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.
In Williams' mind, a serve is only good if she wins the point. The fastest serve in the world is pointless if it is returned well. "As you follow through, you always recover, because even if it's your best serve, it may come back," she says.
After hurling your body at the ball, immediately hop into the "split-step" ready position: Your back is erect, your are knees bent, and you're balanced on the balls of your feet, which should be spread shoulder-length apart. Similar to rebounding your own shot in basketball or running out a ground ball to first base, hustling through the play is a matter of discipline.
"You always assume that it's gonna come back, because if you don't cover the next play, it's nobody's fault except yours," says Williams. "It's extremely unprofessional."
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