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.
Hold the ball carefully.
Although it may seem negligible, the way a player holds the ball before the toss is often why a serve goes awry. When the ball is tossed from the palm of the hand, the wrist comes into play, causing the ball to spin and swerve. The ideal flight path of the toss is straight up and down, like an elevator shaft.
To get the straightest toss, Williams says, hold the ball in your fingertips as if it were the bottom of an ice cream cone. "You're holding it in your tips, so as you toss up, the only thing you can do is release it and it goes straight up. It literally goes into the right spot."
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