Pablo Cuevas, a clay court specialist ranked No. 30 in the world, claimed his third-straight Brazil Open title yesterday by resorting to some underhanded tactics. With his fourth match point lined up, he hit this dinky second serve, which forced No. 24 Albert Ramos Viñolas to scurry up from the baseline to retrieve it. Cuevas won the ensuing exchange from the baseline to seal a 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4 victory.
In some crowds, this raises mealy-mouthed questions of taste and sportsmanship. Some might argue that an underhanded serve runs counter to the “spirit of the game,” but that’s dumb. The spirit of the game is to win points, creatively if necessarily, while adhering to the rules. Nobody says a drop shot is unsportsmanlike; there’s no problem in punishing a returner who’s lurking too far behind the baseline, either. If anything, from the standpoint of pure entertainment I want to see more ingenuity on serve, less brute power. Give me more sketchy second serve slices! Keep people on their toes.
While Cuevas’s serve may have taken his opponent by surprise, it didn’t touch the deceptive flair of this recent masterpiece by Gael Monfils, creepshotted from the Australian Open practice courts:
Maybe you’re now craving a better look, but knowing Monfils, he’ll probably pull that stunt in a match soon enough.