Backhand Slice: Always In Style


When you hear the term “backhand slice” mentioned by Tennis TV commentators, it's often either preceded or followed by the term “old school.”  With Roger Federer making the finals of this year's US Open Men's Singles Championships and Roberta Vinci pulling off the upset of the century in the Ladies Semifinals, the backhand slice got a ton of air time.  While Federer and Vinci are known as the best at this shot, it's a shot used by most every single pro tennis player in every single match, both singles and doubles.  That's been true and 2015 and will be going forward.  It's as much a part of the “modern” tennis game as the Topspin Dip Drive.  Regardless of the level of play, adding this shot to your tennis toolbox will give your opponents headaches!


The reason why this shot is used by every kind of pro player is it's versatility.  Whether they use one or two hands for the topspin backhand, the one handed slice is as useful as having a Swiss Army Knife.  It can be used for:


  • Defensive groundstroke
  • Offensive groundstroke
  • Approach shots
  • Drop shot
  • Defensive lobs
  • Varying the speed and height of a rally


It's also the same motion as the one handed backhand volley and drop volley.  So when you have this motion down, it pays dividends! 


One specific play I coach my tournament players on is called a sneak approach.  This play is necessary when facing competition that is able to use deep, heavy topspin shots to keep their opponents pinned behind a baseline.  If that's what's happening, how does an all court player get to the net? Sneak approach!  By using a backhand slice in the middle of a crosscourt rally of topspin groundstrokes, the receiver of this skidding low ball is forced to 3 key things to open up the chance to make a dash to the net from the baseline:

  • spend a longer time then usual waiting on the incoming shot which gives the slicer time to move forward
  • eyes down towards a low, skidding ball...if  their looking down, they're not looking at what the slicer is doing
  • hit up on the sliced shot; they might respond with slice or topspin, but either way, the ball has to travel upwards to make it over the net

That trio of events gives the slicer a chance to move into an offensive volley position and hit down on that upward moving ball!  Here's what it looks like when it's done to perfection:


Roger Federer Backhand Slice Sneak Approach


So whether it's Ladies Doubles League, Men's Tournament, or Junior Tournament Competition, this shot can be added and can give the competition a lot of problems!