Roger Federer and Rafael Nadals verdicts on underarm serve as Andy Murray defends himself

Andy Murray says he's in the 'bad books' after losing ring

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Andy Murray recreated one of Nick Kyrgios’ signature tennis shots for the first time on a match court, as he served an underarm ace en route to a second-round victory in Indian Wells. Having lost the opening set to 30th seed Carlos Alcaraz, the former world No 1 pulled out the trick shot near the beginning of the second set and managed to win the point. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal previously gave their views on whether the underarm serve was a valid shot, as Murray has not ruled out using it again.

Murray was serving at 1-1 in the second set of his clash against Alcaraz in Indian Wells on Sunday when he surprised everyone by serving underarm for what is believed to be the first time in his career.

The Brit had just lost the first set after leading by a break and even holding match points on the Spaniard’s serve at 5-4, when he decided to go for it and surprise his 18-year-old opponent.

It was the perfect first attempt for Murray, who earned an ace to hold serve for 2-1 in the second, before going on to win the match in what has been regarded as one of his best wins since undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in 2019.

The three-time Grand Slam champion has since defended his decision to use the controversial shot made popular by Kyrgios, and has not ruled out the possibility of hitting an underarm serve in the future.

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“If you look where he was standing at the beginning of the match to return the first serve in comparison to he changed that at the end of the first set. He started returning from further back, so it was even harder to get free points on the serve,” Murray said, defending his decision to use the serve.

“I thought if he’s going to stand that far back and I’m getting no love from the court and the conditions, why not try it and see if I can bring him forward a little bit again. Wasn’t expecting obviously to get an ace out of it.”

The current world No 121 also admitted he’d try it again if he ever found himself in similar situations facing an opponent standing far behind the baseline on a slower court.

He added: “The first time I have ever done it in a match and it got the ace. Maybe I will try it again in the future if guys are standing that far back. Certainly when guys are standing there to return serve now, it’s a smart play.”

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While Murray believes the shot is a valid tactic and would be happy to use it again in the future, some of his fellow Big Four members haven’t always agreed.

“If he’s winning, it is a good tactic. If he’s losing, it is a bad tactic,” Nadal said, speaking after American Mackenzie McDonald used the serve against him during last year’s French Open.

“That’s all. For example today for Mackenzie it was not a good tactic.

“If you do it with the goal to improve your game, or like a tactical thing, I support it 100 per cent. If you do for the disrespect of the opponent, is not a good thing.”

The Spaniard, who notoriously stands very far behind the baseline to return, added: “Everybody knows internally if you are doing it in a good way or in a bad way. For me there is no discussion about that. It is part of the rules, you can do it 100 per cent. It is about yourself, if you feel good doing or not. Depends.”

Meanwhile, Federer was more forgiving of the underarm serve and admitted it was a good tactic after Kyrgios famously started using the serve in his matches back in 2019.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion said: “Underarm is definitely a tactic, I believe. Especially when guys are hugging the fence in the back. From that standpoint, [you] shouldn’t be ashamed if you try it out.”

However, the 40-year-old did admit that it was a difficult shot to pull out on the match court, as one that wasn’t commonly used by players in practice sessions.

He said: “[You] just look silly if you miss it sometimes. Why not try it? The problem is in practice, you never really try it. When you come out in the big stage in front of a full crowd, [it is] tricky to pull off.”
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