Never shy of the headlines Nick Kyrgios once again caught the attention of the wider public yesterday with a cheeky underarm serve in his match against Dušan Lajović at the Miami Open.
With Kyrgios leading the first set three games to one and serving to extend his lead, the young Australian set up as though he was about to take a traditional serve before quickly flicking the ball over the net.
Lajović was caught off guard and flat-footed with Kyrgios’ slow serve winning him the game. Lajović did not show much reaction to the tactic on court, but the shot did rile up a fan in the front row resulting in an argument between the fan and Kyrgios which ended with the fan thrown out of the match by security.
But the argument inside the stadium was nothing in comparison to the outrage online as the tennis community split into two camps. Those saying that Kyrgios is “a disgrace” and “disrespectful” and those saying that Kyrgios is “a genius”, including world-famous tennis coach Judy Murray.
But where do I fall on this issue? Is Kyrgios a genius revolutionising the game or is he a disgrace to the game?
The truth is he is neither, he’s somewhere between the two.
This isn’t the first time Kyrgios has used the underarm serve to knock an opponent off their stride, he took a similar tactic against Rafael Nadal at this year’s Mexican Open where it went down like a lead balloon with his Spanish opponent.
Tennis is a game where you have to outsmart your opponent to stand any chance of succeeding and the underarm service does exactly that. It makes your opponent rethink their returning position on serves and more importantly, it can frustrate them leading to more unforced errors.
The argument that it is not respectful to the opponent completely ignores that fact that the player employing the serve believes that their opponent is dangerous enough to warrant a move that will cause severe controversy.
However, there is an argument to be made against the move. It remains to be seen whether there is an ideal service return starting position from which a player can return either an underarm or overarm serve.
If that is not possible then perhaps it can be argued that the underarm serve should be banned as then the sport runs the risk becoming a game of identifying where your opponent is standing and choosing the correct service to guarantee yourself an ace.
But until we know for certain either way and the practice of underarm serving remains the exception and not the rule I say more power to Kyrgios and his ilk, in a game that so often looks back to tradition it is nice to see people looking forward to new ways to win.