The tennis backhand slice was very popular in classical tennis when the wooden racket was still available. Players such as Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver used the backhand slice to their advantage on the grass courts. In modern tennis, this stroke is still very effective as long as it is executed perfectly and hit away from the opponent’s comfortable hitting zone.
Most players also use the backhand slice in a baseline rally when a player wants to distract his or her opponent’s rhythm. A backhand slice that is placed well can force the opponent to return a short ball. It can also be used to return the ball in a baseline rally or when you are in a defensive position. The tennis backhand slice will slow the tennis ball down and allow the player to return to the recovery position. This is also used to counteract low balls.
Backhand Slice Grip
In a tennis backhand slice, the ideal grip to use is the continental grip. However, players do vary their grip in executing backhand slice depending on how comfortable they are. Some players use a eastern backhand grip.
Footwork for the Backhand Slice
The most common footwork to execute in the tennis backhand slice is a series of small steps to perfectly position your body to where the ball is going to land. This should be followed by a large final forward step using your right or front foot (right handed players) when you are about to hit the ball. The weight of your body should be transferred from your back foot to the front foot creating forward momentum.
The backhand slice is usually hit with a neutral or closed stance. In a tennis backhand slice, the player has to align the feet in such a way that if you draw a line in between your front foot and you back foot, the line should be parallel to the sideline.
Tennis Backhand Slice: Backswing
The slice backhand should create adequate backspin making it difficult for the opponent to return. The backhand slice can serve as a change of pace throwing your opponent off balance. Backspin tends to decrease the speed of the ball resulting to a sharper curve. The use of the tennis backhand slice with one hand is also a technique used in an approach shot. The slice backhand can also be used to defy your opponent by curving the ball away from him or her.
Top of Backswing
The forehand slice backswing also plays a vital role in executing the perfect and effective slice forehand shot. The forehand slice backswing starts with a shoulder turn. As you swing you racket back, make sure that it is positioned up. This means that your hand holding the racket is positioned a bit behind and above you head. The racket head should also be higher than the path of the ball. See to it that the long axis of your racket is almost horizontal to the ground and that the racket tip points more or less to the back fence. Then if you want to execute the square stance, step your left foot forward (for right-handed player) and be ready for the forward racket swing execution.
Swing before contact
Once the ball bounces, your body weight should be concentrated on your front foot. It is important to lean forwards in preparation to hit the ball. The backhand slice should be executed with a knifing action with your racket from a high to low direction.
A knifing action means you have to hit the ball as if you are slicing something with a knife; this is why it is called the backhand slice technique. This action rasps the face of the racket (racket strings) in the lower part of the ball producing the backspin. Your left hand also plays an important role as a balance and to assist the hitting arm position the racket. Your eyes should be glued to the ball.
Contact Point for the Backhand slice
At the contact point, your racket should be positioned lower to meet the ball. Your racket should be in open position to touch the ball with an upward movement since you are hitting the ball from a high to low manner.
It is ideal to make contact at about 18 inches just in front of you front or right foot. One thing to remember during contact, do not hit the ball too early because the ball tends to move straight up making it an easy shot for your opponent. However, avoid hitting the ball too late also or else a very flat ball will be produced which might result to a long ball.
Maintain your balance by concentrating you body weight in the center. Seconds after you hit the ball, your racket should naturally moves to the right side of your body which means that you produce enough sidespin.
Backhand Slice Follow-through
At this stage your racket continues to move to the right side of your body. Your body should remain low. The racket movement from a high to low direction is a counterbalance which leads to a finish characterized with the racket ending up high close to your right shoulder.
Once the swing is complete, it is important to immediately return to the recovery position to prepare for the next ball. Maintain your balance by extending your left arm.
Two types of backhand slice: High and low ball backhand slice
The high backhand slice is slightly different from the low backhand slice in such a way that the former needs a shorter backswing and the downward hit should be angled. In a low backhand slice, the player needs to bend his knees while keeping a low center of gravity. A low slice backhand requires the same amount of in depth touch and finesse. It also requires the proper usage of the body to stay low throughout the stroke.
In the high backhand slice the player should use a sharp knifing action from high to low before the ball bounces. The tennis backhand slice is an ideal stroke to use when a player wants to execute a drop shot or he wants to hit the ball to the feet of the opponent who is in attacking position.
Generally, a backhand slice is not an offensive shot due to the fact that when you use this technique, you cannot hit the ball hard. This is because the main part of the body that is used here is only the upper body and it does not involve rotation or hip movement, hence no power can be produced. Although it is generally a defensive shot, but it can be used as an offensive stroke if executed perfectly and placed accurately.
If your opponent‘s return is a high ball, the dropping of the racket head will usually be less pronounced than if the ball is low. If you drop the ball too low in this situation, hitting the ball long is possible, resulting to your miss and a point to your opponent.
After contact and follow-through
Right after ball contact, after the ball just left the racket face, you have to maintain the slight bend in the knees. Then, at the farthest forward point of your racket head, the distance between this point and the farthest backswing point should be 7 feet. The racket should have risen 3 feet from the lowest point of the swing (when the racket has to drop before the contact).
In a two handed backhand in tennis, the more you loosen your arms as you swing the racket, the more potential you have to create a fluid and efficient swing. The racket should end up over your left shoulder in the follow through.
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