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Women's Health

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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.

Back on Top continued...

When Williams took on Sharapova in Melbourne, she was thinking about someone else -- but it wasn't her opponent on the other side of the net. After winning the match with a forceful backhand -- and securing her eighth Grand Slam title -- Williams told the crowd in an emotional voice, "Most of all, I would like to dedicate this win to my sister, who's not here. Her name is Yetunde. I just love her so much. I'll try not to get teary-eyed, but I said a couple of days ago, if I win this, it's going to be for her. So thanks, Tunde."

Sharapova later remarked: "You can never underestimate [Williams] as a performer. ... I know what she's capable of, and she showed that today. She has shown it many, many times."

Built to Win

Compared with some of her will-o'-the-wisp rivals, including her 125-pound archnemesis, Belgian player Justine Henin, Williams is physically, well, impressive. But does she get tired of having her fitness level questioned simply because she has curves, strength, and mass? Does she suffer from weight issues and insecurities like so many other American women? Or does Williams view her body as a machine, something to be nourished and trained for maximum performance?

"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."

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