The second step of the serve is the toss. I mentioned in the previous video on the stance that you want to hold the tennis ball in your fingers and not your palm. That makes it easier to control the ball when you toss it. What you’re looking for when you toss the tennis ball is for there to be no spin on the ball. Holding the ball in your fingers makes this the easiest to do. If you were to, for example, roll the ball off your hands it wouldn’t be nearly as easy to control.
At 40 seconds into the video we watch me toss the tennis ball. To start the tossing motion, my arm drops down. Then it rises straight up. If you look at my arm, it’s pretty straight during this motion. There might be a slight bend in my elbow but not much of one. I release the tennis ball at about the top of my head. I do this by simply “opening my hand up.” My tossing arm continues to rise after I’ve released the ball until it’s pointed straight up. That’s another key to the toss: make sure your arm continues to rise after you’ve tossed the ball.
You want to toss the tennis ball about one to two feet above your contact point. That will give you enough time to execute the rest of your motion while the ball is in the air. From the side perspective at 1:15 in the video we’ll put a line at my contact height. You’ll see that my toss travels a foot or two above that line, giving me enough time to get through my service mechanics comfortably.
The location of your toss is also very important. For a first serve — a flat serve — you want to toss the ball so that you can hit it above your hitting-arm shoulder and a little bit out in front of your body. For example, if you are right handed you want to toss the ball so that you can hit it slightly in front of your right shoulder. At 1:40 in the video we watch Frank hitting a flat serve from above. It’s important to note that he’s hitting to the ad court. He tosses the ball so that, once he gets through his motion and gets to contact, the ball is above his hitting-arm shoulder — his right shoulder — and a little bit in front of his body.
At 2:23 in the video we look at some pros tossing the tennis ball. We start with Serena Williams. The first picture is of Serena right after she’s tossed the ball. She’s released the ball at about the top of her head by simply opening up her hand. In the next picture Serena is making contact with the tennis ball. She’s placed the toss so that she hits it a little bit in front of her body and over her hitting-arm shoulder — her right shoulder.
At 2:50 in the video we get in the FYB time machine and look at some pictures of John McEnroe serving. In the first picture McEnroe is tossing the tennis ball and releasing the ball at about the top of his head. In the subsequent picture he’s continued to raise his tossing arm after he’s released the ball. His arm is extended straight up into the sky. In the last picture McEnroe is making contact with the tennis ball above his left shoulder, because he’s left handed, and in front of his body.
Let’s recap the toss by using Oliver Akli’s serve from a three-quarters perspective. We start with Oliver in his stance. He’s holding the tennis ball in his fingers. To start his tossing motion his arm drops down and then begins to rise. His arm is pretty straight the entire time. He releases the ball at the top of his head by opening his hand up. After he releases the ball he continues to raise his tossing arm until it is pointed straight up at the sky. Oliver has placed the toss so that, fast-forwarding to his contact point, he’s hitting the ball above his hitting-arm shoulder and a little bit out in front of his body.