The Underhand Serve

Is it ‘underhanded’ to serve underhanded? I just had that done to me in a doubles leanermatch; and also saw it at the Paris Masters on Tennis Channel. And am not sure what I think of the tactic.

The match on TV was between two lower ranked players during the deciding third set tie breaker. Hanescu, the server, was down 1-5 in the breaker and surprised his opponent with an underhanded serve.

Hanescu did win the point; but lost the breaker, and the match. And the British announcer commented that he thought the underhand serve was “cheeky”… but then went on to bring back Chang vs. Lendl in the French.

While it is a surprise tactic, is it any more “cheeky” than hitting a drop shot during a long baseline rally, drop shotting on a return of serve, or lobbing your opponent when they are tight to the net?

I think, as long as you aren’t “quick served,” the underhanded serve is a legit tactic.

Related to that, how many drop shots are “too many”? Many senior players have excellent drop shots and employ them tactically during a match. But while there is no “magic number,” sometimes the tactic can get overused to the point where the match is no longer “fun.” Or, should that count for anything?

4 thoughts on “The Underhand Serve

  1. George — As usual, you’ve raised some great questions.

    First, the underhand serve. It’s totally legitimate, and you’re completely right. Only if it’s a quick serve is it inappropriate. Otherwise, as many as desired.
    – BTW, Chang hit that shot on but one point vs. Lendl — and it was the only time he ever hit that serve his entire career.
    – Also, the British idea of cheeky is a bit more frivolous and serious than we apply the word in the US… and perhaps a commentator using that word then speaks volumes about that nation’s approach to competition.

    Regarding drop shots: as many as desired so long as they work. It’s actually patronizing to hold off on a shot against any opponent. What is this, customer tennis?

    Joel – but isnt it much more fun to hit the ball HARD and win the point?! Yea, i know, they are both legal shots. george

  2. Very good points. How would you precisely define getting “quick-served.”?

    Andrew: being “quick served” is when the server serves while you are at the baseline, but not really ready to receive serve. george

  3. I loathe people who drop shot too much. My responding tactic is to drop shot them back, only better, and when they rush to the net to pulverize them with an overhead/ volley/ screamer groundstroke straight to the chest/ face/ groin if they actually manage to hit back my drop shot. Did I tell you I loathe people who drop shot too much? LOL Anyway, the underhand serve has been used against me on occasion. What I normally do to respond is, when I am serving myself, to hit a few kicker serves. That usually causes the receiver to back up behind the baseline. THEN, I will serve my own underhand serve, with extreme back/sidespin. Usually the receiver falls on his face trying to reach it. It is suprising the number of times that I have tried this tactic in retaliation and the person who started serving underhand does not attempt it again for the rest of the match.

    Marty – dont hold back… pls let us know how you feel! george

Comments are closed.