Here's Some Good Old Underhanded Tactics

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Taro Daniel, last seen taking one set off eventual U.S. Open champion Rafael Nadal, had a 7-5, 7-5 win over Renzo Olivo yesterday at the Szczecin Challenger. Good luck pronouncing the name of that Polish town, or returning this serve Olivo attempted at 5-5 in the second set:

Yum. That thing looks like it bounced three times before leaving the service box. I’m a huge proponent of the rare jank serve to keep a returner guessing. Don’t call it gamesmanship; it’s just smart way to jar someone out of their comfort zone, and if they’re ready for it, you’ll get appropriately punished for trying it. If your opponent is standing as far back on return as Rafael Nadal did in the U.S. Open final, often disappearing entirely from the TV perspective—

—one way to keep them honest is by sneaking in the very occasional dink serve, like Olivo did here.


On second thought, even if Nadal was sitting in the box seats, he’d have tracked down that ball in a split-second, huffing and chugging and planting a much better drop shot in the opposite corner. But yeah, theoretically this is a trick worth trying against normal opponents, and players really ought to experiment more with the breadth of options available to them on serve.