As my title says all about the question, are underarm serves a fair thing in tennis? Because the reaction of Chris Garin says me otherwise when Alexander Bublik served him an underarm serve.

I was watching some YouTube videos where it mentioned 2019: Year of the Underarm Serve because of (Nick) Kyrgios hitting many of them. Even this year it was fairly common during matches. Just yesterday we saw Daniil Medvedev hitting one against Alexander(Sascha) Zverev. In his post-match interview/press-conference, he told that: "I didn't want to disrespect him (Zverev) but my wide serve was not working as well as I would like today and he was returning it good. [...]"

Prior to this, in February 2019, Rafa was rather enraged by Kyrgios's underarm serve. He commented, "[...] He lacks respect for the public, the rival and towards himself."

Why did Medvedev mention the fact that Sascha could have been disrespected because of that serve technique? Also, why did Rafa look at it like a wrong act?

  • 2
    You ask if they're legal, and then point to several instances of pros using them during their match. Are you actually asking if they're legal? Or do you really mean the "why/disrespect" part of your question?
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 21:59
  • 2
    Pros can do illegal stuff as well. But yes, since they aren't banned already, I would say it is pretty legal. I will edit my question to convey a better meaning. Thank you @Joe. Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 11:06

1 Answer 1


Underarm serves are completely fair in tennis.

The act of starting a point is very deeply rooted to the "ritual" of performing an overhead serve. Hence a player always expects to return an overhead serve. Consequently, underhanded serves have the benefit of surprise.

The overhead serve has a reason for being so common: it is far superior to the underhand serve in terms of difficulty of returning. The technique is designed to produce a much longer kinetic chain than underhand serves. Also, the point of impact for overhead serves is much higher than the net, allowing for better trajectories. Thus, the element of surprise is the only benefit to underhanded serves.

A professional serving underhanded would be somewhat analogous to a good free-throw shooter throwing underhanded: he can do it "properly" and yet chooses not to. The fundamental difference is that the element of surprise in an underhanded free-throw is meaningless, while in tennis it greatly affects the returner.

The reactions you cite are essentially a consequence of being caught-off-guard by a technique which, in terms of quality-of-shot alone (disregarding the mental aspect), is objectively far inferior.

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