The ultimate weapon in any tennis player's arsenal is an accurate, high-velocity serve. Long a mainstay of men's tennis, rocketing serves have been the foundation Venus Williams's dominance over the last decade. Venus and Serena Williams both register serves in the 120s and rank tops in the fastest serves ever recorded. Serena launched a 128.6-mile-per-hour serve at last year’s Australian Open, but Venus still holds the crown with her 129-mile-per-hour missile at the 2007 U.S. Open.
Though Venus, who has won seven Grand Slam titles and is currently promoting Jamba Juice's Million Free Smoothie giveaway, is past her prime at age 33 and trying to cope with Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that derailed her 2011 season, she enters the 2014 Australian Open ranked 38th in the world, a position she’s maintained almost solely on the strength of her service.
At 6-foot-1, Venus is aided by her natural length, but she believes her muscle memory has been the key to success. "I've seen matches [where] people's serves go on and off because it's just not guaranteed as much," she tells 'Men's Journal.' "It's about the rhythm. It’s about the timing."
Williams shared the keys to her serving game, but she admitted that the one thing she could provide was the opportunity to help tennis enthusiasts train hard and get some of what she has. "A serve is a complicated shot," she says. Good service demands both finesse and practice. Here's what Venus recommends.
Drive with your knees.
As with a baseball pitch, a tennis serve's power comes from the thighs. “As the ball is releasing, you're bending those knees, because a great serve comes with a great knee bend. You've got to work those legs," Williams, adding that this is even more important for shorter players without long arms and the ability to stretch. After bending your knees, you want to jut your front hip toward the court to start shifting your weight forward. “If you've ever seen a tennis trophy, the person has that perfect," Williams says. "At this point you've got your toss-up, you've got your knee bend, and the left hip is forward so you're ready to pounce. You're like a spring. You're going to spring straight up.” As for the finishing point, you always want your front foot to land inside the court, in front of the baseline. Otherwise you are not driving off of your legs enough. "It'll make a massive difference if you land inside [rather] than outside," says Williams.
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