From Serena Williams's MasterClass

Controlling The Court

Serena teaches you how to turn defense into offense, when to anticipate and react, and how to open up the court for easy winners.

Topics include: Defensive Play • Controlling Center Court • The Unexpected • Returning A Serve • Know Your Opponent


Serena teaches you how to turn defense into offense, when to anticipate and react, and how to open up the court for easy winners.

Topics include: Defensive Play • Controlling Center Court • The Unexpected • Returning A Serve • Know Your Opponent

Serena Williams

Teaches Tennis

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I think my style of play can definitely rattle my opponents. She's completely dictating play now. It is definitely something I don't try to do. However, when I go out there, I just play my game, and then I do the best I can. But my style of play tends to be aggressive, but at the same time I can move you like crazy, and you probably don't expect it, because when people watch me play, they see me hitting hard. But then when you play me, they might get a little bit of a different feel like, whoa, I didn't expect her to slice, or I didn't expect to do this. So I definitely have a game that can throw you off. [MUSIC PLAYING] One of the key things, and I think the most important thing, to becoming a great defensive player is, you have to anticipate. And if you're good at anticipating, you don't even have to really be super fast, but you can be a great defensive player. Reading a ball in the middle of play can be a little tricky. You have to anticipate, but you have to be careful, because sometimes, if you anticipate too much, your opponent can play a trick shot behind you, and it's going to be difficult to get. Sometimes it's good to anticipate. I might just hit a bad shot, the ball's really weak and my opponent is going to put it away. Then sometimes, I can kind of guess and anticipate where it's going. And often, I get back in the point because of that anticipation. When you react, you can get the ball better. And anticipating is really good, and I do that sometimes, but I don't rely on only anticipating. There are some really good defensive players. There is a player, Agnieszka Radwanska, who plays very good defense. On the women's side, there's Caroline Wozniacki, plays really good defense. Ana Ivanovic plays incredible defense. And on the men's side, there, you have Rafael Nadal and you have Novak Djokovic, who plays really, really great defense. I think one of the key aspects for a good defensive strategy is to have speed and somehow manage to turn defense into offensive. So if you're on the run, get there in time. And you get there in time by having speed and turning that shot into an offensive shot. I think speed is really important in tennis. And you can definitely develop speed, and you can definitely get speed, you can work on it. I've known players that started out not fast, and now they're some of the fastest players on tour. So it is definitely something that you can develop and that you can get. The best way to develop speed is really to focus on your first step. If you want to get fast, you should do sprint drills. What I do is a maximum of 40 yards, sometimes I even do less, just to make sure I really work on those first few steps to be very explosive. I would do them once a week to begin with, because you're going to be really sore. And then I would try to work up to doing it at least twice a week. I...

Learn Serena's Technique

Serena Williams, the world's #1 ranked women's tennis player and winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, teaches you tennis and reveals the secrets of her game. This is as close as you can get to a private lesson with one of the world's greatest tennis players.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Thank you Serena. What a pleasure to get insights on technique and attitude from such a fantastic champion.

I think the last lesson was the most helpful for me because my serve is always really unpredictable not for the opponent but for me because one second i'm getting an ace the next second i'm double faulting the whole match.

I wanted to know how a champion rises above fear, obstacles, physical hardships and how she stratagizes. This was a real learning experience for me.

Thank you, Serena! I'm inspired to take my game to the next level.


A fellow student

8:48 - What's a drop shot? And how do you do it (especially in that unexpected way) she talked about...

A fellow student

I don't really understand 5:05-5:15. To me, the ball seemed like a deep shot rather than a lob. The opponent wasn't closing-in to the net or did any volley either.

George H.

I always play as though I am warming up, e.g. hitting the ball directly to my opponent. It's a mindset that I have to shake. Serena say it: hit the ball where your opponent isn't!

Joe M.

Thanks for pointers on strategy, turning a defensive shot into offense, hitting where your opponent is not. I also appreciate comments on watching your opponent's ball toss to anticipate where the serve will be going. Great session!

Melanie S.

Reeling it in ( the frustration) , breathe, problem solving the strokes, taking it one point at a time. Great points for coming back ,

A fellow student

what is the most efficient way to increase your speed and first step especially as you get older 40-50+ ?


I liked the short section on return of serve. Serena mentioned watching the opponents toss to get an idea of what type of serve it will be. I hope she goes into further details in the next lessons.


I liked the suggestions to play lobs, to surprise the opponent by hitting now and then to the stronger side, to focus on our own strengh and keep it simple.

Alexander H.

Great recommendation on defensive play to surprise opponent with once in a while hitting the ball to their stronger side.

Caterina P.

I personally loved the suggestion on how to turn the defencive play...the lob and than winner. Will try soon!!!