A very useful alternative to a one-handed topspin backhand is the backhand slice. It’s a great defensive shot in tennis that you often see professionals hit on TV.
So, how do we hit an effective backhand slice?
Below are the fundamentals of the one-handed slice backhand, including the proper grip, stance, and technique. We also have a few common mistakes that you should avoid.
Backhand Slice Frame-By-Frame
To start with it will help if we take a look at a photo series from the side and from the side and from the back.
The Basic Fundamentals & Technique of the Backhand Slice
Next we’ll cover the proper way to hit a backhand slice. Keep in mind that hitting the backhand slice with one hand will always be more efficient and effective than hitting it with two.
Step 1: Use the Continental Grip
As in all strokes, having the right grip is crucial. The ideal grip for a one-handed slice backhand is the continental grip, the same grip you use to serve.
Take a look at the video below to help you find the right grip for the one-handed backhand slice.
Step 2: Footwork on the Slice Backhand
All slice backhands are hit with a closed stance, stepping in the direction of the shot or slightly across the body.
Step 3: The Backswing
As with a topspin backhand you have to take the racquet back using the upper body and not just the arm.
Your non-dominant hand should remain on the throat of the racquet. Your hitting arm should remain fairly straight and the racquet head open.
This video will help you understand how to tack the racquet back correctly.
Step 4: Forward Swing and Contact
As you swing forward your racquet will close and at contact it will be almost parallel to the net. Your upper body remains sideways on this groundstroke.
This video explains how to control the racquet face on the backhand slice.
It is also very important to have the non-dominant arm move in the opposite direction as you swing in order to help you keep your upper body sideways.
Step 5: The Follow Through
The follow through should be in the direction of the target. Here are a few things to remember.
- Your racquet should remain on the side of the body.
- Avoid taking the racquet across your body.
- The racquet head should be open and high at the end of the swing.
This video explains the followthrough technique on the backhand slice.
Common Mistakes on the Backhand Slice
We often see tennis players make similar mistakes on the one-handed slice backhand. Here are the most common mistakes we see and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Opening Up Too Early
In order to hit a solid slice backhand it is important to remain sideways at contact. Here is a useful footwork pattern to help you do this. This works especially well if you are using the backhand slice as an approach shot, moving forward to the net.
Mistake #2: Swinging Down on the Ball
Contrary to what many players think, you do not hit down on the ball to slice it, you have to hit through it as well.
Many players learning the backhand slice hit a ball that spins, but floats slowly over the net. This is because they are not hitting through the ball enough. Here is how to fix that.
Mistake #3: Letting the Ball Get Too High
Letting the ball get above your shoulders makes it very difficult to control with a backhand slice. Shoulder level is the highest you’d want to hit a backhand slice.
To avoid this, you should move forward into the court and hit the ball on the rise, before it gets too high. Hitting the ball on the rise will also help you generate pace on your backhand slice.
Mistake #4: Dropping the Wrist
A very useful tip is to keep the wrist up at contact to hit a solid slice. Many beginners make this mistake on the slice backhand.
This video will explain the importance of keeping the wrist up and help you avoid this common mistake.
Drills to Practice Your Backhand Slice
Now that you have the right technique, here are several drill to practice and perfect your one-handed backhand slice.
Crosscourt Backhand Rally
A good way to get a lot of repetitions on your backhand is by forcing yourself to cover half of the court with only your backhand.
In this drill, you hit crosscourt with your partner. You are not allowed to hit forehands. You can keep score and play to 11.
Backhand Slice Approach
A slice backhand approach is a great way to keep the ball low when coming to the net. Many players struggle to hit a passing shot in this situation.
In this drill you can practice the one-handed backhand and the backhand slice approach.
Master of the Backhand Slice
Here is a great drill to practice your slice backhand against a variety of shots.
You cover half of the court with your slice backhand only, while the other player covers the entire court. The opponent can hit topspin or slice and should try to force an error on your backhand.
The Secret to the Backhand Slice
If you study all of the videos and tips above, then you will be able to develop your backhand slice into a defensive weapon on the tennis court. A great backhand slice has a few characteristics.
- It usually stays low over the net.
- It drives through the court.
- It has a biting spin that is difficult to be offensive against.
If you practice with everything you’ve learned in this lesson, you will learn a backhand slice that your opponents will fear and try to avoid.
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