Tips for a higher ball toss?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Noctis, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. Noctis

    Noctis New User

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    I've been struggling to find a good toss height and I know it has to do with my toss technique. I know a good toss should be about 1-2 (maybe 3?) feet above my contact point but as of right now I would say it's about either half a foot to a foot above my contact point. As a result, my teammate said that I seem to force the ball a lot more just to get it in.
    So without watching a video of me serving and my toss (unfortunately), what are some tips and tricks to get a higher ball toss?
     
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  2. johndagolfer

    johndagolfer Semi-Pro

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    two that seem to work for my high schoolers are

    1) Don't rush to get to the toss and
    2) Make sure you extend your tossing arm straight up.
     
    #2
  3. Noctis

    Noctis New User

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    Don't rush to get to the toss? Do you mean that my tossing arm should be slower? or not rush the whole serving motion?
     
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  4. johndagolfer

    johndagolfer Semi-Pro

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    For my kids at least when they rush to get into the trophy pose I find that they speed up the arm lift and end up releasing the ball to early. If you don't rush and get a good extension with the tossing arm I find that not only do you get good height, but you get more consistent of a toss.
     
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  5. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    Try to open up your chest toward the tossed ball as you lift your tossing arm. This motion facilitates using the core muscles as well as leg muscles when tossing providing better balance and stability when looking up at the ball. Once you get used to this stability your arm frees up more and can toss with a little more speed without losing control. Instead of tilting back the head too much tilt your whole upper body toward the ball when tossed.
     
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  6. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    The tossing arm does not need to be very fast at all. The lift speed is fairly moderate. It helps to start the lifting action down by your front leg. As the arm lifts upward, from the shoulder, you can shift your wieght toward the front foot. Also, as johndagolfer indicates, your tossing arm continues straight upward after the ball release.

    Players that use a quick short motion will often have a tougher time controlling the toss height. They start above waist level and stop the tossing arm shortly after release. Instead, use a long, slower motion to get that ball into position. The following video emphasizes another apsect but you should be able to see that elements that I've mentioned here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF-UaRUd6k
    .
     
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  7. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Good answer.

    In regards to your first point (lift speed) I tell players that the ball shouldn't be going any faster prior to the release than after.
     
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  8. fridrix

    fridrix Rookie

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    Starting the toss lower has helped me.
     
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  9. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    My $.02 toward this issue concerns the idea of when to toss the ball. Think about this - if you're looking for a higher toss to avoid forcing the ball when you swing at it, it could be because you're not good and ready to fire your serve with a smooth, full motion. You need to get your windup a little further along so that when that toss goes up, you're good and ready to hit it.

    This issue sneaks into the game at every level. I even spot it among the pros here and there. To prevent this, some players have adopted what looks like a more disjointed windup where they take the racquet directly back above the shoulder to their "trophy position" without any dropping and then raising of the racquet to that position (Fernando Gonzales for example). That more compact move makes them ready to fire to the ball sooner - that's a good thing.

    Try taking a practice serve motion without hitting a ball and get the feel for the smooth tempo in that full motion. When you switch to hitting a ball, you should be able to duplicate that smooth motion or else your toss isn't happening at the right time to facilitate that. This is a pretty serious issue that can demand some work on the practice courts in case you need to change exactly when you toss that ball. Just make your toss fit the timing of your motion, not the other way around.

    A higher toss can be bad for two reasons. First off, it can get knocked around on a windy day and make it much tougher for you to deliver a good ball with consistency. Second, it's usually easier to get good consistent contact and control on the serve when hitting a ball that's more stationary than falling through the air. I recommend a toss that tops out just a little above your contact point so that it's easier to catch in the heart of the strings.

    In conclusion, blah, blah, blah!!!... Hopefully something in that essay will help you along.
     
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  10. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    First, check to be SURE the racket hand elbow is dead straight as you drop both hands to begin your motion. That is #ONE.
    High toss, straight elbow.
    Low toss, bent elbow.
     
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  11. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Your initial assumption is wrong. A good ball toss does not need to be 1-3' above the contact point. Who told you that?

    Or are you saying that your toss is too low for your timing? If so, you can possibly change your timing rather than throwing the ball higher.

    A good toss should be made with the arm close to straight while cradling the ball on your fingers. As you lift the arm up, the ball should be released at or slightly above head height and then the arm should continue up toward the sky.
     
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  12. Swissv2

    Swissv2 Hall of Fame

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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2012
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  13. corbind

    corbind Professional

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    I believe, once you have decent mechanics, the ball toss is the most important determinant in the placement of the serve. I have zero proof only experience with my serve.

    Further I'm amazed when guys can toss a ball many feet above their contact point because I can't do that. I have tried but the higher the toss the more wind or even a slight toss angle mistake amplifies.
     
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  14. Noctis

    Noctis New User

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    Okay some things that I've grabbed so far and I'm going to try probably tomorrow morning is:
    1. Open up my chest more
    2. Longer, slower motion (in regards to the toss) as to have a good wing up and full motion for my serve
    3. Straight racket arm (Something I've never noticed before)

    And just so you know, when I said higher ball toss, I didn't mean like a toss 5 feet in the air like my friend does but a good "average" height ball toss for someone who's 5"11. My problem with my serve was that I let the ball drop too far down so I couldn't get my little hop and full stretch into it, as a result it looked and felt forced.
    So WildVolley, it's not like I don't appreciate you're advice for me, it's just that I don't want to change my whole service motion and a new ball toss because at least from what my coach and friends say, my form/technique looks pretty decent until they see how low my ball toss is and how long my motion is.
     
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  15. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Sounds good. I can understand not wanting to change your timing, but it is worth at least considering.

    If I were you, I'd just decide how much higher I need to toss the ball and then mock up a target at the proper height. Then practice your toss until you can consistently reach your target. Assuming your tossing form is decent, all that is required is that you toss a little faster. With my current form (usually about a half-foot of drop before contact), I could easily toss the ball 5 or 6' over where I do now and still have the same windup (though, I'd obviously miss the ball with my swing).
     
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  16. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    Everyone serves differently but I don't recommend keeping the racquet arm straight. It helps to have very gentle natural bends on the arm to keep the muscle relaxed but tout (kinda primed for explosion state) from the ready to finish.
     
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  17. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ I would call that comfortably straight rather than absolutely straight. If you use an abbreviated motion, you can keep it bent for your preparation.
     
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  18. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    Majority of the pros have comfortable bend in their service prep. Some go through transient straightening. I don't see any good reason to keep it straight. Tossing arm yes but racquet arm no.
     
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  19. Noctis

    Noctis New User

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    My results so far:
    1. I'm starting to get the height on my ball toss
    2. My motion now looks much more fluid
    However!
    3. My consistency is nowhere to be seen

    More help please?
     
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  20. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ Is your tossing arm extended vertically upward after the ball release? If so, use your extended hand as a spatial reference. Notice the location of the tossed ball to your extended hand. This should help you determine the quality of the toss as well as the location of the toss.

    Noticing the space between the your hand and the ball should also help immeasurably with the timing of the upward swing of the racket. Swing at the ball when you think that it is about 2 feet (60 cm) above your hand. If 2 feet does not seem right for you, then shoot for 1.5 feet or, maybe, 3 feet above your hand -- whatever seems to work for you for the particular type of serve that you are attempting.

    By looking for this hand-ball relationship, you should be better at keeping your tossing arm up long enough and keeping your eyes on the toss. When I miss my serve, it is sometimes because my toss was not good enough. Quite often tho', after a service fault, I am aware that I do not recall seeing the image of the space between my hand and the ball. This is an indication that I did not fully extend my tossing arm, I pulled the tossing arm down too soon, or I pulled my eyes off the ball too soon.
    .
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2012
    #20
  21. soderlingpower

    soderlingpower New User

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    Before you start breathe in / out (trust me it helps)
    Toss the ball slowly (work on the release technique from your fingers)
    Hit he ball
    As your toss becomes better + better you can toss the ball faster

    Never rush the serve always take your time with it.

    Please help me sort out some string issues, thanks.
    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=418347
     
    #21
  22. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    The reason most want a higher ball toss is that they seem to run out of time getting into their trophy pose and then getting all the way through the racquet drop/hitting sequence.


    To get more time...

    Don't toss, THEN start to get into a trophy position.

    Instead toss AND start getting into a trophy position ... at the same time.



    Go back and look at the video that Systemic Anomaly posted:
    Federer Murray Haas & more ball toss common threads http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF-UaRUd6k

    The whole point of it is that all the pros are rotating their shoulders back to coil at the same time their tossing arm is going up. [And to coil and remain balanced, you also have to be bending your knees at the same time!]


    Check out the sequence of Sampras tossing below:

    [​IMG]

    In pic 1, with the ball very low down near his knees in his tossing hand, the line of his shoulders is almost perpendicular to the service box he will serve into [not totally perpendicular as his front foot is to the right of his left foot].
    But as he brings his tossing arm up (pics 2-5) by the time of ball release (pic 5) his shoulders are significantly coiled. [Although he continues to coil even more soon after ball release in pics 6-8.]





    Tip #2: Don't "arm" your ball toss!

    Huh?!!!

    We've all been told not to "arm" our groundstrokes and serves.

    Instead, the hitting arm motion should be preceded by a big body motion (coiling), to generate the initial energy in hitting the ball, with the arm swing following the reversal of the big body motion (coiling to uncoiling).

    So too on the toss, a big body motion to initiate momemtum followed by a reverse of the big body movement, helps get the arm going up. But in the case of the toss, the motion is not coiling, but instead first leaning into the court, then leaning back, to helps get the arm going up!


    Go back to that video of all the pros serve tosses. Note that all first lean into the court, then lean back.

    Federer's lean in and lean back is more exagerated than most, but as usual, Fed is not wasting motion here:

    [​IMG]

    When leaning in (pics 1,2 above), the tossing arm is going to going to be very low.

    [​IMG]

    When leaning back, the tossing arm is going to start to rise as the shoulders and hips go from a downward slant (pic 1 above) to no slant of the shoulders/hips (pic 2) to an upward slant (pic 3).

    This reversal of the shoulders/hip from a downward to upward slant provides the momentum to get your tossing arm moving upward.

    The result is that you don't have to work hard on your toss if you let your big body movement help supply the energy.

    [To those who have already noticed this "lean in" is actually "forming a bow shape" forwards, with the 'lean back" going all the way past vertical to forming the "bow shape in the opposite direction in the trophy pose - see tip #4 below - only to reverse again through the hitting motion.]


    Watching the video helps to emphasize the "lean in" and "lean back", and how the toss is intrinsically interwoven with getting into the trophy position:
    Roger Federer - Serve in Slow Motion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4PfHpKbJSI



    Tip #3: The tempo of how fast you lean back, from your initial lean in, determines how fast to elevate your tossing arm.


    Every orchestra needs a conductor, and every conductor has a baton to set the tempo of the music.

    Your tossing arm is should be going up at a constant speed, and your tossing arm acts as the baton to set the tempo to your serve.
    Tennis Serve Tossing Motion Tempo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeZp90h-Ar8&feature=relmfu

    How fast your tossing arm movement should move comes from how fast you lean back (pic 1 to pic 2 above) in the initiation of the toss.

    [Lean back too fast, and your tossing arm will move up too fast, and the ball will go too high.
    Lean back too slow and your tossing arm will move up too slow, and ball will not be tossed high enough.
    Lean back "just right" and your tossing arm will move up at "just the right" speed to get your toss to the right height.]


    Tip #4: Your tossing arm continuing up and up and up until it is straight overhead gets you into the bow position.

    Getting your body into the shape of a "bow" (when viewed from the side), is something everyone agrees is important to get that big shoulder over shoulder cartwheel action that can help power your serve.

    As your tossing arm continues to go up after the toss (pics 3-4), you will automatically be getting a steeper shoulder angle.

    With that steeper shoulder angle, your front hip will have to protrude over the baseline (pic 5) to counterweight the backward lean of the upper body to the fence.

    This is what Brent Abel is emphasizing that video above where he states that even after ball release, your tossing arm should continue up, up, up at a constant rate, and allow your left hip to protrude forward.



    In conclusion: Your "toss" should be perceived as being set up by a big body motion (lean in) to get it started.

    The "toss" also should have a "follow through" of your tossing arm going up straight overhead to get you into the agressive trophy position you'll need to bash that ball.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
    #22
  23. Noctis

    Noctis New User

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    Some more things I noticed with my serve since I got a chance to hit when the courts dried up is that;
    1. I don't extend my tossing arm fully every serve I do which caused a lot of inconsistencies.
    2. I think my height on my toss is getting much better but what my hitting partner and I noticed was that after I get into my trophy pose my motion gets very VERY slow, as in I basically pause for a good while in my trophy pose even though I notice my ball starting to drop down my ideal contact point. I think this has to do when I first started learning how to serve and I picked up a really bad habit that's basically screwing my serve.


    I'm working on a much more fluid motion and still a more consistent toss.
     
    #23
  24. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ Did you see post #20 on the previous page? I believe that should help you with your consistency issues -- as long as you get your tossing arm to behave.
     
    #24
  25. Noctis

    Noctis New User

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    I did see it, and thanks by the way :)
    I can't practice that right now since it's pretty late outside but tomorrow I'll be definitely working on that.
     
    #25
  26. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    Two videos to help you work on a more fluid serve without a "hitch":

    "The serve doctor demonstrates his innovative step-by-step process for correcting common serve "hitch" problems and rebuilding better serve technique into habit." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um5q7Lx107k

    Tossing the Ball into the Service Swing by Jim McLennan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzbonL75Jsk&feature=BFa&list=PL5352161156BB822F&lf=results_main
    (Note that the players Jim praises still toss to let the ball drop 12 inches, but not the 18 inch or more drop of Graff.)
     
    #26
  27. corbind

    corbind Professional

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    charliefedererer I think you went the extra mile to provide outstanding support on this issue. :)

    Maybe it's just me, but I feel you should take all the info in your post # 22 and create an appropriately title topic on this subject so that it may serve as an easily-found document. If they'd only find a place to sticky this...
     
    #27

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