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Serena Williams Gets Back in the Game

Tennis ace Serena Williams returns to the winner's circle after battling injuries, grief, and a dramatic slip in her pro ranking.

Built to Win continued...

"Both," she answers. "I think everyone wants to look fitter. You always want what you don't have." (This is the same woman who was once quoted as saying that no matter what her weight, she'd have a large bosom and backside -- although admittedly, she described her backside with a less printable word.)

"It's frustrating," she says. "A lot of people don't understand that I am both [shapely and fit]. But as long as I'm winning, that's OK! That's all that matters."

"Serena is large, with muscular buttocks, hips, and thighs," echoes San Diego-based Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise. "In regard to tennis, she is perfectly built to excel. Her power allows her great court coverage, enables her to be explosive. She has the classic mesomorphic body type, which is a muscular, athletic body that is best suited for power, speed, and agility."

As for weight, Bryant says that BMI -- body mass index -- is not necessarily a good indicator of fitness levels among elite athletes. "BMI measures body weight in relation to height. In Serena's case, it gives the wrong conclusion, because it doesn't take into account the composition of that weight -- lean versus fat tissue. Extra weight in the form of lean muscle mass, which is what Serena likely possesses, is a positive for a top athlete."

Sister Act

And how does her sister Venus -- who, while less curvy, is, at 6 feet, no less physically imposing -- view Serena's triumphant return to the upper echelons of the sport? "I take it as inspiration," the former No. 1 was quoted as saying about Serena's Australian Open win. The elder Williams, also struggling with a painful sports injury of late, has competed only twice since last July because of a sprained left wrist; her World Tennis Association ranking as of press time was 29.

"Venus is the No. 1 Serena fan!" her younger sister tells WebMD with obvious appreciation.

But what about sibling rivalry? How can two sisters compete on such a grand scale without hurt feelings, disappointment, or resentment?

"We talk about it sometimes," Williams admits. "Honestly, I really, really want to win -- of course I do. But if I can't win, then I want Venus to win."

"They aren't quite as competitive with each other," opines Macci, who recalls the first match the two sisters played as rivals, when they were teenagers. "It's probably not conscious. But if you follow tennis, you notice that [when they play each other], they don't have that intense desire to destroy the other person, the competitive rage you need to win -- the same fire Serena had when she recently blew Sharapova off the court." Williams sums it up differently: "We truly want the best for each other."

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