Originally Posted by Steffica Greles
Maria suffered from a misdiagnosed injury throughout the latter half of 2005, which greatly hampered her serving until it finally broke down altogether in the YEC SF against Mauresmo.
During the earlier part of 2006, she was serving adequately, but certainly not as well as someone of her heigth should be. Even at Wimbledon, her first serve was quite powerful, but conservatively placed, and without much variety.
The turning point was San Diego. Maria served her way to the title there. She was particularly impressive vs Schnyder (who, granted, isn't the most aggressive returner of serve out there) - Patty got hammered with 78% 1st serves, 2-3 aces and unreturnable serves on each of Maria's service games, and several "eat this!" aces on big points. The placement of her serves as a whole was much improved, and she would now attempt to hit aces or unreturnable serves down the T when in trouble - and more often than not pull it off. Even later on the final vs Clijsters, it was Maria's serving on clutch points that allowed her to keep herself in the second set, in which she was being completely outplayed, long enough for Clijsters to choke it away.
The USO was much the same. Whole sets would go by without Maria's opponents able to get even a look at her service games - case in point the second set of the final (no less), and during the fall indoor tournaments it continued to be so, with a few minor hiccups (say the match vs Ivanovic in Linz).
At the AO, on the other hand, the only match where Maria's serve was up to late 2006 standards was vs Zvonareva.
Now Maria's serve has fallen apart, and is at least as poor as that of late 2005.
I've heard that her service motion is superb from a technical POV - not being an expert, I wouldn't know about that, but I do know that her toss is to die for.