Underhand serve as 'regular' serve

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by OrangePower, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    There have been threads in the recent past about underhand serving, with debate about whether it's 'bush' or not.

    This is a bit different...

    I watched some ladies play at the local courts last night. Not sure their official level but they looked about 3.0 / 3.5. I watched maybe a set. One of the ladies served only underhand all the time. Not sure if she has an injury preventing her from serving 'normally' or what, but what was interesting is that her underhand serve was not a liability, at least compared to the serves of the other three ladies who had regular serves. She wasn't using it as a sneak tactic (obviously the other ladies knew it was coming since that's all she did) or drop-shot (she was hitting a topspinny sort of forehand drive). But it had as much pace and placement as the other ladies' serve and was probably more consistent.

    So:

    1. Would some players (probably at lower levels) actually be better off with an underhand serve? (And don't take into account potential future improvement - let's assume an older player who isn't expecting to improve.)

    2. Would it be considered 'bush' if you chose to use an underhand serve as your regular serve?
     
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  2. tennisjon

    tennisjon Semi-Pro

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    I coach college tennis and 4 of my players over the past 3 years served underhand. The first 3 served underhand because they had shoulder injuries. Two of them had the best serves on the team overhand and they still had the best serves while serving underhand. The 4th player served underhand after seeing the success of the other players. She had a bad 2nd serve toss that made her double fault a lot. This removed a lot of pressure on her. I see no problems serving underhand. Its part of the rules and was how people used to play even at the top of the game.

    As for me, I serve left and right handed. I haven't had anyone complain to me about it except for one person. Its a different spin coming from a different angle at a different pace. I say, if you can do it, then why not?
     
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  3. djNEiGht

    djNEiGht Professional

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    the coach in a beginners tennis class i took had everyone serve underhand in the early days of the class. this got rallys going for those that couldn't serve overhand. as the class progressed and people learned to serve overhand, the option was given to do either.

    i played with someone who had a bone spur in his elbow. he had a solid ground stroke for his serve and once the ball was in play he was hitting fairly well with tons of pace. towards the end of the match he threw in some overhead serves with a slice motion. it was the most tolerable overhead serve he could do. he did attempt a couple of flat bomb serves but bothered him too much.
     
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  4. InspectorRacquet

    InspectorRacquet Semi-Pro

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    1. I would think that at the 3.0 to low 3.5 level, an underhand serve is perfectly acceptable. It helps get the ball into play and playing time is what matters at that level. Experience in rallies can only come after a serve is hit and returned.

    2. At the mid to higher 3.5 range and better, the player should seriously consider taking the time to actually develop a serve. I mostly see the underhand serving in players who just want to play and don't care about improving, but for those that do it competitively, the underhand serve should be considered 'bush' if there is no medical problem.
     
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  5. Maui19

    Maui19 Hall of Fame

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    Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with someone serving underhand (either part-time or full-time)--regardless of the reasons why.
     
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  6. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I had an upper back injury this summer, and I was going to sectionals. I wasn't sure what might happen, so I decided to see what would happen if I tried to serve underhand.

    I went out and practiced a drop shot underhand serve and a slice. I could not develop enough consistency with it to ever consider using it.

    What I could do was -- you guessed it! -- moonball. I could hit a FH topspin ball with lots of height over the net. My consistency with it wasn't great, but I could do it.

    I didn't wind up using it because my back held up well enough. I would try it if I were injured.

    BTW, by the time most women are 3.5, they have a flat first serve that is faster than an underhand serve could be.
     
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  7. goober

    goober Legend

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    1. Yes some low level players would be better off with an underhanded serve. Some players have absolute cream puffs for second serves and a groundstroke type serve would be a vast improvement.

    2. Not bush league if you are doing it all the time and the opponents know it is coming.
     
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  8. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

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    it is also NOT bush league if you surprise the receiver with an underhand serve. And it is even better if you get the ACE! That is a thing of beauty!

     
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  9. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

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    I'll hit an under-hander in rec play on a rare occasion if my opponent is being a total ass-hat and I want to demonstrate my disdain for him. I don't care if it goes in or not, by that time the "match" is no longer tennis and the outcome is of no importance--it's the equivalent of flipping them the bird.

    The under-hander can have legitimate uses if one is recovering from a shoulder injury or surgery. A club pro I know who was nationally ranked, used it for many months in club play while recovering, no problem. He told you ahead of time he would be serving under-handed. If you are going to serve under-handed due to some physical reason, I would announce it to opponents before hand so they don't take offense, waking them up and making them play harder.

    I played in a "fun tournament" this past summer, and a wiley old player hit under handed when sensing conventional tennis was not going to win the match. He hit me about three under-handers which I ate up for free points. My dubs-partner was befuddled by it, missing all his returns. Wiley ol', kept hitting under-handers to my partner and served me straight-up.

    I take no offense to someone throwing in an under-hander by surprise, it's a legal if unconventional tool. It just livens up a rec match and makes it more interesting. I can't recall ever having an opponent attempt it in an Age Group match though.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2011
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  10. 813wilson

    813wilson Rookie

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    2 things:

    I think there is a difference between underhand and "drop" serves.

    Case and Point - I've played against a guy with serious shoulder issues - he's had, like four surgeries. His ground strokes are very strong and powerful(higher end 4.0 player) but his serve is a liability. No free points/service winners and after a while his arm shoulder gets sore. Anyway, he was operated early this year. After release to play again, he started serving underhand. Because the ball didn't have the same trajectory or spin, it was actually harder for returners to crush returns - basically the ball didn't sit up the way his weak serve would....He serves overhand again now but his underhand/groundstroke serve was not a liability and no one comlained because he didn't "drop serve" anyone....
     
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  11. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    It's bush league, and I can prove it:

    TennisTom:

    Yeah. I think we're done now.
     
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  12. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Any examples? I don't recall top players doing it other than Chang. How far back are you going? Even in Tilden's time, did top players ever serve underhanded?
     
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  13. tennisjon

    tennisjon Semi-Pro

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    Interesting fact. Tim Henman's grandmother was the first to serve overhand at Wimbledon and I think his great-grandmother was the last to stop serving underhand. Obviously, it was a very long time ago.
     
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  14. wings56

    wings56 Professional

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    I can't really say this without sounding rude, but you really cannot compare a sub .500 division 3 team to the 'top of the game.' there has been no successful professional who served exclusively underhanded since Tim Henman's grandmother started serving overarm in the early 1900's. This is not relevant today. I think while an underarm serve is something that can be useful in situations, it is not something that can take a person to the top of the game.
     
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  15. Delano

    Delano Rookie

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    I saw an underhand serve used repeatedly at a D1 college match. The player who started using it was having severe service consistency problems, and started using it as a second serve. It was a disadvantage to the server, but not an insurmountable one. The underhanded serve was pretty good, a short, skidding slice, and it also helped that the returner was one of those extreme grip topspin hitters who had trouble attacking a low ball and taking the net.

    The player serving underhand didn't make a big display about it, but wasn't trying to do a quick serve or anything either.
     
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  16. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    Clearly an underarm serve is not going to be effective as one's 'regular' serve at the top levels. But I started this thread because I think, having seen this in action, that an underarm serve might in certain cases actually be better as a regular serve than a overarm serve, for some 3.0 ladies for example.

    I might try it as an experiment myself, just for kicks. I'm a 4.5 male. My serve is pretty good and gets me a couple of free points a game. But I wonder how I would fare with only an underarm serve. I think I might do ok - I am an aggressive baseliner and win most rallies where I am at least even in the rally in terms of court position etc. So as long as I can start the point in a better position than my opponent, I like my chances. And even with an underarm serve I think I can get my opponent wide to begin with so that I have some court to work with. Sounds good in theory :)
     
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  17. tennisjon

    tennisjon Semi-Pro

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    If you look at my team, you will find out that last year we lost players due to injury. Our #1 was a former top 250 in the world junior who played the US Open juniors and Orange Bowl, and missed the entire spring season. She lost 1 set to the #3 girl in the country and 1 set of doubles her freshman year and lost 1 match and 1 set of doubles sophomore year before getting injured. We had a player who developed a tumor and missed most of the season due to surgery. Our 2nd singles dropped to 6 and played left handed while recovering from injury. Take out three starters and we go from a team that went to nationals in 2010 to a team who was sub-.500. Even though she is healthier, my #2 still serves underhand and has wins over D1 players in tournaments we play and has one of the best records in the conference. She has a drop shot serve, a side spin serve, a high lob flat, a topspin lob serve, a forehand drive serve, and when she feels like it a 80+mph overhand serve. She also can do some of those serves left handed.

    As for my men's team, we have played NYU and Amherst, two highly ranked teams who had guys serve underhand due to injury. If you are good at it, you can go pretty far with it. You have to be quick and back it up with good strokes. The guys on those teams dropped only a spot on their team serving underhand.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2011
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  18. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    When I was a kid - about 15 or 16 when I was starting to get pretty good at tennis - I played against a very good older guy. (His sons were top juniors and he has a tournament named after him). He had an underhand serve. The first time I tried to return his serve it almost took the racket out of my hand because it had so much spin on it. Very effective. It took a few games before I could even get the return back in the court.
     
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  19. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

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    Bush league is complaining about a legal shot, like an underhand serve.


     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2011
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  20. storypeddler

    storypeddler Semi-Pro

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    Exactly. No legal shot is "bush". When people start attaching labels like that to any legal part of the game, it is because they either (1) have been burned by someone using the strategy, or (2) have an ego issue and consider themselves "too good" to do so. Probably both. Rick Barry played for years in the NBA and ALWAYS used a two-handed, underhanded "granny" free throw motion---and he had a career free-throw shooting percentage of around 93%. Some sour grapes players would call that "bush" too, I'm sure---especially those who used a traditional form and shot 50%. LOL. If it is a legal shot, there is NOTHING wrong with using it as little or as much as you wish. Besides, who cares whether someone else considers it "bush"? You play your game and I'll play mine. May the best player win.
     
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  21. sphinx780

    sphinx780 Professional

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    1. Yes, I do believe this could be a big benefit to specific players at times and in the right instance as a full time serving motion.

    2. No. But I'm in the camp that a drop serve is only bush when you're playing someone who recently had a hip/knee replaced and you're playing them for fun. Hitting a ball away from a person isn't bush.
     
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  22. 10SDude

    10SDude New User

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    Back in 1984, I saw Al Parker (record holder for most junior national titles) serve underhanded at the 18 & under Southerns. He was 15 at the time, and he won the back draw (5th place). If I remember correctly, he was serving that way because he had lost confidence in his serve. He would hit a driving topspin forehand that was not easy to attack.
     
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  23. Angle Queen

    Angle Queen Professional

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    1. Yes

    2. No

    Seriously, I often (and pleasantly) get the opportunity to play with some 3.0 ladies. Some who will grow their game, some who won't. Many of them could improve their "game" if they did the underhand thing. Let me face it: at my/our level, the serve merely starts the point. If we/they wouldn't stress so much about not double-faulting, we'd all have a lot more fun...and play a whole lot more "real" tennis in-between.

    I once was in a tournament where an "injured" player told me, upfront, she'd be underhand serving. It was nasty. And all I could do to prevail. Lots of kudos to her for playing the way she did.

    I've also had it "pulled" on me a few times. Unexpected? Yes. Bush? Absolutely not. It's part of the game. Do I hate when I'm foiled by it? Yes. Am I bamboozled by it a second time? Nope. Game On, Ladies. (Never had a guy do it...even though I've thought some should LOL!).

    ...ps...Nice to see you start a thread, OP. I follow your posts with interest. Nice to see you take interest in a game lessor (by MY standards) than yours. Merry Christmas out on the West Coast. It's warm and rainy here in the Mid-Atlantic. Santa and his reindeer will have no snow to land in on my rooftop.
     
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  24. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

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    After 20 years of feeding balls, I would cut off my hand if I couldn't deliver a faster underhand serve than most 3.5 women's 'normal serve'...

    Never done it in a match, but I wouldn't have a problem with it...
     
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  25. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the holiday wishes Angle Queen, and same to you and yours.

    There was actually some selfish interest as I was watching the lady with the underarm serve; I have shoulder issues that sometimes get aggravated when I serve, so at some point as I age I might be faced with either having shoulder surgery or else start using an alternate way to serve...
     
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  26. woodrow1029

    woodrow1029 Guest

    I would just like to add in this thread as a reminder, that if a player serves underhand, they are not allowed to bounce the ball then hit it.
     
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  27. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    I assume you mean that on the actual service the ball must be tossed from the hand and then be hit before it bounces... but also I assume you can bounce the ball before the toss just like you would with an overarm serve, right?
     
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  28. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I meant *their* underhand serve compared to their overhand serve.
     
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  29. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    This is why I have to bite my tongue when playing with most women at 3.5/4.0 doubles. There is way too much focus on holding serve.

    The bottom line is if you let one team serve for an entire set, the score would likely be the same as if they alternated service order. The serve at that level is neither a weapon nor a liability, IME. It starts the point.

    Whether my partner or I are up a break or down a break is beside the point. A game is a game is a game, and we need six of them to win the set. It we can't hold, there's no reason to panic or tremble like a leaf. Just play well and win points and we will get our six games.
     
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  30. woodrow1029

    woodrow1029 Guest

    Correct. I should have been more clear in my post.
     
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  31. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

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    Oh, ok. Sorry Cindy!
     
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  32. topsltennis

    topsltennis Semi-Pro

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    To me, the most amazing thing is you watched an entire set of ladies 3.0 doubles.
     
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  33. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    Lol, good one.

    My buddy and I were waiting for a court to free up and this was the nearest court to the parking area where we were waiting, so we were a captive audience.
     
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