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Don’t understand why underarm serve or Roger Federer's SABR are considered disrespectful: Andy Murray

Roger Federer at the 2015 Australian Open
Roger Federer at the 2015 Australian Open
Modified 19 Nov 2020, 15:48 IST

Andy Murray recently claimed he doesn't understand the fuss over surprise tactics such as Roger Federer's SABR (Sneak-Attack-By-Roger), given that they are within the laws of the game. Murray also defended the underarm serve, which has been used quite often by players over the past few months.

Roger Federer unveiled the SABR shot back in 2015, where he would come very close to the service line on the return and take it on the half-volley before attacking the net. The strategy met with considerable success, but many experts - including six-time Grand Slam winner Boris Becker (then the coach of Federer's rival Novak Djokovic) - called it disrespectful.

"I remember a few years ago when Roger Federer was standing really close to return the second serve and some people were saying that was disrespectful," Murray said on a Twitch chat with Gael Monfils. "I just don’t see it. I don’t understand why that was. I don’t get that. I don’t understand why that’s disrespectful to do that. If you’re capable of doing it and it’s successful then why not."

Roger Federer had earlier spoken about the origin of the SABR, which came into being during a practice session with Benoit Paire at Cincinnati 2015. The Swiss was feeling tired towards the end of that session, but his coach Severin Luthi insisted that he play a few practice games to get used to the conditions.

So Roger Federer tried to chip and charge on the return by running in close to the service line, and he managed to win a few points. That ultimately became the SABR.

After Roger Federer tried it once again in the next practice session, Luthi convinced him to use it in a match. And the rest is history.

The most memorable instance of Roger Federer using the SABR came during the 2015 Cincinnati Masters final against Novak Djokovic. The Swiss earned a crucial point in the second set tiebreaker by attacking the net off the return, and ended up winning in straight sets.

I thought it was a smart play: Murray on Medvedev's underarm serve against Zverev

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev

Andy Murray, who has a 11-14 record against Roger Federer, also thinks the underarm serve is a perfectly legitimate tactic. The strategy has divided tennis fans after being deployed by the likes of Nick Kyrgios (in the pre-COVID era), Alexander Bublik and even Daniil Medvedev, who used it against Alexander Zverev at this week's ATP Finals.


Murray, just like Roger Federer himself, claimed that the underarm serve is a valid tactic given that some players stand well behind the baseline on the return.

"Always when that happens, you hear it the commentators they always start going, 'Oh is it disrespectful to hit an underarm serve?' I don’t understand it," Murray said. "If players are going to stand six or seven metres behind the baseline to return the serve, I think it’s a completely legitimate play and as we’ve seen it has been at times pretty successful. It’s not like players are doing it to mess around."
"It’s used as a legitimate tactic when players are standing that far behind the baseline. I thought it was a smart play, I certainly wasn’t expecting it when I was watching the match and he [Medvedev] obviously won the point so it’s a good play," he added.

Murray admitted that players might end up looking foolish if the underarm serve doesn't work, but added that they end up winning half the points when they use it.

"I’d imagine if you miss it as well – I don’t remember ever doing it in a professional match – you’d probably feel quite silly," Murray said. "You feel like a bit of an idiot. I would say, often when you see it a lot of the time you’re seeing the highlights and people like to put it there when it has worked. But I would say it’s a pretty successful tactic and it’s not like guys are only winning one out of every 10 points when they’re doing it. I’d think they’d be winning at least half."
Published 19 Nov 2020, 15:48 IST
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