Not a Miami thread
The 2003 Aus Open final is on ESPN Classic right now. I was watching Venus serve, and something suddenly struck me.
Venus' first serve is a thunderbolt. When it goes in. She has always lacked a 90% solution. Watching that match, I realized why. Who has she played more matches against than anyone in her entire life? What one woman is her model for what a service return can do? Who's service return, who;s mentality on service return trained her tennis "instincts'?
What's the lesson?
You're going to lose most points with a weak first serve.
You're going to lose most points with a second serve period.
So hit the living shit out of your first serve.
Her game has acquired felicitous nuance since then, but the basics are what they are. Venus starts playing every opponent like she's facing Serena. Not strategically, but psychologically. Kinda. That's at least mildly at odds with reality.
Well first off, in regards to Pete Sampras, I don't know how much critical analysis went into his claim. I always got the impression that it was a fit of peevishness and a fleeting, off-the-cuff statement because winning was no longer as easy for him as it used to be, while Venus (at that time) was on the rise. I know that Venus was really taken aback and hurt by it, while he in turn was always embarrassed ever after, when people tried to bring it up. Think about when Federer lashed out at Lady Jaja, taking shots at her number 1 status (while he'd just lost his number status). It's par for the course with men's tennis to have a certain degree of disdain/contempt for the women.
However, I think Volcana that you've got it the wrong way around regarding Vee's serve being shaped by Serena's return.
Seeing that Venus erupted on to the scene and was hitting into the 120s before Serena arrived and has always had a high-risk go-for-broke style of play on both her serve AND her groundstrokes, I think that it's actually Serena's return game (which Serena correctly asserted as the best in the women's game in '02) that is both influenced by and has benefited from training with Venus in addition to Serena having to go directly through Venus in order to become the best player of her generation.
And while Serena was always a good, consistent, dangerous returner during the nineties, once she started beating Venus regularly she evolved into a truly great, fear-inducing returner - there was a visible leap in her ability to return. Whereas as with Venus, even as a teen player she was *always* able to hit in the 120s mph serve against all her opponents before there *was* a Serena. She's added a few mph on to that, but one of the things that her detractors and fans alike marvel/despair at is that in many respects her serve hasn't changed that much.
Why Venus serves the way that she does - benefits and flaws - is something that not even she can explain.