The underarm serve has become a popular feature in the professional tennis world over the last few years.
It is something we have seen a few times across tennis history, but it is not a common sight.
One of the most frequent proponents of the underarm is one Nick Kyrgios.
The Australian sensation has become known for his on court antics, showboating and outrageous shot making.
One of the surprise tactics he has implemented into his game is the underarm serve. It is particularly effective when you consider how good Nick’s serve is usually.
He has one of the best serves of all time and can easily bomb down serves in excess of 135MPH.
But, the underarm serve Kyrgios loves has attracted a lot of attention, both positive and negative.
So, is the Nick Kyrgios underarm serve a legitimate tactic used to outwit his opponents, or is it actually quite disrespectful in the professional game?
We give our take below!
Who is Nick Kyrgios?
Nick Kyrgios is a flamboyant aussie that has taken the tennis world by storm.
Nick started his career with junior success, winning the junior Australian Open in 2013.
He then made major strides in 2014, reaching the quarter final of Wimbledon after beating Rafa Nadal.
Whilst Nick didn’t bring out his underarm serve on this occasion, he put on an unbelievable display of serving and shot making that simply blew Rafa off the court.
Nick even produced a through the legs winner which was arguably the shot of the tournament!
It’s fair to say that Nick has had his ups and downs in his career so far.
Where the Wimbledon win was a major high at the beginning of his career, he later had an altercation with Stan Wawrinka at the 2015 Rogers Cup that got personal.
He has also been seen ‘tanking’ (deliberately not trying to win points) at many different tournaments, including Wimbledon itself.
The worst occasion of this came at the 2016 Shanghai Rolex masters 1000 event.
Nick played Mischa Zverev and lost 6-3 6-1 in just 48 minutes. He was then banned for 8 weeks and fined $32,900 as punishment for deliberately throwing the match.
Despite these on court antics, Nick has had a lot of great moments throughout his career so far.
He has beaten Nadal 3 times and has never lost to Djokovic!
His unbelievable power and flair have led him to 6 titles across his career so far, including the 2016 Rakuten Japan Open and the 2017 Cincinnati Masters.
Nick has become a real crowd favourite as he has grown into his character as an entertainer.
The tennis public have also started to accept Nick for who he is, rather than comparing him to the greats of the game.
This seems to have taken some pressure off of his shoulders and he is more able to play freely on court, which is great to see!
So, let’s delve into the pros and cons of the Nick Kyrgios underarm serve!
Positives of the Underarm Serve
Despite the controversial nature of this shot, the underarm serve has been a real asset to the Nick Kyrgios game.
It may seem like a bit of a gimmick, but the underarm serve can really throw an opponent off.
It is a very short, low bouncing, sliced ball that is the complete opposite to what a player is used to.
This is especially true of the Nick Kyrgios serve! Nick’s serve is one of the most difficult to read on the tour thanks to his lightning quick service motion and relatively low ball toss.
This means the opponent will be standing way back and expecting a very fast, high bouncing, heavy delivery from Nick.
This makes the odd underarm serve even more effective due to the stark contrast between the two deliveries.
The underarm serve keeps Nick even more unpredictable, as once he has thrown one in there, his opponents are always second guessing when he will hit one next.
They therefore have to hedge their bets slightly and may take a step or two further forward, giving them less reaction time to return to his usual booming serve.
Nick has even been seen to mimic the underarm serve, almost faking it at times.
This shocks his opponents and forces them to move forwards, only for him to then hit another huge serve down. It is quite amusing to watch!
Finally, the underarm serve is actually quite a useful shot for Nick to get forward and close down the net. He will often hit the serve and follow it in.
Given that this will often be taken by surprise and off balance, they will more than likely be stretching and popping the ball up high just to get it back.
This gives Nick an easy put away and makes a mockery of his opponent!
Negatives of the Underarm Serve
Whilst the underarm serve can be a nice little change of pace from time to time and actually serve Nick quite well from a tactical perspective, it is not always the best choice.
This is because Nick has such a vast array of shots at his disposal that choosing the right one at the right time can sometimes be a challenge for him.
This is especially true when it comes to his serve, as he can hit the ball however and wherever he likes.
Therefore, when you add the unexpected element of the underarm serve into the equation, this can sometimes give Nick too many options.
We sometimes see Nick missing the underarm serve and even trying to hit it at pivotal moments in matches.
This is where Nick can sometimes lose his way and make light of important situations in matches which can end up costing him.
There is also the fact that once Nick has used the underarm serve once or twice, the element of surprise is often gone.
This is an issue given he tends to use it early in his matches, so when it comes to the crunch and he may want to use it to genuinely surprise his opponents, they are already half expecting it.
They can then easily attack the ball and have a simple put away, leaving Nick a sitting duck.
Then, there is the respect element of things.
There has been a lot of debate as to whether using the underarm serve is disrespectful, as some think it undermines the professionalism of the sport.
Whilst we don’t necessarily see the underarm serve as disrespectful in its own right, it is easy to see how some critics may deem Nick using it as less than proper when you consider his other on court antics.
If he has just tanked a couple of points, is arguing with the crowd or the umpire and is then throwing in an underarm serve, it doesn’t really give a great message.
From this point of view, we can understand where the lack of respect can come into things, as it is about looking at the situation as a whole, rather than just the underarm serve in isolation.
Perhaps this is something that is lost on Nick at times…
Overall, the Nick Kyrgios underarm serve is a great tactical play that can really add an unexpected element to the aussie’s already unpredictable game.
Whilst it is not a conventional tactic, it can be used to great effect to throw his opponent off their game and get inside their head.
The fact Nick’s regular serve is so good also adds to the equation, as making the opponent second guess themselves keeps them off balance (not ideal when Nick’s serve is already so well disguised).
There are some negative aspects to the underarm serve for Nick however.
The added variation can actually cause confusion in his head, meaning he chooses the wrong shot at the most crucial of moments.
It can also give him an easy way out of a game if he is tanking, which really doesn’t help get the crowd on his side.
All in all though, this is a novel tactic that should be used sparingly.
We have seen other players adopt the underarm serve in recent years, and we can imagine that Nick was certainly the one to set the trend!