The Underhand Serve: A Friday Poll

“Kyrgioser and kyrgioser!” cried Alice…

Another day, another Nick Kyrgios controversy. If he isn’t getting fined for lack of effort or for needling an opponent about his girlfriend’s sexual history, he’s hitting head-scratching and/or controversial shots.

In this case, the shot was a dinky underhand serve to Rafael Nadal, who famously stands practically in the bleachers when he receives. I watched the first set of this Mexican Open match and heard commentator Lindsay Davenport wonder why no one ever tries an underhand serve against Rafa. She then joked that if anyone would do it, Kyrgios would.

I went to bed before the conclusion of this match and missed Kyrgios try just that. (He failed, by the way, hitting the ball long. As Roger Federer observed, it’s not a shot that you practice, so it can be hard to pull off in the pressure of a match.)

I can imagine that being on the receiving end of an underhand serve could be annoying. I’ve had opponents hit high loopy serves to me to try to disrupt my timing. Or soft serves to trick my partner into overhitting. These tactics are the last ditch efforts of players who are losing, and they’re generally tiresome. (The tactics, not the players.)

But the underhand serve seems to have earned a special place of dishonor among tennis shots. Because it only works when it’s a surprise, it feels sneaky and not entirely above board. But is that any different from disguising a drop shot? I’m not so sure.

Is the underhand serve underhanded? Is it a mark of disrespect for the game?

Or is it just another tactic, as Kyrgios later claimed in a tweet, writing “I mean isn’t the idea to serve where the person can’t get the ball? Try to get an ace?”

I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m sure you have an opinion. Let’s get to the poll!

 

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