Backhand Slice Tip – How To Add More Bite

Sep 22

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The backhand slice is one of the most common shots in recreational tennis, yet in most cases the slice is floating up too high and is easy to attack.

The following backhand slice tip helps you develop that extra bite on the slice (whether backhand or forehand) and change the slice from a simple neutral shot to a more offensive one.


The Biting Backhand Slice

The feel exercise of cutting the net is one of the final polishing techniques one needs to add to one’s tennis backhand slice technique in order to make the slice more effective and not sit up in the air.

Backhand slice tip

Imagine “slicing” the net open with your backhand slice

As I mentioned in the video, to add bite to your slice backhand, you should:

  • Make a long cut – imagine making a meter (3–4 feet) long slice into the net;
  • Slice the net from tape down and don’t change the racquet path – keep it in a straight line until you stop touching the net and only then lift the racquet into the follow-through;
  • Alternate between the feel drill of slicing the net and hitting backhand slice shots from the baseline; and
  • Accelerate a few times with full speed as that will help you engage your whole body into the shot and feel which parts of the body you can use to generate power. Oftentimes, players are too focused on their arm movement and thus disengage the legs. The legs, hips and the trunk are the main energy sources for all shots including a backhand slice.
Note that you can use this exercise of cutting the net for your forehand slice, and it will also improve the bite on your volleys as most volleys need to be hit with a slight slice.

Of course, with the extra speed of the racquet head, you will increase the risk of missing since the ball will go lower above the net and travel faster.

Therefore, it will still take you some time to master the backhand slice shot as a more offensive stroke in tennis.

You will also need to learn when to actually apply that extra bite for more offensive situations or use a slower, floating slice when you’re pushed out of the court and need to buy yourself time to get back in the correct recovery position.

Feel free to let me know in the comments below how this backhand slice tip worked for you!

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24 comments

  1. Glenn Beinfest /

    I want to learn the backhand slice and you have made it perfectly clear to me. Can’t wait to get out on the courts and work with it. Thanks, Tomaz

  2. Jim Kane /

    The slice backhand is a versatile tennis tool- high ball to backhand, approach shot,etc.
    I like the drill. No mention of the Continental grip, but the grip is one of the keys to more bite on the slice.

    • Hi Jim,

      Yes, the grip is continental but this article is not about the slice technique or about any of the fundamentals of this stroke.

      It’s a way more advanced tip that needs to be applied only when your backhand slice is becoming a more solid and consistent stroke.

      It is definitely not for beginners who need to be taught the grip, preparation, the racquet path and the finish.

  3. This is a great drill for that shot. And the young man is hitting a nasty one!

  4. Jack Rosenfield /

    Nice tip, it’s a useful exercise for adding acceleration to the stroke.

    What I find the mistake that many players make is having their racquet too open when they strike the ball.

    If you watch the pros, at the earlier part of their swing their racquet is more open and then it closes somewhat as the swing approaches contact. After contact it opens more again.

    By closing the racquet a bit (it’s still open) there is more bite. Of course closing the racquet requires having a slightly less steep high to low trajectory in order to ensure that the ball travels over the net.

    Here’s an example of Federer hitting the backhand slice:

  5. Excellent tip, great visual. I see Leander Paes slicing and dicing the net as well!

    Always look forward to your practical tips.

    Georgia

  6. Great teaching tool thanks. I have no problem with feeling the backhand slice and using it offensively. What about the forehand slice? How do I improve my feel and timing on that shot?

    • Hi Terry,

      Step #1: hit hundreds of forehand slices and simply try to adjust the flight of the ball to how you’d like it to fly.

      Then try to use the above drill to refine your feel on the forehand slice.

  7. John McGinty /

    I believe the pro with the greatest backhand slice ever was Ken Rosewall. In fact that’s all he hit in matches. In all the matches I ever saw him play, never recall him once hitting a topspin backhand. Point of contact was forward of his front foot with plenty of rotation and weight transfer.That’s how good his slice backhand was. His backhand passing shot down the line was a work of art.

    • Jack Rosenfield /

      And here’s a slow motion video on Youtube of Ken Rosewall hitting that slice:

      As the start of his swing forward he drops the racquet he starts to bring his racquet forward he lowers racquet to waist level and opens it to the sky. Because of this approach he’s able to swing basically on a horizontal path and as he approaches contact he closes the racquet head to close to but not quite perpendicular to the ground.

      Only after contact does he reopen the racquet head. This is similar to Steffi Graff who get extra pace on her slice would actually have the racquet head lower than her racquet hand at one point of her swing adding kind of a pendulum acceleration to her swing.

      I believe that it’s the closing of the racquet as you bring it forward that can give backhands their bite. It means that the incline of the swing has to be less steep to ensure that the ball makes it over the net.

  8. Guillermo /

    I tried this on the court today. My slice backhand is yet in an initial phase, and the ball tends to float high and is slow. I cannot control the stroke very well yet.
    The results of the drill were interesting. First, I hit a big percentage (50%) of the ball with the frame (racquet too closed), but I didn’t care as I am learning and experimenting. I found that this drill makes you really accelerate the racquet, and I didn’t want to stop. But the strokes I could hit with the strings really got a massive backspin. The ball was impulsed forward with quite a lot of speed, and it bounced really low, almost no bounce. Wow! The shot was incredibly offensive. I hit about 25% percent on the net. And almost no balls went long.
    So, although I could only hit 25% of balls with success, I consider the drill very positive as I could really feel what it is to accelerate the racquet in the slice and the image of the ball flying so fast and slow was really beautiful!
    I’m sure that with time and practice the % will increase, but I don’t want to deaccelerate the racquet to get that.
    Tomaz, really good drill. If you have some advice for a begginer slice that will be great as well. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Guillermo!

      You can keep swinging fast for a while even though the percentage is not that high, so that you can store the full movement into your memory.

      Eventually you’ll need to adjust to different types of incoming balls. I’ll keep in mind the fundamentals of the backhand slice for future articles.

  9. Dear Tomaz,
    I would gladly appreciate more articles on the backhand slice, namely “technique or about any of the fundamentals of this stroke” as you mentioned in an earlier comment. It is one shot I am certainly trying to improve even though for me, I execute it better when I am hitting from below my knees and it is much more problematic from knees up.
    Ryan

  10. Thanks for the tip, Tomaz. Stepping forward with the right foot (for a right hander) while attempting this shot is something I am still learning to do. The two young players in your video did this very well. Another point is to raise the racket above one’s shoulder before “sliding” down with the proper racket angle.

    As a senior (in age) recreational player,I enjoy your “feel tennis” approach very much. I hope it prevents injuries potentially caused by a “brute force” approach.

  11. Fernando /

    Hi Tomaz, thank you for another excellent feel drill!

    I think that for tennis players that are looking forward to improve technique these feel drills are just what we need to work on. Please keep delivering them!

    I have a good one hand topspin backhand, but I am not happy with my slice. In the video, it is amazing that the girl improved her slice with this drill after only 5 minutes. I am looking forward to try it myself.

    You have another video where you teach to roll the ball over the bench to feel how to hit it with topspin. While watching this slice video I remembered that “how to hit the ball” video. Do you think that scratching the net is also a good feel drill for the topspin stroke?

    • Hi Fernando,

      I have tried this same idea with topspin shots and it tends to go wrong.

      With top spin shots the racquet must LAG behind the arm until the contact point but this drill encourages the player to go forward with the wrist too fast and also to close the racquet too much.

      The feel for top spin shots is much more about keeping the racquet face steady through the contact zone.

      You could perhaps use this approach to help someone feel how to brush the ball for a short cross court shot.

  12. hi Tomaz:
    One question about the cutting feeling:
    Is there any angle between the tip of the racquet and the net when you demoed the cutting feeling?
    Dose the racquet have to be perfect perpendicular to the net or there is a certain degree of angle applied?

    Thanks

    Hui from vancouver, bc

    • Hi Hui,

      Since we want a long “slice” into the net, there will be slight angle before the real contact would happen and after the real contact.

      Racquet would only be perpendicular for a split moment when it’s right beside you.

      So just focus on making a long slice on the net and keeping the same angle / plane of the racquet while you’re slicing the net.

  13. Rodger Schuester /

    Good Job. I had been experimenting with some success, but your video made things perfectly clear. I was able to effect both forehand and backhand adjusted slices immediately and realized this technique is exactly the correct change to make. Big Thanks

  14. R. S. Rawat /

    Dear Tomaz, I tried this tip on my backhand slice. I have improved a lot. However, I have a question to clear one confusion, in your tip slice the net low to high a long cut while I am facing the net, whereas in actual when I am playing this shot I am actually slicing the ball / net supposing it is to my left side. So I have to slice in front while I am facing the net or take a left turn, now body is facing left fence and slice. Thanks and regards.

  15. Dear Tomaz,
    I wanted to ask if you will cover the forehand slice at some point as well.
    Ryan

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