Masterclass 1 – Slice Backhand

Why you should never underestimate the benefits of a slice backhand

I have lost count over the years of the number of players who come to me asking for lessons wanting to develop and improve their backhands. If they are beginners then I simply help them with the basics required to hit a blocked or sliced backhand, as this is by far the simplest way for them to effectively get the ball back over the net on their backhand side.

It is however the players who play some competitive tennis at a club level who tend to be the hardest to convince about the great benefits their slice backhand could provide for their game. When I ask what it is they want to work on with their backhand they almost always say ‘’I can hit a slice backhand which stays in court but I can’t attack or hit it with any power when the ball is played to my backhand’’ (or words to that effect!) My response to this is an obvious one and that is simply ‘’If you can hit the slice then why not just keep hitting it?’’

The reason for my answer is one that I would like to explain to you in a bit more depth as I feel it could not only help make massive improvements to your success when playing, but could also save you a heap of money and stress involved in trying to perfect a topspin backhand which is a stroke you will rarely use during matches.

The reality of trying to learn a topspin backhand is this. Unless you are going to play a massive volume of tennis each week and are happy to spend approximately 6 months, a year or even more, trying to hit aggressively up the back of every ball that comes to your backhand then you are not going to have any success from it and if anything you will probably end up losing your confidence in your backhand completely. This time would be far better spent on learning to use your slice backhand more effectively. To help to try and convince you this is a good idea I have tried to outline some of the benefits to sticking with your slice backhand.

The benefits of playing slice:

  1. The ball will stay low, if you hit down the back of it fast, it will skid through after the bounce making it awkward for your opponent to lift it back up over the net aggressively.
  2. The ball can be floated back into court to give you time to recover if your opponent has moved you out of position with their shot.
  3. You can drop the ball short or play angles with it which are awkward for your opponent to reach. This can often be way more effective than the misconception that the ball must be hit harder at your opponent if you want to attack one of their shots.
  4. It is a pretty simple shot to learn and so most players can be use it to be steady and reliable. As long as you can keep the ball in court you force your opponent to hit another ball, and if the ball is played to a space you can lie in wait for them to either miss or hit a ball to your stronger forehand.

By accepting and recognizing the benefits of using your slice backhand more effectively to hit to spaces and make things awkward for your opponent, you will then free up plenty of spare practice time to improve your shoulder high/ aggressive forehand, and you can become more confident at attacking aggressively using this shot instead.

Also make sure you leave plenty of your now freed up training time to develop your placement of both your first and second serves as this will allow you to pinpoint your opponent’s weakness and serve more consistently to them.

So finally all that’s left to say is learn to love your slice just like Steffi Graff did, if it was good enough for her then it should be good enough for you! So get out there and go try it out for yourself, and before you know it you will have your opponents in knots with your new, improved slice backhand.