Big serves in professional tennis are immensely advantageous. It helps set the tone for the remainder of the point and also helps in getting a lot of free points. Tennis allows two chances for the players to land a legal serve. In most cases, the first serve is quicker than the second.
The speed of a tennis serve also depends on a variety of factors, a lot of which are specific to a player's strengths and weaknesses. It also depends on other factors such as the surface on which the match is being played. Faster serves are generally produced on hard and grasscourts, while claycourts tend to be slower. A flat serve generates faster pace than one which inculcates spin in it.
In women's tennis, 200 km/hr is generally regarded as the standard to record the fastest serve. At least 20 women have recorded serves of over 200 km/hr, but not every serve gets recognized officially.
Since 1989, the Sports Media Technology (SMT) and Information and Display System (IDS) has been providing the ATP and WTA with data for service speeds in numerous events. Every tournament does not have the equipment that is certified by the WTA to measure service speeds. For example, Aryna Sabalenka landed the second fastest serve at 214 km/hr during the 2018 WTA Elite Trophy. However, it is not recognized by the WTA.
The fastest speeds recognized by the governing bodies also need to be ones that are hit during main draw matches. Georgina Garcia Perez struck a 220 km/hr serve during the 2018 Hungarian Ladies Open. Despite being the fastest serve recorded in the history of the women's game, it was not recorded as official because it was hit in the qualifying rounds.
On that note, let's take a look at the five fastest officially recognized serves on the WTA Tour.
#5 Serena Williams (207 km/hr)
Serena Williams was the third seed at the 2013 Australian Open. She dropped only two games after her opening couple of rounds before setting up a third-round clash against Ayumi Morita. Leading 4-1 30-0, Williams landed a 207 km/hr ace down the centre service line. She eventually won the match 6-1 6-3.
The former World No.1 went on to lose in the quarterfinals to Sloane Stephens in three sets.
#4 Ajla Tomljanovic (207.6 km/hr)
Three women have landed their serves at a speed of exactly 207.6 km/hr and Ajla Tomljanovic is one of them.
At the 2018 Western and Southern Open, the Australian had to reach the main draw through qualifying. She defeated Irina Begu in the first round before setting up a clash against top seed Simona Halep.
Halep won the match in three sets but the Aussie landed a thunderous 207.6 km/hr serve during their second round clash. Halep would go on to win the tournament.
#3 Alycia Parks (207.6 km/hr)
At the age of 21, Alycia Parks has already matched the record for one of the fastest serves recorded in WTA history. During her first-round match against Olga Danilovic, Parks smashed a 207.6 km/hr serve to become the joint holder of the fastest serve recorded by a woman at the US Open.
It was also her first main draw match at a Major. Despite her big serve, she lost the match in straight sets. Since then, Parks has failed to get past the qualifying rounds in her next three Majors. She is currently at No.157 in the rankings.
#2 Venus Williams (207.6 km/hr)
Two-time US Open champion Venus Williams recorded the fastest serve in a Grand Slam against Kira Nagy in the first round of the 2007 US Open. She won the match, dropping only three games in the process.
The former World No. 1 made it to the semifinals of the tournament, where she lost to eventual champion Justine Henin in straight sets.
#1 Sabine Lisicki (210.8 km/hr)
Sabine Lisicki hit the fastest serve of all time at the 2014 Stanford Classic. She was drawn against fifth seed Ana Ivanovic in the first round. Serving at 5-5 40-30 in the first set, the German hit the fastest serve ever in women's tennis.
Ivanovic did manage to make contact with the ball but the return landed in the alley. Despite the record breaking serve, the Serb went on to win the match in straight sets.