As far as power is concerned, Venus has the bigger serve. She holds the record for the fastest serve in the history of women's tennis, 127.4 mph at the European Championships in 1998. Venus is 6-foot-1, three inches taller than Serena, and her height helps her a lot on her serve as she's obviously getting more reach on her serves than Serena does on hers.
I think that under pressure, Serena's serve will break down a little more. Under such circumstances you might see a few more double faults from Serena than you would from Venus since Serena is still a bit more susceptible to nerves than is her older sister.
No question Serena's a powerhouse just like Venus. She's very, very strong. I don't think that her being a few inches shorter than Venus will prevent her from eventually developing as big a serve as Venus. But right now, I think Venus's serve is a little bit more of a free and easy swing. Experience is a factor as well as Venus has about two and half years more experience on the pro tour than does Serena. That comes into play when needing to focus in key situations and so when Venus needs to get a big serve in, she usually comes through. As Serena gets more experience, she should improve in pressure serve situations.
I would pick Serena as far as having a more compact volley. She has really strong legs and that's a key in hitting this stroke. Her mobility around the net is very good. She's quick off the mark and she changes directions very well. I think where Serena is really good is that she stays down low and bends her knees. With Venus, I think you can catch her on a low volley because her height (6-foot-1) keeps her from bending down quite as much as Serena, who is three inches shorter than her older sister.
So you can see there's a good side and a bad side in being a tall tennis player. Venus experiences one of the tougher aspects of height in tennis in that she has such long legs that no matter how low she bends, she's always going to have the problem of not only getting down real low but also of hitting a great, low volley. It just seems to me that taller players always have to hit up on the ball.
In comparing the Williams' sisters, this is the hardest aspect of their games to make a call on. I'd have to say it's a push. Venus and Serena are almost mirror images of each other since they were both brought up on the baseline and as pros, they are both basically aggressive, baseline players.
I think there are slight differences in their groundstrokes but they are just so intricate. As for who has a better forehand and who has a better backhand, well to me, the sisters are almost carbon copies of each other on these shots. It just depends on whom, on a given day, is moving better to the ball and making the least amount of errors because they both hit the ball with virtually the same speed and the same velocity.
Serena definitely has the better court coverage. I think she is the quicker player off the mark. She is lower to the ground so she scurries a little bit better. Given that Venus' physique is a little bit lankier, she doesn't quite get off the mark as quickly, although she has wonderful reach. Serena has the better leg speed and if you look at her legs, which are bulkier than those of her sister, they more resemble the legs of a sprinter. In contrast, Venus' legs are long and lean. Serena is the fastest player on the women's tour and that transcends into not only being a great, aggressive player, but also being a great offensive player because she can get balls that other players can't get.
While Serena is tops, Venus is second best on the tour in court coverage. She can get to a few more balls than other top players like Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles or Martina Hingis-not because of her foot speed but because of her long arms and the reach they provide.
I think Venus is slightly more intense. This I've noticed especially since Serena won the U.S. Open in 1999. I think after that Venus really went on a mission and in 2000 she won two Grand Slams (Wimbledon and the U.S. Open). In 2000, she was definitely more focused than Serena. She's the older sister and she buckled down and played like one. I just see a little bit more maturity and intensity in Venus.
You also have to look at the temperament of players. Serena is probably the more natural athlete and player but I think she has the more happy-go-lucky kind of temperament. She also is somewhat more up and down than Venus in terms of putting together a great, pressure match. I think Serena has all the confidence in the world but as far as concentrating on each point, I think that probably Venus is the better match player.
There is no one surface where either sister is head and shoulders above the other. I think overall Serena is the better mover. On a clay, it's really hard to call. Serena's game is better suited to clay because she is a better retriever of shots since she moves quicker, but on clay you have to have so much mental toughness because you can't get frustrated. You have to sometimes hit like a dozen shots to win a point. You have to have that kind of patience and mental toughness and I think Venus has more of it than Serena.
On hardcourts and on grass they're even. When they met in the 2000 Wimbledon semifinals, Venus won the match (6-2, 7-6), but up until that point, Serena was the better player in the tournament. In general, Venus is the more mature player and inspires a little more confidence. Serena hasn't been as consistent as Venus, so it's hard to have the same confidence and belief in her when she walks out on the court for a match against another top player. It's almost like she dictates the match depending on what her mood is and whether she's going to be mentally tough. But if Serena is really concentrating well, she can beat anybody in the world.
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