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.
Wait for the ball.
How you want to throw the ball depends on your height. Taller players, like Williams, can reach higher and should take advantage of that with a high toss. The right measurement for the toss is the point at which your arm is fully extended and you are connecting with the ball when it has just barely begun to descend.
It is a common misconception that the best place to hit the ball is at its peak height. "If you catch it on the way up," Williams warns, "you're just going to throw your timing off."
Williams recommends making contact after the ball has started heading down, "because as you are going up, you've already bent your knees, so you're going to get up a little bit." In order to find a perfect spot, Williams suggests watching pros who have a body type similar to your own.
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