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TENNIS TIPS: The elusive service toss

July 25, 2013
By JAK BEARDSWORTH ( , Lake Placid News

The service toss is not to be taken for granted. It's very much a triggering element in achieving a fluid service motion, and managing it is trickier than it looks.

Even the pros struggle with it - exclusively nerves at that level - occasionally aborting serves at the last moment, catching the toss and starting over. "Sorry mate."

Yet, consciously embracing last moment toss reads - dictating whether or not you'll pull the trigger - is a guaranteed rhythm buster and an all-around bad idea. To be an effective server you must be fully committed to completely letting go once the service motion has begun.

Article Photos

Photo by Shaun Ondak
Jak Beardsworth demonstrates the ideal service toss technique.

Only the very worst, completely unhittable tosses should be caught, and then only on a spontaneous basis. Small in-serve adjustments are still more than doable on slightly errant tosses. Plus, playing in the wind often makes that a necessity

Note: Incessant toss catching invites legitimate protests from annoyed, rightly so, receivers.

But club player tossing yips are mostly because of poor technique.

Tossing technique? Yes, there's even technique on the toss itself, paramount in setting the table for an effective serve.

In the accompanying image you can see that I've fully extended my tossing arm up-and-out through its full range of motion - versus the sudden alligator arm quick flips exhibited by too many - before releasing the ball open handed.

In the serve ready position, and into the ritual stage as well, the tossing arm should be bent at the elbow or in close proximity to the body - with the ball resting against the strings at the racket's throat, not ram rod straight already extending well in front.

Hold the ball lightly, finger tips only - not completely enveloped in your hand - in a neutral anatomical position that replicates the way your arm would naturally hang by your side. Definitely not palm up.

Using your arm's own swing weight inertia, nothing more, the ball is placed high enough to accommodate a fully extended racket reach. That up and outward toss motion that's produced, away from the body, insures that inviting in front toss.

At the release point, the trick is to open your hand (see image), versus rolling the ball off your fingertips. This eliminates any complicating spin, resulting in a knuckleball consistently right where you want it.

Serve 'em up.

Do your best. Always aspire higher. Love the game.


Jak Beardsworth, USPTA, is based at the Crowne Plaza-Lake Placid Club, and is available for adult and junior lessons by appointment:, 941-626-0097,



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