Medvedev's Surprise Underarm Serve: 'I Was Not Planning It At All'

Russian explains rationale behind his surprise tactic

Daniil Medvedev doesn’t often use the underarm serve in matches. But on Monday, the Russian utilised it at a critical stage of his Nitto ATP Finals match against Alexander Zverev and the surprise paid dividends, helping him out of a service jam en route to a straight-sets victory.

For the Rolex Paris Masters titlist, it was not meant as anything but a strategic play.

“I did [not do it] at 40-Love on my serve just to laugh and to mock him. I did it at 30-All to win the point, to win the match,” Medvedev said. “That was the case, and that worked. I see nothing disrespectful [about] it. Of course if 100 other players will say that I did something wrong, maybe I'm going to think not to do it next time, but I don't think [that is] the case.”

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Medvedev was serving at 4-3, 30/30 in the second set when Zverev was camped out far behind the baseline to make sure he put his return in play. The Russian took advantage, using the underarm serve to rush the German. Medvedev eventually won the point with a passing shot.

“No, [I was] not planning it at all. I can do it sometimes, let's say, once a week, twice, once in two weeks in practice, just maybe a first serve to start, to laugh with my opponent or something like this,” Medvedev said. “I did it once on clay at Roland Garros, because on clay it's tougher to serve aces... Guys are far back, and it worked.

“Here it was just in the moment. I saw him really far [back]. I was thinking, ‘Okay, where do I go?’ And I felt like, ‘Okay, at this moment I don't see an obvious choice’, and I had the ball really close to my racquet. I [was] like, ‘He’s so far. He's going to have trouble [handling] it]. And he had trouble. He actually made a good shot to bring it back, but I managed to win the point, and that's the most important. I won't be doing this often, I think.”

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The underarm serve was not the only surprise on Monday. Medvedev and Zverev both stand 6’6” tall, but they engaged in plenty of lengthy baseline rallies.

“It’s very strange, because when we were practising on Centre Court, I was practising with Dominic [Thiem], with [Andrey] Rublev, it felt really fast and the serve was going fast, so there were not so many rallies,” Medvedev said. “Today I felt like even many, many of my good shots or his good shots, they were like so easy to reach. That's why I was good on defence. I was all over the court just because I had the opportunity.”

Medvedev, who went winless in his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals last year (0-3), will try to remain undefeated at The O2 this year when he continues Group Tokyo 1970 action against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Wednesday. The top seed leads their ATP Head2Head 4-2, but the Russian has won two of their past three meetings. None of their four matches since the start of last season have ended in straight sets.

“I’m looking forward to [the] match with Novak, because I think in these conditions we have here we can have a lot of long rallies,” Medvedev said. “We are both going to run well. I like to play against Novak. We have tough matches… [I’m] looking forward to it.”