The toss is the most misunderstood aspect of the serve – misunderstood by players and teachers alike.
In order to serve tall – you don’t necessarily have to jump, or even be on your tip toes, but contact should be as high above you as is comfortable and as high as allows you to feel balanced.
Note – the pro’s jump to increase their service window – meaning they have a greater margin of error above the net if the jumping creates a taller hit.
But, and here is the but…… somehow most players assume an overly high toss will insure a tall hit. On the face of it that makes sense, but look a little deeper and you may see on the adjacent courts (as well as at the Australian Open in certain circumstances) that the overly high toss does not guarantee a tall hit. In fact, often just the opposite. When the toss is overly high the player must wait for the ball to descend. And this waiting may disrupt rhythm, and if waiting too long, the inevitable HITCH makes the motion feel yet worse.
So how do you tame the toss?
This depends on the orientation of the tossing arm, and the precise release point during the tossing motion. Don’t worry about your wrist, or hand, or how you hold the ball. To me that seems too technical. The issue concerns where the arm is when the ball leaves the hand.
Second, tempo. The two arms set up a rhythm, sometimes this has been called, “down together and up together.” But more to the point, both arms will initially move at the same speed, such that to get control of your toss, you must reassess your initial tempo with the racquet hand – how fast or slow do you start?
Third, location. Now it gets harder (or perhaps easier). Toss in front, above you, behind you, slightly to the right, to the left. There are many options. But somehow each player has their own distinctive spot, but many may not know it. On the best serves, the toss has somehow moved to the absolute best spot for contact.
P.S. – Steffi Graf had an overly high, inordinately high, amazingly high toss. And the announcers in that time noted just that, and said that for better or worse Steffi “got away’ with that toss. And I guess that when Safina, Sharapova, Ivanovic and so many others were young they saw Steffi as the best player in the world and resolved (consciously or unconsciously) to copy that toss and that motion. Unfortunately those players didn’t come to terms with the complexity of that toss and the double faults, loss of confidence, and so much more that has come from copying this serve.
Speaking of copying, Milos Raonic, the new phenom from Canada, said he has consciously copied Sampras – the announcers marveled at a serve they called fluid and free flowing – and it all started with the toss.
You be the judge. And while you are at it – come to terms with your own toss.
The toss could be the most important aspect of the serve. In Building The Serve From the Ground Up we not only hit this nail on the head but many many more as well.