How far can a slice backhand take you?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Tennis Is Magic, Jun 28, 2011.

  1. Tennis Is Magic

    Tennis Is Magic Semi-Pro

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    Today, I was decided to make my lesson with my coach a full speed match, and we could work on what was costing me points, and in turn matches. So we play two sets, and I get hammered, 2 and 1. He overpowered my backhand very badly. He says the higher I get, the less effective a slice backhand gets. Realistically, I don't hit my slice repeatedly against anyone under 4.5, and I still don't use it much against the 4.5s who don't hit particularly hard, and hit with more topspin and placement, it's just the hard hitting players that end up drawing me into a chip fest. I'm curious from the better players how effective your slice is in match play and how much you use it. I have a good topspin backhand, but big hitters bring out the defensive, counterpunching tendencies in me. Any advice?
     
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  2. sonicare

    sonicare Hall of Fame

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    Depends if you can hit them at 80 MPH like Ken rosewell
     
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  3. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Using the slice backhand, ala Federer and Haas, right up to the top level, works if the opponent DOES NOT attack it. Or cannot attack it.
    However, if the opponent either crushes it for winners, like Nadal, or uses your slice to approach net, like the old days, then it's better to have a topspin backhand AT TIMES.
    Graf played an OK level of tennis in the past, without resorting to her 1hbh topspin backhand, at least equal to Henin's in practice.
    Key is being able to handle the high bouncers, get it back deep and skidded low, without floating up a sitter.
    I won't say the slice is effective at 5.5+ levels, if you ONLY have the slice. However, it can lay claim to solid 5.0 IF you can handle the high balls.
     
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  4. Tennis Is Magic

    Tennis Is Magic Semi-Pro

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    Lol, no I can't hit 80 mph slices. My slices are good enough that most players don't attack it if they aren't coming into the net when they see me setting up for it, but my fear is I'll get into the habit of slicing EVERY backhand when I'm being overpowered, as opposed to 20-30% when I'm playing someone whose pace I can handle.
     
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  5. Tennis Is Magic

    Tennis Is Magic Semi-Pro

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    Like I said, it's not that I don't have a topspin backhand, it's just the first shot that usually breaks down against hard hitting because my setup is fairly loopy. I'd rather hit against Nadal-type spin than 80 mph balls at my feet :-? maybe it's a confidence issue that I resort to slicing power shots?
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011
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  6. ssonosk

    ssonosk Semi-Pro

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    when i use a slice it's either: i want them to come to the net for a passing shot, I chip and charge, or It's a ball i can't possibly reach and hit with topspin. I really don't slice much though, i probably should.
     
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  7. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Remember, you don't NEED a topspin backhand on groundstrokes. You can slice until it starts to get attacked, THEN hit some topspins to keep your opponent on his heels.
    We really need the topspin backhand only for passing shots and winner attempts, not for rally balls IF you can handle the high backhands over and over again without popping one up into your opponent's strikezone.
     
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  8. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    I'm similar to Graf, in that I slice almost exclusively in matches, even tho my topspin backhand is more than serviceable. Some people have attributed slicing to laziness (there are coaches who have said this about slices in general), which does hold SOME truth.

    To be honest, however, if my slice isn't hurting me, then why should I change it? If a guy is really brutalizing my slice backhand in a match, I'm more than happy to starting trying to hit over the ball more. So, to the OP, if you can build a more-than-serviceable slice that can AT-LEAST keep rallies neutral, than a slice can take you far (see Santoro, although he hit his slices from the forehand side). However, if you meet up with a player that is taking it to your slices, than you will need something-else to rely on (or a tactic that keeps him away from your backhand).

    Sorry if you can't understand my ramblings! :)
     
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  9. fruitytennis1

    fruitytennis1 Professional

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    Slice works if...
    your opponent can't handle it(this will depend on the person)
    you can get good depth on it and hit a solid shot
    keep it away from a person's FH wheel-house(either hit it to their bh or make them run)
     
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  10. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    This is tennis strategy 101, isn't it? Pound the other guys backhand and see if you can break it down. Whether you slice it or hit topspin, you need to have answers for this strategy.

    I've played folks that have nasty, punishing backhand slices. They're hard, they stay low, and have a bad attitude. They seem to hang about two inches above the court for the last 15 ft before they skid five feet along the ground (I'm exagerating). They come up hardly at all, and it feels like you have to dig them out of the court with a shovel. It's hard to get a lot of topspin on the return shot because the slice stays so low and is coming so fast, especially off of your backhand. Slicing it back is actually a pretty good response, but now you have to hit a good slice or your opponent will jump on your shot.

    A good slice like this only clears the net by a foot or less. It's hard to go DTL and hit it as hard because of the higher net and shorter court. It's also difficult to pass and hit out-right winners with it.

    So you can take a good slice pretty far. You can break down your opponent's back hand with it. If you can hit a high slice DTL you can make players with full W forehands fairly unhappy. But you'll need to be able to come over it once it awhile for winners and passing shots.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2011
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  11. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    Well, Fernando Gonzalez got to the finals of the Australian Open hitting pretty much only a slice backhand. (He's since gone back to hitting a lot of topspins.)

    It depends on your opponent and depends a lot on the court. There is a set of local courts near me that are very fast and low-bouncing. Driving the slices hard results in a lot of winners because the ball just skids through. On other courts the ball will tend to sit up.
     
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  12. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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  13. KenC

    KenC Professional

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    It's great to have an effective BH slice, but not so great to hit it all the time. In short, always hitting a BH slice allows your opponent to get into a rhythm against your BH. Its better to be able to hit topspin, flat and slice whenever you need to and then, based on the way the point is progressing, choose on the fly which would be easier to hit at any moment and which would do more damage to your opponent at any moment. Weigh your options and fire away with the optimum BH response.

    I understand Graf always hit the BH slice, but since her no one has had success with that approach.
     
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  14. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    I believe Larry Turville recently won a national championship slicing virtually all of his backhands (60s age group).
     
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  15. dozu

    dozu Banned

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    agreed with Lee/Johnny and others - look at Steffi, and today look at Roberta Vinci... almost exclusively slice the BH except passing shots.

    I am the same way, and I never felt that the slice is getting over powered... if I did, that would be a ball that the opp hit very hard and wide, and I would have been overpowered anyway no matter what I tried.... but in neutral rallies, it will stay neutral, and I definitely have better depth contrl with slice.

    you won't get attacked if you float to 1-2 feet within the baseline, or if you slice short, it has to be very low.... short floaters get killed... technique issues produce short floaters.

    as a matter of fact, even if I develop a better topspin bh, I'd still prefer the slice in rallies, because that ball is a more different look for my opp from my loop FH.

    the #1 sin for producing weak slice, is too much chopping down.... a hard incoming ball, if not too high, should be easy to handle.. you set the face with the hitting hand, assisted by the off hand, just bunt the thing back.

    on high balls, I feel that the off hand really helps - I have the left thumb and middle finger on the neck and the index on the string, so I can feel the face better, then at the top of the take back, I use both arms to power the racket thru the ball..... try it, you can slice with authority from the eye level.
     
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  16. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Is your topspin backhand a one or a two-hander? It sounds as though you've got a one-hander going on, but I think that in either case, you can shore up that stroke if you invest some time on the practice courts with hitting partners. That's where you can take that leap of faith and resign to hitting only your topspin stroke. Sure, it'll get messy here and there, but when you're going to that option no matter what, you're building the habits you want for your match play.

    A couple of my hitting partners and I like to grind on the strokes for a bit, then change gears by playing a tie-breaker, then get back to grinding some more. I think that this is a great way to get my practice mentality much more on the same wavelength as the mindset I use when playing for points. It teaches me to trust what I practice when it's crunch time and my relatively new topspin one-hander has grown into a very reliable weapon for me. I'm even beginning to tee off on returns of serve with it because of that leap of faith on the practice courts.

    Remember that in competition, we can only use the tools we've brought with us. Those are mostly built through dedicated practice.

    The slice backhand was probably the first stroke I got good at when I was a squirt and I believe that it's at least as valuable as a topspin stroke for newer players as well as for much of the more accomplished rank and file. Although it's not regarded as having the same offensive quality as a topspin bh, I think the slice is a superior stroke for defense as well as for neutralizing a "would be attacker". Work on a more efficient (quicker) setup for your topspin stroke, but don't even think about neglecting your slice backhand.
     
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  17. gahaha

    gahaha Rookie

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    A slice is a great tool even at the pro's level, but having only a slice will not take you very far.
     
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  18. Tennis Is Magic

    Tennis Is Magic Semi-Pro

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    Yes, it's one handed. I played a match today and I sliced all my backhands except for passing shots and lobs, and it definitely was a weapon. My opponent didn't win any points at the net that I can recall. He either couldn't attack it, dumped it into the net, or hit a weak reply that I could attack with my forehand. The few times he did try to come to the net against me, I hit topspin balls at his feet or lobbed it over his head, and he just abandoned it altogether, and it made me think, "I have good passing shots and I can work with on my lob, maybe I really could slice almost all of my backhands since they'll think twice about coming to the net after a few failed attempts", and save topspin backhands for balls I know I can drive and attack or pass people. Did I play someone I could've driven more backhands on? Yeah, but it seems like the slice fits my game so much better. I think this coming week, I'll work on lobs and beating people at the net.
     
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  19. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

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    Yeah, I think a revealing line there is "chipfest"

    You should be trying to cut the ball in half, nit "chipping" it or you aren't playing a 'slice', you're playing a 'backspin push'

    Watch Tomic and Djoko yesterday for examples of how it ought to look...
     
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  20. Tennis Is Magic

    Tennis Is Magic Semi-Pro

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    My slice is technically fine, I used that to describe that I was forced into slicing all my backhands.
     
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  21. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Cool. Something that I didn't mention earlier about the slice is how much better it can be as an option against a net rusher compared with a topspin drive. The shot typically flies lower across the net. That alone is a huge plus when you can put the ball under a net player's strike zone. Waist high volleys have nowhere near the potential to be driven as well as a ball up around chest or shoulder height. That's more the flight path of a topspin shot, right?

    Something else that I get in spades with my slice is disguise. Many of our pals here insist that a topspin stroke is necessary in order to hit passing shots, but I think that's more the case with the pros. When I slice against someone up at the net, I can go in any direction from the same setup - NOT the case with my topspin backhand. Even though it's not quite the same heater as my full topspin one-hander, my opponent doesn't know where the ball is going until after it leaves my racquet.

    I love my forehand slice for the same reasons. If an opposing team comes in behind a deep ball, I often feel as though I've got them in my kill zone because I can simply hit a slice and then move a couple steps in. My low shot will either force a short, weak reply that I can attack or else make the other guys pooch a softer shot that lands a bit deeper with nothing on it. In either case, it effectively neutralizes the opposition.

    Finding a habitually quicker setup for the one-hander can take some work, but I don't think it's a tough mountain to climb if you put in the effort. I had a bit of an involved windup, but quickened up my back-swing by simply taking my racquet right back past my left side in a move similar to putting a sword into its scabbard on my left hip. For me, that's the straightest line from my split-step to my ready-to-fire position. I just need to be quick and deliberate with my feet. Having more shot options off either side is a good thing, so keep after it.
     
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  22. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    It can take you far in club play. But you will end up not knowing top spin. For me, that is unacceptable, even though top spin can be much less effective than a slice in many club play scenarios.
     
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  23. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    As you said, it works great at the top level. Nadal crushes it but he is somewhat rare in his ability to move in and take Fed's low, crisp mid-court slice and rip it. Djoko and almost everyone else has loads of trouble with Fed's mid-court slice. Slice is good at all levels if it is a good one. Steffi Graf used her slice to setup her forehand. She sliced hard and low, they lifted the reply up to get it over the net, she stepped around and crushed the high forehand. Sounds simple doesn't it.
     
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  24. Joe Pike

    Joe Pike Banned

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    You might have a point here.
    Although we should not get carried away ...
     
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  25. Baxter

    Baxter Professional

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    I just watched Kvitova hit a nasty DTL slice (she a lefty) into to Azarenka's backhand corner. GORGEOUS shot. Deep, hard, low AND it curves out wide, making it even harder to get to. I'm a lefty and that's my money shot but I don't see it very often in the pros. My son is a hard hitting RH top spinner with a two handed backhand and he absolutely hates it when I use that shot, which is pretty much on every point that I can.
     
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  26. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

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    As long as you hit it, not push it, a slice will do you just fine on any level, even the next level up... :wink:
     
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  27. Off The Wall

    Off The Wall Semi-Pro

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    How is a slice stealth or disguised?

    OP, I've seen slice only backhand players (okay, one) dominate the open men's division. That was years ago.

    LeeD is correct when he says back in the day a slicer had to be careful. There were a lot of all-court players that would routinely attack them. We had to develop flat backhands as well.

    Today, many players don't know what to do with a low sliding ball. If you have a SW/W grip and can attack a slice, I know you know what you're doing on the court.
     
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  28. goober

    goober Legend

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    What do you mean you use both arms to power thru the ball? You actually swing both arms together?

    BTW are you using eastern or continental on your BH for high slices?
     
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  29. dozu

    dozu Banned

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    1 handed slice, but at the top of the backswing the left hand can provide some push then let go.

    grip is conti, towards EFH, therefore my contact point is very late.
     
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  30. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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  31. goober

    goober Legend

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    this sounds strange but I will have to try it cuz my slice off high balls seems to be a weak shot. Are you doing this in any of the videos that you posted?
     
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  32. Tennis Is Magic

    Tennis Is Magic Semi-Pro

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    You could try moving it over to EBH if you're floating too many slices, this will close your racquet face.
     
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  33. thug the bunny

    thug the bunny Professional

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    This may be anathema for this thread, but I always viewed the slice as a beginner's shot, and excessive use of it as junk-balling. The slice is the first spin shot that is learned. I play with 4 guys that, after 4 years, still cannot hit a topspin shot, but rather just slice all over the court. Granted, 2 of them can sometimes hit the 'advanced' slice that comes in fast and low and stays low...

    Personally I could never hit that low skidding BH slice, which is why I switched to a 2HBH, so I would at least have a BH shot with some attitude. Maybe I should put some effort into developing a 1HBH skidder...seems like a good tool to have in spite of my ingnorant opinion of the slice.
     
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  34. dozu

    dozu Banned

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    no.. in the videos I wasn't pushing much with the left hand..

    another way to add pace, is to lean slightly forward with the upper body, so the arm swing path, in relation to the body, still feels 'forward', instead of 'down'..... if that makes sense.

    another thing, aside from adding pace, to make the high slice tough for the opp to attack, is to really carve the outside of the ball, so the side spin will produce a curvy ball flight, 1 more challenge for the opp to get in position to attack.
     
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  35. MarinaHighTennis

    MarinaHighTennis Professional

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    There are those really heavy slices that lots of old people use. Its a real weapon for them and It feels really weird to me. It feels worse than a super hard flat shot. Because you tend to hit it late with all that skid.

    Try slicing like that. If the older generation can do it. You can too.
     
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  36. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    I think a slice is a fairly critical shot for player to own, even if they're not using it all of the time. It's an important shot to use for approaching on the backhand side. For someone with a 2hbh its also important for low, short balls.

    I'm working with my son right now on his 1hbh slice approach as part of building his game. I feed him short balls and he comes in on them, moving the ball around between bh corner, middle, and some to the fh corner, always trying to keep them deep and low. He then moves into position for the volley which is really the put away shot.
     
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  37. Tennis Is Magic

    Tennis Is Magic Semi-Pro

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    Okay, another slice question. My coach insists that on mid-court balls, I not hit the slice backhand, and step around and hit a drive forehand. I see where he's coming from, but I prefer to hit the low, skidding ball to 1. give myself time to get in position to cover the pass, 2. make them hit on the run, making it harder to cover my next volley, and 3. keep the ball low, making it hard to hit an offensive shot.

    Is that a reasonable reason to disagree on my part, or am I being a know-it-all?
     
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  38. aceX

    aceX Hall of Fame

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    Well for a mid court ball you should be going for a winner with the purpose of at least making your opponent play a very tough shot. If the mid court ball is still above the net on your backhand side you could play a 'punch' slice driving through the ball. If the ball is below the net you're going to have to float a traditional slice quite high to get it over the net which is not the offensive shot you need to be hitting mid court. Obviously if you can get to the forehand you should be.
     
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  39. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Both styles have merit. I will tend to hit slice approaches on the BH side (down the line) for the reasons that you stated. If I think that I can hit a winner or elicit a weak return, I'll go with the topspin shot. If the return is not weak, however, you may not be in the optimum position (for the reasons your indicated).

    I would not abandon your slice approaches but I suggest that you also develop the stroke that your coach is suggesting for now. It is not a bad idea to have both types of approaches in your arsenal.
     
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  40. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    I'd say this is moving into style territory here. Are we talking about balls that are sitting up or ones that are low? How good are your slice, forehand, and volleys?

    Generally, if the ball is sitting up and you have time to take it on the forehand side it's probably the right thing to do. However if you have a good slice you can hit a pretty wicked ball if it's sitting up above the net that will be hard and stay low on your opponent's side.

    If the ball is low, I've seen coaches around here teaching their students to take the FH and go for the big topspin shot. That certainly is a reasonable strategy. It can work if you can hit it a winner or get it deep enough that your opponent has to take a ball with a lot of pace on the rise. However depending upon your opponents position you can just be supplying a lot of pace and getting the ball high on their side that allows them to punch a passing shot back at you. The bigger swing also carries more risk.

    In this case (ball is low) the slice approach can be a safer shot that can still be hit very aggressively (not floating it) and placed in such that you're forcing your opponent to hit up to you at the net, hopefully stretched out of position. However, you're going to probably have to volley the ball for the winner. If you have weak volleys then this play isn't so great for you.
     
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  41. Tennis Is Magic

    Tennis Is Magic Semi-Pro

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    In order of skill, it's: forehand, slice, volley, though I have fairly solid volleys and have a lot of confidence in them. I'd rather put myself in a position where I have to hit a slice and one/two low-medium difficulty volleys as opposed to a forehand and a possibly tough, low volley. That's just the kind of player I am, I like to move the ball around, go for angles and point construction, and take the higher % play, so I tend to gravitate away from one-shot winners.
     
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  42. Baxter

    Baxter Professional

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    Is it just me, or does it seem like the slice is making a huge comeback with the pros? It seems all of the two handers are using it more and more often.
     
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  43. Tennis Is Magic

    Tennis Is Magic Semi-Pro

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    Seems like that cause it's Wimbledon, imo.
     
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  44. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Actually, it appears that it has been employed more than previously on other surfaces as well for the past 2 years or so. I started noticing the trend at the AO (a couple of years ago?).

    .
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011
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  45. Baxter

    Baxter Professional

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    I wish there were stats on this, but Nadal, Murray and lots of other top pros with 2HBH seme to be going to it more and more, even as courts get slower and slower. A good slice on a fast court is a real weapon.
     
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  46. 2ndServe

    2ndServe Professional

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    this is really the exception if you want to play it at a high level and you need to add a few notes

    *must also be willing to run around it and hit a lot of forehands
    *must possess a top 2 forehand on the women's side... of all time
    *must possess world class footwork, speed and genetics
    *must possess supreme mental toughness
    *need a crazy lunny to incapacitate someone who figures out your game

    an exclusive slice won't work on the modern game on the men's side. See karlovic and feliciano lopez, two guys with exceptional serves, volleys top 10 in both those but with basically only a slice backhand they get manhandled.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2013
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  47. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    I'd say superiority of youhzny's bh slice single handedly helped him beat Hewitt.
     
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  48. MarinaHighTennis

    MarinaHighTennis Professional

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    you can win 80% of your games just by slicing and pi$$ing off your opponent
     
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  49. tennisdad65

    tennisdad65 Hall of Fame

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    How far can a slice backhand take you?

    The greatest tennis player (23 singles slams) in history hit mostly slices. If you can develop half as good a slice as her, you will likely bagel all your playing partners.
     
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  50. Avles

    Avles Hall of Fame

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