An accurate tennis serve toss that consistently reaches the right location and height can only be achieved with effective toss drills.
A proper toss location is crucial for your serves to consistently land in the service box on the other side, but tossing the ball in the same spot repeatedly is not that easy.
My favorite serve toss drill is called “Keep Lifting”, and it corrects two major problems on the serve:
There are quite a few reasons why the ball placement in the toss is not consistent:
There are various drills that help solve these problems, but in this lesson we’ll focus on:
When the tossing arm doesn’t end up in a vertical position at the end of the loading phase, it means that the body is not at the right angle to accelerate the racquet upward.
The cause for that is usually a mental one and not simply a mechanical mistake that needs to be fixed.
That body and arm position suggest that you’re imagining hitting the ball downward.
You are simply aligning your body so that you can swing in a more downward fashion.
So, unless you understand that the serve swing path is upward, the toss drills will not really correct that body position as you will eventually revert to your old technique, which simply reflects your mental image of how you want to hit the ball.
The second reason for inconsistent ball toss is a very jerky tossing motion that keeps sending the ball in different directions and makes us “chase” it with the service motion.
The mental image that you may have is that you have to “throw” the ball upward, and that causes your body to produce a very jerky movement.
To get the correct mental image, simply imagine that you are lifting the ball in a straight line and that the ball simply leaves your hand by itself rather than you having to “eject” it out.
This serve toss drill has two stages:
You can see how I work with Prabha, who is just 8 years old and has just started to learn the service motion with me.
A fairly consistent toss is important even at very early stages of developing the serve since even the basic serve drills require her to place the ball quite accurately in the toss.
Helping her to change from the “throwing” concept to the “lifting” concept follows these progressions:
I’ve worked with Prabha only two times so far for about 10 minutes per session on the toss, and the difference in consistency of the toss is already noticeable.
The second stage of the “Keep Lifting” drill is to add more height to the toss without transitioning back to a jerky “throwing” concept.
The mental image you can have in mind is that your hand is a magnet that repels the ball as it leaves the hand.
Imagine “pushing” the ball up with your hand, even though the ball has already left your hand.
That helps you maintain that calm movement of your arm which in turn helps you consistently place the ball in the right spot.
It also helps you achieve proper body alignment in the loading phase. That body alignment creates proper torque and stretches your muscles in the right way, which then allows you to release all that stored energy in your body in order to accelerate your arm and the racquet through the contact zone.
You may feel at the beginning that the lifting concept will not create enough speed for you to toss the ball high enough.
But I encourage you to stick to this process for a while and allow your body to find a very economical way of gradually building the speed of the tossing arm, which will eventually result in a high enough toss placement.