The Serve – Marin Cilic – Tossing into the Swing

Many players change their rhythm between first and second serves.

A one-two-three count creates a swish in a particular location and with a recurring tempo.

But when introducing the toss, the rhythm may become disrupted.

Either the starting tempo becomes too quick, or just the opposite, an overly high toss creates an extra beat when waiting for the toss to drop.

In this exercise, step up to the baseline with two balls in your hand. Swing #1 is totally pretend, one-two-three with a swish.
Swing #2 is with the ball, attempting to swing at the same tempo and placing the toss into the swish point.

Swing #3 once again pretend. Swing #4 at the same tempo and again place the toss into the swish point.

Now check out Marin Cilic – a pretty darn good demonstration!


Special Introductory Offer


  • Bud Light

    Reply Reply March 23, 2018

    JIM I want to be clear that you have my permission to post my tennis column – or any part of it – on your website. It is not available on line anywhere so I can’t currently provide a link. Feel free to use any part of any column. A lot of people like it and I have been writing it for three years now; gotta do something creative to take the place of my age related limitations in terms of teaching regularly. As to you latest submission about the serve, it really hit home.It was a brilliant way to simply explain how to create a consistently good, reliable serve. I am pleased to say that I use this exact technique with my students and have for years.Marin Cilic does have a very good serve and so do others who are in sync. Roger Federer is another one who, when he is “on”, wins a lot of easy points on his serve—-and there are others.Thanks to you for these continued easy to understand gems. Bud Light

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply March 27, 2018

      Bud – as ever thanks for your support – it feels like you and I have come either from the same place tennis wise – or have both arrived at that place

  • William

    Reply Reply March 22, 2018

    His serve used to be worse. Goran helped him, but he is still caught in between a goran, Tanner, Dolgopolov great motion and the typical motion.

    There is still a hesitation at the top. With this type of motion you are either buying into it 100%, not at all, or caught in between. In between is the worst place to be, and I say Cilic is still a bit in between, but his serve has improved.

    I had the good fortune of being coached by Vic Braden. He was nuts about Tanner’s service motion, and rightfully so. You can find youtube video of Tanner dismantling Borg in matches at a time when Borg was arugably the best returner in men’s tennis. I went to Braden in college with a first serve best of 118, a few months later I was getting 130. But you had to buy into the whole thing. Contrast this motion with a Sharapova or Dmitrov. Their tosses are ridiculously high, and breed inconsistency at the worst possible moments. Plus every time your racket stops accelerating to wait, even a millisecond, for the toss, you lose final mph of maximum racket head speed. It would be like 2 dragsters racing, one with the pedal to the floor the whole time, and another pulling back during the race.

    The other wonderful thing about changing to this type of motion, I call it the Tanner motion, is that opponents have a lot of difficultly reading the serve direction. There is just not time, the motion is too consistent, and the serve feels like it gets on you so fast.

    Unfortunately, its very easy to work to aquire this motion and then slip out of the timing. That’s what a good coach and continuous improvement through practice are for. You can lose this critical type of timing and kinda forget that you are back to the old way of slowing down to accomodate the toss. It’s like everything in tennis, you have to keep the ideal in mind when you are playing, because you can regress to less effective timing and swings quite easily.

    Every player should serve this way. To me its ridiculous that at the pro level we still see inefficiencies in the service motions when the serve is likely the most important shot in terms of results per hit, in the the game itself.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply March 22, 2018

      William – at my end I now feel that there are many ways to hit any type of ball – but for sure my first coach Blackie Jones asked is to toss the ball into the swing – I did play Tanner in an exhibition when he (and i) was way past his prime – did not win and as aged I do not remember his serve was huge – but for sure Vic Braden was right on the money – fascinating how the USTa kept him at “arms length”
      best Jim
      PS – are you teaching others on the serve – if so lets discuss

  • Richard

    Reply Reply March 22, 2018

    Gosh, Cilic’s serve is gorgeous. I guess when you have that kind of motion, you can win a major. 🙂 A very nice model, especially in that he has a “two arms down, two arms up together” motion, which is not the dominant style in the pros (most pros have serving arm down longer), but is easy to emulate for recreational players.

Leave A Response To Bud Light Cancel reply

* Denotes Required Field