tossing arm

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Finster, May 13, 2012.

  1. Finster

    Finster New User

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    Anyone else have any problems having your tossing arm to be straight up without your toss going all haywire? I'm really focusing on trying to stretch out my tossing arm so its going straight up, also helping my hips to jut out into the court, but its messing with my timing and my toss. My natural tendency is to have my tossing arm to end at about 60 degrees instead of ending straight up. Thanks.
     
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  2. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Common problem. With your 60 degree toss you are stopping your tossing arm, somewhat abruptly, shortly after your ball release. It's almost as if you are chucking the ball, or heaving the ball, up into the air. It should be more like you are lifting the ball or placing it into the air rather than throwing into the air.

    Start the upward motion of the toss with the tossing hand close to your front thigh. Lift the arm up at an even, moderate pace. The speed of the tossing arm should be just fast enough to get the toss height that you desire. Release the ball just as your arm goes past parallel (to the ground). You can use your chin level or some other appropriate reference for your release. Just open your fingers to release the ball. Let your hand/fingers follow the released ball until your arm is vertical.

    You should not be lifting your arm in the direction of the intended target area. You could lift your arm parallel (or nearly parallel) to the baseline as many elite servers do. If this is too extreme for you, try lifting it at some intermediate angle wrt to baseline -- perhaps 30 degrees to 45 degrees.

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

    Execute a lot of practice tosses (w/o swinging at it). Toss so that the released ball follows a slight arc that you can catch in your outstretched hand (vertical arm). This would represent a good toss (particularly for a 2nd serve). Toss and catch in this manner until you develop a consistent toss.

    You might try the Federer "ice cream cone" toss. His lifts his hand so that it is more on the side of the ball rather than underneath it. This technique should help to prevent you from flipping your wrist (or bending your elbow) as you lift/release the ball. The lifting action should should be from the shoulder (w/o bending other parts of the arm).

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. jxs653

    jxs653 Rookie

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    SystemicAnomaly, that's a great video (and comment). Thanks..
     
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  4. retlod

    retlod Professional

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    Hmmm. After watching that I realize just how bad at tennis I am. :)

    I would love to see some slow-mo video of myself playing.
     
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  5. sportsfan1

    sportsfan1 Hall of Fame

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    I read that the tossing arm wrist should be laid back/bent towards the index knuckle at the end of the toss. Is this supposed to it help with toss consistency?

    As an example, here's Djok: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwdwQ29Qae0&t=20s
     
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  6. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    Djokovic does not use the ice cream toss release SA posts above, with Fed being his example.

    Instead he releases it with the palm under his hand like Nadal and probably the majority of tennis players.
    However using this type of toss, you can see the obvious anguish experienced by Nadal :wink:

    [​IMG]


    Biomechanics is the study of how our muscles and joints work.

    Biomechanics would tell us that it is difficult to maintain the hand and forearm with the palm pointing up (supinated) as we bring the ball up for a toss.

    In fact, I think everybody can appreciate bringing the ball up in the "ice cream toss" position feels less stressful, with the foream and wrist more relaxed. And the video of Brent Abel at the end of this post makes the great point that the feeling of stress raising the tossing arm causes many to fail to get the steep shoulder angle needed for the serve.


    The uncomfortable feeling in raising our arm high with the hand supinated has to do with the way the musculature, bones and joints of our arms, wrists and hand are put together.


    The following picture shows the most comfortable position of our hands to work which is known as the "position of function". (It is preceded by pictures of our hands/forearms in "supination" and "neutral" positions, with a picture of "supination" following.

    [​IMG]

    The "position of function" is how we hold the steering wheel and how we position our hands to do fine work that requires close cooperation using both hands so that the thumb and index fingers of both hands are close to one another [which is probably why our arms/forerarms/hands evolved to work this way].

    Bringing the ball up in a "neutral" position is actually the most comfortable practical way of raising up a ball to toss it. (Elevating the ball in the "position of function" is not practical since the hand in that orientation would not allow the ball to be released upward.)


    So why don't more use the "ice cream toss"?

    Undoubtedly habit, as most never thought of releasing the ball from the side of their hands, as they had always released the ball from the palm of their hands when throwing it forward. So it is my guess as to why most grip the ball the same way to toss it upward.

    Clearly some have really good consistent tosses without using the "ice cream toss".

    But for those having difficulty with their toss, trying the "ice cream toss" may be in order.
    Tennis Serve Toss - How to Hold the Ball http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8kynEzufNE&feature=related
     
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  7. bhupaes

    bhupaes Professional

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    All instructive and great points, SA and charliefederer. One thing I've noticed is that a slight rocking motion where the tossing hand loads up a little at the bottom of its path helps greatly with accuracy. Sure, one can also begin the toss with a completely "unloaded" arm, but I have found it to lack control. Not sure if this is just idiosyncratic, or is a general principle... could you comment on it? Thanks.
     
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  8. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    Part of a recent post by me:

    "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.]"

    - http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=6424836#post6424836
     
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  9. bhupaes

    bhupaes Professional

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    ^^^ Thanks! Makes a lot of sense, and I can relate to it first hand!
     
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  10. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    More important than technique is the ability to toss the ball exactly where you want it...even if your arm can only raise to 45 degree angles above your head.
    Accuracy is paramount.
    I haven't chased a serve toss or caught a ball in over 35 years, and my arm doesn't ever point straight up, due to injuries to the shoulders.
    Picture where you want the ball. Flat, top/slice, top, kick. Place it there.
     
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  11. Finster

    Finster New User

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    Does having a vertical tossing arm automatically put you into the ideal trophy bow-shaped pose? One thing that is also hard to do is to be in that pose, up onto your toes which, if you're not used to it, will throw you off balance. Look at all pics of the pros -- they are on their toes, their arms straight up in the air, their bodies in this "cocked" bowed shape. Is this a pose that is doable for us mere mortals? The more I try to get up onto my toes like that, the more I feel I'm going to topple over.
     
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  12. netguy

    netguy Semi-Pro

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    Pointing your knees in the same direction of your toes or a bit wider could help you to keep a better balance.
    Also, becoming aware of how the weight of your body changes from the front foot to the back one and then to the front one again before getting into the air helps with keeping the balance under control.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2012
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  13. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^^ You are actually on the balls of your feet -- not your toes.

    [​IMG]

    Mere mortals can achieve this pose/position. I'm am currently 60 years old and can actually hold this position for quite a while (easily 20 seconds or longer). My balance is still decent but not really exceptional by any measure. I am primarily a lefty server but I can also hold a righty trophy pose just as long. I can do this balancing act in either a platform or a pinpoint stance. My left shoulder, left hip flexor and both knees are bad and my level has dropped quite a bit since my mid 50s (down to ~4.0). But I am still able to achieve the position without any trouble at all.

    Note that Roger has not yet achieved the archer's bow in the image above. (If you take a look at the 4-image sequence in CF's post above, you will see the Roger pushes his hip forward for the bow slightly later). With your weight on the balls of your feet, your heels are off the ground and your are knees bent. Your center of mass (located in your gut slightly below your belly button) should be directly over your platform (or pinpoint stance) between your feet. This should enable you to balance in the trophy position indefinitely.

    If you still have problems with this, try holding the pose in front of a mirror. Once you master that, try it w/o the mirror. The ultimate test is to try to hold the position for several seconds with your eyes closed. Hope this helps.
    .
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2012
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  14. netguy

    netguy Semi-Pro

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    ^^^

    Roger doesn't push his hip forward. He pushes the balls of his back foot against the ground (where more than 50% of his weight is resting at that moment) and as a result his hips move forward. However, the more important thing to put attention to on the photo is that Roger's knees are not at the same high level at that moment which is key for achiving balance and power.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2012
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  15. jk816

    jk816 Rookie

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    One thing to remember in looking at still photos is that it is a mere few milliseconds in time. The trophy stage is still pretty fluid, unless your toss is so high you need to wait for it (which can cause a hitch and impair the easy flow of kinetic energy into the motion). You shouldn’t be in that pose long enough to have to hold it there.

    Another thing to note in the photos you are seeing is the shift in the center of mass/gravity in the body, which starts on the front foot, shifts rearward and comes back to the front all in the same motion, in time with any leaning that is done. The rising to the toes is often proportional to (and compensates for) the degree of knee flexion to maintain balance, but also aids in release of kinetic energy.

    I’ve found that taking the arm to vertical after release of the toss serves two purposes: one, it creates and maintains the shoulder tilt that allows for the forceful reversal in the shoulder over shoulder “tumble” that is part of a mechanically correct serve. If your shoulders are level, then the upper part of your racquet arm will need to elevate above the plane of the shoulders, which can lead to injury with force and repetition.

    Second it helps create and maintain your stored kinetic energy for release. Raising your arm to vertical with your weight back will tend to force your hip forward to maintain balance, creating the “archer’s bow “ It also helps keep the trunk rotation and your hitting arm back a bit longer for a more forceful release. Dropping your tossing arm too soon invariably costs you your rotational energy, and many pros will tell you to leave it up as long as possible.
     
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  16. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    For the tossing arm to be straight more than arm should help as well. Control of the shoulder girdle, oblique and ab muslces, and pelvis orientation all contribute to the arm to be able to be straight in trophy position. Without all these coordinations just trying to straighten arm will cause inconsistency and loss of control and even injuries.

    If you wanna imitate pros, instead looking at their arms and legs look at their trunk orientation and movements first.
     
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  17. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Note that the archer's bow is evident for some servers at the trophy phase while others do exhibit the bow until the racquet head drop (after the trophy position).


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW4-7uhUjdI

    I'm not sure that I buy the premise that Roger has more than 50% of his weight on his back foot at the trophy phase of his serve. The bottom line is that his hips do move forward as the racquet head drops from the trophy position. Roger's "bow" is mild -- his is not really the best example of an archer's bow. The bow is usually much more evident with players that utilize a narrower platform, like Roddick, and players who employ a pinpoint stance. Sampras had a bit more of a bow that Federer but probably not as much as Roddick or Ivanisevic and other pinpointers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npxP6Jej9iE

    [​IMG]

    http://www.revolutionarytennis.com/step12_2.html
     
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  18. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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  19. netguy

    netguy Semi-Pro

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    ^^^^
    I was clearly refering to Roger's plataform stance. Now you are talking about pinpointer stance which uses a total different approach in terms of weight distribution. (apples to oranges kind of comparison) Because the weight distribution is different, the arche's bow is also different (more pronounced in the pinpointer stance) in order to keep the balance.
     
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  20. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    It's pretty obvious that any player can get more angular archer's bow using a pinpoint stance than he can easily get with a platform stance. Something called human biomechanics.
    Does that suggest which stance you should try?
     
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  21. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    It seems that you misunderstood my post. I was actually talking about both stances -- 3 if you put the Roddick/Monfils stance in a separate category. However, that discussion was not in reference to weight distribution. I was talking about the archer's bow at that point. No false apples & oranges comparisons.

    OTOH, I was talking specifically about Roger's platform stance when I brought up the subject of weight distribution. Before the trophy (near the start of his toss motion), his weight is more on his back foot. However, by the time he is at his trophy, knees bent, the ball has already been released and his weight has shifted forward somewhat already.

    At the trophy phase, elite servers will have shifted their weight forward -- some will have an equal distribution at this point while others have more weight on the front foot. I don't believe that any elite server, including Roger, will still have most of their weight still on the back foot after the ball release.

    Roger's hip movement (a slight "bow", if you will) happens after his trophy.
    .
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2012
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  22. Finster

    Finster New User

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    So how do you practice the archer's bow stance if its unfamiliar to you? Can you practice this during your full service motion or should it be broken down somehow into components or steps? Its the being on your toes in the archer's bow stance thats off-balancing esp right before your racket drop and swing through. If you're off balance during this step, its hard to incorporate it for its intended purpose as part of the kinetic chain.
     
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  23. Mountain Ghost

    Mountain Ghost Semi-Pro

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    Tossing

    If you are having trouble with tossing, or just learning it, these are the points I would focus on:

    First off, how heavy is the ball? How much muscle or body momentum do you need to get it up? Almost NONE! I see so many people making the toss look like it's difficult ... i.e. extra movement that just complicates things and puts the body off balance.

    Next, where should you start from? If you start around waist level you either have to jerk your arm up to get it going, or go down first and change directions at the bottom. Instead, start with your hand in front of your leading thigh at pocket level. As raise your arm in a one-directional movement upwards at a "relaxed" speed. Arm should be straight all the way to release level, which is eye level. Your arm should continue up after release stay up so the shoulder doesn't come down too early, which will prevent yoou from being able to hit up. (Also, don't use any wrist, wrist lay-back or let the ball roll off your fingers)

    On the subject of arm-rise direction, I don't advise parallel to the baseline as many pros do. Of course you can learn to do it successfully that way, but if you raise your arm on the same line as your serve swing path instead, you eliminate the left to right variable from your toss and only have how high and how far into the court to control. For a right hander serving to the duece court this means that your arm would rise in the direction of the right net post, same as your hitting arm swing path.

    One more note. Obviously chasing a really bad toss is not advisable, so stop and try again. But when the toss is just a little off, I see a lot of players chasing less-than-perfect tosses with their upper bodies, which take them way off balance and ruins the whole serve. If you only chase a semi-bad toss with your arm and keep your body on balance, you can pretty much make any toss at least doable.

    MG
     
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  24. retlod

    retlod Professional

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    So I played a match tonight...and consciously tried to keep my tossing arm as parallel to the baseline as possible. After analyzing my toss I discovered that I had been about 15-20 degrees into the court when my arm was parallel to the ground. I also made a conscious effort to uncoil my upper body as my legs pushed me upwards. The result? A FANTASTIC serving night. Five aces and only 2 DFs in 12 service games, plus a lot more kick than I'm used to. Thanks, guys! :)
     
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  25. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    ^^^ Great going!
     
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  26. Finster

    Finster New User

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    Your tossing arm more or less moving in an arc. Some say the arm is parallel to the baseline; others say don't pay too much attention to that. Either way, since your arm is not traveling in a straight line and is in the shape of an arc, making the ball travel in a curved direction. If you're tossing with your arm more in front of you, the ball is going to curve backwards; if you're tossing towards the side with your arm parallel to the baseline, the ball's going to arch towards your left (for righties). Point is, the ball is not going to travel in a straight line. This is my main problem. How to "place" the ball where you want it if the balls is not traveling in a linear direction. The problem is worse the higher you toss the ball. The ball either ends up behind my head or too far to my left or both. Release point may make a difference, but it seems that unless you release the ball early before your arm ends up on this curved path, the ball will curve, too.
     
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  27. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ The toss should not actually go straight upward. It should follow a slight controlled parabolic arc. Take a close look at Federer's toss -- it has a fairly significant arc. Sampras had a pretty high toss -- check the gif below which shows that he did not throw the ball straight up either. Not the height of his tossing hand when he releases the ball. You can see a similar release point with Roger (refer to the image I provided on post #2)

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    You should be on the balls of your feet -- not on you toes. You can practice the motion, incorporating the bow with service shadow swings -- w/o the ball. Simulate the motion and see it you can hold the trophy position for a while balancing with your heels off the ground -- see if you can hold that position for 5-10 seconds to work on your balance. Perhaps the following page will help to incorporate the bow into your motion:

    http://www.revolutionarytennis.com/Rev%20Tennis/download/s12-2holistic.pdf
     
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  28. Finster

    Finster New User

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  29. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    The following is reposted from an earlier thread on tossing: http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=418152

    The last part specifically tells how to toss further into the court, for a first serve. It also tells you how to toss it over your head for your spin serve. The intro tells how to have a consistent serve.


    "Check out the sequence of Sampras tossing below:

    [​IMG]

    Like all the pros, he tosses with his arm parallel to the baseline.
    Federer Murray Haas & more ball toss common threads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF-UaRUd6k&feature=related

    (The reason for this is so as the tossing arm goes up, your shoulders can be well coiled by ball release (pic 7), so you don't feel rushed getting into a trophy pose before having to start the racquet drop/swing portion of the serve.)


    As Pete demonstrates above, the arm is kept straight with no elbow or wrist bend. (So the arm moves only at the shoulder.)

    The ball is simply released when the hand reaches a point a little above the shoulder, at eye level:

    [​IMG]


    By having kept the arm straight with no wrist or elbow flick, but merely opening the hand to release the ball, the ball will go up and come down in a parabolic shape that resembles an upside down J (hence why they call the toss the "J" toss):

    [​IMG]

    As long as you bring the arm up at the same speed, follow the same path up with your arm, and release the ball at the same point, it should always go in the same place.


    If you want the ball to go higher, bring it up a little faster.

    If you want the ball to drop more past your body to the left, release it a little later.
    If you want the ball to drop more to the right, before it reaches your body, release a little earlier.
    (Reverse these directions if you are left handed.)


    Now for the trickier part, how to toss more into the court, or back more/over your head:

    If you want to toss the ball out into the court for a first serve like Sampras does above, start the toss with your arm closer to your back foot (pic 1), and as you bring the arm up, move your arm ever so slightly forward so that by the time of release, your arm is past your front foot (pic 7). [Note that at about half way through the toss in pic 3 the ball has been moved forward to a position 1/2 way between the front and back foot.]

    (And obviously if you wanted to toss a second serve to land directly over your head, just start bringing your hand up with the ball in between your feet (like the position the ball is in pic 3, but starting with your hand lower) and just bring it straight up between your feet.



    Hopefully, I've given you a way to help solve your serving woes.


    Oh, .... but one more thing. Even if you understand what to do, it will still take practice to really get it down."
     
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  30. rufus_smith

    rufus_smith Professional

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    Great thread. One issue that I run into, and that others may also have, is coping with sudden shoulder tension. At times, especially in a grueling match, the muscles in the tossing shoulder can tighten up and restrict the motion. It can actually get hard to lift lift the tossing arm all the way up. The toss is not complete and the ball can get tossed too low. I try to shake my toss arm and move the shoulder around to loosen it up but sometimes that doesn't help. I don't have a solid solution.
     
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  31. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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  32. Finster

    Finster New User

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    I videoed myself and one thing I noticed is that my tossing arm stays up too long. That is, it is still raised into the air, though not out-stretched during my backscratch phase. I've been watching some slo-mo videos of pros and see that their tossing arm is already down at their chest by this point. My question is, is this a purposeful motion to pull your tossing arm down at the right moment or should it be a natural occurrence, bc it ain't happening for me. Is there a rhythmic moment in the serve where you're consciously pulling your tossing arm down?
     
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  33. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    The leg drive initiates the reversal of the steep shoulder angle - as the left shoulder is thrown down, the tossing arm has to come down.

    [The racquet drop is driven by the left shoulder being thrown down, with the right shoulder going straight up.]

    [​IMG]

    In pic 4 Fed has his tossing arm straight up in his trophy position with his knees maximally bent.

    In pic 5 he has begun his leg push off as evidenced by his knee bend being slightly less, and the level of his hip and head is slightly higher than in the preceding pic.
    His tossing arm is beginning to fall as his shoulder angle is less steep - he is throwing his left shoulder down.
    [Notice this motion is also responsible for his racquet drop.


    By pic 6, his left shoulder is slightly lower than his right, with the result that the tossing arm is already quite low.

    By pic 7, his left shoulder is almost straight down and his right shoulder is straight up, with his tossing arm essentially in its final postion.




    My guess is that you are not getting enough vertical shoulder over shoulder action as you should be. This is a powerful motion that would drive your tossing arm down.

    Preventing Rotator Cuff Injury by lowering the left shoulder -TennisOne.com Editor Jim McLennan explains some serving techniques to generate power and protect your shoulder http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTRvxaBMh8s

    Pat Dougherty - The See Saw Motion The Serve Doctor expounds on the importance of the tossing arm to produce racquet head speed during the service motion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU2bFqdEnlQ
     
    #33

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