Serena Williams’ one-off serve | Thirty-five

Serena Williams described her desire to be “perfect”. “I know perfection doesn’t exist” She wrote in Vogue Earlier this month, she announced her plans to leave professional tennis. “But whatever my perfection was, I never wanted to stop until I got it right.” Williams’ serve — the most fundamental component of her game — might statistically be as close to perfect as a tennis shot can get.

This week, fans can appreciate that feat as she plays her final US Open and makes another attempt to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

liquid like water but powerful as a jackhammer, Williams’ serve has underpinned her 23 Grand Slam wins – more than any other player in the Open Era. Their dominance began and ended with this characteristic stroke. Grand Slam titles came easily as she won an astronomically high percentage of first serve points. harder when her first serve was slightly off.

Williams turned professional in 1995 at the age of 14, following the lead of her older sister Venus. Unfortunately, the WTA didn’t start keeping game statistics until 2008, wiping out the first 13 years of her incredible career — a time during which she won six majors. But since 2008, Serena’s monopoly on serving categories has become all the more apparent.

Williams’ serving dominance made it almost impossible for opponents to advance in their service games. When an opponent was lucky enough to see a second serve, they often saw a massive kick serve. By changing the spin of the serve from slice to topspin, she would impede her opponents’ ability to make a quality return. While Williams isn’t the career leader in the stock second Served points gained, she’s still up there and hovering right around 50 percent, which is a mark of excellence in this stat category. Their high win rate on first serves compares well to their male counterparts, the likes of Roger Federer at 77 percent, Novak Djokovic at 74 percent and Rafael Nadal at 72 percent.

Your former coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, called Williams’ serve the greatest of all time. The stats certainly indicate that her serve was the best in the women’s game. She averaged 106 mph and was the fastest in 2013 at 128.6 mph. Williams’ serve speed often exceeded that of her male counterparts. As recently as 2021, her fastest serve at the Australian Open (125.5 mph) equaled Nadal’s fastest serve at the same tournament and was faster than that of 52 men in the event.

But more important than raw speed, her serve was consistent. In 27 years she has served tens of thousands of times with a consistently reliable movement. It’s a tribute to his efficiency that she’s still standing, knees intact, shoulder in one piece.

“Serena has the unique ability to hit a slice serve less than 90 mph with the same exact motion she uses to hit a 120 mph serve from the exact position down the T. That makes it virtually impossible for the returnee who can only guess,” said Joseph Oyebog, a former hitting partner of the Williams sisters early in their careers.

Williams has credited the consistency of her serve to the details. In her pre-serve routine, she always bounces the ball five times before the first serve and twice before the second serve. She never hides a second ball. Her iconic throw has been scrutinized for its incredibly consistent placement – something related to her use of a finger roller. Other strong servers in women’s football, like Ana Ivanović, never nailed the consistent shot. WilliamsThe backswing – neither too long nor too short – was always smooth. Her arm extension and footwork were studied by physicists looking for answers about the efficiency of her serve. Most players use a continental grip for their racquet, but she uses an eastern forehand grip for more power. Their timing reaches the rhythm of a bowhunter: slow, slow, slow, fast.

Reflecting on her fastest serve of 128.6mph at the 2013 Australian Open, Williams noted that it was “my fastest going in. I’ve hit some 150s but of course they’re like heaven.” Of course.

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