July 2, 2010

Countering Serena's Serve

Serena possesses the best serve we have ever witnessed in women's tennis - it is as simple as that. She has only dropped three service games in the tournament thus far, so for opponents it is quite an achievement to get into a tie-break let alone win a set. Coming into the final, Serena has served 80 aces (a record for a woman at Wimbledon) - six more than Andy Murray - 50 more than her nearest statistical rival --sister Venus - and 57 more than Zvonareva. Her fastest serve was hit at an astounding 125mph, which is only one mile an hour slower than Rafael Nadal's fastest serve in his quarter-final encounter with Robin Soderling.

So far, she has won 87% of the points when her first serve has gone in, a proportion way ahead of any of her rivals, and 10% better than her opponent in the final, Vera Zvonareva. However, the Russian has been returning exceptionally well over the course of the last couple of weeks, having won 98 points in total when having to deal with opponents' first serves compared with Serena's 83.

And she has done even better when she has had the chance to pounce on a second serve, winning 136 points all told, compared to Serena's 127. So that is the challenge that the Russian faces: will she be able to deal with Serena's serve well enough to become competitive? The one thing you simply have to do when up against a big server is take care of business on your own serve and Zvonareva's has been her Achilles heel throughout her career. She still occasionally has trouble controlling her ball toss when she gets really nervous, and that obviously has to be a consideration given the enormity of the occasion.

Serena has so much experience to draw upon at this level whereas it will be Vera's first major final, so nerves are bound to inhibit the Russian to some degree, and the end result will depend on just how well she is able to hold her nerve.

There is plenty of history between these two as they have met six times previously, and Serena has won five of those clashes (the exception was in Cincinnati back in 2006), so that will give the American even more confidence.

There is no question that it is a huge ask for anybody to beat Serena on any surface other than clay at the Grand Slams, and for Vera to spring a surprise she has to hope that her opponent gets out of the wrong side of the bed and serves extremely poorly. She also has to then play the match of her life and hold her nerve when it gets really matters, otherwise it is surely Serena who will eventually prevail given her far superior firepower and experience at the highest level.

Article from www.wimbledon.org

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