North Carolina men’s tennis player Stefan Hardy’s serve has it all.
On one point he can blast a serve down the middle; on another he can spin the serve out wide and clip the line — there seems to be a complex method to his madness.
But for fifth-year senior Hardy, the formula is simple.
“It’s based on where he’s standing, what serve I hit before that or how my arm is feeling,” Hardy said. “Basically, what I want to do at that moment in time.”
Hardy seemed to have his way both on the baseline and on the scoreboard Tuesday, rolling to victories in singles and doubles in UNC’s 7-0 victory against Navy.
Hardy cruised to an 8-4 doubles victory with junior partner Zach Hunter, but his most dominant performance of the afternoon was in the second set of his singles victory against Marcus Rebersak.
After taking the first set 6-3, Hardy breezed through the second set 6-0 behind a serving performance that featured just as much skill as it did strategy.
All-America Hardy recognized that his serve’s lethal combination of power, spin and accuracy wasn’t going to be enough to finish the match — it was his deception that left Rebersak frustrated and blanked in the deciding set.
“I like to mix it up, keep him off guard,” Hardy said. “If I start serving too many places or start serving at the same places over and over again, he’s going to catch up on it, so it’s good to mix it up.”
Hardy hit serves all around the box at varying speeds and RPM’s, exploiting Rebersak’s unorthodox hitting style.
Rebersak used extreme grips on his backhand and forehand sides, which gave him more pop on his returns—when he could get to Hardy’s serves.
Hardy created difficult shots for Rebersak by using spin on his serve to kick balls up high above his waist and hitting lines to keep his opponent on the run.
“He liked the ball waist level, so I tried to get it up high on both sides,” Hardy said. “I kicked it to his backhand—he had a one-hander—and he had a funky forehand, so it was good to kick it up there and throw him off.”
Coach Sam Paul said when Hardy is consistently winning points off his serve, he can go for winners rather than hit safe shots at the baseline.
“I think if you’re confident, it makes you a little bit looser,” Paul said. “In return games, you can go out there and play a little more offense and go after it.”
But for Hardy, keeping his serve on point is priority No. 1.
“If it’s not on, then the rest of my game kind of suffers,” Hardy said.
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