Why Serena Williams’ Serve Dominates Tennis
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Why Serena Williams’ Serve Dominates Tennis

Tally up all the Grand Slam championships won by current WTA players, and you’ll notice that nearly half belong to just one person: Serena Williams. In fact, Serena is one
of the most successful tennis players of all time. And that’s in large part
thanks to her iconic serve. You can break Serena’s
serve into four parts. The acceptance window
is the area of the court where the ball has to land in
order for the serve to count. It’s determined by the minimum angle for the ball to clear the net and the maximum angle
for it to land inbounds. So, you can see here that the height at which you hit the ball
makes a big difference. Chang Kee Jung: As
taller you are, you have more acceptance window. Imagine Yao Ming learns to play tennis, and if he hits the serve, he will have a huge acceptance window. Narrator: Serena isn’t
nearly as tall as Yao, and she’s not even among the tallest female tennis players out there. But she makes up for it. Chang: So, Serena Williams
does exceptionally well. At the position when she hits, her arms are fully stretched and then she has a little bit of jump. Narrator: The stretch
and jump boost the height at which she hits the ball, increasing her acceptance window and ultimately improving her chances of hitting it inbounds. Now, Serena isn’t the only
player who extends on the serve. But, according to experts,
she is much more consistent. And it pays off. Over the last 10 years, she’s won 82% of the
games that she served. That’s a whopping 11% higher than the average of the
top 20 female players over the same time frame. But, of course, serving the ball inbounds is just the first step. What gets her all of those wins is the fact that she makes her serves extremely difficult to return. That’s where power and topspin come in. Serena’s power serve is one
of the fastest in the game, averaging 170 kilometers per hour. That’s about 12 kilometers per hour faster than the average female
professional tennis player. Now, part of that speed is
the result of pure strength. Chang: Serena Williams, you can just see she has, like, incredible,
lean, muscular body, so she can generate a
huge amount of force. Narrator: But what really sets
Serena’s power serve apart is her timing. To maximize power on the serve, tennis players will bend their knees, rotate and drop the hip, lower the shoulder, and, most importantly, twist at the trunk. In other words, they use their whole body to gain as much velocity
behind the serve as possible. But none of that matters
if you don’t hit the ball at the exact moment when
your arm is at full reach and your body’s in mid-swing. In tennis, this is called fluidity. And Serena is often credited with the most fluid serve in the sport. Chang: There will be no jerky motions. You will smoothly hit the
ball with maximum power. Narrator: But there’s a
catch to these power serves. Yes, they’re fast, but the velocity narrows the acceptance window, making them less reliable. That’s why Serena also uses
topspin to her advantage, usually when her first power
serve goes out of bounds. Now, topspin serves are slower. For example, Serena’s
average topspin serve is about 145 kilometers per hour, 25 kilometers per hour
slower than her power serve. But topspin serves are more accurate and still difficult to return. That’s because the topspin on the ball forces it to drop sharply right before it reaches the opponent. That change in movement
is thanks to a phenomenon called the Magnus effect. As the ball spins through the air, it creates a pocket of lower
pressure underneath it. And it’s that low pressure that makes the ball drop abnormally fast, catching many opponents off guard. But Serena’s second serve is
not the fastest in the game. Maria Sharapova, for example, will fire her second serve at
about 150 kilometers per hour. But Sharapova sacrifices
accuracy for speed here. For comparison, Serena
has scored, on average, 2 1/2 fewer double faults per match than Sharapova over the last 10 years. Chang: So, she combines the first serve, of high speed, which is
a little bit more risky, but her second serve is safer. However, it has a high topspin,
and it’s awkward to return. And combining these two,
she becomes excellent, excellent service player. Narrator: Meaning she
scores more aces on average. An ace is a successful serve that the opponent’s racket cannot reach and therefore doesn’t return. Over the last 10 years, Serena has recorded
four more aces per match than the average top 20 WTA players. Last, but not least, is the coup de grâce of Serena’s serve: disguise. Chang: Another exceptional quality is her ability to serve the ball without telling the opponent what kind of serve she will make. Narrator: Check out this ball toss. Normally, the way a player tosses the ball will give their opponent a clue
as to what serve is coming. But not Serena. She tosses the ball to the same spot, with the same body position, every single time. Her toss is so consistent and smooth that she manages something most others find impossible to replicate. She can disguise the serve. So, Serena could be about
to deliver a topspin serve, a power serve, or even a slice serve. Yet the opponent has no way
of knowing what’s coming. Chang: These things are all disguised until the very last moment. And that makes Serena Williams’ serve exceptionally difficult to return. So, for as long as Serena is competing, these three words have
the power to strike fear into many pro players’ hearts:

57 thoughts on “Why Serena Williams’ Serve Dominates Tennis

  1. This looks familiar… Deja vu I've just been in this place before
    I live near Flushing Meadows which is the home of the US Open. I go there to see Mets games

  2. She's just better than all of them‼She's a top 5 athlete of all time. ALI Jordan Serena Tiger & Lebron. Global icons‼👉🏽🐐

  3. No no no no, you got it all twisted. Serena William is the best in the world and better than any male playing the racket ever existed. There is a difference. 🙂 #Thumbsupforyouserena

  4. I saw this yesterday as you put it up on your other channel…. business insider, mysteriously, though more apt on here I'm not watching it again.

  5. I only saw her once when she was arguing with the referee while the young girl won and a meme of her with another player. it's great to know. she is incredible athlete

  6. Let us speak plainly about this. Serena approximates the strength and weight of a man. That is why she wins. This is not to take away from her tremendous skill and technique, which she honed from years and years of hard work. However, many female players have these qualities, but are not as successful. The distinctive advantage comes down to Serena having the frame, weight, and muscle mass more similar to a man than a typical female. When a female opponent faces off against Serena, it would be the equivalent of them facing off against a male professional tennis player.

  7. Reminds me of magnus Carlsen in chess. Just a joy to watch people succeed and be great.

    Too bad robots will soon do everything better than us mere humans. Tennis playing ai robot? Perfect score everytime.

    But there's a way sideways.

    Still awesome this video, my grandmomn used to love tennis

  8. Lol…..been many rumours over the years of her taking performance drugs……if you think she’s clean than you’re stupid…..

  9. Black women are just high masculin testosteron species others cant compete with it when it comes to strengh n stuff lol.

  10. She has some natural advantages, she's black and her physique is much stronger than white women.
    Though she is talented and earn all the success by her Hardwork.

  11. I greatly appreciate the scientific dissection of Serena's game. It is one thing to observe her in action at her best, but a very different thing to gain a greater understanding of how she does it. Thank you Science Insider.

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