As Nick Kyrgios’ underarm serve against Rafael Nadal at the Acapulco ATP 500 has captured the headlines over the past few days. That ingenious act by the Australian caused an uproar on the Mexican court. All the ATP men are aware of the distance from the baseline where Nadal stands during the reception of the service from his opponent. Sometimes, he is nearly on the periphery of the retrieval zone of the tennis court while the returning serves and Kyrgios taking advantage of that dropped the ball short over the net with his underarm serve.
In tennis, the underarm serve tactic is usually disparaged and has no esteem despite it being perfectly licit. The service can be a powerful weapon to the player, provided the player masters upon the drop-serve. Also, the service has an atypical spin and makes it little unusual for the receiver. The underarm serves have been sporadically practised on the professional tennis and the tennis players have unveiled their perspectives on the obsolete service of tennis.
Roger Federer supported Kyrgios’ tactic and said, “Yeah, underarm is definitely a tactic, I believe. Especially when guys are hugging the fence in the back. From that standpoint, shouldn’t be ashamed if you try it out. Just look silly if you miss it sometimes. Why not try it? The problem is like in practice, you never really try it. When you come out in the big stage in front of a full crowd, tricky to pull off.”
After Federer’s expression over the underarm serve tactic, World Number five, Kevin Anderson revealed that he would serve underhanded if he ‘perfected’ it. “It’s funny how there is an unwritten rule or code that deems the underhand serve not sportsmanlike. I’ve played a few guys when they return from extremely far back, I sometimes think if that is something I can perfect it would be something worth bringing out. But I guess it is one those things that are not accepted by the tennis world.”
Michael Chang was playing Ivan Lendl in the fourth-round encounter at the Roland Garros 1989. Chang was worn out while playing against the World Number one, Lendl as their tussle sailed into the fifth set. “In the fifth set, at 2-1 in the fifth set, I almost decided to call it quits, I couldn’t serve, I couldn’t dig out any balls that were hit in the corners and I walked to the service line, to basically tell the umpire I can’t play anymore, I’m done,” the Chinese-American Chang reported.
Chang was unhappy with his overhead serves in the match and tried the unconventional underarm serve, which decided the outcome of the match. He was fatigued and was almost on the verge of giving up upon the match due to tiredness. Post that unconventional tactic Lendl did not win a game and Chang seal the victory.
During the French Open 2018, Jared Donaldson lost a five-setter against the fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov in the second round. His situation was similar to Chang, his body was cramping and wanted to do something creative and landed up serving underarm. “I would never try it if I was feeling 100 per cent and stuff, but obviously Grigor was playing so far back on the return that I felt like maybe it’s just something to try,” Donaldson said. “And I think honestly it just surprised him. He obviously wasn’t expecting it, you know what I mean? It was kind of a cheeky way to get a point.”
Roger Federer received his first underarm serve from the Frenchman, Michael Llodra at the 2010 Rogers Cup. He added a lot of spins to serve and Federer placed it wide. “I just wanted to make something special,” Llodra said. He also did it against Andy Murray in the opening round at the Arthur Ashe Court. He was serving to stay in the match and his impromptu underarm serve elated the audience at Flushing Meadows. However, Murray’s athletic skills earned him the point.
The Wimbledon semi-finalist, Jerzy Janowicz was suffering from back pain during the 2013 U.S. Open. In the reopening round, he sneaked an underarm serve on his opponent’s court and later was booed for the same. “On my push, I wouldn’t call it a serve, he hit two winners on my push, so I decided to try something else,” Janowicz said.
At the 2010 French Open Virginie Razzano dropped an underarm serve on her opponent’s court, after it was placed inside the service box she lost the point after a rally. “I have sometime(s) no choice,” Razzano said. “You know, I would like to surprise my adversary, and sometimes when I feeling it’s a good time to do that, I prefer to do that. It’s not easy for me because I prefer to serve normal, normal serve, but sometimes, you know, you can run after your serve and you can have a good defense and good attack.”