Countering a slice net game

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by ubercat, Aug 10, 2018.

  1. ubercat

    ubercat Rookie

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    Hi guys lately I've been getting beaten a lot in close matches by players who have a good slice and net game.

    The obvious thing is to try and keep them off the net. And I think one thing I need to work on is having more confident in my slice backhand because I do have an issue where I'm dropping it just past the service line. So basically just being too tentative with it in rallies.

    Now at my level the guys seem to have good slicer approach shots so they are either low and skidding or low and short with side spln. So I think hitting a good lob off those shots would be hard.

    How it often seems to go bad for me is I mess up my spacing get too close to the ball and then all I can do is hit hard. My shot is fast but these guys don't seem to have any trouble dealing with power.

    So I'm thinking I should dial down the power and try and concentrate on accurate placement on the pass

    Unfortunately I don't have a ball machine but I do have access to a hit up wall. And I do have a one hour coaching session every week.

    So given those resources what do you guys suggest I should do to practice the accuracy of passing shots off these low sliced balls?
     
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  2. Knox

    Knox Semi-Pro

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    Do this drill. Get really good at biting into the ball, lifting it with topspin, and then making it dive at their shoelaces.



    The key is to not shorten your stroke or get stiff as you get closer to the net. Take a full swing, just convert your forward power into vertical power for added spin. You literally whip the racquet up and across the ball. Hence the name, 'Low Whip'.

    Once you have the low-whip skill down pat your point-win%age vs net slicers is practically guaranteed to go up. It just opens up so many tactical opportunities. Passing shots off their slice approaches, anyone?
     
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  3. IowaGuy

    IowaGuy Professional

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    One thought is to practice against a ball machine, set it for underspin at around the same speed/spin that you're dealing with on the approach shots.

    A few thousand reps later and you'll be ready for the slice approach shots... Just hope you don't come across someone like this guy :)

     
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  4. r2473

    r2473 G.O.A.T.

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    Your backhand slice is great. Did you learn mostly with ball machine reps?

    How did you first learn the basic technique?
     
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  5. IowaGuy

    IowaGuy Professional

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    Another thought on the passing shots - my coach always taught us not to go for a winner on the first passing shot. If you can just keep it low (lots of topspin), often your 2nd shot (off their 1st volley) will be a better opportunity to pass or go for a lob winner. Their low volley probably won't have the bite and placement that their slice approach does.

    So, don't worry so much about passing them, just hit a heavy topspin and keep it low. Then pass or lob them on your 2nd attempt. Otherwise, if you're missing lots of passing shots, you're falling into their trap. Food for thought...
     
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  6. IowaGuy

    IowaGuy Professional

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    Thanks! It's a work in progress.

    My HS coach first taught me the basic technique of a slice BH. He was a former D1 player and had one of the sweetest slices I have ever played against!

    I do have a ball machine (Silent Partner) and try to hit a couple hundred slices per week to keep my depth dialed in (I put a cross-court target 3' from baseline and 3' from sideline). I also use my ball machine to practice hitting slice to neutralize heavy topspin (it has a great topspin setting), as many opponents at 4.5-5.0 try to attack my 1HBH with heavy topspin. If you can keep a slice low and deep, opponents at most any level will have trouble consistently attacking it...
     
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  7. ubercat

    ubercat Rookie

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    Thanks guys. I suspect i m hitting flat and hard so extra TS makes sense.

    Is it worth also practising slice passing shots with as much side as I can get? The guys I'm playing are mid 4.0 I guess I'm 3.5 to 4.0. I have to guess because we don't have ratings in Australia.

    Or @ 4.0 is it a case of if you can get the racket on it you're going for the top spin?
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
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  8. Slicerman

    Slicerman Semi-Pro

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    High and deep topspin. Move them side to side.
    Practice your lob.
     
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  9. ubercat

    ubercat Rookie

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    Do you guys think it is an ok percentage play to try and lob off a low sliced ball?
     
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  10. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    Can you hit TS off of these low slices? What if you use more TS than usual and simply try to put the ball at their feet and hope for a weak reply that you can then attack?

    Also, since they deal with power OK, how about if you slice it low and make them get low to volley? He may be able to do it once or even 5 times but all match? His quads might start to get tired at which point he'll stop getting low enough and start making more errors.
     
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  11. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    Sidespin is nice but I wouldn't consider it foundational. I usually use it in doubles when trying to finesse the ball past a net man when I'm also close to the net. I don't rely on it in singles for passing shots.
     
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  12. ubercat

    ubercat Rookie

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    Thanks guys really appreciate the ideas. The match point was totally demoralizing.

    So I have to start rebuilding.

    I hit the forehand as hard as I could and he just blocked it away for a clean winner
     
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  13. Slicerman

    Slicerman Semi-Pro

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    Really depends. If its a very low ball with no pace then the chances of hitting a successful lob is low. In this case you would probably be better hitting a passing shot.
    If the ball is low but has some pace on it then you could try to take it as early as possible and hit a backspin lob.
     
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  14. mnttlrg

    mnttlrg Semi-Pro

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    When somebody slice approaches up the line, hitting back up the line or across the middle can lead to trouble.

    When I was watching nationals today, some of the top guys would pass people using a low-powered shallow angle shot. I want to develop that shot for my own game now.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  15. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    For me, this is one of those "it looks easy" shots that I make errors on more often than I succeed [I usually hit it wide, probably over-estimating the amount of TS I can deploy].
     
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  16. ubercat

    ubercat Rookie

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    Thing is most of these guys are pretty good. So they are not going to hit it to you. Therefore you've got pretty low chance of getting to anything and being able to hit it early.

    Of course if they hit a topspin approach I would absolutely try and lob.
     
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  17. xFullCourtTenniSx

    xFullCourtTenniSx Hall of Fame

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    First thing to look at would be serve and return. Use the serve to set up a situation where you can keep them behind the baseline. Same idea goes for the return, but is much trickier depending on the relative levels of serve and return. At 4.0, it shouldn't be too much of an issue. At that level, serves and returns should be about equal in terms of relative power. At 4.5+, you start seeing serves that are consistently able to set up points in favor of the server, as well as players that will actually use that advantage. So long as you can keep them at the baseline, the goal should always be depth. Nothing else matters, not spin, or height, or pace, or even how close it is to the sidelines (the last one matters, but matters less). Ideally, you aim for depth with good spin and good height around 3 feet from the sideline of your choice.

    As for what happens if they get to the net, sliced lob, drop shot, side-topspin forehand, and whatever you can manage on the backhand with control (not pace). Sliced lob works decently well if you have the feel for it. Federer has used it plenty of times with good success. The drop shot is counterintuitive. Why drop shot someone already at net? Well if you can get them to volley a soft ball below the net, they have to hit up and generate their own pace. The result means you either get an easier ball to hit compared to normal, or they incur additional risk to maintain the same quality of shot (either is at least in some way good for you). Keep in mind though, that this makes it easier for them to hit a drop shot. Realistically, if you know you executed this shot well, their 2 options will be a drop shot or a ball that will travel above the height of the net. As a result, your best move is to actually run up. If it's a drop shot, you're in position to easily get it and have time to control it, meaning it becomes a battle of touch and decision-making. If it's a deep volley, you can catch it while it's above the height of the net and hit a volley down at their feet or hit a drive volley. There are times where (if they are good enough, or are good and get lucky) that they hit a really good volley off this shot and it doesn't spend much time above the height of the net. At this point you have to improvise. I've gone with the low drive volley option with decent success before, but don't recommend it (it's very low percentage). You can try to hit your own good volley and go into a volley battle or try to hit a lob volley off a lot ball. Usually this situation happens far fewer than the other two, so it's not a bad gamble to take. At the very least you should try it out for a few points and see if the percentages are good enough to commit to long term.

    The side top forehand I think was discussed earlier in this thread. Basically you swing up and across the back of the ball. You actually need "proper" mechanics to get the racket head speed to make this work well though. Meaning you need to be swinging inside out on groundstrokes rather than linearly. There are videos on youtube about it. Basically the hand comes from behind your hip, relative to the net (basically your hand and hip making a line perpendicular to the net) and you swing out to the contact point, which will be about 2-3 feet to the side from where your hip is on contact (and maybe 1-2 feet in front). A more linear swing will make it difficult to do this and overall gives less racket head speed than an inside out swing, just due to the sheer difference in racket lag between the two techniques. Messing with the ratios of spin and pace, you can get the ball to dip down on them, forcing them to at least volley up or not hit as many putaway volleys. Really good volleyers will basically be able trade with you from this position for a long time, so you should look to stretch them with this shot or try to thread it into the open court.

    As for the backhand, it comes down to whatever you can do with it that doesn't rely on blindly hitting it hard. Thread it to the open court with pure control (not so much pace), dip it low on them (again, a soft ball, with or without topspin, depending on what you can do with the shot), or try to combine both options. As a one hander, this is a lot easier. Our strike zones are on low balls, and we can rip those pretty hard while also hitting with a bunch of spin. Sidespin slice isn't the way to go. Side-top on backhands is possible, but a bit awkward unless it's a high ball. It's very niche and not remotely necessary, since doing it detracts from some potential racket head speed you can get, meaning you can hit a similar quality shot more consistently by ignoring it. As for sidespin on slices, it's not great for controlling the ball unless you don't want your crosscourt slice to go wide, since the underspin keeps the ball in the air longer, which allows the sidespin to create more sideways distance during its flight before it lands. All in all, it's nice to toss in as an occasional approach shot or as a changeup in a baseline rally, but not one of my top choices as a passing shot. Placement generally trumps everything in this scenario. People don't really think about this much, but even for "slow balls" the fastest players can't outrun them in the air without a headstart. And if the ball has topspin on it, they aren't outrunning it once it bounces either. So as long as you can dip it to both sides consistently, even if slow, you force them to cover a LOT of court and will force plenty of errors. You just need to be ready for them to hit a good shot if they guess right and hit the shot on balance. Too many people hit a shot, see their opponent's position, and do nothing about it. If you know you hit a good shot, and you see your opponent off balance, you should have an idea of what's coming next and how to position to set yourself up to easily hit the next shot as well as you can. If you know you hit a good shot and you seem them on balance, you should also have a general idea of what the next ball is and where you need to be to defend their best responses (and I don't mean worst case scenario stuff like a flashy winner, I mean the things that will earn them the most points long term). Eventually you get to the point where you can do this the instant you feel contact with the ball (because you will know your opponent's previous state from memory or your peripherals and experience will tell you whether they can get to the ball on balance or not). Even at 5.0 this isn't obvious. You start thinking about it more around 4.5-5.0, since you start understanding/seeing patterns, but you don't naturally react to them all properly and immediately without some practice or being told what to do by a coach (some people do, but they usually have pretty good instincts). But people spend more time on improving mechanics and making sure the fundamentals are working, which is great, but so long as your understanding of the game and your decision-making is solid, at 4.5-5.0, you're already at the mechanical level where you can start thinking about how to play the game optimally from a positional and tactical perspective. A few fractions of a second when moving for each shot is worth more than a few mph or RPMs. Higher level players are at a higher level because they move better, which allows them to hit their better shots more consistently, allowing them to be more consistent with a higher quality of shot.
     
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  18. ubercat

    ubercat Rookie

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    Thank you I learnt a lot from that post.
     
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  19. Jamesm182

    Jamesm182 Semi-Pro

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    As a very basic tactic, try to give them a low first volley , force them to hit up to you where by you can then finish the point off.
    Throw in a few body shots to show you aren't afraid to target them (nothing wrong with this)
    Also throw in a few lobs regardless of the success of these.
    Also try to pass a few times.

    By doing these you are giving the impression to the net player that you have more than one way to still try and win the point, and can be creative and effective under the pressure you are being put under.
    Lesser players would quite often try and hit winners past the net player and often miss, which would therefore mean their strategy is effective.

    These are short term in game solutions.

    The longer term plan would be to figure out the shot that you are hitting short than enables them to come in and work on your depth. Unless you want to bring someone in on your terms
     
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