The underhand serve, if executed properly, will get people out of their seats, up off the couch, and add tremendous excitement to the sport of tennis.
Like the behind the back pass in hockey, or the alley-oop dunk in basketball, the scissor kick over the shoulder in soccer, these are exciting plays in the game which people love to see. In tennis, unexpected shots, like a drop shot or the between the legs groundstroke never fail to get people excited and cheer.
The key to the underhand serve is racket head speed, just like a drop shot. The receiver has to come way in, almost to the net, and will struggle not only to keep the ball in play, but come up with a great shot or lose the point.
Just picture Rafael Nadal so far behind the baseline, dealing with a well-executed drop shot serve. It would be very interesting to watch. I have seen Nick Kyrgios and Kei Nishikori attempt the serve. Even John Isner, who is always atop the leaderboard in today’s game in terms of aces, would be absolutely devastating with the change of pace drop shot serve, if he were to try it.
The famous baseball pitcher, Hoyt Wilhelm, made a career with one different pitch—the knuckleball. Hitters just couldn’t deal with this unorthodox pitch, which I believe is similar to the underhand serve. In today’s pro game, players are reluctant to use the serve because it has a connotation of being unsportsmanlike, unethical, or a cheap shot. This obstacle can be overcome when players see how effective the serve can be to their game.
Often in a tennis match, one point can turn the whole match around in either direction. This serve has the potential to accomplish just that, and create a feeling of uneasiness for your opponent on the other side of the net. If you are playing within the rules and keeping score, and your goal is to win matches, prize money, scholarships, or even just a trophy in a rec or adult league, then hopefully any connotations of the downside of this type of serve will become a distant memory.
Gino Fava is a married father of three, who owns and operates Liverpool Carting Company in New York City. A native of Hollis, Queens and a graduate of Marquette University, Fava never picked up a tennis racket until he was 48-years-old, but now plays competitively five days a week at East Hampton Indoor Tennis Club. He can be reached by e-mail at GinoFava17@aol.com.