Coaching Tip - January 2013

    Learn to hit the backhand slice
    To add a new dimension to your game

    A slice backhand is an essential stroke for both the two handed and single handed backhand players.
    While it is possible to hit the slice backhand with two hands the single handed slice is the preferred option.
    Many club players and in particular junior players are not regularly taught to hit the single hand backhand slice so they struggle to introduce this stroke into their shot repertoire during matches.
    • is usually a combination of side spin and backspin
    • is created by the racquet head or strings brushing down the back of the ball
    • creates a lower flatter trajectory over the net
    • results in the ball bouncing lower
    • gives less time for opponent to respond
    The key to hitting a good backhand slice is the preparation.
    Grip preparation
    • the continental or hammer grip is used for the backhand slice
    • To get this grip place the “V” between your thumb and index finger on the back edge of your racquet frame then slide your hand down to hold the grip
    • The grip will feel like to are about to use a hammer
    • You must be able to adjust automatically to this grip prior to hitting a slice backhand
    Body and Racquet preparation
    The preparation for the slice backhand is different from the topspin backhand even if you hit a single hand topspin stroke.
    When in the ready position your other hand should be holding the racquet at the throat.
    The moment that you see that the ball is coming to your backhand
    • Turn both hands, your racquet, shoulders and your trunk to the backhand side so that the shoulder of your hitting arm is pointing to the oncoming ball
    • As you turn bring the racquet head up high with your non hitting hand so that the racquet strings are almost behind your head
    Shot execution
    Move your body into position so that
    • Your stance is more closed and the tips of your toes or your feet are in line with the oncoming ball
    • You load the weight onto your back foot
    • The racquet swing should be in a knifing action from high to low through the back of the ball to impart the required slice or backspin
    • At the same time as the racquet swings down transfer your weight onto the front foot
    Follow through
    The follow through is very important as
    • It enables the racquet to extend out through the ball
    • It allows you to extenuate the knifing effect to give a more effective backhand slice

    The use of Slice during a match
    Defensive Strategy
    The slice backhand can be used as a defence during a rally
    • To cope with short balls close to the net
    • To reach the wider balls
    In particular where a two handed backhand would be difficult or impossible
    • To deal with reflex shots or to stay in a rally
    • Single handed players often find it easier to slice the higher balls instead of trying for topspin
    • Single handed players also may choose slice as an easier option with less effort instead of using more energy hitting topspin
    The slice backhand can be a good change up or option
    • Against a player who handles your topspin shots with ease and puts you under pressure with aggressive hitting.
    • The lower bounce on your slice may be enough to get them to have a rethink or even change their game so that you can get back in the match.
    In addition slice can be useful when playing
    • On a faster court or even a grass court
    The shorter backswing for the slice allows you to handle the lower faster bounce and hopefully gives cleaner contact and more control
    • In windy conditions
    The shorter backswing for the slice will also help you to adjust to any late ball movements due to the conditions. You will have to keep your head over the ball particularly when hitting with the wind to prevent the slice from drifting long.
    Offensive (attacking) Strategy
    Advanced players through to the professionals on the ATP and WTA circuit have learnt use their slice backhand skills to put pressure on their opponents.
    The slice backhand can be used in the offensive
    • As an approach shot
    The ball skids low preventing the opponent from hitting a strong topspin shot but returning a ball that is a little shorter or higher and easier to put away for a winner.
    • Many two handed backhand players are inexperienced against or struggle to hit the low bouncing sliced ball resulting in a number of errors
    • The slice if hit well floats or knifes through the air deep into the opponents court often catching them late or unprepared again forcing errors.

    The slice backhand can be a very effective tennis stroke and can be used as part of your defensive and attacking strategies during your club matches and tournaments.
    It is important to take some lessons with your local Tennis Professional or seek out a coach who teaches slice regularly as part of his/her private or squad sessions.

    In addition the skills associated with the backhand slice can be learned and/or improved by practicing the routine and the other hints as outlined above during your training sessions and competitive matches.
    I hope that these skills will become a part of your tennis game and help you to win more matches thereby allowing you to take your game to the next level.
    Try not to confuse yourself by thinking too much.
    Keep it Simple.
    Relax and let it happen

    Let me know if you can think of any other options to help you achieve a more consistent and effective physical and mental game.

    Tennis the game of a lifetime

    Contact me by Email if you have any comments or helpful Tennis hints.
    Let me know the things that work for you.

    Coach Steve