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Serve Toss Tennis Lesson — Accuracy and Consistency

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The serve toss seems like such a simple thing to perform in tennis and yet so many players (both beginner and advanced) seem to really struggle with it. Why is that?

In this video I’ll show you the main reasons why tennis players struggle with their serve accuracy and consistency and also show you my favorite drill for improving it.

Best of all, you don’t even need to be at a tennis court to work on your toss using my special drill.

Your toss placement is vital so no excuses for not putting in some time in your living room or office.

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  1. Arun s May 5, 2017 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Sorry! One more thing I'd like to point out is to do a series of tosses to perfect it. You should incorporate a rocking weight transfer into your toss and catch the ball each time with the arm still extended up.
    Oh yes, make sure the ball is released with your arm fully extended rather than flicking it up with elbow, for example. That way the ball has more guidance from the arm being straight as high as it can reach.
    Now while catching that ball w/o stepping out or back, you'll know the toss is condpsistent and straight up.
    Once you've become consistent at repeatedly releasing it and catching it, you're ready to deliver your new weapon, the devastating and accurate serve.

  2. Arun s May 5, 2017 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    I keep it as simple as possible. Used to emulate the fluidity of the Ilie Nastase serve. A thing of beauty back then and still is if you could do it as well. The body weight transfer forward simultaneously as the toss straight up, great balance before, during and after the serve.
    Another player who can be quite captivating with his serve motion today is France's Pierre Hughes Herbert. This guy has a wide open 'bird in flight' type motion that delivers, power, spin, kick and pinpoint accuracy.
    Really fun to watch and his game is pretty great too. Roger Federer also has great and enviable form on his serve but more back bending it seems, although fun to behold.

  3. Nalliah sivanathan May 24, 2016 at 5:30 am - Reply

    very good to know the basics of toss.I have been using my elbow all these days and was missing the serve but your shoulder practice cleared the way for consistency.Thank you

  4. Carrie March 29, 2016 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Always love your videos, Ian…especially since you're a lefty like me! I hate having to always "reverse" everything!!

  5. ira March 26, 2016 at 6:54 am - Reply

    do you hold the ball during the toss like a glass of water with only 2 fingers on ball?

  6. Martin Davey February 11, 2016 at 6:51 am - Reply

    Thankyou. I have played tennis for 45 years at a competitive level ( not professional ). The toss has caused me hell over some of this time. I think your comment about keeping the elbow straight and use the shoulder to toss the ball and not the wrist is very relevant. I am certain this is why I can sometimes produce absolutely wild ball toss ups. My serve will never be a world beater but I do know that when the toss is correct I am at least consistent with getting the ball in. Such a frustrating problem and unfortunately it tends to cause of a lot of tension for me and you can imagine the negative consequences of that.

  7. Christine M October 20, 2015 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Great instructions – simple yet gives immediate feedback. Thanks Ian!

  8. kam.mafi June 4, 2015 at 7:23 am - Reply

    a very useful exercise

  9. David May 12, 2015 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    The shoulder, huh?! Can't wait to try that tomorrow. If it works I owe you big time. Thanks Sean.

  10. Sean russell January 10, 2015 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Great advice on keeping arm straight . Love the clarity of explanation. Sean

  11. Hojgaard September 9, 2014 at 9:30 am - Reply

    How do you hold the ball – flat handed, with your finger tips…?

  12. online tennis lessons June 10, 2014 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Online tennis lessons are great for beginners or even experienced players. Lessons come in the form of tennis lesson videos and sometimes may be accompanied by a book. These are the top ten reasons taking online tennis lessons are a great option for a lot of people.

  13. Mindy May 25, 2014 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    I need to learn how to improve my foot work and on the basic swing

  14. Dan April 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Great info on serve toss. Thanks!

  15. David Mahl April 4, 2014 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Ian another great vid. We have a great tennis club [Midland community tennis center] with many Ferris tennis pros. If you are ever in the area I will buy you dinner.

  16. Jaye March 6, 2014 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    Very helpful, another way to practice the toss consistency is to draw as circle on the clay court in the same area you want your ball toss to drop in.

  17. Ann January 31, 2014 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Very clear and helpful. Thanks

  18. richard horsley January 30, 2014 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    good,very instructive and hrlpful..how many times sets of ten??

    Also glad U r giving lessons in/to left-haders-we need equal time. Maybe a lesson(s) on how to play left-handed(advantages and versus left-handers!)

  19. Vishal January 18, 2014 at 6:06 am - Reply

    very good practice.. racket grt option as can be done anywhr

  20. sukasno January 15, 2014 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    OK it;'s good drill.
    My question is : At what height we release the ball ,is when oue arms level with aour chest or when our arm level with shoulder



  21. Lubomir Gradinarsky January 15, 2014 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Good video Ian, thanks. Can you briefly point out the difference between the placement for the ball for the first and the second surve, both in terms of left/right and front/back alignment. Thanks. Lubomir

  22. Jyotsna January 15, 2014 at 3:18 am - Reply

    I'm learning a lot from your Videos. Thanks !!

  23. DeWitt Thomson January 14, 2014 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    I tried the drill.Mind-boggling trying to get the ball in the basket! However,it all carried over into a league match today.Won all my service games and felt in total control of each serve.Now, practice,practice,practice.I will beat the basket! Thanks,Ian.I'll spread the "good news" to all my mates.

  24. Roiegreenvald January 14, 2014 at 7:12 am - Reply

    This toss is good for flat and slice spin
    I saw this player from Canada who hits amazing spin that fly high
    What his toss and what his grip is?

  25. Israel January 14, 2014 at 6:24 am - Reply

    Hi, I really enjoyed watching your video lessons and think this is a great drill to work on.

    However, I have different toss for my first and second serve.
    Usually, I tend to toss a little more over my head for the second serve and put some spin. Is there any other drill that I can use to improve this type of toss?

  26. Nancy January 14, 2014 at 1:23 am - Reply

    Thanks Ian just what my daughter was struggling with this last week in a tournament. She lost a match where she served 14 double faults 6-4 6-4.

    We will do the drill

  27. Ed Mena January 13, 2014 at 11:27 pm - Reply


    Excellent video and topic. I am blessed with a very consistent serve which I believe only happens as a result of a consistent ball toss. I am often asked how I achieve a very consistent and effective serve.My answer is always "The Toss". It is imperative to have a perfect toss in order to have an effective serve.

    So many tennis players especially low to mid level women tend to not toss the ball high enough and hit with Under Spin because that't the only way they can make contact when they let the ball drop. Additionally I see too many tennis players chase after bad ball tosses.

    Again, your topic so very crucial for all tennis players at all levels of ability. Even the pros that we tend to model our games after. A great toss make the service motion effortless and fluid.

    Thank you!!!

  28. Alfred January 13, 2014 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    I just want to express gratitude for these video lessons. Each one does enable me to improve every aspect of my game.


  29. DeWitt Thomson January 13, 2014 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Wonderful,easy to understand and knowing everything you've recommended in the past,it's guaranteed to work.I'll get back to you asap with more kudos in a few days of trying it out.

  30. Dan Higashi January 13, 2014 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    As you demonstrated, it isn't easy to toss accurately without using using your racquet arm; therefore I would recommend eliminating your first step of the drill and start off with your second step. Practicing with just the tossing arm would only be useful for those people with a 2-piece serve: a high toss by the non-dominant side followed by a serve by the dominant side which I don't think you're suggesting.

  31. Joe Patafie January 13, 2014 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    Looking forward to receive the 'free' video courses with many thanks in advance; Being in Canada, I cannot start my real tennis 'outdoor' season until early April. The videos will help me prepare for the 2014 season. In the meantime, I'll have to be satisfied with 'Cross-Country' skiing. At least the physical conditionning part of tennis will be ongoing. Many thanks…


  32. Mary Benin January 13, 2014 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Loved the video. Very clearly explained and an easy exercise for all levels of players. I can't wait to try it.

  33. Rasheed Khalifa January 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Great drill to address a seemingly simple issue in disguise. Thanks Wil, this is a keeper.

  34. Victor Joe January 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    OK, 8 + 9 = 17, I guess this means I'm not a dorf or doofus, eh? Ian, I really appreciate your video on the importance of the toss. That is exactly my problem. I knew it from the past but like many players I didn't do much about it. I tried all kinds of tosses, holding the ball in the palm of my hand, or with my fingers, lifting the ball up using my wrist, my elbow, etc. but with little success or consistency. Then I discovered at times I would suddenly fall into a temporary zone and find myself tossing the ball up with a certain feeling and hitting some great serves with little or no problem. The next day I would try to emulate that feeling but I would eventually fall back into what I call my default position of errant tossing. Your instruction using a basket of balls or a tennis racket sounds like a very good way of developing a consistent service toss. That's what I need and your video gave me some hope that will keep me from giving up on this game of tennis.

  35. roy January 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    In your video, I feel the basket is too close to the baseline. If you're front foot is anywhere near the baseline, then the close part of basket should be at least 6-8 inches away.

  36. mike serena January 13, 2014 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    short and to the point with good visuals……Good instructor with very useful serve toss aids especially the suggestion to track the trend of errant tosses.

  37. elizabeth January 13, 2014 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    Terrific…have been struggling with consistency…I think the tip on putting the ball up with your shoulder is really helpful. Perhaps now I might get more than two balls fall back into the basket ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. Jay January 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I have two girls 9 & 12, how should they being holding the ball on the serve toss ?

    • roy January 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm - Reply

      Jay, I have my 10 year old daughter hold the ball at the base of her fingers so the bottom of the ball sits where the fingers join the palm.

  39. Marilyn Walsh January 13, 2014 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Thank you so much. I have played tennis since a child. Have a good serve but have had to vary it according to the toss. I started spinning the ball because it became wild, and it's the only thing that has helped. I never, in all the decades from different pros, have ever heard not to use the wrist and elbow joints. The pros just tell me not to spin the ball, which is the only thing that keeps it from flying all over the place. Can't wait to try it. Again, thanks.

  40. Simon January 13, 2014 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Hi Ian, I consistently toss the ball in an arc over my shoulder when trying to serve. I have seen other people with this problem and wondered if you had any advice. Simon

  41. dave pink January 5, 2014 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    your analysis of the trophy position is outstanding. Have incorporated your key elements into my serve for only a couple of days with great results. Thank You Dave Pink

  42. Jerry Nagahashi November 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Your explanation of the ball toss is the most useful I've heard! However, the pros don"t appear to toss the ball straight up and it is tossed toward the left (for a right-hander). The bending of the back still keeps the ball on their right when they start the forward swing. This ball direction during the toss can be observed in stop action, sequential photos of various pros hitting a serve. There has to be something in the background that you can focus on so you can track the actual movement of the ball in relation to the background. Some of these pictures have been shown in Tennis but not discussed. Could you comment on this observation?



  43. Jerry Nagahashi November 21, 2013 at 11:41 am - Reply

    First, I'm not sure what the +4 = 7 actually means?

    My comment is: If you watch any of the top pros in various tennis magazines, which so stop action sequential pictures of their service motion, they don't seem to toss the balls straight up. If there is a background behind the server, so you can follow the flight of the toss, it's obvious that the ball is tossed toward their left (right handed server). They bend their backs so the ball still appears on their right side when they start the forward swing. There are plenty of examples of this so I guess it is not normally taught since it adds another variable to the toss. Can you comment on this observation?

    By the way, your explanation of toss mechanics is the most useful I have seen!

    Jerry Nagahashi

  44. dan November 3, 2013 at 1:04 am - Reply

    How far into the court should an ideal toss land?

  45. Ivan Yatsuk September 23, 2013 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian.Thanks so much for your amazing videos!I am a 13 year old junior tennis player and I used to be so bad on my serving games.I was not comfortable at all.Now I am serving 5 aces a match against great players.And if you could make a video on how to put 2nd serves in the court with good kick that would be great!Thanks :)!

  46. james August 7, 2013 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Good drill. A couple of issues I would like to hear about. Release point- this has helped me a lot . Extension of the tossing arm after the toss is released…all pros do this. Synchronizing the arms or not. The head… some pros follow the ball, some actually look up to the place they are tossing to prior to the actual toss. Either works. Lastly, how to deal with the yips.Much like putting in golf…there are more fine motor skills in the toss that can go awry. Many pros and amatures will go through this at some point. How do you re build confidence. Great site. Thanks…

  47. Tony August 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    Thank you for these tips. They are especially helpful to me as a lefty. As in most cases, practice makes perfect and your tips are simple and straightforward. Working toward consistency in the service motion addresses one of my (many) weaknesses.

  48. Billy August 1, 2013 at 11:49 am - Reply

    You said in a comment below on Oct 2, 2012 that you have besides a flat serve also a "main spin serve (COMBO OF SLICE AND TOPSPIN)." How does that work, do you slice below the equator and on the outside of the ball at the same time as hitting up on the ball? I always thought a slice puts backspin on the ball and a topspin puts topspin on the ball- a contradiction of spins.

    • Ian Westermann August 1, 2013 at 11:55 am - Reply

      Slice on a groundstroke = backspin.

      Slice on a serve = sidespin! Two totally different directions of spin. This can obviously be confusing since people use the exact same word to describe both.

  49. Noneil July 30, 2013 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Great tip on getting feedback on my self instruction practice. Can't wait to try it.

  50. Dr. T June 28, 2013 at 12:14 am - Reply

    I have heard some coaches say to put the ball on your fingertips rather than let it rest on your palm. Is there any difference? … I can never remember to use my fingertips anyway!

  51. Arthur M. June 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian,
    Thanks a lot for your myth buster videos; very instructive and clear. Being a former instructor of tennis the high speed footage shows the real thing since the eyes are not quick enough to see what you have to do or not to do. My forehand is my weakiest point since I had the wrong perception that giving topspin should be done by carving the racket around the ball instead of brushing the ball up with a racketface wich is only a few degrees downwards from vertical. Thanks for that. Keep on making these series.


  52. Bakr May 30, 2013 at 4:38 am - Reply

    I love tennes

  53. Eli May 28, 2013 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Very good video Ian, I will try that toss, slice balls.

    • Lia July 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      Hi Ian,
      I appreciate your detailed step by step on toss.

  54. Bowen Pan April 15, 2013 at 6:28 am - Reply

    It's so windy, how can you play in this court?

  55. George Stewart April 10, 2013 at 9:21 am - Reply

    What a great aid the toss demonstration was. Using the ball hopper really helps in getting some consistency.

  56. Faraz April 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Amazing stuff this Ian, the toss is the key to the serve, the serve being the statement of your game…great dedication and attention to detail. Extremely helpful

    Thanks from Toronto !!

  57. Felix April 7, 2013 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    The Serve Toss is an useful comment and reminder for correcting serve inconsistency! Thanks!

  58. David March 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    I appreciate what you're doing with your website and the videos. They are just what my daughter needs since she is struggling with her toss.

  59. Justin March 2, 2013 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    great tip Ian I tried it and got better at tennis

  60. Bill February 28, 2013 at 1:41 am - Reply

    Good tip on the toss. The thing that was missing, though, is at what point do you release the ball (for ex: when arm is at 45 degree angle?)

  61. silvio November 7, 2012 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    i have a question,
    when i toss the ball do i have to put my body weight on my font or back foot?

  62. Mike Spruzen October 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the ball toss shoulder tip Ian as well as other discussions. Been in the coaching game a long time.
    We can never stop being educated.

  63. Ian October 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Where did you get your shirt?

  64. Paul October 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Hey Ian, I appreciate you dedication to tennis and rely on your vast knowledge of the sport. My problem of the day is this; is it customary for one to change their dominant forehand grip during play? I mostly use a semi-western grip, but find that when I run to the net to hit a short ball, it goes long by about a foot. What in the devil's name, am I doing wrong?

    • alok January 7, 2013 at 3:16 am - Reply

      Yes, you need to move it from semi-western to western in general (it depends upon the type of shot too). In any case, changing grips for different shots is typical….

  65. Murray October 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks Ian – great to see it from another lefty perspective

  66. Ann October 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Thanks Ian,
    I am going to play doubles right now and put this into practice. I'm thinking toss "from the shoulder."

  67. ERic October 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Great Tip Ian. I will share these infos to Kids and TEens . And to Everyone ……….

  68. Josh October 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    I like to think of the toss as more of a "lift". That way I remind myself to keep my palm up and to not use my elbow or wrist. I am more lifting the ball into my strike zone than throwing or tossing it.

  69. Shankar October 3, 2012 at 12:29 am - Reply

    Very good tips Ian! Thanks! It would great if you can show how to hit different types of serves (flat, slice, top spin) in different directions (down the line, cross court). I have to change where I stand and my toss significantly to achieve this. My opponents easily guess this and I lose this advantage.

  70. MikeC October 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    A very good drill. I tried it on my lunch break today. Palm to the sky seemed to work the best but I am still tinkering with it. Ian, should I use the same toss for both serves (1st and 2nd)?

    • Ian Westermann October 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Great to hear, Mike! Way to get out there and be productive on your lunch break ๐Ÿ™‚

      That totally depends on what type of serve you're trying to hit. I personally hit my flat serve and main spin serve (combo of slice and topspin) from that exact same toss position. This works really well to disguise my intent and keep opponents guessing. However, it's essentially impossible to hit a true "kick" serve from this toss location, so it would have to be moved further back if that was your shot selection.

  71. Jackie October 2, 2012 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Most helpful and will be sure to practice when next on court – Friday.. I also reiterate the comment made by Karen, I too am a leftie!

  72. Lionel October 2, 2012 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Yes, the toss is from the shoulder. But when should the ball be released? I would guess that the release would be when the ball is at eye level. And how should the ball be held in the hand? Thank you.

  73. Larry October 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    Ian, thanks for the great tip on improving my toss. I have never been able to figure out how to get a consistant toss and I will use your suggested drill for sure!

  74. Karen October 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    Thanks Ian… I'm especially glad (as always) to see you helping out the lefties among us!

    • Ian Westermann October 2, 2012 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      Most of my videos will focus on righty technique with a few lefty pointers thrown in here and there, but every once in a while I like to demo stuff dominant handed ๐Ÿ™‚

  75. dennis bailey October 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Outstanding as usual. I like how your accuracy didn't improve until you incorporated the entire serve motion as you are accustomed to do.

  76. Colin Stringer October 2, 2012 at 4:41 am - Reply

    Thanks for this, Ian. I always tell players that the serve is the most important shot in the game and that the toss is the most important part of the serve.
    The beauty of this drill is that you don't even need to be on court to practise it; my back yard is six feet by ten and gives me plenty of room even if my toss is way off course.

  77. Ray Hannon October 2, 2012 at 12:53 am - Reply

    I want to develope a consistent toss in the same spot and be able to hit all four corners, spin, kick. I do not want to change to toss location too be able to hit these serves. What techniques can you demonstrate that teaches how to toss the ball and be able to hit different types of serves?

    • Ian Westermann October 2, 2012 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Flat, slice, and some topspin is possible from this one toss location, but a true "kick" serve really isn't unfortunately. I'll be doing more videos on this topic in the near future!

  78. Alice October 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian,

    Love the simplicity and effectiveness of this drill. My pro suggested that I try to push my left hip forward to get my toss more "above my shoulder". I have a tendency to toss too far in front of me. Do you think this is a good approach or should I just practice tossing more without worrying about my hip? Thanks Ian!

    • Ian Westermann October 2, 2012 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Pushing that front hip out is a good technique element for the serve in general, but you should be able to toss consistently and accurately regardless of that move. That being said, if it's already integrated into your serve continue to use it as you work on this drill, no need to take it back out again.

  79. steve October 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Where can I get the t-shirt

  80. Kim October 1, 2012 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    Great drill – thanks especially for the idea of focusing on the shoulder during the toss, rather than the wrist or elbow. Also – love the new site design. It looks incredible and is very easy to navigate.

    • Ian Westermann October 2, 2012 at 10:08 am - Reply

      Thank you for the feedback, Kim. Keep up the awesome work on your blog! I was just checking it out a few days ago ๐Ÿ™‚

  81. Dindo October 1, 2012 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Would that be your target too for a spin or "twist serve"?

    • Ian Westermann October 2, 2012 at 10:07 am - Reply

      "Spin" serve (as in slice) yes, that would be a good toss target. "Twist serve", no, you'd want your target to be further back around where a kick serve would typically be hit.

  82. David October 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    Nice drill. It will be helpful for the consistency of my tosses. Thank you!

  83. Kai October 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm - Reply


    This is a serve related question but nothing to do with toss.
    If the server serves a ball beyond the baseline (but not landed yet) and hits the receiver does the server get the point or is it a fault?



    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      If the server hits the returner (or returner's partner in doubles) in the air it is the server's point, regardless of where either opponent is standing!

      • Really? October 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm - Reply

        You said if the "server hits the returner ( even if the returner is on the baseline) and the ball is in the air, that the server gets the point !"

        How can that be true ?

        The ball — at least from my understanding of his question, HAS NOT BOUNCED in the the service box yet.

        So, how is it even a valid serve yet ?

        And if this really was the rule, then wouldnt someone like Raionic or Roddick who can hit 140 mph, instead of trying to his the serve in the service box, wouldnt they just focus on trying to beam someone with the serve and win points that way ?

        that's why i have to doubt that answer… it just doesnt make sense to me.

        Or are you saying the ball has bounced in the service box first, and then hits the returner, which makes a lot of sense to me that the server would win that point.

        • Ian Westermann October 4, 2012 at 9:07 pm - Reply

          Well, it doesn't really matter whether you believe me or not, that's the way it is if you want to play by the rules of tennis. If a serve hits any player in the air (before bouncing) it's the server's point, it doesn't make any difference where the other player is standing.

          Same thing on any other shot, if the ball hits a player in the air (before bouncing) they automatically lose the point. It doesn't matter if they're standing at the net or standing 30 feet out of bounds, they lose the point.

  84. John Katronis October 1, 2012 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    …with everything you have talked about in regard to the serve, finally a lesson on the toss…thank you so much..was never really sure where to toss the ball for the flat serve…it looks like the pros loop the ball up back toward them..not toss it straight up w the idea of landing in an imaginary basket..thanks again Ian

  85. Brent October 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the lesson Ian. Sometimes my tossing arm may be a little too relaxed, and the elbow may be getting involved. Would you say that your elbow is "locked" at full extension? I don't mean locked as in stiff or tight muscles, but do you make a conscious effort to keep it at full extension all the way through the toss? I may be letting mine bend a little at some point in the toss.

  86. shirley james October 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    I have always had a problem with tossing the ball for my serve. What a difference it made throwing up from the shoulder. Thank- you for this tip. It has made my serve so much better.

  87. Rich October 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    "Just guide the ball into the air" Hey Ian if I may be the devil's advocate: I see you are using your fingers rather than the palm of your hand. After all that conscious effort to raise the ball with the shoulder you appear to be flicking the ball with those fingers. Which of course leads to spin and arcing of the toss in fact it's apt to go every where but where you want it, in your comfort zone! So I'm wondering which do you feel is better, from the fingers where it is apt to spin out of control or from the open palm (which admittedly is harder) but it avoids putting any "junk" on the ball before the toss is complete. Also when you are at full extension … from the fingers you are stretching and again more apt to place that ball some were OTHER than where you want it? JMO Ian look forward to your response, great video really got me homing in on that illusive perfect toss! Thanks, Rich.

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm - Reply

      Good comments, Rich! In my experience rolling the ball off the finger tips is a recipe for inconsistency for recreational players. That being said, at the end of the day this is all about finding a tossing method that gets YOU consistent results. There is no one right way to do this, you'll see high level players using different methods and being very successful both ways. Yes, I roll the ball from my palm and always have. I've never had issues with toss consistency! That being said, I recommend to rec players, and beginners especially to hold the ball with their finger tips to avoid “spinning” and “flipping” the ball around.

  88. bud light October 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    I also agree strongly from reading other comments that the less spin on the ball, the better. I emphasize a flat toss with no spin and therefore find that the hand open to the sky helps to ease the ball up without spin and in a consistent position. What do you think? Best, Bud Light

    • Rich October 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      Missed your post bud I absolutely agree ease that ball up with open palm, locked wrist locked elbow. Yes it's harder!!! …but IMO more consistent placement, the object of the exercise. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      In my opinion having a bit of spin on the ball out of the tossing hand is not a big deal at all, Bud, unless of course it is directly leading to placement inconsistency. That being said, spinning the ball and placement inconsistency tend to go hand in hand since both are usually caused by rolling the ball from the palm up off the finger tips and "flipping" it up there. I've read whole articles about how spin on the toss is terrible because it works against the racquet, etc. I personally don't think it makes any negligible difference in the end result at all. If it can be repeated consistently then I have no problem with a bit of rotation!

    • Rich October 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm - Reply

      I'll try to address you and Ian same time bud. I'm a short fella 5'4" !!! so I am always stretching to get the best height for the serve. When stretching like that I really am balancing hard to keep control so if I flip or spin the ball with my fingers really bad news because I'm so extended. I lose control of the toss predictably if tossing from the fingers.

      It is a disciplined effort to toss from the palm and takes some getting used too but that said it's the most consistent toss by far! My first coach spotted my problem right away and he always advised if I can (right handed) toss the ball into my comfort hitting zone and have the ball landing about 6 " forward of my left foot that was about as good as you could ask for. Incidentally the reason I hired that coach was his consistency so trust me when I say he had a very consistent serve. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The confidence gained from a consistent toss is something to be experienced not talked about as it does little justice but I'll try. To put that ball where you know where you will hit it gives you options you wouldn't have otherwise. To hit that perfect toss outside is only the slightest adjustment from down the T but keeps your opponent guessing! Boy it has been 15 years since playing owing to injury and it took a while to get that toss back but since I found the toss again I KNEW that serve was going to rocket up in consistency and sure enough it has! It's a great confidence builder and your opponent has nothing to say in the matter it's all about disciplining yourself to make that extra effort. Once you get that toss down only you will know and the proof will be in far more consistent serves with a lot less effort and a lot more accuracy.

      Federer is quoted as saying the toss is 50% of the serve couldn't agree more and yet so many eager players look past this crucial aspect. With the proper toss even a shorty like me can get that ball in play much more effectively! A good tip is get someone to tape you on your smartphone with video of your entire serve or just the toss whatever you want to improve. I did this with a buddy the other day and he was very pleased to see what was actually going on so I emailed it so he can study it over and over. The serve is such a big part of today's game it is really is bad technique IMO to overlook the importance of the best toss you can come up with.
      Cheers guys, Rich.

  89. bud light October 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Ian: I note that various of the online instructors who cover tennis have a different philosophy regarding the position of the hand. I have always taught my students to use a straight (stiff) arm, no wrist bend and open their hand to the sky, rather than flip it over. Others say the position of the hand upon completion of the toss does not matter. I do feel that one has to ease the toss up in order to get more consistency as you go into your trophy pose. How do you, as a lefty, find the best results when you serve. Feel free to comment. I'd appreciate it. Best, as always, Bud Light

  90. Amanda October 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    That was such an interesting video, Ian. I'm looking forward to getting on the tennis court to practice it.

  91. Charles Lin October 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Another useful tip is trying to prevent the ball from spinning too much. This helps you realize if you're using too much wrist or finger flipping.

    • Rich October 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      Pushing the ball with an open palm works best for me. It also lulls the opponent into a false sense of security because though it is easy to read the racquet is what places the ball and only AFTER the correct toss. It takes discipline to remember the careful toss when you are starving for air and energy but that is probably why it gets forgotten so much. (my humble opinion)

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      You're welcome!

  92. Rich October 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    One of the best serves right now is known not just for his speed but also because it is so difficult to read by the opponent. I speak of course of Raonic. Milos has almost identical wind up every serve very sharp grip (looks eastern if not mistaken) but the biggest gripe I see and hear is the receiver just cannot read where it's going next! Federer is the same way yet the toss does not appear to change nor does the player's grip. Perhaps I'm missing something but it would be great if we could incorporate those two serves in your next video segment (if time). You touched on my favourite pet peeve Ian sorry to rant but appreciate what you are trying to say. The toss easily the most under rated weapon on the court today IMO! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  93. Dianna October 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    What a great way to see what's going wrong with my toss! Thanks, what a great tip!

  94. Marc P October 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    Great Video! I think the toss is the most over-looked part of the game…and probably one of the most important elements. Thank you for the tips.
    Marc in Toronto

  95. Rich October 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Ian excellent video pet peeve of mine so many GOOD players make a hash o the toss and the serve is lost from the get go! I mean top name players they arch over there back it's a horror show. So I question why such good players with access to such good coaching why are they making a mess of such an important step in the serve? Not to pick on the guy (I like him) but Maron Cilic is the perfect example here. Watch how he arches waaay over and the serve is compromised nearly every toss, no doubt in my mind.

    Well that leads me to a question is the toss you are prescribing good for ALL serves? The kick serve eg is your toss appropriate for the kick serve and all other serves? I'm hunching Maron being tall wants to loop that kick serve right over his opponent's reach. Otherwise Maron arches and tosses the ball way to far behind his head. So my question (sorry long winded intro) does this SAME toss work for all serves? Really glad you got on this subject it's really very important IMO.

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      Great questions, Rich. In short, no, the toss that I've demonstrated in this video isn't good for all types of serves. Any type of serve that you see on TV where the player arches way back is in fact a kick serve. It's possible to create some topspin from a less aggressive toss (not so far back) but a true "kick" serve really can't be done without the ball being tossed quite a bit further back than what I demonstrated here. I'll be coming out with some videos about this very soon.

      • Rich October 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm - Reply

        Great stuff the toss & serve are all to key to a good singles game. Heck sure can't hurt your doubles game either ๐Ÿ™‚ Look forward to the next segment thanks for answering my question!

  96. Paige T October 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    I like the idea of this practice drill because no one has to watch me or guide me. I'll know if I'm getting the toss right, based on where it lands. One of my tennis friends suggested the same drill. Now I know he was on target with his advice.

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      As long as you have the racquet/basket in the right spot it's a great one!

  97. Charles Lin October 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    I think it would be helpful to show when/how the release works (should you hold it in your fingers or your palm). When should the ball be released (shoulder height or higher)? Does your arm continue to go up? Should you toss it sideways "ice cream cone grip" as suggested by Brent Able or upside down as suggested by Vic Braden?

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      Long story short: different players do better holding the ball different ways. I don't believe that there is necessarily a "best" way to hold the ball but in general I recommend the finger tips with palm facing upwards. I don't think I've ever actually seen anybody using the "ice cream cone" or "palm down" methods in "real life".

      • Charles Lin October 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm - Reply

        It might not be quite the ice cream cone, but there's this: http://i.imgur.com/5n9Mv.jpg

        • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm - Reply

          Interesting, his hand is definitely "tilted" to the side a decent amount. Even so, I wouldn't count that even close to "ice cream cone" because he holds the ball "normally": http://img.tennis-warehouse.com/ppgal/RFEDERER/RF07PLO-004.jpg

          • Charles Lin October 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm - Reply

            Yeah, slowmo vid seems to confirm that he doesn't release it sideways. It may end up that way after the ball leaves his hand.


  98. Kay October 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Ian, you're a leftie and so is Will Hamilton of FYB. All I can say is southpaw instructors rock!

  99. anthony s. reine October 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    great i have volley mastery 147.oo it is great complete tennis fitness can not long in can not git a replay

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      Sorry that you're having trouble logging in! I just sent you an e-mail with your info.

  100. James Fry October 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Since you are left handed would a right handed player stand the same distance from the center line to serve as you did in your video? Thus moving the basket closer to the center line before placing the foot at the corner of the basket. Or is that just personal preference? Thanks.

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm - Reply

      Not necessarily, James. It all depends on what type of serve you're trying to hit, what target location, and if you're playing singles or doubles. In the case of this drill it really doesn't matter at all, in fact it's just as valuable when done in your driveway!

  101. Kaye October 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian
    This video is sooooo useful – big thank you.
    One question – can you please tell me – when ball is tossed and you are in trophy pose what should the feet be doing at that exact moment?
    It's the last bit that I am not getting the right timing on.
    Thank you

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm - Reply

      That depends on what type of stance you use, Kaye. If you use a platform stance (feet start wide and stay wide) then they shouldn't be doing anything at all. If you use a hybrid stance (starting wide and bringing the back foot up) then your back foot will just be coming up to join your front one as you're reaching your full trophy pose. For a full explanation on this I highly recommend my free serve course! You can sign up at the top of this page.

  102. Larry October 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Part of the toss is holding the ball. I have been taught/ advised at least five ways to hold the ball. Is there a correct one, that is, one which will produce the most consistency? Thanks for help.

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      In my experience I prefer teaching players to hold the ball using their finger tips, not the palm of the hand. Starting with the ball in the middle of the palm tends to lead to "rolling" the ball up into the air off the hand/fingers which makes it pretty tough to be consistent. That being said, I roll the ball from my palm and have never had any consistency issues at all. At the end of the day it's definitely a personal preference type issue.

  103. Jo Ann October 1, 2012 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Hi Ian,

    Another great video ๐Ÿ™‚
    When do you suggest releasing the ball on the toss?

    Jo Ann

    • Ian Westermann October 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm - Reply

      Definitely not below shoulder height, Jo Ann. Right around shoulder level is typically when you'll get the most vertical result without the ball wanting to float around in different directions.

  104. hang lee September 6, 2012 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian,

    I enjoy your videos. Thanks! One question I like you to address in your podcast or video is the placement of the serves. I am a level 3.5 player and right now, I am just striking the ball without knowing where it will land.

    Thanks, Hang.

  105. Violeta Babineau March 21, 2012 at 8:42 am - Reply

    Today, considering the fast life style that everyone leads, credit cards have a huge demand throughout the economy. Persons throughout every discipline are using credit card and people who not using the credit card have made arrangements to apply for just one. Thanks for expressing your ideas about credit cards.

  106. Terri February 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    great to be watching the Doubles Domination videos and tapping into Essential Tennis for review of basics. keep these fine instructional materials coming!

  107. Tom February 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    Thank you. I previous commend on your “service” video about the need for insturction on the toss and “lo & behold” you already had a video of such under “Popular Posts.” Just have to learn how to use ALL of your site.

  108. WallyPop February 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Great drill/video. I addressed the height guide by combining your wall hitting video with this video. Used the wall to tape a high mark that’s 1′ over the reach of my extended racquet. Placed the hopper 6″ infront of wall. This approach enhances my visual aids/constraints per your suggested toss/lift lesson. Now I’m going to see if it actually helps me. I’ll update you as I progress.

    ASIDE. I don’t know what the demographics are, but at my club it seems lots of members (men and women) are 50+, and into the 60s and seventies. You’re “wall” video was great for this “returning to tennis senior”. Are there any video references, etc that address our particular physical limitations. For example, should we attempt the more physical demanding “top spin” semi-western “hit as hard as you can” approach we see our juniors using, splitsteps, etc. I want to do more than just dabble in tennis; I want to set goals and progress, otherwise I could just walk my dog for exercise.

    Love your rational/thought out approach to instructing. I especially appreciate showing the underlying commonality of a principle even though it’s generally obscured/disguised by the highly individualized styles of the pros.

    Thank you and others in this video tutorial guidance business. This is about the only internet video I succumb to. Wish I had access to same when I was much younger.

    • Stuart November 29, 2012 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      About your aside. I am one of your colleagues, at 61, and I am very much in favor of your trying anything you want to: I do. But–work up to it–find out what is necessary for the stroke or movement, and isolate that movement so that you can work up to it. That being said, you have as examples two very different things. I personally use the semi-western stroke, and have had to work very hard on developing the racquet head acceleration the stroke depends on. I very rarely try to hit the ball as hard as I can. As for the split step, although it demands work on your legs if you have not been doing it, it is more likely a benefit to you and your game. It is also not hard on your body to practice it–you'll get tired. But–do not exaggerate it to begin with! you don't need to be jumping like Michael Jordan! Mastering split stepping will, in my opinion, actually help your body, since you will have the opportunity to move in a timely manner fluidly and under control. To begin with, just try unweighting, lifting on both sets of toes from your ready position (feet spread out at least shoulder width apart, weight on balls of feet, athletic stance, weight directly over the balls of your feet, racquet in both hands in front). Don't worry! Just "do it," be happy with what you achieve, and strive for more!

  109. Charles February 6, 2012 at 6:11 am - Reply

    Thanks Ian! This is great! I really struggled with my toss but once I got it down (after following this exercise) I was banging my serves in!
    Any drills for kick serve and slice serve tosses??? ๐Ÿ™‚

  110. Ben January 22, 2012 at 12:58 am - Reply

    Oh! That’s how you do it. My toss is bad. Sometimes I bend at the elbow when I’m at eye level and it TOTALLY destroys my toss! I will keep remembering the shoulder is the key as I do this drill and will update you on the results.


  111. charles deutsch December 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    this was a very clear and helpful video. will try the drill (obviously quite a few times) and let you know if it helped my serve. thanks

  112. kids stuff November 30, 2011 at 1:01 am - Reply

    I have had two of these for a couple years waiting until I had a free period to organize and complete a huge scrapbook project. (A career collection of memorabilia from a school teacher.) I’ve finally had the opportunity to work on them and I’m really enjoying the size! I didn’t purchase all the Martha Paper that matched the book’s paper size, but it really isn’t a problem. I’m cutting the normal 12 by 12 size paper into frames or creating unique backdrops for the “scraps” I’m becoming pleasantly surprised that I like the size and am seeing the potential for a 12 by 18 book as well… In my normal scrapbooking style, I find that I run my pages by events and tend to need multiple pages to make sure that all family members are included within the event. I seem to need at least 20 pages for Christmas annually, because we have various family and community events that are noteworthy or otherwise worth scrapping. So I can see the potential for having a taller book that could condense the holiday pages into four or five pages would be beneficial! I still like the 12 inch width for putting it on the bookshelf. 18 by 18 is a little too big to be on a standard bookcase or even to be displayed on the coffee table.

  113. John October 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian,
    Other on-line advice recommends the target for the toss for a flat serve should be the center of the t face of a racket that is placed on the court with the butt touching your front toe at the back of the service line and the handle at a right angle to the service line. Your target location is further back and seems to work better for me. Any comment?

    • Ian Westermann October 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm - Reply


      Contact should be made a little bit in front of the baseline which is why I’ve placed the target there, however, it can absolutely vary from player to player based on how advanced their service motion is. The more aggressively you start to hit your serve (especially once the legs get fully used) the more in front you’ll want that toss to be. For the time being place the target wherever is most comfortable for you to actually hit the ball when it’s up there! Hopefully that makes sense.

  114. Nguyen October 13, 2011 at 2:43 am - Reply

    Hi Ian,
    How we do for the toss of second serve where we need to put the ball above our head?
    For the first serve, I can improve my serve as per your lesson, but the second serve, it is still inconsistent!

    • Ian Westermann October 13, 2011 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      For a good second serve (combo of topspin and slice) you’ll want to position the basket/racket face about 6 inches further to the left (if you’re right handed) and right around the same depth. That’s it!

  115. Allen October 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    thanks! Ian its realy very helful….

  116. john October 12, 2011 at 12:32 am - Reply

    Ian, I love this tip and I have used it but I think it is missing one thing: the height. I like to stand in front of my garage and have a target like a racket or basket, like you have but I can also see the height of my ball toss. I haven’t come up with a device or object to make a marker other than a spot on my garage wall to make sure my height is consistent as well. Maybe you can improve on my idea.

    • Ian Westermann October 13, 2011 at 7:24 pm - Reply


      Absolutely, height feedback can be very helpful as well. To have students practice that element of the toss I’d typically have them stand up next to a wall or fence of the court and aim for a certain spot.

  117. Trent October 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Excellent content and very entertaining as well! But whats that one handle relic your playing with?
    Be well,

    • Ian Westermann October 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm - Reply

      ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ll be sure to demo a Battistone service toss next time!

  118. guy w lam October 10, 2011 at 6:15 am - Reply

    First all, everyone is talking about how to” toss” the b.all. I also prefur to use the word “lift”. Ianยดs video is just to show a part of the problem of the Serve.

    Nobody has the same bone structure.That is why, I think, is the reason that everyone looks differntly doing the same stroke. Forehand,backhand and Serve etc. Just like Nick Bollertieri said,Donยดt try to copy the pro.s. Try to achieve what you wanted to do.

    In my expierence ( 35 years of teaching), Try to relax( as ian also said),and raise the heel of the backfoot as you life the ball up. (There are many other ways).

    • Ian Westermann October 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm - Reply

      I’d actually disagree with that Bollettieri quote to a certain extent. I would say that it’s definitely a bad for a rec player to copy a singular pro, as in, “I want to model my game after Roger Federer”. However, there is SO much that we can learn about what pros do collectively (the major technique similarities that they all share) and these types of elements are things that I think your average player can definitely strive for and try to emulate.

      Thanks for watching!

  119. MontyQ October 9, 2011 at 9:34 am - Reply

    It’s amazing to me that you’ve responded to almost every email. I’m sure the popularity of your site will flourish from that practice alone. Good job sir!!!

    • Ian Westermann October 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      Thanks for that, Monty. I really appreciate it. I try my best to really make my site as friendly and helpful as possible! I can’t always get to everybody, but it’s a goal I shoot for ๐Ÿ™‚

  120. Armand October 9, 2011 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Great drill..simple but effective. Great way to iron out small wrinkles in ones game.. For advanced n beginners alike.

  121. George Wachtel October 9, 2011 at 7:29 am - Reply

    hi Ian

    tks for the good tip. check out my website www.seniortennisandfitness.com for my spreading the word! tks,

  122. Alice October 8, 2011 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great info Ian….definitely want to try it. It seems like I am tempting fate every time I hit a bad toss. Instead of catching it, I think….oh this time it might work…and sure enough the ball ends up in the net. I like the idea of doing this in my yard….or anywhere for that matter.

    • Ian Westermann October 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm - Reply


      Yup, definitely get out of the habit of hitting errant tosses ASAP! Be strict about it and your serve percentage will increase ๐Ÿ™‚

  123. Pamela October 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian, First of all, thank you for your videos, I think they are great for learning… I wanted to ask you for pointers to make a good kick serve… I saw once that the way to do so is tossing the ball to my right (I’m right handed) instead of above my head, and hitting it with the racquet in almost a side motion… When I do it, it actually gets the effect correctly.. but it’s very hard to make it go faster or even to get across the net ๐Ÿ™
    Do you have some tips about what should I do to practice or improve that??.. (it’s kind of hard for me to hit it “side ways and forward” at the same time :S how should I practice or which workouts would improve those motions??..

    Thank you again for all your help and videos.. they are really helpfull


    • Ian Westermann October 13, 2011 at 7:28 pm - Reply


      Great question. For right now I’m simply going to say that to hit a topspin (kick) serve the toss definitely needs to be more over your head, NOT to the right. I’m not going to get more detailed than that right now because it would take forever (haha) and I’m going to be coming out with a video about this topic very soon. Stay tuned!

  124. Roy October 8, 2011 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Ian, great stuff. If you do a follow-up video on the toss, could you please share a few tips on adjustments necessary when serving into the sun and when there’s a breeze. Also, any tips on drills for tossing to the right height. I sometimes tend to toss too low, and you know what happens then. Are there any drills that would help that? Finally, how long should your tossing arm be left in the air in relation to the time of contact?

    Thanks again for all your great help!

    • Ian Westermann October 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm - Reply


      A great way to practice toss height is to stand right up next to a wall or fence and pick an appropriate spot to aim for. In this way you get immediate feedback and you can practice your consistency!

  125. Don October 8, 2011 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Xlnt video, Ian!
    It seems to me that most pros open their tossing hand widely after release of the ball, and I wonder if this may be a helpful for consistency. Example: Serena Williams.
    Any comment?

    • Ian Westermann October 13, 2011 at 10:07 am - Reply


      I’ve noticed that as well, it’s something that I definitely wouldn’t classify as an “essential”, but certainly give it a shot and see how it feels/works for you!

  126. david g. October 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Great tip. I constantly have problems with my toss. I’ll try this out and let you know how it works out.

  127. jole October 8, 2011 at 5:16 am - Reply

    The toss..man’s greatest evil. I had some issues with it for a while, but then i noticed something. i could control the toss when i made sure that my arm went all the way down, all the time it seemed. That seemed to be the golden principle. It makes sense, because you get more force with less effort, and thus better control. Perhaps, that’s what is stuffing up a lot of people in a similar category. they do that drill fine, but when they do the whole motion it goes wayward (they don’t lower the arm all the way down, or do it but not always).

    It’s been a while since i was hitting the ball, but i’ll be back into it soon.

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:55 am - Reply


      I agree with that observation, I definitely recommend a full range of motion with the arm. The longer it is the more relaxed and smooth you can make it!


  128. Brent October 8, 2011 at 2:31 am - Reply

    Thanks for this great video Ian. Why wouldn’t you want to always practice this going to the trophy pose? Even though the trophy pose develops after the toss, it seems like you should practice with everything before and immediately after the toss to maintain timing consistency.

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:54 am - Reply


      I would have a student focus on ONLY the toss (taking out the trophy pose) if they had really, really poor habits with their hand, wrist, and elbow. It’s often very useful to have a student just isolate one thing at a time and really hammer it down before adding everything else to it. Hopefully that makes sense!

      If your toss just needs a bit of repetition or a small tweak then go ahead and keep doing your trophy pose as well since it’s more realistic practice.

  129. Makhtar October 7, 2011 at 9:05 pm - Reply


    Great tip! Thanks.

  130. Tom October 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    I like to use a piece of 8.5″ x 11″ paper rather than a basket or other racquet. This does TWO things,
    a) Prevents the ball from flying all over the place when hitting the edge of the basket or frame
    b) Gives you audio feedback if you hit your target or not. This allows you to continue to look up and not develop a bad habit of dropping your head/upper body/shoulders too early.
    On a windy day, a little tape will hold the paper down.

    Ian – keep up the great work!

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:52 am - Reply


      Nice, I’ve never seen anybody use paper before, but I certainly don’t disagree with either of your reasons why!

  131. alex October 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian, i think you left something out that’s very important. And that is what your eyes are doing when tossing the ball. I like to toss two balls to my students one with their eyes open watching the whole way and then one with them closed until i say open to give them the effect of what happens when you take you eyes of the ball toss. Your mind panics when it loses sight of the ball and you tend to tighten up and throw the ball quickly and all over the place. And the second thing is the rhythm of your two arms going up together and not separately. If you can get them to do those two things consistently they will have a lot of success. good luck and keep up the good work Alex.

    • Hacker October 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      I disagree with both of your suggestions. First, if you watch the ball go up, you tend to chase the ball and hit it even when it is a poorly placed toss. If, instead, as some pros do, you first look up to where you want the ball to be when you hit it, you will see the ball in the last few feet of the toss and can much more easily recognize if it is a faulty ball toss and catch it instead of trying to hit it. Regarding the timing of the two arms in the serve, 30 some years ago pros taught “down together, up together” as you suggest. There is no one correct way to synchronize your arms in the serve. Many top pros let the hitting arm lag well behind the tossing arm.

      • Alex October 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm - Reply

        Hacker your talking about pros’s i clearly stated when i teach students not pros’s. As we all know there is a big difference. When it comes to watching the ball the whole time on the way up it helps students maintain a calmness and slowness to their toss which again as we all know is very important to a successful serve. And last but not least the reason you teach both arms going up at the same time into the trophy pose is so that you don’t have a hitch in the motion which again as we all know is very important.to the timing of the serve as for the arm lagging behind it’s not lagging behind it’s being placed there for proper extension and both arms do start at the same time.

  132. Jerome October 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    The problem as I see it, with the toss, is that the motion is seen as something of a movement of the left arm… (or the non-dominant arm) only. While a good toss is the result of the correct movement of the WHOLE body. I would advise practicising the toss by imagining that your whole body tosses the ball up.

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:50 am - Reply


      Definitely better that than using the wrist and elbow!

  133. kelley0909 October 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    Thanks Ian, I will definitely try this drill

  134. Sally October 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian, btw i like your t shirt,i think i understand the toss but in the future could you explain how you can hit up and out on the first serve,this part is always missing in the instructional videos,thanks

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:49 am - Reply


      Thanks, I can’t believe you’re the only one to comment on my shirt so far! haha

      I’m going to be releasing a free serve course very soon that talks a LOT about hitting up.

  135. Jack October 7, 2011 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Thank you, Ian!

    This video has great timing as I started struggling with serve all the sudden, and the club coach has pointed out my toss is too close to my body.

    Back to toss practice while waiting my son finishing his breakfast!

    BTW, at the last part, I noticed you kind of simplified the ‘back swing’ of your racquet arm and went to ‘trophy’ directly before contact. is a full back swing adding more pace or can be simplified as you did?

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:49 am - Reply


      You’re welcome!

      There are all kinds of different styles of back swing with the dominant arm, it doesn’t have to be done any certain way. What I showed is definitely more of an “abbreviated” take back.

  136. Tim October 7, 2011 at 11:39 am - Reply

    I have achieved greater consistency of the service ‘toss’ when I learned to call it a ‘lift’ rather than toss! If you ‘lift’ the ball, you will more naturally keep your arm straight and use the shoulder joint as the fulcrum.
    Great practice idea, Ian. Thanks

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:48 am - Reply


      I totally agree. Later in this video I used the word “guide” which I think is also much better than “toss”. “Lift” is great as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  137. Don McDonald October 7, 2011 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Excellent. I had always read the toss should land on a racquet face with the racquet lying at a 45 degree angle off your toe. I have recently started to get a consistent serve for the first time by tossing to your target which is closer and moving into the court enough so the ball was under my back ear at contact. I was feeling a little guilty. Thanks for the validation.

  138. Steve October 7, 2011 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Hi Ian,

    Great video and the timing is just perfect for my 12 year old son. Last night, I was watching him serve. He flicks the ball up and stops extending his tossing arm half way up. As a result, his tosses were all over the place. I kept telling him that’s wrong, it’s not smooth and you need to extend your arm all the way up into a trophy pose. I put a raquet on the ground exactly where you had the basket and had him practice the toss. Didn’t work. He kept tossing all over the place. I couldn’t quite get him to change it because he’d been tossing this way for a while. As a tennis dad (not a teaching pro), I had no idea how to resolve this until I saw your video. The key point you made was to lock the wrist and elbow and tossing only from the movement of the shoulder joint. It just lit up a 500 watt light bulb for me. I thought, that’s it! Great video. Thanks so much.

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:47 am - Reply


      You’re very welcome! Best of luck with your son, stay patient ๐Ÿ™‚

  139. Dan Higashi October 7, 2011 at 10:54 am - Reply

    I think your toss inconsistency when not using your racquet arm reveals the importance of practicing the toss with both arms for good balance and accuracy during the toss.

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:46 am - Reply


      Both ways can be super important. If your toss happens to be super inconsistent than just singling it out without the trophy pose can be super helpful. The fact that I was more accurate while doing the trophy pose just illustrates that I’ve done it that way a LOT more, haha.

  140. Bob C. October 7, 2011 at 10:50 am - Reply


    thanks for another great video. So many recreational players poohpooh the idea of practicing the toss. Then they adjust their feet to get under it!

    I, too, had questions about how to hold the ball and release it, so next time you do a video on this, perhaps you could work that in. Also, I’ve heard that one should release the ball (it should be leaving your finger tips) when your hand is about forehead high. But how does one tell?

    Bob C.

    • Ian Westermann October 8, 2011 at 9:45 am - Reply


      After going through the comments I’ll probably be doing a follow up video to talk about ways of holding the ball and releasing, etc. I wouldn’t focus on exactly WHERE to let it go, pick a target, use your shoulder, stay relaxed, and just let it happen. This is one of those things that we do NOT want to over analyze.

  141. Duke October 7, 2011 at 10:38 am - Reply


    Good morning coach!
    I have a few questions regarding the video. Is the toss the same for both flat and slice? Do you eventually want your second service toss to be the same as the first serve? And as someone stated earlier, what about a kick serve? Where is the ball supposed to drop?


    • Ian Westermann October 7, 2011 at 10:50 am - Reply


      Good questions!

      -Yes, your flat and slice serves should be hit from the same place, it’s a kick or topspin serve that really requires the toss to be further back.
      -That depends on exactly what type of serve you like to hit for your 2nd serve. It doesn’t HAVE to be the same, no. However, keeping it similar definitely has its advantages. If you hit mostly flat first serves and mostly topspin 2nd serves then it’s going to have to be different.
      -If I were using this same drill to work on a kick serve toss then I would place the baseket pretty much right in front of my body, just on the inside of the baseline, so probably around 6-8 inches to the right or so (to the left if you’re right handed).

      Hopefully that helps!

      • Duke October 7, 2011 at 10:57 am - Reply

        Thanks Ian!

        I’ll go ahead and put this to practice

  142. Bill Corso October 7, 2011 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Will: Enjoyed the toss drill. will definitly work on it. Thanks

  143. John Boreen October 7, 2011 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Thanks for your helpful tips and practice exercises on improving our toss. I struggle with consistency and a high enough toss. Thinking of the shoulder as the fulcrum in the toss and the basket drill will help my toss. Appreciate your well done practice tips. John

    • Ian Westermann October 7, 2011 at 9:41 am - Reply


      That’s exactly the best way to think about it: “the shoulder as the fulcrum”. Everything from the shoulder down should remain relaxed and stationary, allow the shoulder to totally take over and guide the ball smoothly up there. I’m very confident following those instructions will greatly improve your consistency!

  144. Sonso October 7, 2011 at 9:23 am - Reply

    I have taught the “smell-perfume-on-your-wrist” method. This keeps the wrist cocked throughout the toss motion, eliminating the flipping of the wrist/ball.

    As for the twist/kick serve, the secret is to keep your eye looking straight up, and imagine putting the ball there. Some people duck to get under the ball, but over time you will simply wait for the ball to start dropping towards your ‘leading’ eye.

  145. Kim October 7, 2011 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Great video and, as pointed out by ccmack, can be practiced at home. I’ve become convinced that the toss is the most important part of the serve (at least for me) because its the only way to get everything going correctly.

    • Ian Westermann October 7, 2011 at 9:23 am - Reply


      I actually meant to say something to that effect during the recording of this drill: if the toss isn’t in the right place then nothing else about your service technique can operate properly! You could have the prettiest motion ever, but if the toss is in the wrong place it almost doesn’t matter at all. Definitely super important!

  146. Larry October 7, 2011 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Morning Ian,
    This drill seems to be a lot better than trying to toss the ball in between an open door.
    As I get better with this drill, should I progress to the knee bend?

    My best,

    • Ian Westermann October 7, 2011 at 9:25 am - Reply


      “In between an open door”…..hmmm, don’t think I’ve heard that one before, can’t really picture what you mean. Yes, absolutely include the full trophy pose once you’ve become consistent just focusing on the tossing arm by itself. This is by far the best way I know to practice the toss!

  147. jeff October 7, 2011 at 9:15 am - Reply


    Ian can beat you with any setup from any department store. You should work on your toss.

  148. Ben October 7, 2011 at 9:02 am - Reply

    Hey Ian, thanks very much for this – a much needed reminder on the importance of the service toss.

    I’m curious to know what racquet and string setup you use as a teaching pro and player? It looks like a Wilson Pro Tour or Wilson Pro Open with a full bed of textured poly – could you share your specs and string tension?

    Keep up the great work.

    – Ben

    • Ian Westermann October 7, 2011 at 9:22 am - Reply


      I’ve been using the BLX Pro Open to both teach and play with since it came out. In there currently are textured (hex I believe) poly strings from “Mamba”. 61lbs. I’m about to switch back to a heavier racket again though.

  149. ccmack October 7, 2011 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Great video. Hope I can get a bit of consistency on my serve practicing this (and I don’t even need to get to a court or have ‘good’ tennis balls to practice this. I can practice in my garden with the balls I leave for the dog!

    • Ian Westermann October 7, 2011 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Yup, that’s a good point! No excuse not to work on your toss now, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

  150. Humbert October 7, 2011 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Ian, why de ice cream cone,is not a good practice?

    • Ian Westermann October 7, 2011 at 9:20 am - Reply


      Honestly, if it consistently works well for you then I’m totally fine with it, but personally I don’t think it’s a very natural way to have good “feel” for a service toss. It can be a great tool to practice not using your hand to flip the ball up in the air (a very common problem), but beyond an instructional tool I’m not really a huge fan.

  151. Ed B October 7, 2011 at 5:25 am - Reply

    Hey Ian, nice drill. I will give it a try.

    One question or rather suggestion: for a kick / TS serve, would it be a good idea to stand more behind rather than next to the basket? I can only get good TS if I toss the ball straight above my head or even slightly behind, and I have real trouble doing this consistently.


    • Ian Westermann October 7, 2011 at 9:18 am - Reply


      Yes, you’re exactly right, a kick serve does have a different toss placement than what I’m demonstrating here!

  152. Hansie October 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian,

    Nice video.. about toss. i have question regarding how to hold ball when you loss. i know everyone say hold with you finger not with your palm.. but question is should hold ball they way we old water glass or hold such a way so your palm facing up at sky?


    • Ian Westermann October 6, 2011 at 10:36 pm - Reply


      Honestly you should experiment and do what brings you consistency most easily. Every teaching pro says to use the finger tips but there are a lot of high level players out there who don’t and have super reliable tosses. The service toss is a “touch” thing and you should do what’s most comfortable to you within reason! The “water glass” or “ice cream cone” thing can be a good teaching tool, but don’t suggest that you actually toss that way….

      Hopefully that’s helpful!

      • Hansie October 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm - Reply

        Thank Ian,,

        I had very inconsistent loss. but after using shoulder it become much better.. but i still had doubt about how to hold. since you said loss is touch thing so i guess i should stop thinking about it and try develop consistent loss.


  153. JohInRealLife October 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Ian, I’ve done this drill often, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Of course, I have a basket that’s three feet wide.

    Seriously, thanks for this tip. Keep ’em coming. Love these tips.