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.
Stick with it.
Even for Williams, one of the greatest athletes ever, there are times in big matches when discomfort affects her game. Despite decades of practice and experience, something about her mechanics throws off her swing or follow-through, and she gets nervous. But she's still Venus Williams, so she doesn’t stay nervous.
"You will [get the ball] in when it comes down to it," she says. "You have to find a way to get it in. There were times when I did not even know if I saw the ball, but I had to get it in, and I did."
Williams recalls a recent, desperate moment like this: The gold medal doubles match at the 2012 Olympics in London. All during the match, her opponents, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic, were scorching returns. "I'm hitting them hard, like, wait a minute, I didn't even really have time to give my racquet back they were back so fast," Williams recalls.
With her and Serena at double-set-point and the gold medal hanging in the balance, Williams let her serve carry the day.
"I would say three of my biggest serves," she says of the thrilling finale. "I didn't see them. I don't know how they got in, but I had no choice. It means I was so in the moment that I don't even know what happened."
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