Perfecting Your Tennis Serve Ball Toss
The serve is arguably the most important shot in your tennis arsenal. It is the only shot you can fully control, as every other shot your play will be a response or reaction to what your opponent does. Even if you are a player that likes to dictate the rallies and win or lose points on your terms, there will always be an element of reactivity in open play.
However, the serve is the shot that initiates the point, so the server ultimately has complete control over how the point will begin. This can work to the advantage or disadvantage of the server depending on how confident they are in their own serve, the magnitude of the moment in the match and the quality of the returner they are facing.
One of the most important but often overlooked elements of having a consistent, powerful and reliable serve is the ball toss. Ultimately, this is the point from which the ball will be struck from, so you have the opportunity to give yourself the perfect contact point to begin the point.
This is a rare occurrence, as in essence the main way to win a tennis point and force errors from your opponent is to get them hitting the ball from as many different places on the court as possible.
Despite this, a lot of recreational players struggle with their ball toss. This stems from a lack of understanding as to why it is so important, where they should be striking the ball from and how to toss the ball correctly. In this article, we aim to address all of these issues!
Why Perfecting Your Tennis Serve Ball Toss is Important
The ball toss seems relatively straightforward on the face of it. Afterall, all you are doing is throwing the ball up in the air so you can swing and hit your serve.
However, this is the element of the serve that most recreational tennis players struggle with the most. Placing the ball in the exact right position time after time, with your non-dominant hand is a tricker task than you might think.
What’s more, there is also an element of frustration that can come from an inconsistent or wrongly placed ball toss. This is because trying to hit the ball from a difficult or inconsistent location can actually cause problems with your service motion.
If you throw the ball too low, too far behind you or too far to one side or the other, you may really struggle to implement a technically sound and effortless serving technique. Matters are made even worse if your ball toss location is inconsistent, as you are effectively guessing where the ball will be.
This creates inconsistencies in your serve, as you will have to adjust your angle of attack (using your legs, torso, shoulder and arm) mid way through your swing. This creates hesitancy and jarring in your service motion, thereby decreasing racket head speed, consistency and serving confidence.
This also nullifies the benefit of the famous trophy pose that so many tennis players strive to perfect, as an inconsistent ball toss will likely render you off balance and unable to drive properly through your legs.
Therefore, having a consistent, dependable and well located tennis serve ball toss can solve a lot of problems in your game. With this, you can confidently know that you will be hitting your serve from the exact same spot time after time, making it easier to stay relaxed in those high pressure moments.
You can serve safely in the knowledge that your ball toss will be exactly where you expect it, and all you have to do is hit the serve as best you can.
Having a consistent ball toss also gives you the option to hit multiple speeds, spins and box locations from the same ball toss. This is a huge asset as it makes it a lot easier to disguise your serve, since your opponent will not be able to read your serve from your ball toss.
Therefore, the ball toss really does form the foundations of a consistent, well rounded serve. But now you must be wondering, how exactly do I perfect my tennis serve ball toss? Well, let’s find out!
Simple Steps To Perfect Your Tennis Serve Ball Toss
There are a few fundamental things to remember when you are looking to develop a more repeatable ball toss.
Keep Your Arm Straight
This is one of the most important tips for improving the consistency of your ball toss. So many times we have seen recreational players that throw with their wrist or their forearm only. This is not surprising, as many instances of throwing in everyday life will only require these parts of the arm.
However, when you consider that you will be placing the ball above your head and want to do this as consistently as possible, you will want to use as much of your arm as possible to produce the same toss time after time.
Think about it, if you are throwing the ball up in the air using primarily your wrist (especially with your weaker hand) from around waist height, and expecting to place the ball well above your head in exactly the right position, you will very likely struggle to do this with any form of consistency.
However, if you can keep your arm straight, raise it up through the baseline and almost have your shoulder brushing your ear, the ball will have a much smaller distance to travel from your hand to its desired location.
Therefore, keeping your arm straight and tossing the ball from a higher position will help improve the consistency of your ball toss. Remember, we are looking to place the ball in the perfect position time after time, not just toss it in the air aimlessly!
Use Your Fingers
Another common mistake we often see players who struggle with their ball toss make is throwing from the palm of their hand. This reduces your control and can often lead to you throwing the ball back behind your head.
Even if you manage to control the ball and get it into a reasonable position, it will likely be rolling in your hand and consequently your ball toss will probably have some backspin on it.
This is far from ideal given we want to have as neutral a contact point as possible when hitting the serve, so adding extra spin to your ball toss only makes matters more complicated than they need to be.
A handy and easy to implement technique to combat this issue is to hold the ball in your fingers rather than in the palm of your hand. This makes it a lot easier to place the ball in your desired location with precision.
To practice this, try holding the ball in your fingertips to begin with, as this will exaggerate the feeling and get you used to using these small muscles to place the ball rather than using your palm.
Start With Small Throws
Another simple but effective tip is to start with small throws. This gets you used to placing the ball in exactly the right location and from an extended arm position. Simply start with your straight arm extended above your head, as if you are just about to let go of the ball from your tossing hand.
Then, simply place the ball in the location from which you would want to hit your serve from, so you can build up some confidence and consistency in this movement pattern.
This is a drill that anyone can do and will go a long way to perfecting your tennis serve ball toss!
Imagine a Clock Face
Our final tip to help improve your ball toss is one for the visual learners. This should really help with finding the perfect place to toss the ball in the first place, and can help you remember this consistently, in case you start to lose your way with your serve.
Simply imagine that there is a giant clock face above your head and right in front of you. You should try to throw the ball anywhere between 12 and 1 o’clock as consistently as possible, as this is the ideal location for hitting the serve as a right hander.
For the lefties out there, you should aim for between 11 and 12 o’clock. This is a great visual technique for maintaining the accuracy of your ball toss placement, and is very easy to remember!
Overall, the ball toss is an incredibly important element of the serve, but is not practiced nearly enough! It is a vital part of developing a consistent, reliable and powerful serve that can be a weapon out on the court.
But, without a consistent and accurate ball toss, it is nearly impossible to get the most out of your service motion. There are a few things to remember when developing the perfect tennis serve ball toss, from keeping your throwing arm straight, to using your fingers to hold the ball to finding the perfect location to actually place the ball into.
However, with a bit of practice using the drills and techniques we have highlighted, we’re sure you will have the perfect ball toss in no time!
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