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Serena Williams' serve is a huge advantage

Serena Williams of the United States serves during

Serena Williams of the United States serves during her women's singles semifinal match against Sara Errani of Italy. (Sept. 7, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Serena Williams has blasted 50 aces through her six matches at the U.S. Open, the leader among the women. She's only made 12 double faults, a net of 38 totally free points on those serves, some of which have reached 124 miles per hour.

But there is another statistic that speaks the loudest of her booming serve's dominance. Of 249 serves she has put into play, 111 have not been returned. That's 45 percent of her points coming without a single ground stroke, with her only physical effort a short stroll to the other side of the court to serve again.

Victoria Azarenka smiled broadly when asked Friday afternoon what she would have to do against Williams in Saturday's Open women's championship match.

"Well, I have to, you know, return well, definitely,'' she said.

Neither Azarenka nor anybody else could do much about Williams' serve at Wimbledon in July. Williams won her 14th Grand Slam title by beating Azarenka in the final. Williams served a total of 102 aces, a record for any Grand Slam event.

Samantha Stosur, who beat Williams in last year's Open final, has been more successful than most in returning Williams' serve. Stosur was eliminated by Azarenka here this year.

"It comes for a hard trajectory and she's got very good technique on that serve,'' Stosur said. "The ball bounces up and she hits her spots . . . She can really hit it hard, but she can take the pace off and slide it wide. You never quite know what necessarily is coming straight at you.''

In the modern era of the game, only older sister Venus rivals Williams' serve. Althea Gibson, Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport and Steffi Graf had highly effective serves, but as Billie Jean King was proffering the day, Serena Williams has the best technique she has seen in the women's game.

Maria Sharapova has a strong but inconsistent serve. She made 37 aces in the tournament as she was eliminated by Azarenka in the semis. But she also made 39 double faults, a net loss of two points. Sharapova won only one game against Williams in the Olympic gold medal match at Wimbledon.

"She finds the corners extremely well, but on a consistent level,'' Sharapova said. "It's one thing to serve a big serve, but it's another thing to do it consistently, match in, match out.''

Ana Ivanovic was eliminated by Williams in the quarterfinals. It was Williams' serve that was the determining factor, with Ivanovic hanging in well on the rallies when she could return a serve.

"The power, it's consistent . . . and the placement is so good,'' Ivanovic said. "It's hard to read as well. It's not like you can pick a side. That's what is really hard.''

Asked the other day what she thought her serve did to her opponents, Williams replied: "I don't know what it does because I've never faced it.''

Another ace.

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