What’s Up With The Toss?

For sure the game has changed, and will keep changing

The same goes for the toss

Years ago on Tennis Channel there was a clip of a doubles exhibition – with Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, Bjorn Borg and Ilie Nastase.

Just an exhibition, but I remember thinking they all had the same serve – rhythmic, tosses not overly high, and knee bend active but no extreme jumping.

The following is YouTube clip of the match – not excellent quality but it is fun to see these guys – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRog5S0fQd0

Interesting how the serve looked in that era

During the first week of the 2020 US Open, there was quite a bit of dialogue about issues with the serve, about either the mechanics or simply the toss.

And for sure compared to Laver, Borg, Nastase and Ashe, now tosses seem higher, in some cases much much higher

But, returning to the US Open, the announcers and journalists described “wandering ball tosses”

Mary Carillo, the NBC analyst and former French Open doubles champion, said, “It’s almost always the same culprit: nerves.”

Jason Goodall tried to ask Naomi Osaka about her serving problems (his term) and she demurred without an answer.

Coco Gauff averaged 15 double faults in 4 matches

Sara Errani served 14 doubles with 60 errant tosses

And even Karolina Pliskova struggled with her ball toss.

In each case I believe the culprit is tossing rhythm, and in each case the errant toss is much too high.

Further, the overly high toss puts a hitch or stop in the motion, and that adds to the necessary effort to regain racquet momentum.

I know the following with Marin Cilic looks unusual, but he simply tosses the ball high enough to meet the ball at full extension.

Same thing with Roscoe Tanner, as well as Mike and Bob Bryan and even Ivan Ljubicic – certainly there are others – this is just a sample

So for you – focus on rhythm and timing, and tinker with the tempo of your toss.


  • KnowaTall

    Reply Reply November 17, 2020

    I think that the rainbow toss really helps with this, as well. Notice that he, like Federer, releases the ball above the eye level, which gives it the gentle arc into his swing path (thus no chasing of the ball toss).

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 17, 2020

      Yes – perhaps the same was for Pancho Gonzalez – but truly I am not able to really do that – fascinating how some servers can use this rainbow to disguise serve location

  • Adrian Manescu

    Reply Reply November 17, 2020

    I think the attached video might have a different interpretation. Marin Cilic is practicing serves to T from ad side, with a large slice component. For this reason, he tosses lower and the typical racquet head finish for a slice serve.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 17, 2020

      Adrian – perhaps, but I am unable to discern what you see – I will look closer, it would be fun to stay in touch

  • John Delafield

    Reply Reply November 17, 2020

    Ex high school coach; I always tried to teach my kids to toss into their swing, NOT swing into their toss. An errant toss, either high or wide, requires a swing into the toss, which subtracts pace, rhythm, and power.
    I do appreciate how you make tennis elements simple and undramatic. Excellent teaching technique!!

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 17, 2020

      JRD – thanks for your note – and for sure I am always trying for simple
      And for sure I got this from coaches when I was just a student!

  • Abelardo Mieres

    Reply Reply November 17, 2020

    Great videos!

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