is all over the place.
I have mentioned in my previous Serving coaching tips that players in a lot of cases hit the serve anyway resulting in a string of faults and double faults.

The first step to improve your tennis serve is to improve the consistency of your ball toss.

Follow these tips to improve your serving consistency

Ensure that you establish a routine before every serve.
* Relax your ball tossing arm
Players should use breathing techniques between serves to relax the ball tossing arm so that the ball flows smoothly out of the hand. This relaxation will also help to relax your racquet arm and also help to clear the mind.
* Holding the ball correctly
The ball should rest lightly between the end of your thumb and the ends of two or three of your fingers
and then at the extension of the arm be released smoothly from this position.
* Avoid bending the ball tossing arm
The majority of tennis coaches advise players to keep their arm straight with the elbow firm so that there is no arm bend. The tossing arm will then push the ball straight up with the fingers gently releasing the ball as if releasing a bird at eye level.
* The correct Ball Toss height
The correct height for the ball toss will be achieved if the tossing arm remains straight and the ball is released at eye level. Players should not hit the ball when the ball toss is not in this correct position.
This will help improve consistency of the toss.
* Keep your head up
Players should watch the ball (with eyes up) when the ball is tossed in the air so that the head and tossing arm are up and not allowing either to drop before contact.

* Tossing arm position
Many coaches recommend (for right handed players) that the ball toss should be in a vertical position slightly to the right of their tossing arm. The ball would then be at the correct height in front of the hitting shoulder to allow the correct right handed swing, contact and follow through.
* Ball toss height for the Serve
The ball toss height does vary from player to player but it is important that you develop or discover the ball toss height that works best for you. Try to recognise when the toss is too high or too low.
* Experiment to find the best ball toss for you
Practice to get the toss consistently in that preferred position.
Don’t hit the tosses that are not in this position.

Remember you can always do a Pat Rafter
When the ball toss is not in the correct position
Let it drop without hitting it
And as Pat would say “Sorry Mate”

Develop the skills involved in getting the optimal ball toss during your coaching and training sessions so that this skill becomes a part of your Serving game during matches and/or tournaments.

I hope that you are able to use this skill to your advantage so that you can enjoy your matches and play to your true ability so that you can get the results that you deserve.

Tennis the game of a lifetime

Contact me by Email if you have any comments or helpful Tennis hints.
Let me know the things that work for you.

Coach Steve