Serena Williams eased into the the fourth round of the Australian Open with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Japan's Ayumi Morita, and for the second straight match she served notice (sorry) of her desire to break the record for the fastest serve hit by a woman in a main draw event. Her sister, Venus, is the current record holder, hitting a 130-mph bomb in Zurich in 2008. Serena is right on her tail, hitting two 129-mph serves in the first week in Melbourne. (Aussie Tammi Patterson recorded a 130.5-mph serve in Australian Open qualifying last week, as measured by the ITF. (Update: The WTA says IBM is not counting Patterson's serve as legitimate because her next fastest serve was recorded at 108 mph.)
Serena's smirk after she saw the speed gun reading said it all.
You rarely see her crack a smile on court, so you know she's feeling pretty good about her serve these days. Why shouldn't she? It's the best shot in the women's game, and it comes so easy and natural to her. S.L. Price paid homage to this singular shot, the one that no one on the WTA Tour can match, at Wimbledon last year.
Asked to describe her masterstroke, Williams needed only one word.
"Mean," she said.
Better to call it the still point of her chaotically spinning world. After all, Williams hardly carved today's weapon out of years of tape study, drills and tinkering; it has been her trusty companion almost forever. "I don't know how it got better," Serena said. "It's not like I go home and I work on baskets and baskets of serves. Maybe it's a natural shot for me."
ESPN has a great slo-mo video of Serena's serve. It's hard not to marvel at its flawlessness. It looks effortless, without a hitch or strain.