20 For 20: Stars serve up praise of Serena Williams' biggest weapon
Is it the power or the placement? The variety or the velocity?
What we do know is this: Serena Williams is going for her 20th Grand Slam title this week at the French Open. One shot, more than any other, is responsible for her invasion of the history books. Twenty of the game's greats dissect her epic serve.
"That's the biggest weapon out there, for sure. I think that's the biggest weapon there has ever been in the sport. Her serve is phenomenal. ... She has so much force, strength. And the variety -- even if it's a little off -- her first serve and kick serve is tremendous."
"Her serve is amazing. It's amazing what an easy pace she has on it. You either have that, or you don't. But she seems to do it quite consistently, which is not an easy thing because when she does go full blast, you can spray it, but she doesn't tend to do that very often. Plus, she has a solid second serve, so that, in the women's game, is obviously huge to have, and it's a great advantage for her."
"Normally, you can see where the player is serving, or you can start seeing a pattern. But Serena is so good at mixing it up. And even sometimes when you see it, it comes so fast that even when you're there, it's hard to return it back."
"First of all, she has a very powerful serve. It's a bomb. It's also very hard to read where she's serving, so you guess or you're just lucky because when she's serving, you just have no idea where the ball is going to go."
"It's not that she serves only fast. She just varies the speed and the slice and the spin, and she's so exact on the spots. She just keeps you guessing and on your toes because you don't know what to expect. There's none comparable."
"You know, it's the snap at the top and the way she can snap that ball with her wrist and her hand at the top. It's like throwing a football. ... If you look, a lot of the women's serves are very forced, and a lot them use their arms, and they're muscling it a lot. But she's free-flowing and snaps it with her wrist at the top."
"I think the mechanics are excellent -- among the best. And what makes her mechanics good are really all the moving parts working in concert. ... One of the great things about her serve is the toss is almost always where she intends it to be. In this day and age, if you think about all the women who have errant tosses, that's a huge advantage, mentally, to know your left hand and ball toss is going to be on mark."
"Even early in her career, it was evident that Serena had an excellent, already intimidating and technically sound serve. ... Like her game as a whole, it will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, serves of all time."
"Serena's serve is so incredibly technically sound. She can power right through her opponents or place it on a dime when she's really feeling it."
"I played her, and I had match point, and she aced me on that match point, and I barely saw the ball. ... She is one of the biggest servers, but it's not about serving well -- it's all about serving well on the key points, and you cannot compare that. That's her biggest advantage."
"I'm racking my brain ... Venus had a really good first serve, but there has never been a woman with such a dominant serve. Lots of guys have had great serves. Martina [Navratilova] had a great slice serve, but never was a woman this dominant. ... The reason Serena is going to be able to play for a while is that shot is still by far the most dangerous weapon in the game, the most reliable in the game and the only one you control."
"Her biggest strength is her serve. Maybe it's something that has saved her in many matches, situations where you cannot get the racket on the ball."
-- Maria Sharapova, No. 2 player in the world