How come I serve better with a very low ball toss?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Golden Retriever, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. Golden Retriever

    Golden Retriever Hall of Fame

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    I always thought the ball should be tossed at least 1 ft above the tossing hand. But when I toss less than 1 ft (maybe even <6in) above the tossing hand I serve better, especially for flat first serve. I can feel my right arm is not even fully extended. Is that OK?
     
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  2. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    Well, in short, no. It's not alright. Your arm should be pretty close to fully extended.

    There's a few things I would guess.

    1. When you serve normally you're tossing the ball up too high, and making contact too close to the top of the racket. Try timing your serve so you're striking it in the sweet spot.

    2. You're throwing the ball too high to get topspin. On topspin shots, the toss has to be a little lower so you can swing up on the ball. You said that it worked best on flat serves, however, so I'm not sure.

    I'd just ensure that you're not tossing too high. Try to go by the old rule of tossing as high as your extended racket. Watch the Bryan bros serve. They're masters at hitting the ball right at the top of the toss.
     
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  3. esgee48

    esgee48 Hall of Fame

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    If it works and you can get the service in, go with it. On windy days, my service toss is much lower than normal. The arm is not fully extended, but has some 'L-shape' to it. When not windy, I toss it about 6-12 inches above my reach with arm fuly extended. However, I will wait for it to come back down a little so I can hit top spin on the ball.
     
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  4. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Can't really know what's okay or not without seeing you hit a serve with that lower toss. When contact is happening too low with a serve though, it's usually pretty obvious at a glance.

    One thing that the lower toss might be doing to help you make better contact is essentially stopping at the top of its travel. It's usually easiest to make your best contact on a serve when the ball is more still.

    I'll bet that the lower toss might also encourage you to use a more compact windup and more of a simple move on the ball.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2010
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  5. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Even 1 foot above the tossing hand is way too low for a proper toss. Most players will toss the ball a few inches to more than a foot above the reach of the racket with the arm full extended upward. If you ware hitting a heavy topspin ball, the contact point will be somewhat lower -- the arm should be fully extended (comfortably straight) but the racket will not be in this case. The should be little of no bend in your arm when you contact the ball on any serve.
     
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  6. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    Something tells me the OPs serve does not reach it's apex until just over the net.
     
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  7. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    It's not too late (or early) in life to lean proper serve technique.

    If you plan to play for more years, why not start working on a proper serve now?

    And every really good serve starts with a proper toss that will incorporates the knee bend, coiling and bow shape as flowing out of the toss. (Then with the proper windup you can use your entire body to serve, instead of just your arm.)

    Tennis Serve Toss - How to Hold the Ball: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8kynEzufNE
    Tennis Serve Tossing Motion Tempo with tossing arm going up and up and up as you coil, knee bend, and form a bow (hip out front): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeZp90h-Ar8&feature=channel
    Tennis Lesson: Serve Tips: Lead with the Hip to "bow": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgeYmEScfgQ
    Federer Murray Hass & more ball toss common threads (Most pros keep their tossing arm parellel to the baseline): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF-UaRUd6k


    With a proper tossing motion, you will have a proper windup into an agressive trophy pose. From there, you can exlplode into your serve with a good leg pushoff, uncoiling and shoulder over shoulder "cartwheel" action. You too can have a serve as good as this 14 year old girl who picked this up at the Bolletieri Camp from "the Serve Doctor": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixx-MCC7D88
     
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  8. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    Another possiblity that I find very likely is that you are serving with an eastern grip and not a "technically sound" motion.

    For those who serve with an easter, a lower toss IS preferable.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjXJGsRtm08#t=1m11s

    That video is the serve doctor explaining it.
     
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  9. Kevo

    Kevo Hall of Fame

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    Well it's OK if that gives you all you'd ever want out of your serve. If you want a really good serve though, you should have a proper service motion and then you should toss the ball into the proper contact location for that service motion. Your toss should never determine your service motion on it's own. Since it seems that's what is happening, it would indicate that you don't fully understand your service motion as it exists now, or what it should be in the ideal case.
     
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  10. Ajtat411

    Ajtat411 Semi-Pro

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    Ding Ding Ding!

    Don't let your toss cause issues in your service motion. Always tailor your toss according to your service motion, not the other way around.

    I think you are hitting a better serve because the lower toss accomadates your service motion by making it more continuous and fluid therefore makes it more relaxed. When your toss is too high, you give yourself more time to introduce hitches in your motion causing your muscles to tighten up and this robs you of potential power. You want a slow-fast motion, not a slow-slower-stop-slow-fast motion.

    You can have a high toss, you just have to have the right amount of "lag" in your service motion to get the most out of it. You can have any motion you want, but to get the most out of it, your arm has to be absolutely relaxed throughout.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2010
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  11. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Rather surprising to hear this advice coming from the Serve Doctor. Sounds like he is advocating a serving style for those players who do not aspire to be anything more than a hack -- 2.5/3.0 level or 3.5 at best. If you serve too long with that FH grip and a low toss, you may find it very difficult to ever learn a proper serve technique. There are very few players above a 3.5 level that will serve with a FH grip and a low toss.
     
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  12. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Use what works. You can thank me after your next windy, sunny, glary day you play tennis.
    RussellSimpson, RoscoTanner, GoranIvanisevic were feared servers, using a lowest toss possible.
     
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  13. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ Don't know who Russell is/was, but I'd be willing to bet that neither Roscoe nor Goran hit a toss that traveled less than 0.5 feet above the tossing hand as the OP describes.
     
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  14. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    The thing you have to consider, though, is that most people don't make it past 3.5 anyway. He was advocating this for people that go out and play once a week or a couple times per month. Those people will probably never be able to develop a technically sound, efficient, and reliable serve.
     
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  15. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    The serve he demonstrates as 6:01 isn't pretty, but looks effective at my level. It also looks easy to execute, with no worries about sun or wind.

    My forehand grip is fairly continental anyway. I think I'll just start practicing that serve.
     
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  16. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Nothing wrong with the super low toss if the serve is going fast, is going IN, is hit easily, and it doesn't hurt your body.
    I served only low tosses, some barely over the tip of my toss hand, and it was going fast, going IN, was supereffective, and allowed me to get to service line position for the first volley every time.
    Use what works, love the old threads.
     
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  17. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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  18. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    I have to watch that video, b/c I can't remember how I was serving, say 4 years ago, just after joining the club and before getting too many lessons; was it easter grip and what was my percentage?
    All I know is that it was harder in average (and only now, at times I started to get to similar power).
     
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  19. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Grip has little to do with toss height.
    BorisBecker tossed high, used a conti grip twisted towards eFOREhand.
    Today, using only low tosses, I served a couple out wide using almost an eBACKhand grip, worked fine, went where I wanted it to go, went fast.
    Tanner and Goran used pretty much traditional cont grip on first serves, a little bit towards eBACKhand for second serves, LOW Toss.
     
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  20. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    I think the low toss serve is right for me. I just practiced it, and about 90% went in. Decent pace, some hit the back fence, (about 2" up), but still, hit the back fence. It felt effortless, hard to make a bad toss when it's so low.

    Can't wait to try it in competition. :)
     
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  21. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    So? Only SteadyEddy figured it out?
    Low toss. Harder to be inaccurate.
    Try some serves tossing as high as Sharapova/Dementiava. Easy to be INaccurate.
     
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  22. RajS

    RajS Rookie

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    I like high tosses. I get more time to set up (and I need that time!) and I make less errors on first and second serves. Whenever my serve starts failing, I remind myself to toss higher. Maybe slowing things is the right thing for me.
     
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  23. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Been working with a couple of players on lowering the ball toss, for more accuracy, for serving into the sun, and for serving on windy, crosswind days.
    Seems most effective to bring the racket out to the side from prep position, so a shorter path to the trophy position. Shorter path equates to quicker to trophy, to accomodate the lower toss.
     
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  24. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    That's great if you have that co-ordination. High tosses confuse me, and they get exponentially worse when I get nervous!

    Can we get along brother?
     
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  25. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    Yes. That one-arm-goes-forward the other-goes-backward looks pretty. But then the toss is released while the racket arm is still trying to complete the backswing. It's faster to simply take both up, with the racket ready to hit immediately.

    It's tempting to imitate what we see on TV, but some of those serves demand a very consistent toss which is difficult for many weekend players like myself.
     
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  26. RajS

    RajS Rookie

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    Sure we can get along, brother! Different strokes for different folks, as they say! :)
     
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  27. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    Most of you don't actually seem to have read OPs description. 6 inches above a tossing arm that isn't fully extended means that OP cannot be extending his racquet arm properly. Hitting the ball that low will reduce accuracy, power, and consistency; there is also a higher risk of shoulder injury if you are muscling the ball for power from the very low toss.

    There is nothing wrong with a low ball toss that apexes at the contact point - however a ball toss that is so low that it doesn't reach the ideal contact point is a different matter entirely.

    By the time you've accounted for knee bend when tossing, the length of the racquet and the upwards extension of the entire body when serving, you probably need to toss the ball at minimum 3ft.

    Even though I am short, my contact point on flat serves is over 9ft above the court - I am not suggesting that you should be hitting the ball at this height, but 6in above your hand gives you very little margin.
     
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  28. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Yes, 6" above the hand is too low.
    But is he really tossing that low, or does it APPEAR that low to him.
    Obviously, a vid would show exactly the problem.
    I'm short also, 5'10". In my playing days, my contact point was around 9'8" for flat serves.
    Now, 33 years later, my contact point is barely 9', and with some quicker low tosses, probably closer to 8'6".
    But, it's fine. I don't drive up with the legs. I drive forwards into the court, if I bend my knees at all. I hit very relaxed, so the low contact point doesn't seem to affect the serves, and not jumping upwards, I have a more solid base and get a higher percentage of fast first serves IN.
    They don't bounce very high at the backwall, but they do skid and everyone seems to find problems returning it with anything besides a volley stroke.
     
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  29. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    The OP definitely should video his serve and see if he has decent form at contact. If his arm is bent, he should just toss higher until he can hit with the arm basically straight. Any toss higher than that isn't needed.

    LeeD,

    How did you measure your height at contact? I'm taller than you and I don't know if my contact point is actually at ten feet, given the way my torso is at an angle.

    I'm guessing if I set up a camera on a tripod and measure the distance, I could probably triangulate and get a decent estimate of contact height.
     
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  30. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Back in '78, a lot of my friends took pictures (film camera) of the 4.5 BATL team in matches. I was caught in a lot of 3x5 pictures with my feet just above a foot off the ground, extended at contact point, and my body at that moment leaning forwards slightly and easily 18" inside the baseline, to land much farther into NML.
    So, I transposed the idea indoors, held my racket up, measured location of sweetspot (contact point), and added SIX inches for jumping, accounting for the leanin of the body in the picture.
    NOW, I drag one of my feet on some serves, do clear earth by 6" on other's, so it's not nearly as defined a picture.
     
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  31. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Oh, in 1978, I could easily standing long jump 9'. Heck, I could do that in 1964.
    Now, I can just clear 6'. That would translate to my vertical leaping also.
     
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  32. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    OP - do you have technically sound serve? If I remember right your game is that of a weekend hacker and use an eastern grip on your serve. A low toss would work fine for that..
     
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  33. Bobs tennis

    Bobs tennis Rookie

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    Interesting-2 friends that I constantly loose to have been trying to help me with my serve,specifically the toss which they say is"to low" and not out front which they say is robbing any chance of power.(Let me add they are good and one coached high school and has several good wins in his past..I should also mention I use a eastern backhand grip on serves which they are pushing to a continental.I have found following their advise the serve is definitely improving.I've found if I use their advice on the first serve but revert to my old serve on the second it helps.With that low toss my serve was always deep and had heavy spin but no power.Now you have me wondering if I should mess with that low toss.
     
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  34. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    For me I need to get the toss higher - to hit a good serve. The hard part for me is the timing of the toss I rock back so if I toss right away it goes to far over my head.. You can hit it there but is has no pop..
     
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  35. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    ^^ I'm practicing bringing the racket up in front of me at the same time I toss. I want the racket ready immediately for hitting. I focus on decent rackethead speed and meeting the sweet spot. For there's no pace if it doesn't hit there.

    Per the other thread about overheads, same thing. I like to let it drop "too low", my elbow is down. Then I just snap my elbow and wrist and it hit the back fence after one bounce with decent power. That's usually enough to win the point with the people I play. It's not a "tough shot".
     
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