The underhand serve gets a bad rap. It can be viewed as unfair, disrespectful and uneffective. Yet, many pros this week at Roland Garros have pulled out the "service a la cuillere" ("spoon serve") as the French call it, and it's been working.

"The underhand serve is not underhanded at all," Tennis Channel's Jon Wertheim says. "It's completely legit, it's an effective tactic, not unlike a drop shot during rallies. If your opponent is going to stand back to return serve, you're allowed to play that old can't bounce twice rule."

Sara Errani, who often struggles with her motion and ball toss, opted to throw in a few underhand serves on her way from qualifying to the second round. Some of them proved quite effective in her dramatic loss to Kiki Bertens in the second round, but not all.


"It's not my first time," Errani said. "If you follow me last two years, I had many problem [with my serve]. I'm just trying to be there and try to compete with what I have. There are days where is really bad, is very tough for me."

The 2012 Roland Garros finalist has been using the "spoon serve" to combat tricky conditions as well as to simply get the ball in.

Although it may seem ridiculous, the rare underhand serve can take advantage of players standing far beyond the baseline and it certainly utilizes every inch of the court. Alexander Bublik disguises the shot so well that world No. 9 Gael Monfils did not have time to react to a drop shot ace in their first-round bout.


Bublik has hit a few in the past weeks, including to start his first match at the Western & Southern Open in New York.

And he ruffled Cristian Garin's feathers with it in Hamburg.


The 23-year-old Kazakh says the tricky serve requires practice, courage and luck, and he prefers to do it in the ad side for a better angle.

It doesn't always work. When revealed too soon by taking a big back swing or hitting it too deep in the box, it will set up a perfect put-away shot. Roland Garros qualifier Monica Niculescu learned this lesson quickly in her loss to Danielle Collins.


It also should be noted that the underhand serve should be hit with caution against players like 12-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal. Mackenzie Mcdonald attempted to catch the Spaniard off guard, but the execution was rather poor.

"If he's winning, it's a good tactic. If he's losing, it's a bad tactic," Nadal said in his post-match presser. "For example, today for Mackenzie was not a good tactic. For Bublik, if that works, is a good tactic. It's part of the game, I don't see it as disrespectful or not. If you do this with the goal to win the point and to do it, it's always the same."

Like any unique shot, it all comes down to execution and requires practice to make perfect.