The correct service toss in tennis is crucial for hitting flat, top spin and slice serves with accuracy, comfort and power.
The tricky thing about the ball toss, though, is the consistency of placing the ball in the right spot.
So, where do you need to toss the ball for different tennis serves, and how do you improve your toss in the most natural way?
The ball toss for flat serves needs to be inside the court and somewhere between the head and the shoulder of the hitting arm.
This instruction is only a rough idea – you need to experiment to find the best toss for your serve by making small adjustments.
Do not stick to the theory – always experiment and listen to your body.
Do you feel comfortable, and are you able to generate power with little effort?
The ball toss for the slice serve in tennis is almost the same as the toss for the flat serve.
You may want to exaggerate the toss when you’re learning the slice serve by tossing the ball even more to the right (for right-handers) or even more forward.
That will force you to hit the ball from the side and make it spin more on the vertical axis so that you can get a better feel for the slice.
But eventually, you’ll find out that the toss is basically the same as when serving flat – the difference is more in how you hit the ball.
When serving flat, you hit it from behind, while you hit it from the side when serving slice.
When serving top spin in tennis, the ball needs to be tossed slightly behind the back but still inside the court.
The contact is not as inside of the court as it is on flat and slice serves, as your main goal is not to generate the most force forward but to create a lot of upward momentum so that you can impart good top spin on the ball.
Make sure to delay the rotation when serving top spin serves because that allows you hit more upwards.
The common misconception mentioned in the video is the idea of tossing the ball behind your back.
That is true only when the body is already rotated and ready to start the upward swing.
So, “behind the back” in this case is actually parallel to the baseline and NOT behind the baseline.
Here’s a comparison of ball tosses for flat, slice and topspin serves from the back perspective:
And from the back view:
There are some great servers on the pro tour, like Roger Federer and Milos Raonic, who are able to hide their serves behind the same toss.
Here’s a video of Roger serving and below you’ll find a comparison of two tosses – one of slice and one of a flat serve…
As you’ve seen, the toss for the flat and slice serve is almost the same once you reach a higher level of serving, but to hit the top spin serve from that same toss requires years of practice and very good hands.
The reason Roger Federer can serve even a top spin serve from the same toss is that he is not looking for a big kick serve .
It is obviously possible to hit a top spin serve from a toss that would typically allow you a flat serve, but you cannot impart very heavy spin.
So, those serves that are being disguised are typically quite fast, and the ball doesn’t spin that much. The spin is used simply for safety above the net but not for kicking up from the ground.
When Roger opts for a kicker out wide (on the ad court), the toss is visibly more behind his back, and it is easier to read.
The same transparency can be seen when he opts for a high bouncing kick down the middle to the deuce court .
There’s only one catch – it IS POSSIBLE to hit down the middle from a toss behind the back, and you can actually trick your opponent with the toss by leading them to believe that you’ll serve a kick serve out wide when in reality you serve down the middle.
In summary, there’s theory regarding the tennis serve toss, and there’s reality on court.
Sticking just to theory will not allow you to find the ideal contact point for your serve.
Start with theory, but then experiment and listen to your body to determine whether you’re able to serve with comfort and power.
If not, experiment with the toss in all directions until you find that ideal ball placement.