Slice Backhand—Change up the pace

Nelson Hughes, USPTA Certified Professional

While there are a variety of uses for the slice in today’s tennis world, the one reason I think the slice is so important to learn is the ability to create off-pace shots that are still difficult, and perhaps even more difficult than hard shots, for your opponent to handle.  Most players tend to assume that the harder the shot they hit, the more effective it will be.  This, however, is not always the case.  Some opponents love playing someone with a power game because they can use your pace on their shots.  This means they are simply using the power you generated and redirecting it effectively to their advantage.  When you find an opponent is doing this, one of the most effective things you can do to counter it is to throw in the slice ball.

The slice ball forces an opponent to generate his or her own power instead of simply getting to use yours, and it is also gives you more time to get back in position.  When the slice is hit correctly, it starts with the racket preparation at a high angle so that you can strike the back underside of the ball in a slightly downward and forward swing of the racket.  Therefore when the ball bounces on the other side of the court, it is going to lose speed rapidly, forcing your opponent both to move to the ball and predict which way it is going to bounce.  It also forces your opponent to really explode into the shot if they want to get the ball back.

Anatomy of the Slice


Notice that Coach Ravi uses a continental grip and lays the racket back to rest on his left hand.  This helps ensure he keeps his racket head up when preparing for the slice.


As the ball approaches, Ravi steps to the ball with his left foot so that his body is essentially pointing at the ball.  Notice that his entire body is rotated into a closed stance, with his shoulders and hips running parallel to the singles line.

Swing Path/Contact Point

Ravi brings his racket slightly downward and forward to strike the back underside of the ball.  Notice he meets the ball in front of him and ensure that his swing is more forward than downward.  If the swing is too much downward, it will result in a “chopping” of the ball that will cause it to sit up for your opponent.

Follow Through

By driving the ball forward, he ensures it stays low and goes deep into the court.  Notice in the fourth image that Ravi’s racket head continues forward even after striking the ball.  This is essential to ensure the ball is struck cleanly.


Finally, as his right arm brings the racket forward, his left arm moves backward.  This contributes to his exceptional dynamic balance, which means that he stays on balance throughout the shot.

The slice is an effective weapon that can be used to throw off your opponent’s timing. By adding the slice to your game plan, you can stop your opponent from stealing the pace of your shots. Hit the slice and make them create their own.

-Nelson Hughes