Tennis: Old-school slice as a modern weapon

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Player stands on the baseline. Coach feeds high topspin ball into the backhand corner. Player tries to hit the ball with backhand slice without moving back.

Drill specifications:

1-4 repetitions per set

With less players on the court coach can work with one student while others are performing specific fitness drills or shadowing the high backhand slice to get comfortable with this motion. With more players on the court coach can put one player as a feeder and let him work on this tactical ball at the same time while others are working on responses to this high topspin shot.


Many years ago backhand slice was one of the most common strokes in professional tennis. Steffi Graf was one of the players who proved that you can be really successful while using this backspin shot. Nowadays it is more difficult to successfully play slice shots because of the much higher pace of the game but more limiting factor is the lack of time that coaches spend on teaching and sharpening this skill. Especially on the ATP Tour we can see that top players still execute backspin shots to neutralize the opponent’s balls and the best modern example who is using this classic shot is Roger Federer. Even while dealing with Rafa Nadal high topspin shots to his backhand, Roger is able to take the pace off the ball and force the Spaniard to generate the pace over again.

In this drill players work on dealing with moonballs by using backhand slice shot. During first attempts of this drill players who don’t use slice in their game can struggle a lot because of lack of skills. Backhand slice on its own is a technically demanding shot and adding high point of contact makes it even more difficult. To make this response effective coach has to make sure that players possess basic skills related to the backspin shot. Dealing with moonballs by using backhand slice is a good way to take the pace off and prevent the opponent from hitting the next moonball. Additionally slice gives us an opportunity to hit shorter balls that bounce low so it is impossible for the rival to run forward and hit another moonball from the low point of contact. To properly execute slice off a moonball players have to focus on:

1. Proper stance (Players have to use close stance and they should stand sideways with the right foot in front (for right-handers). This position helps to achieve point of contact in front of the body)

2. Legs involved (Common mistake is to keep the legs straight while hitting around the shoulder level. Bending knees helps to control the ball so coach has to explain to players to keep it low and just rise the racquet higher)

3. Higher preparation (As mentioned in the previous point, legs should be low but racquet has to be high to achieve the best results of a backhand slice)

4. Move it downwards (You don’t want to hit this ball too deep because it creates an opportunity to hit another moonball. Shorter shots will force the opponent to move forward and change strategy so downwards motion of the racquet will have a big impact on the depth of your shot).



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