Mackie McDonald was up 4-3 in the first set against Peter Polansky during today’s ATP Challenger event in Knoxville, before taking an injury timeout. When he returned, he could no longer slam a strong and righteous overhead serve. So he settled for these little underhand slices.
His groundstrokes went unchanged, which suggests that McDonald was struggling with a muscle group specifically involved in the overhead motion.
It’s rare we get to see a pro athlete buck an axiom of their sport as basic as “serve hard, overhead,” and it’s frankly pretty fun to watch him toy with different deliveries. His first serves and second serves are appreciably different. Rarely have I seen someone “go for it” on an underhanded serve. Respect!
You’d think this novelty act would get cut short pretty quickly, but the rest of the first set went embarrassingly for his opponent, Peter Polansky, who managed to lose in a tiebreak to a player robbed of the sport’s primary offensive weapon.
But Polansky won the second set 6-4, and a still-underhanded McDonald retired in the third set, waiting until 1-5, 30-30, apparently too hurt or too proud to play out two more points and lose normally. If the latter, that might be even more embarrassing.