Federer on Kyrgios' Underarm Serve: No Shame In Trying It
On Wednesday evening, Nick Kyrgios used an underarm serve to try to catch World No. 2 Rafael Nadal, who was standing near the back wall to return, off guard in their second-round match at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC. While the Aussie didn’t make the serve, Roger Federer endorsed the move on Thursday after his quarter-final win at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
“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. [You] just look silly if you miss it sometimes. Why not try it?” Federer said. “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.”
Federer was asleep in Dubai as Kyrgios won a thriller against Nadal in a third-set tie-break. But the 37-year-old Swiss caught glimpses of the action on Thursday and was impressed with what he saw.
“I saw some highlights. The end was epic. [It] had everything, [it was] dramatic,” Federer said. “It was I'm sure definitely a good match to be in the stadium to watch as a fan.”
While it was not nearly as dramatic as Kyrgios saving three match points in his victory against Nadal — Federer won in straight sets against Marton Fucsovics — the second seed saved two set points to avoid losing the first set against the Hungarian. Federer acknowledged how important the mental aspect of tennis is in those tight moments.
“I think the game of tennis is very challenging on the mind. We tend to push it away sometimes with a high pulse, high-intensity match. You think maybe less of what losing that point or winning that point could mean. You just focus on getting to the ball. I think it's very demanding,” Federer said. “I think it's all about trying to put yourself in the best position time and time again, sort of push luck on your side. Some days you get it, some days you don't.
“I do believe the better player wins, but not always. You have to battle hard because the margins are extremely slim in the game nowadays.”
Federer will hope to avoid drama on Friday as he continues his chase for tour-level title No. 100 in the semi-finals against Borna Coric. The Croatian has won the pair’s past two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, so Federer, who was pushed to three sets in his first two matches this week, knows he will have to be on the top of his game
“I believe I've gotten better as the tournament went on. But I think that's always a logical thing to happen. It's very rare that you come out and play a horrible match in the quarters or in the semis of a tournament because you've achieved a certain level and a sort of standard of play,” Federer said. “He was making me work hard tonight. I think this match is going to hopefully lift my game a notch for tomorrow.”