How to Toss a Ball

  • Keep Your Arm Movement as Smooth as You Can
  • Toss From Your Palm if Possible
  • Try Not to Watch the Ball

   Your Guide

Gavin Davison   Gavin Davison

The serve is the only shot that you have COMPLETE CONTROL OVER in the game of tennis.

And since it is such an important shot, it makes sense to practice it as much as you can.

How to Toss a Tennis Ball

With that said, as important as serving is, there is one part of this shot that absolutely needs to be on point.

The part I am talking about is, of course, the ball toss. If the ball toss doesn’t go as planned, the rest of your service motion WILL CRUMBLE.

The result will be a relatively poor serve compared to what you could have potentially produced.

In my many years of coaching, I’ve seen that the ball toss tends to get overlooked all too often.

Many coaches focus on the serving technique, yet all of this goes to waste if the ball toss isn’t executed correctly.

This is true even at the highest level, with one of the most famous incidents involving Andre Agassi at the 1998 US Open – read all about it right here.

But coming back to the purpose of this piece now, I’d like to show you how to IMPROVE YOUR BALL TOSS.

That’s the bottom line, and I’ve detailed three main tips on how you can achieve this.

Specifics of Each Top Tip

Believe it or not, there is NO EXACT WAY that coaches recommend tossing a ball for your serve in tennis.

Some players prefer a QUICK RELEASE, some prefer to toss the ball from their FINGERTIPS, and some probably don’t think much of it at all.

It all depends on the individual.

But in my experience, the following tips remain somewhat consistent and effective for most players.

1) Smooth Arm Motion

Before you even toss the ball, it’s important to address the arm motion.

After all, you must raise your arm, usually from below your waist, and then release the ball once the arm approaches your shoulder height.

This is how every serve begins, making it an important element of getting a GREAT BALL TOSS.

And on that note, my number one tip on this one is to keep your arm motion as smooth as you possibly can.

If you can maintain a smooth motion, the actual release of the ball from your hand will also BE SMOOTHER.


Well, to explain that I can highlight what tends to happen if the motion isn’t overly smooth.

If you raise your arm in a somewhat ‘Jerked Motion’, you actually lose the momentum, which hinders the release of the ball when it comes to tossing it.

But if you keep the arm gliding through towards your shoulder height, the ball toss will then follow the path of your arm, most likely. 

Watch Novak Djokovic in this video to gain a bit more insight on this:

2) Tossing From the Palm

Of the three tips I have talked about here, this one is the most susceptible to personal preference.

But what I can tell you is that people who toss the ball USING THEIR FINGERS tend to have a more difficult time releasing the ball correctly.

That’s because the ball can just graze one of your fingertips on the way up, which completely distorts the trajectory of the toss.

Of course, there is no guarantee that this will happen…

..but why not remove the possibility altogether if you can?

On that note, I like to recommend that players nestle the ball in the palm of their hand when approaching the serve.

If this doesn’t feel comfortable, you could move the ball slightly towards the crease of your fingers and the top of your palm.

Just make sure that you don’t start to let the ball roll onto your fingers prior to the release, as that’s what we are trying to remove.

And since the palm of your hand is nice and flat, should you combine this with a smooth arm motion, there is a better chance that the ball toss will release in a nice straight manner.

3) Don’t Watch the Ball

When people are starting to get in their own heads about tossing the ball, one of the main things they will start to do is watch the ball.

Believe me, you won’t be doing yourself any favors by staring at the ball prior to releasing it.

If you do this, all of your focus will turn towards the ball toss and you MIGHT START HAVING some technical issues on the serve.

So to avoid this, I recommend simply feeling the ball in your hand to ensure you are releasing from the most ideal position. 

And if you can do this without watching the ball, you can then FOCUS MORE ON YOUR MOTION where you want TO HIT the serve.

Don’t worry if this feels a little strange at first!

It does take a bit of time and practice to get used to tossing the ball this way, but it will greatly help you in the long run.


It’s no great secret that the ball toss can be one of the most frustrating things in tennis.

But since it is part of the only shot that is entirely in your control, if you practice it enough, I am confident that you will MASTER IT.

You don’t even need to be on a tennis court to practice this, which cannot really be said for any other part of the game.

Just take a tennis ball at home, go out into your yard or the street, and start putting these tips into play. 

As the weeks and months roll by, YOUR CONFIDENCE WILL GROW, and your ball toss will be better than ever.

You will also notice that your serve improves as a result of improving your ball toss, which is always a huge positive further down the road!

Let me know if these tips help you to improve your ball toss in the comments below.

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