What a year to be alive as tennis fan. You have stiff competition within some of the best players of the game, and there are new stars coming through. However, the biggest talking point or the biggest controversy from this year has to be the advent of the underarm serve from Australian Nick Kyrgios.
Kyrgios, who is no stranger to controversy, first produced the underarm serve against Rafael Nadal, on his way to beat the pro in their Mexican Open encounter in February.
Kyrgios has again produced the underarm serve during his rout of Serbian Dusan Lajovic in the Miami Open. Kyrgios produced the infamous underarm serve twice during the match against Lajovic and went on to win 6-3, 6-1.
Kyrgios who has been bathing in controversy ever since his professional tennis debut is most famous for the unsavory incident involving Stan Wawrinka in 2015. Kyrgiois is believed to have abused Wawrinka as he made some unsavory remarks against his girlfriend, a fellow tennis professional Donna Vekic.
However, this underarm serve has to be Kyrgios most telling controversy in terms of impact on the game. He has seemingly defended the tactic after first trying it against Rafa.
“I think it’s a tactic, for sure. Especially with Rafa – I was starting to feel my legs cramp up so I needed a free point at any cost,” said Kyrgios. “He’s standing so far behind the baseline, so I thought the underarm serve might break his rhythm.”
While the attempt against Nadal didn’t pay off, Kyrgios has most probably perfected the serve and executed it to perfection against Lajovic.
While the underarm serve is perfectly effective and sits well within the legal lines of tennis, there are some questions whether it passes the lines of sportsmanship on the court.
Judy Murray, who is a tennis coach and mother of British star Andy Murray believes that this shot is extremely clever and should be applauded.
“The whole point of tennis competition is to disrupt your opponents game by applying pressure through changing the speed, spin, direction, depth or height of the ball,” Judy Murray said on Twitter. “And that includes the serve. Kyrgios is a genius. I’m surprised more players don’t do it.”
“Not many people understand genius or know what to do with it so they try to get genius to conform to something they do understand. Kyrgios has uncanny instinct and vision. He’s unpredictable and has phenomenal creativity and hand skills. Yes he’s mentally inconsistent but he’s a genius.”
Roger Federer, who is arguably the greatest male tennis player of all times has also stood in favor of the serve. Federer mentioned, “Yeah, underarm is definitely a tactic, I believe, especially when guys are hugging the fence in the back.”
“From that standpoint, you shouldn’t be ashamed if you try it out, you 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.”