5 Minutes With Nick: Toss Up
You can’t crush a serve without a reliable toss. These five tips will help get you one.
1. Don't Panic
You’re not alone in having a bad toss. Even the pros lose control of what seems like the easiest skill in tennis. The truth is, it's far from easy. Mary Joe Fernandez once came to me and said, "I can't toss the ball anymore, Nick, I don’t know what to do.” If it can happen to her, it can happen to you. But there’s hope.
2. Get It Down
Fernandez had a long swing on her serve, so she had to toss the ball high. The higher the toss, the more likely something will go wrong with it. I told her that to improve her toss, she needed to shorten her swing so she could get to the ball more quickly. A shorter swing forced her to toss the ball a little lower, and her serve became more consistent. Ideally, you should hit your toss at its peak or just below it.
3. Go For Two
Try serving with two balls in your hand. This forces you to hold the top ball with your fingertips. It will also teach you to fully extend your tossing arm, rather than flicking the ball upward early in your motion. It’s difficult to flick one ball when you’re holding a second one in your palm.
4. Touch Your Feet
Here’s a drill: Stand just behind the baseline, as you would on a serve, but turn your whole body to face the net. Keep your feet together (they should be touching). Toss the ball and hit it over the net without moving your feet. If you can’t place your toss well, you’ll stumble as you swing. This will improve your tossing accuracy
You don’t have to watch the pro game for very long to see how much variety there is on the serve. Don’t be afraid to try different things and talk to different teaching pros about what you should consider. Eventually, you’ll figure out what works for you.
Originally published in the November/December 2010 issue of TENNIS.