View Full Version : "Inverting" your ball-toss hand

06-04-2005, 09:10 AM
The title sounds weird because I had difficulty describing it.

Most pros toss the ball and then turn their hand so that either their palm or the tips of their fingers are facing the sky.

Is this a good thing to incorporate into your serve if you want to develop a more consistent ball toss?

Kana Himezaki
06-04-2005, 09:13 AM
Yes, I believe it is. It's not really inverting the hand, it's the use of less wrist in the toss. Many people toss with only their wrist, which creates a high and inconsistent toss.

The people you see are more pushing upward with their hand/palm into the ball. This puts almost no spin on the ball, which makes it easier to hit, and is more consistent because of that and because it's a much easier motion to duplicate over and over.

Just try tossing without the wrist, you'll kind of get it.

06-04-2005, 05:14 PM
The term toss is used but is a poor term for it is not a toss. A toss uses wrist and that defies consistency.

Hold the ball using the last section (the "tip") of your fingers with the index finger and thumb at the same height on the upper side of your hand. Raise your HAND straight up from a spot in front of you. Your hand stops because you've reached the highest point your arm can reach and the ball simply leaves your finger tips. You need to select the starting point of the hand motion and the height you want.

06-04-2005, 06:17 PM
Another element that will help with developing a consistent toss is to slowly raise the tossing arm and don't release the ball till it gets up to eye level. If the ball leaves the hand too early, there is less margin for error.

06-04-2005, 06:22 PM

That advice is great. I've had a lot of people, esp. coaches try and help me with my very inconsistent toss, but no one's ever noticed that I was using my wrist too much. I've been working on my wrist-less toss since you passed on that advice, and it feels so much more consistent.


Kana Himezaki
06-04-2005, 10:46 PM
I'm glad to see it helped. ^^

When I used to try to work on my serves, I wasn't getting anywhere. My toss flew to all sides, and especially in matches I'd find myself redoing the toss over and over or just trying to hit the bad ones. Needless to say, I usually lost my service games. And most other ones then, too.

I had some photos of points during Sampras' serve and toss, but I lost them at the moment. x.X If you find some, you'll see that almost all of the toss is with a straight or almost straight arm and no wrist. The hand's locked in front the entire time.

The toss is huge. :D You've posted about your serve before, this should help a lot, especially with consistency.

06-05-2005, 08:34 AM
I am just curious to what you mean by "inverting" and "turning" the hand. You start the toss with your palm facing up and ball on top. You raise your hand/arm and release the ball, then the hand stops and palm remains pointing up. The hand never moves relative to the arm at all. I am not criticizing or anything, I am just curious what you are seeing.

06-05-2005, 09:28 AM

Take a look at the following serves:

1. Martina Navratilova
2. Pete Sampras
3. Andy Roddick
4. Roger Federer
5. Boris Becker
6. Michael Stich
7. Mark Philippoussis

Just to name a few. Watch how their "ball toss" hand kind of "turns."

Kana Himezaki
06-05-2005, 09:32 AM
It doesn't really turn or invert. I think you're just getting confused at what you're seeing.

Put your arm out in front of you, palm facing up. Raise it, still with the straight arm, until it's well above your head. It's just as you said. Palm facing up, then at the end, the fingers are pointing to the sky that way.

There is NO hand movement relative to the shoulder, and there is no wrist.

06-05-2005, 12:22 PM
I know what e-t-r is talking about--their hand flips after the toss, so the top of their hand is facing the sky. Thing is, I think that this is just part of the natural movement: if you watch your tossing hand as it falls back down and in front of your body, at some point, it flips over naturally. I always got the impression that Sampras actually tossed with his fingers on top of the ball, rather than resting the ball on the palm of his hand, so he didn't really ever seem to flip the hand at all. I'm no expert, and I've never had slo-mo tape, so I could just be suffering from poor vision.

06-05-2005, 02:58 PM
Peripatetic, I agree with you. I doubt any of the pros toss with the ball rested on their palms.

Kana, I have to politely disagree :)

I guess due to licensing issues I shouldn't link to any Getty Images here. But, there is a really nice picture of Michael Stich's serve at Getty. If you have time, pull up a search on Stich and on People restrict images to him only. It might be due to an angle, but I strongly believe that he has flipped his hand.

Kana Himezaki
06-05-2005, 03:01 PM
Not rested on the palms, but on the top of their fingers with no wrist or hand motion.

Erik, you're probably right, Peripatetic has a better idea of what you're saying than I do. Regardless, you shouldn't be intentionally aiming for flipping your hand, it should come naturally with the toss. :D

06-07-2005, 02:11 PM
I've been watching Federer go this. It's very interesting, and I don't see the reason for it, but he does invert the tossing hand at the height of the action, when tossing arm is fully extended.
Its like he turns the hand right-to-left, after the ball is released, so the thumb moves away from his face.
Why does he (and probably most pros) do this?

Kana Himezaki
06-07-2005, 02:22 PM
Oh! I believe I might have a possible other reason.

If you watch many tosses of pros, you'll see that the ball moves from right to left in the air slightly. Sampras is a perfect example.

The reason is that by doing this, they can use the same toss for all kinds of serves. Disguising serves and direction is hugely important at the pro game, although not a big deal at lower levels. If I'm understanding what you're saying correctly, this allows them to do the same routine motion for all serves until contact.

06-07-2005, 02:31 PM
so the pros turn the hand right-to-left, after the ball is released, so that the ball's projectory in the air, moves right-to-left?
and if so, what has the action got to do with disguising the serve?

06-07-2005, 02:47 PM
I have this nasty little tendency for my tosses to basically shoot up to the LEFT of my body.

I was wondering if this hand inversion could possibly counteract it?

06-07-2005, 04:10 PM
I still don't know what you are seeing. Look at these videos (removing the spaces) and tell me if you see a hand flip in either one.
http: //www. ee. surrey. ac. uk /Personal /Q.Luo /tennis /sampras02. swf
http: //www. ee. surrey. ac. uk /Personal /Q.Luo /tennis /sampras01. swf
I can kind of see something in the second one, but it still isn't a "flip", it is just a continuation of the tossing motion.

Kana Himezaki
06-07-2005, 04:17 PM
I'm not certain, it's just a possibility.

Slice serves are more easily hit when the ball is at the side. Flat serves are high percentage when at 1'o'clock or sometimes 12, and topspin and kick serves are generally hit behind your head. The toss follows that same path, and they can disguise the serve much better because it's the same exact toss every time.

Also keep in mind I'm not exactly sure what you mean by inverting the hand.

06-07-2005, 04:31 PM
I'm not a pro but it's hard to do following things simultaneously
if my palm is facing upward or toward me:
1. Hip flex and coiling
2. leaning into the court
3. pointing the ball with tossing arm.

So my palm rotates and faces forward before I explode upward and
my tossing arm gets curled into my chest.
Similar thing happens when I pitch in baseball.
My left hand rotates and its palm face outward and forward..
Just an observation.

06-07-2005, 05:08 PM
Sampras does not really flip his hand as much as, say, Navratilova.

He flips it so that his finger tips are pointing directly upward.

Kana Himezaki
06-07-2005, 05:15 PM
It also might be that he's getting ready for full trunk rotation.

When you're trying to normally serve, you usually don't have your palm facing the sky during it. When the pros are simply trying to rotate into the shot, I don't think they keep that palm facing the sky after the toss either.

I'm assuming inverting the hand happens after the toss, and is not happening while they're actually tossing/in control of the ball.

06-07-2005, 05:51 PM
It definitely has to go in the "subtle little, unknown tips, needed for the perfect serve" category.

06-08-2005, 12:16 PM
At the risk of violating some copyright issues with Getty Images, of which I must request that if I have done so the moderators instantly remove my GIMP-ed images, here's some pictures of what I'm talking about.

We can all agree that Becker and Stich had great serves, right?


06-08-2005, 12:39 PM
The first hand is not flipped at all and the second one is done to aid in shoulder rotation. It is easier to move your hand foreward, or in the direction the palm is facing, rather than in the direction of the back of the hand. I am, however, sure that no one who does it, on the pro level anyway, is aware that they are doing it, or if they are they are not thinking about it. But, like I say, my best guess as to why they do it is to aid in shoulder rotation for a more powerful and comfortable service motion.

06-08-2005, 01:04 PM
yep, this is what I thought you were referring to e-r-t. Yeah, I guess this makes me think of swimming--when you take a freestyle stroke, you have to have your hand facing away from your body/face not only to 'push' the water, but also to maximize the rotational pull of your shoulders. I think this position gives the server the ability to really rotate and explode the shoulder into the ball--like if there were a bar or handle for these guys to grab onto, they would use that to grab onto with their left hand, right?

Always wondered about this myself. Now I'm wondering if this is one of those little tricks that only top coaches actually teach, or if it does just come naturally with a super-fluid service motion.

08-03-2005, 04:31 PM
I'd like to revive this topic. Please take a look at the serve of Pete Sampras at tenniscruz.com and the serve of Andy Roddick at tennisplayer.net under Stroke Archives if you have time.

There is a clear turn of the hand.