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you do need to gently toss or place the ball into position. Pretend you are playing catch with a three-year-old child. You would get up close and toss the ball very gently, wouldn't you? That's how softly you want to toss the ball for your serve. Now, you may end up tossing slightly higher than 18 inches, but realize that the higher you toss, the more problems you will experience. The rule is: The higher the toss, the more inconsistent the placement, the more erratic the serve. LowerVour Too-High Toss Since most remedial measures start with knowledge, reading Tip #1 is helpful, but now, let's get practical. If you want to lower your toss, you may need some help. The training aid, called the Toss Doctor (see photo is simply a foam ball on an 18-inch long elastic string. All you do is toss it up and catch it again in the same hand. Sounds simple? It really isn't. The exercise may take five or ten tries to accomplish. Once you get a feel for a lower toss, toss a regular ball and serve it. You'll quickly see that your toss is now considerably lower.

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oone's toss is perfect. Not mine. Not yours. The question is: How imperfect is acceptable? In answering this question, I also will offer ways to better learn the service toss, including tips on how to improve the epidemic of wayward service tosses that cause thousands of tennis players to moan and groan every day they play.

Place (Not Throw) VourToss Throwing the toss instead of softly placing it is probably the major cause of erratic service tossing. Perhaps it comes from our childhood learning that balls are thrown. To overcome this mindset, consider this fact: For all tennis players the distance from the extended tossing hand to the racket's contact point is always 18 inches. Always. Take a tennis ball and toss it 18 inches and then catch it again in your tossing hand. You'll quickly understand that you do not need to "throw" the ball. Instead,

Make VourTossing Height Consistent Some variation in toss placement is actually manageable, but variation in your tossing height will lead to major inconsistencies in your serve. The reason? Good serving is based on consistent rhythm. The toss may be a few inches to the right or left, but if the height of the toss varies greatly from serve to serve, your rhythm will have to change. This creates major problems. One way to become consistent with the height of your toss is to find a room with a somewhat high ceiling since you may need 10 feet or more. To develop a feel for tossing

at a consistent height, toss the ball so that it gets close to the ceiling without bouncing off it. KnowVour Point of Contact This tip is a major point for beginners and recreational players, but often is overlooked. Reach up your racket and try to feel exactly where you want to contact the ball. A little device that can help tremendously is called the Serve Doctor (see photo 2). It's an inexpensive teaching aid that consists of a telescoping pole with a rope tied to one end and Velcro fixed to the end of the rope. Attach a tennis ball to the Velcro and have a friend or coach hold it up into a position for you to actually serve the ball off the rope and over the net. Repeat this 10-15 times for a quick feel for the location of your contact point on the serve. After that, alternate between hitting the ball off the Serve Doctor and tossing the ball for


World's Largest Builder yourself. Try to softly place your service toss in the same position as the contact point you have located. Throw the Ball in Front, Not Behind Another problem that can challenge many servers is tossing the ball behind them. This problem is usually caused by your weight shift going from front to back as you toss the ball. The weight shift causes your tossing arm to go up and back over your head with the ball following in that same direction. A quick fix for this problem is to stand just a few inches outside an open tennis court gate. From there, with your tossing hand, toss and then catch the ball again on the other side of the gate. Using the fence gate as a guide will force you to toss straight upward and not behind you. Just try to keep the ball from hitting the fence and also make sure not to move your feet to catch the ball after you've tossed it. Keep Your Feet Still Speaking of moving your feet, I always chuckle when I see players serving like they are at a disco or doing a cha-chachao Think of your feet like the foundation of a tall building. If the foundation shifts unpredictably, then anyone on the top floor is going to be wobbling off balance. This is what happens to your toss if your feet are entered in a dance contest as you toss. If you're a serving dancer, just place a second racket over your feet as you practice tossing and serving. Even if you move your feet unconsciously, you'll see that the racket has moved. With practice, you gradually will be able stand still while you serve. Check Your Point of Release Another consideration on the toss is the point of release. To keep it simple, think: "Release high, toss low." In other words, release the ball at the highest point of your extended arm so that you can toss the ball lower to reach your contact point. This strategy effectively keeps the ball in the air as short a distance as possible and will result in a more controlled and consistent toss.

of Fast Dry / Har-Tru Courts Spin to Get It In We all know that spin increases the effect of gravity by causing friction with the air. This is why it is so important for the advancing player to be able to hit spin serves. The question is how should we adjust the toss for a slice serve and also for a kick or topspin. Some have said that at the highest levels of play, the toss should appear similar to the opponent to add to the disguise of the serve, making it that much more effective. Although this sounds good in theory, in practice we observe that even the best players have patterns to their serving. For example, most will kick their second serves. My suggestion is to toss a little to the right and in front for a slice serve and to the left for a kick. If you push off with your front foot you will want your toss for the kick serve to the left and also out in front of the baseline. The general idea is to set the toss to the place where the racket angle can most easily impart the desired spin. Adjust for the Sun and Wind Even if you are a good server with a consistent toss, you may find yourself struggling with the elements of nature. First, let's deal with the sun. If the sun is shining directly in your normal spot to toss, you have no choice but to adjust your toss to one side or the other. Remember to keep your serving rhythm the same by not tossing higher or lower, so just adjust the racket face with your wrist to direct the serve into the correct box. Windy conditions can be even more challenging. Under any type of windy conditions, the approach is simple. If you already have a low toss there is not much more to do. But, if your toss is high, you need to lower it as much as possible. While this sounds simple, serving under sunny/windy conditions will always be challenging. Keep a cool head and remember that your opponents are serving under the exact same challenging conditions. '21 Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional in both the PTR and USPTA, a distinction awarded to only a handful in the tennis indusuy. He has published numerous books and videotapes. For more information, visit www.oncourtoffcourt.com.

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The Service Toss - Friend or Foe