Leaning on the slice backhand...

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by JohnThomas1, Jul 27, 2004.

  1. JohnThomas1

    JohnThomas1 Professional

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    My slice backhand is still no-where near as penetrating as it should be. I play many opponents on the same ITN rating as me that hit it way better. It should be a reasonably simple shot too. Sometimes i feel as tho you are either born with a penetrating slice backhand or you aren't. I don't however like this philosophy as it can stifle the determination to finding the right mechanics to improve, and that's what it is all about for me. It's not as if godlike natural ability is needed to hit a decent slice, it has to be mechanical.

    One good coach i went to ages ago had me really leaning on the shot, to the point of near falling over. I think this was a classic case of the overcompensation technique which many live by. I felt like it did help for a while but feel i must have got lazy and went back to old habits. I am thinking going to go back to this stroke thought unless i am told otherwise in here. I also think i hit across the ball to much and am concentrating on keeping my shoulders more closed. So there it is, lean on the shot and both turn the shoulder further and then keep it closed for longer. Could i be on the right track? I tried flattening the shot out and sprayed it all over the joint. Any help much appreciated :)
     
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  2. GrahamIsSuper

    GrahamIsSuper Semi-Pro

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    Well, let me say that you can develop near anything with time, and also, the slice doesn't have to drive deep. In fact, if you try to drive your slice, you will drive it to the net near every time. If you want it deep, you don't really need much pace on it, as it lands close to em and with spin. In essence, it is mainly used on the defensive, so it doesn't need to be a wickedly offensive shot. Often as not, you should use the slice to just float it back to them, keeping it deep and more importantly, in.

    With that out of the way now, let's focus on that swing. I will post pictures as soon as I can take them of the propper technique (at least the "propper technique" I use :lol: ) so you can compare words to actions. First though, tell me, do you use a 1 hand or 2 hand swing on the slice, and if it's a 1 hander (like mine), where do you put your off hand when you are preparing for the slice?
     
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  3. dozu

    dozu Banned

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    IMO leaning on the shot is a bad idea.. especially you are almost falling over, that means you have poor balance, which is the key to every shot in tennis.

    Like GIS says, it doesn't have to be a very penetrating shot. The slice is for change of pace, and defense, and occasionally create offensive situations if your opp has trouble in generall dealing with a skidding ball.

    It is really a simple shot. I always tell people starting from the most basic motion - the block back, the underspin on the slice is just a by-product of hitting the ball with an open racket face. If you are trying to "slice" it to generate underspin, then your ball will be a floaty sitter.
     
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  4. TwistServe

    TwistServe Guest

    The offensive slice is meant to be done with a big shoulder turn and then a big "lean" into the ball for the extra bite/zip... Assuming you're right handed, your left feet will than fall in front of you to catch your balance and you're already in the motion towards the net. Thats why its great for an approach shoot: it puts you in the motion towards the net.

    Obviously you dont want to lean to the point of fallig over.. maybe leaning is the wrong word.
     
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  5. GrahamIsSuper

    GrahamIsSuper Semi-Pro

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  6. GrahamIsSuper

    GrahamIsSuper Semi-Pro

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    I really think the Slice as an offensive weapon or drive is used only in very specific circumstances. At midcourt, you'd be better off with a topspin angled backhand to their backhand. The Slice is too tough and inconsistant a shot as a drive to be hitting all the time as gorth said to use it.

    Plus, if you did the left foot follow through, Eventually your swing would get screwed up and go way across the body, not good.

    I'd only use it as an approach if their shallow shot was a low bounce, and then never hit it crosscourt and follow in, it gives them a complete open dtl shot.

    Thomas, 1 or 2 hand?
     
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  7. dozu

    dozu Banned

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    agree again. to use the slice as an offensive drive is IMO not percentage tennis. considering the fact that the sliced ball lacks the arch that a topspin ball has, it's a low percentage shot to use unless for someone with a special talent like Steffi Graf.

    The the pronounced feature for the offensive slice (or the German slice) is that the wrist is part of the action to generate the additional penetration. This requires precise timing.

    With a regular slice however, the wrist is quite fixed, and the moving parts are the upper body, shoulder and elbow, all are big muscles which are good for stability of the shot.

    Nowadays I don't see any players in ATP or WTA using the German slice.
     
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  8. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    There are times when you want to use an offensive slice. When you do it is important for you to train your nuerological system to do it right.

    If you're seeking to establish this more in your game for approach shots, knifing crosscourt shots to open the court, etc. I would recommend using proper balance rather than "leaning".

    The term "leaning" came about because many players hit the offensive slice off their backfoot. When they do, they risk "chopping down" or opening the racquet face too much, or coming under the ball too much, or hitting a weak ball.

    The offensive slice is hit with a flat motion and extends to the target. This is where the term "lean" came in to switch the wieght off the backfoot onto the front foot at contact. So in essence, you are leaning or transferring your weight on to the front foot.

    When you transfer the weight on your front foot you are "straigthening" the racquet path which gives you the ability to go through the ball and not chop at it. It also provides for a clean contact.

    Here is an example of the famous Ken Rosewall slice. The thing to pay most attention to is:

    1. His weight transfer at contact.

    2. His "straighter" swing.

    3. The smoothness in his swinging arm. It is almost like the weight of the racquet is doing the work and nothing is forced.

    4.. His body lean is over his front foot

    5. His head does not go past his front foot in the body lean/weight transfer

    [​IMG]

    So the obvious question is "how do you practice this?" When you hit balls from someone feeding you or a ball machine, always take it slow. Practice transferring your weight and going forward for the slice. When you make contact freeze your racquet arm. Do not followthrough.

    You should be able to balance yourself easily on your front foot and the ball should be hit well. Even without a followthrough. With a good amount of practice you will develop the followthrough because you will feel it more than do it. It will be naturally part of the stroke in an artistic sort of way. You will also learn beveling control. That is the angle your racquet face should be in at contact to generate a certain ball.

    You should be able to hold your balance over your front foot for 10 seconds. Then hit another. When you wobble or lose your balance, it is showing an area of work that needs to be done and why your not consistent with your slice. After you get this down. Then try it on the run.

    You will find that the followthrough will be a natural extension of this exercise in art form.

    ============================================

    The other thing that might help your slice is shifting the handle deep into the V of your hand. By shifting the handle into your V, your raise the racquet face. This helps you level the racquet at impact and reduces your chances of going under the ball from a dropped racquet face which causes the ball to fly long.

    Here is the website the Rosewall clip came from and an article on slicing. Look closely at their swing. It is very relaxed and the racquet is doing more of the work in the slice backhand.

    http://www.jericho.bc.ca/tennis/The Slice Backhand.htm
     
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  9. AAAA

    AAAA Hall of Fame

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    A strong argument for using heavier racquets. On many shots the weight of a heavier racquet can do most of the work for you. Sticking volleys with heavier frames is easy and reflex volleys still have depth because of the racquet weight, etc.
     
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  10. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Yes AAAA you are very right. A lighter racquet will require a bit more feel. However, some players do have good feel. A heavier racquet just needs to sort of "slide in" to the ball if you know what I mean.
     
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  11. JohnThomas1

    JohnThomas1 Professional

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    Ok, for starters Graham i use a one hander on all shots. I better elaborate better on my topic too, my wording may have been a bit jumbled. I'm not talking about hitting a slice for winners or one that has one inch of margin for error over the length of the court. Just a really decent rally slice that doesn't float and sit all the time, as mine does now. I played the top guy in our ranking block last weekend and he hammered my slice. I am trying to develop more confidence coming over the ball against more difficult shots but have a ways to go. Anyways this guy just hits reasonably heavy first and second serves to my backhand and preys on the return. He has good topspin groundstrokes both sides and my slice usually allows him time to take my return and nail it into a corner, and from there he continues offensively winning most points. I need a more neutralising slice on the return so as to at least start on decent footing. I look forward to your piccies :)

    The leaning to the point of falling forward comment was to do with what they call overcompensation. Bill might elaborate but it is basically about going a mile to get an inch. If a coach changes a student to the point of where correct is the student will go away and fall back into their old habits in no time. If the coah takes them PAST correct the idea is that they fall back to where correct might lie. Am i right Bill?

    Super advice as usual Bill. Nice footage of the finest slice in history too. I actually have his technique book from many years ago and have been scrutinizing his backhand for hints. It's almost a flat drive, the precision of the man must have been astounding.
     
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  12. GrahamIsSuper

    GrahamIsSuper Semi-Pro

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    Ok, cool, a 1 hander. I might even venture to say that a 1 hand backhand is much, much sexier than the 2 hander :lol: . Alright, first off in this lengthy reply: the return. Have you ever tried NOT using a slice as a return? It can be real flimsy if impropperly timed. Maybe experiment (dangerous word...) with a 2 hand flatter ounch-like backhand return and using the slice only on those really desperate returns. Let me know how that works out.

    The swing: Notice on the little vid of Bill's the follow-through...It ends up high and with a little flick of the wrist. Your swing path ideally for the rally slice shout look sort of like a stepped on "U", starting high, going about waist high, and then bringing the racket head up as a follow through. Look at the head of the racket at the very last part of the swing, its up about head level, and out in front, NEVER EVER to the side or across the body. End nice and out in front of you. Try not to think that you have to kill this shot, it'll tense you up and your wrist will turn to iron, very bad for the shot. Relax your wrist throughout the entire swing. You do not have to kill this shot to take it deep, if you want it deeper, take it earlier and swing a bit more under the ball, but not a crazy amount.
    For my swing, I try and get the racket in the ready position as the ball passes the net, early preparation is ideal. I play the slice with a continental. For my takeback, I pretty much just set the upper/head portion of the side against my left shoulder, and my left hand is somewhere in the region of the throaght(sp?) of the racket. My preparation also begins with a cocked right wrist, that is released forward as I swing towards the ball. I then take an early swing to get the racket through the ball on the rise (you may or may not want to, its up to you but up high is better) that at its lowest point is around my chest, and follow through after impact out in front of me, raising the racket towards my target. If you're wrist isn't loose enough, you probbly won't be able to do the correct follow through, so at least you'll know something's wrong and be able to correct it.

    Timing: The most important part of the shot. If you're too late, it'll end up in the net or very long. Too early, and you'll find it way long. A comfortable time is ideal. Look at how relaxed Federer or Haas, or Moya (Haas and Moya have the best slices IMO) as they swing. They aren't rushed, and are in complete harmony with the movement. Look how early they are prepared with the racket, and notice their feet are very ready to move in and take it up higher. Movement is key, and after you hit enough slices, you'll get the idea. I don't really know how to describe the movement, it just happened one day with me. You do not have to kill this shot.

    Offensive usage: Flatten out the stroke more, and less brush/cup like swing. Just a punch with a slightly angled racket face will put underspin on the ball. Again, I reapeat, repeatedly, You do not have to kill this shot. Focus on guiding the ball to the target as you move in instead of driving it down. Guiding with a punch will give you a very nice approach.

    Return: Just a punch will suffice, don't try and swing away at the thing. Use the servers power and take a very controlled short version of your swing, ending a little past your front shoulder. I still say the backhand flat drive is a better and more consistant shot....

    I will post pictures of the swing I use whenever I get my camera back. I hope this helps. The main thing to remember is to RELAX, don't rush.

    -Graham
     
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  13. Mahboob Khan

    Mahboob Khan Hall of Fame

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    Slice is used in certain situations:

    -- as an approach shot (where the intention is to end the point with a volley).

    -- as a rally change of pace shot .. when you mix topspin with underspin. Ken Rosewall used slice backhand in almost all situations rally as well approaches (because of his continental grip?). He wasn't known for his topspin backhand!!! His age plus his inability to hit topspin drives off his backhand, combined in his 1974 Wimbledon loss to Jimmy Connors?

    -- as an emergency shot .. when you run out of time and space to hit with topspin.

    -- as a drop shot.

    Excellent clip, BB. This is the way to learn! Can you also find a clip where slice is used as an approach shot .. moving forward to the net followed by volley? The footwork pattern on slice approach shot may be different. Obviously, Ken Rosewall is hitting this slice from the baseline so it is a rally slice.
     
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  14. jayserinos99

    jayserinos99 Hall of Fame

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    ^ you have a point on the slice backhand approach and footwork. isn't the 'carioca' step used for that?
     
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  15. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Graham has some good points about followthrough. When you halt the swing right after contact (as I mentioned above), you are learning two strokes in one. You are learning the punch underspin drive for the return and by relaxing more and letting the racquet sort of become wieghtless after the contact is made you are learning the rallying slice backhand.

    Have you ever stood inside of a door frame and pressed your arms against the frame for about a minute? What happens after you stop, your arms float back up. This is exactly the feeling or close to the feeling you should have for your followthrough on the slice. First learn balance. Just hit and stop (freeze) at contact. Do it over and over again for 50 balls. Then on the 51st ball, let your arm "float" up for the followthrough. Scroll up and look at Rosewalls slice again. Look at his arm float up. His slice is one of the best ever and definitely a lost art.
     
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  16. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Pete in all his finest.

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. jayserinos99

    jayserinos99 Hall of Fame

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    where are you getting these bb? these animated gifs are great!
     
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  18. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Isn't that footwork a thing of beauty? Makes the stroke look so easy. Oh, to have the legs of Pete. Stay tuned more is coming. :)
     
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  19. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    If you like that one, look at this one, :)

    [​IMG]

    Look at that footwork, no crossover step to start the footwork towards the ball but uses the shuffle step/split step so effectively. Moves the foot closest to the ball first after the split step. Oh my, a coaches dream student.

    A mark of beauty.

    Yes, Mr. Pete Sampras has/had some of the best footwork ever known to man. So smooth, so coordinated. Never a wasted step. Just pure skill. Look at the recovery as well. Unbelievable. A player can go a long way just trying to imitate his footwork patterns. Study them, outline them, practice them, BE them.

    This is what I wish I could see in some of the videos that are posted for analysis! ;)
     
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  20. JohnThomas1

    JohnThomas1 Professional

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    Good lord look where Sampras hits the volley from!!!!! Get's well in front of the service line before split stepping then shows perfect form in closing to the volley on the diagonal and probably putting the sucker away from practically the top of the net! The volley also seems like a shortened version of his approach. Feel free to keep em coming Bill :)
     
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  21. JohnThomas1

    JohnThomas1 Professional

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    Also Bill, so the slice backhand return of serve is more of a punch with a short follow thru?
     
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  22. GrahamIsSuper

    GrahamIsSuper Semi-Pro

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    JohnThomas, I answered your question earlier with my uber-long post :D Look near bottom of first page. I also covered swings for both approach and rally.
     
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  23. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    It can be. And it can be very effective. If you practice that "freeze" slice you will soon learn the timing of it and it will become easy to do and quite effective, especially in doubles since the ball stays low and has enough pace to keep a poacher away.
     
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  24. JohnThomas1

    JohnThomas1 Professional

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    No worries Graham thanks heaps, but i'm also always keen to hear what Bill has to say, he has more qualifications than God when it comes to tennis :) I do like reading your comments tho.
     
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  25. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    The above feedback you gave is about the only thing I disagree with you on your approach to teaching someone proper technique on the slice backhand.

    The slice backhand is hit from the SHOULDER not the wrist. The wrist needs to be fixed throughout the shot. This is clearly demonstrated by Rosewall. From the backswing to the forward swing his wrist remains in the same position! There is no flick!

    You run into all kinds of timing problems trying to get that little flick. If this works for you, your one of the few. But I can tell you this, it doesnt work for you all the time.

    In fact, the wrist should be firm (firm doesnt mean tight, it means your in control of the racquet head) as it is in a weak position usually hit from the Continental to the Eastern backhand grip whichever is preferred. The whole point of "freezing" after you make contact is to see how much the wrist is NOT involved in the shot. This makes for a consistant shot. If you want to get fancy and "flick" the wrist, do it later or after the ball has left the strings!
     
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  26. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    The above feedback you gave is about the only thing I disagree with you on your approach to teaching someone proper technique on the slice backhand.

    The slice backhand is hit from the SHOULDER not the wrist. The wrist needs to be fixed throughout the shot. This is clearly demonstrated by Rosewall. From the backswing to the forward swing his wrist remains in the same position! There is no flick!

    In fact, the wrist should be firm (firm doesnt mean tight, it means your in control of the racquet head) as it is in a weak position usually hit from the Continental to the Eastern backhand grip whichever is preferred. The whole point of "freezing" after you make contact is to see how much the wrist is NOT involved in the shot. This makes for a consistant shot. If you want to get fancy and "flick" the wrist, do it later or after the ball has left the strings!
     
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  27. JohnThomas1

    JohnThomas1 Professional

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    Just got my July Tennis mag and Annacone says the secret to the biting slice is to drive thru the line of the ball without opening the front shoulder.
     
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