When I ask people what lets them down in most matches every answer has the serve in it. Amongst other things there is always an element of serve that clients aren’t happy with. And when I ask what the most important part of the serve is everyone gets the answer correct – The Bloody Ball Toss of course!
Yet when I ask people where they throw the ball toss the answers vary widely. When they think of a clock in which 12 o’clock being directly in front of them and three o’clock being directly to their right, a right-handed player says anywhere from 11 o’clock (over their head) to 2 o’clock (well to the right). The most common response is one o’clock, which I’d be inclined to agree with. But one thing I’ve noticed is one o’clock seems to vary quite a lot – especially in the heat of battle.
While ball tosses don’t have to be the same for everyone let’s look at the basics. That means forget the professionals and all their massive power and kick serves. Unless you play 6-8 hours a day and 1-2 hours just on serves plus another hour or so in the gym let’s take a step back and build it from the bottom.
Next time you’re on court try this (a right-handers guide):
Line yourself side on to your target as usual and without a tennis ball take a few slow practice swings, each time stopping where you make contact with the ball. This position should be in front of your body but also to the right – as a right handed player naturally swings the racket from the right side of their body to the left. You’ll find that it is in fact pretty darn close to one o’clock as in most responses I hear from clients. So why does it make sense here on the practice court yet you struggle under match conditions? The answer is pressure!
Whether you’d like to admit it or not in the heat of battle we tend to forget or disregard everything and look for anyway to get the damn ball in, often forgetting technique entirely. Technique is essential to any consistent progression whether you’re playing tennis, the piano or swimming. Forget technique at your own demise!
So do me a favour and forget one o’clock! Let’s face it – when you really need a serve to go in your one o’clock ball toss can get pretty distorted as its a figment of your imagination. Let’s pick something that can’t move.
If you go though your serve and stop at contact and while holding your racket high in the sky, bring your ball toss arm up towards your racket. I bet there is a strong chance your left arm is going directly in line with the right net post of the tennis court your standing on. Do it a couple times to figure it out.
So now you have an immovable object (regardless of the score and how tight the match is) that is the same dimension on any tennis court you care to play on. So if you can just keep your ball toss arm in line with the opposite net post you’ll gain yourself a more consistent ball toss.
Ie: If you toss the ball with your left hand (right-handed player), throw towards the right net post.
If you toss the ball with your right hand (left handed player), throw towards the left net post.
If your arm doesn’t travel directly inline with the net post there’s a strong chance you don’t want to hit that ball toss but instead start again. If it does you’re on your way to a more consistent serve!
The icing on the cake is that it works on both sides of the court – Deuce or Advantage. Don’t believe me…give it a go!