rule question : very very quick underhand serve

88fingers

New User
So we all know that underhand serves are legal. It is also legal to bounce the ball several times before you start serving.
What if a player sometimes bounces the ball once and sometimes 8 times and then within tenth of a second of one of those bounces,
he catches it and then another tenth of a second later he has served it legally? How long does one need to hold a ball before serving ?
Does he actually have to catch his bounce before serving ? or can he just touch the ball with his left hand before hitting the quick underhand serve ?
 

chic

Semi-Pro
I feel like this is a legitimate call for a let.

I'm all for a good underhand serve, but you still gotta make sure the receiver is ready
 

88fingers

New User
Its actually my doubles partner who serves like that. I'm facing the net so i dont see him do it.
The receiver say its an illegal serve, My partner says its legal. The receivers say you cant bounce a serve toss, my partner says the ball is not bouncing after his toss.
The question is how long does one need to hold a ball before tossing it for a serve.
Is 1/10 of a second legal ? It's unbelievable that tennis rules don't address this ?
Pro Basketball has determined that one needs 2/10ths of a second to catch and shoot a basketball. But they have clocks and tennis does not.
 

dr. godmode

Professional
Does the ball leave his hand, hit the court, then hit his racquet? Or does it leave his hand, then his his racquet. I believe the ball cannot hit the ground before hitting the racquet, ie a bounce-hit. But if it comes from his hand directly to his racquet it should be fine.

Given that hes you partner, it is your responsibility to talk to amount being a fair player. Winning isn't winning if it's that obvious that you're trying to cheat the opponents. Remind him that there literally nothing in the line, it's just for fun.
 

Matthew ATX

Semi-Pro
Does the ball leave his hand, hit the court, then hit his racquet? Or does it leave his hand, then his his racquet. I believe the ball cannot hit the ground before hitting the racquet, ie a bounce-hit. But if it comes from his hand directly to his racquet it should be fine.

Given that hes you partner, it is your responsibility to talk to amount being a fair player. Winning isn't winning if it's that obvious that you're trying to cheat the opponents. Remind him that there literally nothing in the line, it's just for fun.
Sounds like he's bouncing it, then as it's on its way up, he taps it with his toss hand then hits it.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
There is nothing in the rules requiring a longer toss or serving motion.

Once the receiver is ready, he is ready and needs to explicitly motion otherwise should he become unready.

Nothing illegal here.
 

Max G.

Legend
It's either cheating or bad sportsmanship.... I think cheating.

You have to actually catch and throw the ball. Touching it on the way up is not tossing it.
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
Does the ball leave his hand, hit the court, then hit his racquet? Or does it leave his hand, then his his racquet. I believe the ball cannot hit the ground before hitting the racquet, ie a bounce-hit. But if it comes from his hand directly to his racquet it should be fine.
I agree, you can’t hit the ball as it’s on the rise from the ground off a bounce.
 

Max G.

Legend
Also, a silly answer - if he keeps doing this, I'd just start calling "Fault" anytime his racquet touches the ball outside of a point and he doesn't hit the ball in the service box.

He knocks an extra ball over to a corner, or to his partner? Fault, he served and missed. If he's the net guy and he taps a ball to his partner on his partner's serve? Fault, wrong person served (and they missed).

After all, how's the receiver supposed to know he wasn't trying to serve? Read his mind? Usually, the server indicates "hey I'm actually serving the ball and starting the point" by doing their service motion. That's how we know not to call faults when the players are bouncing the ball, picking up balls, or passing the balls between each other between points. If any time the server touches the ball with their racquet they might be serving, even if they're not doing their service motion, then it's time to start calling faults accordingly.

(By the way, I had one specific experience that changed my mind on this. I used to think that underhand serves were legitimate. Then one time I was playing doubles. The server hit an underhand serve, but I was ready! I ran forward! The serve didn't clear the net, I was about to call a fault on this tricky serve the guy screwed up! ....and the server's partner picked up the ball and put it in their pocket. Because it hadn't been a serve at all, the server just realized they had an extra ball and were giving it to their partner to hold.

It's the moment it clicked for me both why underhand serves are effective and why they're bad sportsmanship. Both of those are because the underhand serve relies on using body language and swing technique to make the receiver think you're not actually starting the point.

So now I consider underhand serves about the same level of "sportsmanship" as making grunts or hand gestures that kind of sound/look like an out call (but aren't) to get the other person to stop playing. The goal is the same - to win the point by making the other person not realize the point is actually being played. )
 

esgee48

Legend
From Friends of Court 2014 Version

16. THE SERVICE
Immediately before starting the service motion, the server shall stand at rest with
both feet behind (i.e. further from the net than) the baseline and within the imaginary
extensions of the centre mark and the sideline.

The server shall then release the ball by hand in any direction and hit the ball
with the racket before the ball hits the ground. The service motion is completed at the
moment that the player’s racket hits or misses the ball. A player who is able to use
only one arm may use the racket for the release of the ball.

USTA Comment 16.1: May a player serve underhanded? Yes. There is
no restriction in the rules on the kind of service motion that a server may use.

Underhand serves are OK. BUT the ball must be released by hand to start the serve. Server cannot bounce the ball and touch it on the way up to hit an underhand serve. Server needs to hold and release the ball. A touch on the way up does not constitute releasing the ball by hand. If your partner is doing his underhand serve this way, they are faults since he bounces the ball and then hits it.
 

jm1980

G.O.A.T.
From Friends of Court 2014 Version

16. THE SERVICE
Immediately before starting the service motion, the server shall stand at rest with
both feet behind (i.e. further from the net than) the baseline and within the imaginary
extensions of the centre mark and the sideline.

The server shall then release the ball by hand in any direction and hit the ball
with the racket before the ball hits the ground. The service motion is completed at the
moment that the player’s racket hits or misses the ball. A player who is able to use
only one arm may use the racket for the release of the ball.

USTA Comment 16.1: May a player serve underhanded? Yes. There is
no restriction in the rules on the kind of service motion that a server may use.

Underhand serves are OK. BUT the ball must be released by hand to start the serve. Server cannot bounce the ball and touch it on the way up to hit an underhand serve. Server needs to hold and release the ball. A touch on the way up does not constitute releasing the ball by hand. If your partner is doing his underhand serve this way, they are faults since he bounces the ball and then hits it.
He's saying what if they quickly catch the ball as it's bouncing up, then release it, and hit the underhand serve? You could definitely make an argument that the rule was followed, as it doesn't specify a minimum time window between the ball being released and the serve being struck.
 
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FRV2

Hall of Fame
He's saying what if they quickly catches the ball as it's bouncing up, and then releases it, and hits the underhand serve? You could definitely make an argument that the rule was followed, as it doesn't specify a minimum time window between the ball being released and the serve being struck.
In other words, this man is a genius.
 

jm1980

G.O.A.T.
It's the moment it clicked for me both why underhand serves are effective and why they're bad sportsmanship. Both of those are because the underhand serve relies on using body language and swing technique to make the receiver think you're not actually starting the point.

So now I consider underhand serves about the same level of "sportsmanship" as making grunts or hand gestures that kind of sound/look like an out call (but aren't) to get the other person to stop playing. The goal is the same - to win the point by making the other person not realize the point is actually being played. )
Sounds like sour grapes to me. Is it bad sportsmanship if my body language and swing technique makes it look like I'm about to blast a forehand and then I hit a drop shot?

Also, you could definitely call hindrance on those examples you provided. Not so with the underhand serve; as long as the receiver is ready, the server can hit whatever they want; they have no obligation to telegraph the serve.
 
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esgee48

Legend
A second to catch and another second to release and serve the ball is probably legal by rule. I would say it is gamesmanship. Wonder what @woodrow1029 would say? Gamesmanship, fault or legal?
 

88fingers

New User
After bouncing a ball a few times, its very easy to lightly catch and release it very quickly with just a couple of fingers. this is a tennis ball
(not a football or basketball) so it is very easy to catch and release it very quickly, like a 1/10 of a second. Its not about sportsmanship, personalities or money.
We all just want to know the RULES OF TENNIS which I now realize do not address this situation so we have to assume this serve is legal.
I am starting to practice it now and all the people at my club are aware of this legal serve so word is spreading quickly. If you're reading this, start practicing this legal serve.
It can be used alot more often than once per match. I am going to start using it maybe once per game. Maybe the tennis rules need updating ? I think the pros are fast enough
that this type of serve would be ineffective unless receiver is standing 15 feet behind the baseline, but in club play with slow footed receivers it is very effective. (and legal)
I think the rules need updating as to how or how long you have to hold a tennis ball for before releasing it. The answers in this thread prove that an update or addendum is needed.
REALLY EVERYONE YOU CAN START practicing the quick catch and release in your own house. Learn it because you may see it used on you very soon.
 

Max G.

Legend
Sounds like sour grapes to me.
As I said, I didn't lose the point to it, so I can't imagine it's "sour grapes".

Is it bad sportsmanship if my body language and swing technique makes it look like I'm about to blast a forehand and then I hit a drop shot?
Of course not. While playing a tennis point, you can do lots of things. On the other hand, misleading the opponent about the fact that you're starting the point isn't ok. Same as, say, giving them the wrong address (so they show up late and start with a penalty and no warmup) or spilling their water and not giving them any (so they have to play dehydrated) or a million other things that are outside of tennis but still affect it.

Also, you could definitely call hindrance on those examples you provided. Not so with the underhand serve; as long as the receiver is ready, the server can hit whatever they want; they have no obligation to telegraph the serve.
I'll definitely remember that if I, as a receiver, get ready really quick, I get to call a fault when the server bounces the ball with their racquet or taps it to their partner! After all, they're missing their "serve".

Yes as a server you DO have an obligation to show the receiver when you're actually serving (as opposed to getting ready to serve, etc.) That line between "serving" and "not serving" is when the opponent, say, gets to call footfaults on you or call fault if the ball goes out.
 

chic

Semi-Pro
After bouncing a ball a few times, its very easy to lightly catch and release it very quickly with just a couple of fingers. this is a tennis ball
(not a football or basketball) so it is very easy to catch and release it very quickly, like a 1/10 of a second. Its not about sportsmanship, personalities or money.
We all just want to know the RULES OF TENNIS which I now realize do not address this situation so we have to assume this serve is legal.
I am starting to practice it now and all the people at my club are aware of this legal serve so word is spreading quickly. If you're reading this, start practicing this legal serve.
It can be used alot more often than once per match. I am going to start using it maybe once per game. Maybe the tennis rules need updating ? I think the pros are fast enough
that this type of serve would be ineffective unless receiver is standing 15 feet behind the baseline, but in club play with slow footed receivers it is very effective. (and legal)
I think the rules need updating as to how or how long you have to hold a tennis ball for before releasing it. The answers in this thread prove that an update or addendum is needed.
REALLY EVERYONE YOU CAN START practicing the quick catch and release in your own house. Learn it because you may see it used on you very soon.
I do kyrgios styled UH serves quite often against other 4.0s around my club and the park. They're pretty fun to mix in but definitely within the reaction time that people will often get to them. Maybe at a stretch but it's not usually a clean winner once they know it might happen.

And I have a very big first serve to force people back. Doubt this will be overly effective once people are ready.

As a side note, please encourage people at your club to be thoughtful about who they're drop serving. They can be fun, but it's just bad sportsmanship going after older guys, those coming off injury, or those with a limp imo.
 
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Max G.

Legend
I pulled up a random match - an Agassi vs Sampras classic. Every time, Agassi would get three balls from the ballkids. Then he would toss one of those a few inches up and tap it backwards.

...I guess if "toss and tap" counts as a service motion, Agassi was starting every single service point with a fault the umpires didn't call?

Pulled up a recent Djokovic match. Same thing - picks a bunch of balls from the ballkids, then taps one away. If sneaky underhand serves are serves, then that's also a serve attempt and so a fault!
 

joah310

Semi-Pro
I pulled up a random match - an Agassi vs Sampras classic. Every time, Agassi would get three balls from the ballkids. Then he would toss one of those a few inches up and tap it backwards.

...I guess if "toss and tap" counts as a service motion, Agassi was starting every single service point with a fault the umpires didn't call?

Pulled up a recent Djokovic match. Same thing - picks a bunch of balls from the ballkids, then taps one away. If sneaky underhand serves are serves, then that's also a serve attempt and so a fault!
I think alot of pros do that, but it is quite interesting, what if they just served it like that right after getting it from the ball kids
 

blakesq

Hall of Fame
Once the receiver is ready, he or she cannot become unready. Therefore you can serve quickly, slowly, under hand, over hand with ine bounce or 5 bounces.
 

dcdoorknob

Hall of Fame
IMO, based on the wording of the rule cited in this thread, technically a quick catch and release prior to the underhand serve is legal. Just tapping the ball with your off hand before the serve is not.

it’s probably not a perfect rule and I doubt this particular possibility was a consideration when it was crafted.
 

esgee48

Legend
I used to play a guy that liked to quick serve. I got into the habit of holding the frame in my off hand until I was ready to receive. After a few quick serves were called do-overs, he stopped doing it. This appears to be a similar case and I would make him set up before I settled in to receive.
 

GatorTennis

Rookie
What I would probably start doing is moving a lot during his service motion, because I was trying to anticipate a short serve. So all the moving and shoe squeaking wouldn't be intentional. Also, my partner and I would start watching his feet for faulting. Essentially, if someone decides to use sportsmanship, you remain calm and return the favor 10 fold.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
I used to play a guy that liked to quick serve. I got into the habit of holding the frame in my off hand until I was ready to receive. After a few quick serves were called do-overs, he stopped doing it. This appears to be a similar case and I would make him set up before I settled in to receive.
Yes, I've done the off hand thing a few times so the opposing server doesn't send one before I'm ready. I doubt it was on purpose, but I've had some opponents habitually want to serve well before I'm back in position after fetching balls. Playing at the pace of the server doesn't mean I need to be instantly ready after tossing a ball back from the back fence.
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
Underhand serves are OK. BUT the ball must be released by hand to start the serve. Server cannot bounce the ball and touch it on the way up to hit an underhand serve. Server needs to hold and release the ball. A touch on the way up does not constitute releasing the ball by hand. If your partner is doing his underhand serve this way, they are faults since he bounces the ball and then hits it.
That’s what I said.
 

V-Werks

New User
Can you post a video of your partner's questionable underhand service motion? A video is worth 10,000 words...
 

mucat

Hall of Fame
I don't see the point of doing this serve. Is your first serve this bad that a quick underhand serve is a better alternative?
I understand the surprise element but what's next? Doing cartwheel on the court?
You cannot improve your tennis by doing quick underhand serve.
 

chic

Semi-Pro
I don't see the point of doing this serve. Is your first serve this bad that a quick underhand serve is a better alternative?
I understand the surprise element but what's next? Doing cartwheel on the court?
You cannot improve your tennis by doing quick underhand serve.
I'm with you

UH serves are fun to mix in *once you have a good enough serve to push people back*

Otherwise it's just hoping you catch them off balance once and kinda overkill to be practicing
 
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