Discussion of Forehand Slice for Strategic Applications

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
So what say you all regarding the use of forehand slice? I'm a lefty, not sure if that matters to the discussion. For me, it's become a part of my game on return of serve as a means to bolster this weakest aspect of my game. In truth, I pretty much slice ANY serve back that comes with decent pace. My backhand slice is actually pretty good and usually I get serves to my forehand after I slice a few serves that come to my BH. I also use FH slice on very weak floating second serves to avoid bashing the thing long. I'm working on getting the forehand slice low and angled sharply cross court against stronger serves, or flaring it DTL when the server's partner gets poachy, but it will take some focused effort and time to really get this down...

I've been using forehand slice in a chip and charge tactic for short balls to my forehand, and I use it as a "save my a**" shot for balls that go very wide on me.

Do any of you hit a hard, driving forehand slice like I've seen Taylor Townsend hitting in WTT matches? I try this shot every now and then and it's either a WICKED winner (1 in 10) or a hilariously terrible shot because the margins for error are so low compared to TS FH...

What thoughts do you have on the use of forehand slice? Is this an amateurish, busher gimmick shot? Should I focus on better technique and roll that short ball to my forehand with a bunch of topspin? Should I develop this more so it's a disguisable drop shot?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
 

time_fly

Hall of Fame
There's a Tennis Tips / Instruction sub-forum where this topic would get more interest, but my 2 cents is that a slice forehand -- especially offensive slice as opposed to the occasional dig of a low, short ball -- should be a low priority. In most rec players I see the slice forehand as a crutch because the player is uncomfortable with topspin. If you want to see a great use of a slice forehand by a top pro, however, watch a replay of Tatjana Maria taking apart Sloan Stephens in the recent Miami Open. Sloan couldn't deal with junky low slices so Maria started giving it to her off both wings.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
As a RoS its a fine shot if you can get enough pace to avoid it being poached. I find most of my slice returns are easy poaches unless I really am pinpoint with accuracy. I'm more comfortable hitting hard serves with loopy deep moon balls out of reach by the net guy and allow me time to get into the net.

But to neutralize a good server in singles slice returns off both wings can be very effective. They don't have to be as precise. Deep and down the middle gets you into the point.

As to using it as an approach shot I'm confident enough in my topspin FH to use that to create angles on short balls and attack that way. I'm more inclined to use my terrible FH slice when pushed wide in singles to get a defensive shot back deep and recover.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
I learned to slice on both sides as a kid before I got comfortable with hitting topspin strokes. I got to play a bit on grass courts in the summer, so I was a solid serve and volleyer well before I figured out how to function around the baseline.

Lots of folks like to poo-poo the slice in general these days, but my inverted development as a tennis player gave me an appreciation for what slicing can do - not just in a defensive situation.

Like you, I often hit a slice or "blocked slice" return of serve that goes deep to the other end to neutralize a server. This return is usually pretty easy in singles, but it flies a little slower than a topspin return and it can get poached in doubles against an ambitious team unless I hit with good accuracy and also use some variety. If I can keep my slice low across the net (I usually can), it actually isn't a free lunch for my opponents at the net as long as it's under their kill zone (below shoulder/head height).

I love my forehand slice for when an opponent hits me a moonball that's going to take a big bounce. Hitting on the rise with my forehand slice is much easier to time and hit with accuracy compared with hitting an aggressive topspin shot on the rise. It also lets me stay up near the baseline instead of letting the bounding ball chase me back toward the fence.

It's no mystery that slicing is useful for changing pace and disrupting an opponent's tempo, so I like it for that, especially on windy days when the change of pace will be even more extreme with the slice. I also believe that slicing is still the best option for an approach shot when attacking the net. When hit correctly, it skids and stays low, especially compared with a topspin approach that's going to bounce up a bit more. Much tougher for an opponent to drive an effective passing shot reply from down low. The trick is placement - it has to be deep in the far end of the court.

One more aspect with slicing worth keeping in mind is that it can be used to force the direction of a rally. Against another righty, I can slice my backhand down the line to a right-handed opponent to likely force a loopy cross court reply. That's a much higher percentage reply than trying to send my low skidding slice back down the line over the higher net and into the shorter court. And the loopy cross court shot from my opponent will sit up in my strike zone where I can hit my forehand with authority. Against left or right-handers, remember to test them with down-the-line slices (forehands and backhands) to see what sort of response they give you. You might get some sitters that way.
 

ShaunS

Semi-Pro
So what say you all regarding the use of forehand slice?
There are situations where it's an effective shot, and in general it's good to be able to "mix it up" during a match.

In truth, I pretty much slice ANY serve back that comes with decent pace.
I'm a believe in the "chip and charge" return. I know it's fallen largely out of use at the pro level, but it's really a great tool for us common folks. There's plenty of guidance online with how to hit it most effectively. Technique is important in making your chip a good return instead of just a deflection.

I wouldn't advocate a full swing slice because you'd be better served by hitting a topspin shot.

I also use FH slice on very weak floating second serves to avoid bashing the thing long.
I understand your attempt to be pragmatic, but I'd recommend simply practicing a good topspin return here. The spin will bring the ball down in much faster allowing you to hit bigger shots. Overhitting returns is something most players have to deal with, but it's worth having the ability to capitalize on weak serves.

I'm working on getting the forehand slice low and angled sharply cross court against stronger serves, or flaring it DTL when the server's partner gets poachy
Personally, I wouldn't spend the time there. You can hit higher percentage topspin shots in both of those situations, so don't go out of your way to learn how to hit the more difficult (and arguably less effective) slice.

I use it as a "save my a**" shot for balls that go very wide on me.
Sometimes it's the only shot you've got on a wide serve.

What thoughts do you have on the use of forehand slice? Is this an amateurish, busher gimmick shot? Should I focus on better technique and roll that short ball to my forehand with a bunch of topspin?
To repeat my initial statement, it's a situational shot, but there's nothing amateurish about it.

I wouldn't try to make it your go-to move for those times you brought up before where topspin is simply the better shot. It can also be more difficult to play slice in doubles, so keep that in mind. However, there are plenty of times when you can use a slice to keep the ball low as an effective shot. I might use it to approach, especially on a player with less powerful passing shots but strong lobs. I'm also a big believer in giving people different looks, and putting a nice high percentage slice shot deep in the court throws a lot of people off, especially when you're just grooving big topspin forehands back and forth.

Edit: So I didn't really read the other responses before I replied to you. I see now that we're basically all saying the same thing. Must be great minds. ;)
 

leech

Rookie
I'm not exactly sure when this happened, but I now hit more than 90% of my forehand shots with slice, rather than topspin or flat. Maybe I never learned to hit with topspin, or I got away from it once I started playing MXD regularly. But I find that I rarely gain an advantage from hitting with topspin, whereas my slice forehand routinely catches opponents mis-timing their shot, or trying to go for too much off of a low slice to them. It's been very effective against 3.5 men and below, and against 4.0 ladies and below. I got my ass kicked in the last 4.0 singles match I played, but I was able to win my prior three 4.0 singles matches relying mostly on a FH slice.
 

leech

Rookie
I do agree that a slice return is more poachable. So I need to be able to place it fairly accurately when I'm returning serve in doubles. I also try to change direction and direct my return down the line if the net person is actively poaching. In MXD, if the lady is at the net, I don't mind taking my chances and hitting a ball with heavy slice right to her. More often than not, she will frame it or it will dribble harmlessly off of her strings and the point will end there. If she can handle heavy slice, then I'll probably lose the match, but I haven't faced too many of these ladies yet.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
My progression was that my pro flat out refused to teach me slice before I could (1) hit topspin on both sides, and (2) could drive my volleys.

His idea was that once people learn to slice, they rely on it like a crutch. Then when they need a flat or topspin shot, they cannot produce it. He also thinks that learning slice too early -- before you are experienced to know what good slice looks like -- can make you think a sad pop-up is "slice."

That said, I finally learned FH slice a couple of years ago once I was playing 8.0 mixed and bigger hitters.

Nowadays, I use it for particular doubles situations. I use it when:

1. Opponents hit flat, so a lower ball can make them hit into the net.
2. Opponents do not move forward well or hate the net.
3. Opponents enjoy lobbing from deep and are winning points that way.
4. Opponent is a Big Racket woman who stands close to net with a huge racket hitting whack-a-mole volleys by using incoming pace and will dump slice shots into the net every time.
5. Opponent is an active, effective net player and I need to return from as close to the service line as I dare and follow it in so the net player is taken out of the equation.
 

mhj202

Rookie
When I think of slice forehands, I think of Monica Nicalescu. Was as high as 28th in the world without a topspin forehand.


 

Cloister

Rookie
Played a guy recently who hit heavy slice off both sides. First set he was hitting the tape regularly and I won 6-0. Second set they all became net skimmers and ended up winning in a tie break. Effective shot, but not much margin for error unless you're really good at it. Played another guy (lefty) awhile back who sliced a lot, but he'd take the ball early and up higher which gave him a lot more margin clearing the net.
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
I understand your attempt to be pragmatic, but I'd recommend simply practicing a good topspin return here. The spin will bring the ball down in much faster allowing you to hit bigger shots. Overhitting returns is something most players have to deal with, but it's worth having the ability to capitalize on weak serves.

Personally, I wouldn't spend the time there. You can hit higher percentage topspin shots in both of those situations, so don't go out of your way to learn how to hit the more difficult (and arguably less effective) slice.
I definitely understand you here, and I am working on it... I just try to limit my frustration now and then... ROS is the weakest (by FAR) part of my game heh...

I wouldn't try to make it your go-to move for those times you brought up before where topspin is simply the better shot. It can also be more difficult to play slice in doubles, so keep that in mind. However, there are plenty of times when you can use a slice to keep the ball low as an effective shot. I might use it to approach, especially on a player with less powerful passing shots but strong lobs. I'm also a big believer in giving people different looks, and putting a nice high percentage slice shot deep in the court throws a lot of people off, especially when you're just grooving big topspin forehands back and forth.

Edit: So I didn't really read the other responses before I replied to you. I see now that we're basically all saying the same thing. Must be great minds. ;)
Yep, lots of good advice in here for me. Thanks for yours too!
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
I learned to slice on both sides as a kid before I got comfortable with hitting topspin strokes. I got to play a bit on grass courts in the summer, so I was a solid serve and volleyer well before I figured out how to function around the baseline.

Lots of folks like to poo-poo the slice in general these days, but my inverted development as a tennis player gave me an appreciation for what slicing can do - not just in a defensive situation.

Like you, I often hit a slice or "blocked slice" return of serve that goes deep to the other end to neutralize a server. This return is usually pretty easy in singles, but it flies a little slower than a topspin return and it can get poached in doubles against an ambitious team unless I hit with good accuracy and also use some variety. If I can keep my slice low across the net (I usually can), it actually isn't a free lunch for my opponents at the net as long as it's under their kill zone (below shoulder/head height).

I love my forehand slice for when an opponent hits me a moonball that's going to take a big bounce. Hitting on the rise with my forehand slice is much easier to time and hit with accuracy compared with hitting an aggressive topspin shot on the rise. It also lets me stay up near the baseline instead of letting the bounding ball chase me back toward the fence.

It's no mystery that slicing is useful for changing pace and disrupting an opponent's tempo, so I like it for that, especially on windy days when the change of pace will be even more extreme with the slice. I also believe that slicing is still the best option for an approach shot when attacking the net. When hit correctly, it skids and stays low, especially compared with a topspin approach that's going to bounce up a bit more. Much tougher for an opponent to drive an effective passing shot reply from down low. The trick is placement - it has to be deep in the far end of the court.

One more aspect with slicing worth keeping in mind is that it can be used to force the direction of a rally. Against another righty, I can slice my backhand down the line to a right-handed opponent to likely force a loopy cross court reply. That's a much higher percentage reply than trying to send my low skidding slice back down the line over the higher net and into the shorter court. And the loopy cross court shot from my opponent will sit up in my strike zone where I can hit my forehand with authority. Against left or right-handers, remember to test them with down-the-line slices (forehands and backhands) to see what sort of response they give you. You might get some sitters that way.
I kind of feel like there is a happy midpoint to be had here - between having the ability to mix things up and disrupt the opponent, and playing a total hacker's game. I see a LOT of hackers, and not too many people that hit either slice or TS comfortably. For now, with ROS being my game's biggest hole, I'm pretty much a hacker returning with slice until I get other techniques honed in. For my ground strokes, they are wildly inconsistent, and I find that slice not only helps me to control my shots better, it helps me get my head under control on a day when I'm having some difficulties with my other groundies.
 

ShaunS

Semi-Pro
Effective shot, but not much margin for error unless you're really good at it.
The biggest downside of the slice is the lack of topspin to increase your margin.


His idea was that once people learn to slice, they rely on it like a crutch.
I devolved from hitting a reasonable two-handed backhand to a slice simply because I got lazy on my footwork. I can definitely see where he's coming from with this logic. They're both good shots to have, but it's probably a lot easier if you learn the topspin first.

I definitely understand you here, and I am working on it... I just try to limit my frustration now and then... ROS is the weakest (by FAR) part of my game heh...
Oh I hear you. I really want to switch back to using the 2H backhand mostly, but I don't want to do it during matches. And for some reason my desire to change cannot overcome my lack of practicing the shot, so I revert to slicing for most backhands. It's definitely a limiter for my advancement.
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
My progression was that my pro flat out refused to teach me slice before I could (1) hit topspin on both sides, and (2) could drive my volleys.

His idea was that once people learn to slice, they rely on it like a crutch. Then when they need a flat or topspin shot, they cannot produce it. He also thinks that learning slice too early -- before you are experienced to know what good slice looks like -- can make you think a sad pop-up is "slice."
For me, I never had any instruction until a couple years ago. Meanwhile, whenever I'd goof around with tennis (never actually tried to REALLY learn the game until I was 47) I always hit a backhand slice - with reasonable effectiveness. It took me months and hours of instruction to really get a backhand TS shot down... forehand slice was very much a recent afterthought for me, and by the time it came to me, I was already pretty decent with forehand topspin. I do understand what your coach is saying though, and I tend to agree (not that I am any great tennis mind or anything).

That said, I finally learned FH slice a couple of years ago once I was playing 8.0 mixed and bigger hitters.
Perhaps because BH slice came so naturally to me, I am finding FH slice to be pretty easy... watching others try to learn slice, I feel very fortunate for this. Many seem to have great difficulty with it on the BH - to the point that they won't even consider it on the FH. I am not convinced it's all that difficult, I think it's mostly just an idea that many people consider unthinkable, so they don't consider or try it...

Nowadays, I use it for particular doubles situations. I use it when:

1. Opponents hit flat, so a lower ball can make them hit into the net.
4. Opponent is a Big Racket woman who stands close to net with a huge racket hitting whack-a-mole volleys by using incoming pace and will dump slice shots into the net every time.
In these two situations I also LOVE slice - FYI, it's not just "Big Racket" women close to the net who get messed up by slice... I have a theory that the ball spinning downwards against their strings, and the path of the ball actually rising (or probably technically, not rising, but just not falling as fast as they expect), combine to create an effect where if the up close player isn't careful, they'll a) contact the ball higher on their racquet face than they intend and b) wll undercompensate for the ball tending to deflect downards off their strings - and dump it into the net with much greater frequency.


2. Opponents do not move forward well or hate the net.
3. Opponents enjoy lobbing from deep and are winning points that way.
Yep, I love the "drop slice" or "short slice" variation to pull someone in like this, and I punish really soft serves mercilessly with little flaring drop slices towards the alley... get those lobbers and lubbers moving!!!

5. Opponent is an active, effective net player and I need to return from as close to the service line as I dare and follow it in so the net player is taken out of the equation.
So are you talking about sort of poking a chip shot past the net player here and keeping it low so they can't catch up to it?
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
Oh I hear you. I really want to switch back to using the 2H backhand mostly, but I don't want to do it during matches. And for some reason my desire to change cannot overcome my lack of practicing the shot, so I revert to slicing for most backhands. It's definitely a limiter for my advancement.
I never played with a 2H BH. When I took casual interest in tennis, only girls hit 2HBHs (in my mind), and this is probably why I goofed around with my uncoached 1H BH slice... with that said, I tried to learn the 2HBH back a few years ago and for me, it was like swinging a baseball bat the wrong dang way... I grew up playing baseball and that was just too hard of a switch for me. Ironically though like many pro tennis players with 2HBH, I golf "right handed" (despite playing tennis swinging a baseball bat left handed). Anyway, I am finding that having a fair to middling 1H TS BH along with a pretty decent BH slice is a pretty good (for me) combo on court and keeps my opponents guessing on the ground strokes at least... now to translate that to my ROS...
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
When I think of slice forehands, I think of Monica Nicalescu. Was as high as 28th in the world without a topspin forehand.


When I mentioned Taylor Townsend, these are the kinds of shots I was talking about. I'd never seen this person before you linked this video... Townsend hits these balls that come to her FH at shoulder height with these slicing lasers... sweet stuff to see when she doesn't miss them!
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
Ask John Isner and Kevin Anderson what they think of slice returns off of giant serves.

For dubs, it’s a tough shot to pull off without getting your lunch stolen. If the net person is timid, maybe. As a net player, anytime I see the returner go to a continental grip my eyes get big.
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
Ask John Isner and Kevin Anderson what they think of slice returns off of giant serves.
Yeah, you're talking about two of the biggest servers on the ATP... I'm talking about 3.5 to 4.0 rec leaguers...

For dubs, it’s a tough shot to pull off without getting your lunch stolen. If the net person is timid, maybe. As a net player, anytime I see the returner go to a continental grip my eyes get big.
I pretty much start out every dubs match getting serves to my backhand... so I stand with a strong continental grip expecting it (I hit a 1H BH). The slice I try to hit off of that serve to my backhand is not a fluffy loopy one that's going to check up when it bounces, I'm trying to hit it low over the net so it will skid somewhere around the service line, fading out to the alley from the ad court, or the other direction when I'm returning from the deuce court. Of course, if that serve doesn't have very big pace and comes to my BH, I can do a lot with it - roll a TS BH wherever, slice the ball wherever, run around it and hit a FH, etc.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
Yeah, you're talking about two of the biggest servers on the ATP... I'm talking about 3.5 to 4.0 rec leaguers...



I pretty much start out every dubs match getting serves to my backhand... so I stand with a strong continental grip expecting it (I hit a 1H BH). The slice I try to hit off of that serve to my backhand is not a fluffy loopy one that's going to check up when it bounces, I'm trying to hit it low over the net so it will skid somewhere around the service line, fading out to the alley from the ad court, or the other direction when I'm returning from the deuce court. Of course, if that serve doesn't have very big pace and comes to my BH, I can do a lot with it - roll a TS BH wherever, slice the ball wherever, run around it and hit a FH, etc.
Tall guys with big serves do not like the low slice. You can draw them in with a short low ball, neutralize with a deep floater or drive it. It’s super effective. Good weapon to have in the toolbox.
 

davced1

Professional
There's a Tennis Tips / Instruction sub-forum where this topic would get more interest, but my 2 cents is that a slice forehand -- especially offensive slice as opposed to the occasional dig of a low, short ball -- should be a low priority. In most rec players I see the slice forehand as a crutch because the player is uncomfortable with topspin. If you want to see a great use of a slice forehand by a top pro, however, watch a replay of Tatjana Maria taking apart Sloan Stephens in the recent Miami Open. Sloan couldn't deal with junky low slices so Maria started giving it to her off both wings.
I knew Sloane Stephens has problems to put her own pace on the ball but had no idea it was this bad. Every WTA player should study this and use as a carbon copy on how to beat Sloane Stephens. She couldn't even hit aggressive returns off 67, 68 mph serves, wtf!
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
Tall guys with big serves do not like the low slice. You can draw them in with a short low ball, neutralize with a deep floater or drive it. It’s super effective. Good weapon to have in the toolbox.
Definitely... I am a tall guy with a big serve... and a sh*tty ROS ha!
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
You’re gettin a slice serve to your right hip!
I'm a lefty... that's my slice backhand... bring some pace :p

In truth, I'd pay you to hit that serve to me for a while - if you can bring it at 85-90+ ... and I'll provide free beer and ice packs for your arm, shoulder, and back, as required :D
 
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Slice is vicious. Keep at it. Your head is in the right place.

My most brutal beat down was from a 4.5 slicer.
Slicers and junkers are the kings of 4.0 tennis.
Keep slicing and just sit back and laugh at the 3.5 maniacs who try to crush your slice.

Topspin is the most overrated shot in under 4.5 tennis. Easiest shot to return.
 
I've been using forehand slice in a chip and charge tactic for short balls to my forehand, and I use it as a "save my a**" shot for balls that go very wide on me.
Many pros will advocate a slice approach shot.
Stays low. Topspin just bounces up to their strike zone.

Keep slicing. Watch how many free points you get.
Bonus is your opponents will mentally implode at missing so many "easy" balls.
 
slice forehand -- especially offensive slice as opposed to the occasional dig of a low, short ball -- should be a low priority.
Tatjana Maria taking apart Sloan Stephens in the recent Miami Open. Sloan couldn't deal with junky low slices so Maria started giving it to her off both wings.
:cry:
 
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time_fly

Hall of Fame
I knew Sloane Stephens has problems to put her own pace on the ball but had no idea it was this bad. Every WTA player should study this and use as a carbon copy on how to beat Sloane Stephens. She couldn't even hit aggressive returns off 67, 68 mph serves, wtf!
That was my favorite pro match to watch in a long time. Sometimes when watching pros it's hard to identify because they are so superior, but this was like a 3.5 match on super steroids. Maria was moonballing, slicing, and pushing like crazy, and Stephens was getting frustrated and spraying balls all over the place.
 
That was my favorite pro match to watch in a long time. Sometimes when watching pros it's hard to identify because they are so superior, but this was like a 3.5 match on super steroids. Maria was moonballing, slicing, and pushing like crazy, and Stephens was getting frustrated and spraying balls all over the place.
Absolutely brilliant point at 2:38
Moonball was a genius set up shot.
It is worth watching a few times until you understand what happens.

The very last point is also classic 3.5 maniac
 
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Dartagnan64

Legend
My progression was that my pro flat out refused to teach me slice before I could (1) hit topspin on both sides, and (2) could drive my volleys.
That's interesting. I was talking to one of our coaches and he says the first stroke he teaches new adults is a proper slice. He says for most rec players its the most effective and underutilized stroke in the game since its so difficult to attack and gets you out of trouble so easily. He thinks for most adults topspin is way over-rated since most adult rec players play doubles and you can play doubles properly your whole life without ever needing topspin to compete. He'll then play you a set of doubles only using slice and totally destroy you and your partner.

Personally I'm not that extreme. I think the key doubles strokes are the slice serve, every volley in the book, overheads, lobs, low biting slices and dipping topspin. Leave your floaty slices and medium height moonballs at home.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
That's interesting. I was talking to one of our coaches and he says the first stroke he teaches new adults is a proper slice. He says for most rec players its the most effective and underutilized stroke in the game since its so difficult to attack and gets you out of trouble so easily. He thinks for most adults topspin is way over-rated since most adult rec players play doubles and you can play doubles properly your whole life without ever needing topspin to compete. He'll then play you a set of doubles only using slice and totally destroy you and your partner.
That is definitely one point of view. In fact, one of my favorite tennis books (The Art of Doubles) came out with a later edition that said topspin was of little use in doubles. Heresy, that.

I guess if my coach talked this coach, my coach would say that he likes to teach people to compete at the next highest level, not the level they are at. That means that players cannot be one-dimensional. So if a player learns slice first, and *if* it is true that players who learn to slice first have a harder time learning topspin . . . that player is being set up to be one dimensional. Also, a slice lob is a nice shot, but it doesn't wreak the havoc that a topspin lob does.

I mean, I agree that playing slicers is hard. But when someone has a really good slice, I see quickly that they have a really good slice. So I might decide to put my topspin away and slice my own self. I would say on the ladies side that a slice-only doubles player will top out at 4.0, whereas a player who can hit good slice and good topspin can go to 4.5.

It's an interesting question: Does learning slice first make it harder to learn topspin? I have only anecdotal evidence from a few women who hit slice only and lament that they haven't been able to figure out topspin.
 
Even at the 4.5 level, slice can be efective: I know very few who can consistently punish a reasonably hit slice [although most of them can punish a weak one].

I think the emphasis on power and TS has biased people against the slice. IME, it's effective.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
It's an interesting question: Does learning slice first make it harder to learn topspin? I have only anecdotal evidence from a few women who hit slice only and lament that they haven't been able to figure out topspin.
I lament that 90% of all women below 4.5 can't hit decent topspin. They can't hit proper slice either. Spin is something that a lot of women really struggle with getting a handle on in my experience. Especially if they never played as kids. The women that played as kids have it down but they are mostly decent 4.0 to 4.5 players.

Lots of flat hitters in rec women's leagues especially the 3.0-3.5 group.


Even at the 4.5 level, slice can be efective: I know very few who can consistently punish a reasonably hit slice [although most of them can punish a weak one].

I think the emphasis on power and TS has biased people against the slice. IME, it's effective.
Especially the baseline bashers. They really can struggle with skipping slice around their knees. But it has to be a good slice.
 
Especially the baseline bashers. They really can struggle with skipping slice around their knees. But it has to be a good slice.
BBs not only struggle with low skidders but they also don't like slow-paced shots when they have to step inside the BL by several feet: it can lead to hitting long/wide because they have to generate their own pace and the court is "shorter".
 

spinerella

New User
I love my forehand slice returning a second serve, but only occasionally. Its just another shot in my arsenal. My backhand slice on RoS is generally too risky, as it floats without enough pace and/or control. But, I can rip the forehand slice nice and low with great pace.
I find several women at 4.5 level using slice FH and BH as their groundstroke weapons.
 

FedLIKEnot

Professional
I use it in singles, as a return against hard server. Can use their pace against them just have to have the timing and racquet face where you want. Also works well on wrong footing or hitting behind the opponent usually to their backhand side and even more so if they themselves don’t have a good slice.

Usually creates errors for the opponent or a weak return that I can close the net on and have a ton of court to work to.
 

ShaunS

Semi-Pro
Does learning slice first make it harder to learn topspin? I have only anecdotal evidence from a few women who hit slice only and lament that they haven't been able to figure out topspin.
I would say it doesn't inherently making learning harder, but it's an easier shot to hit in terms of positioning. In my experience I have to setup better to hit good topspin shots on the forehand but especially backhand. It's much easier to hit a slice, and that's where my troubles come in. I get "lazy", and don't get in position. I think it would be easier to learn the topspin shot then the slice for that reason.

That is definitely one point of view. In fact, one of my favorite tennis books (The Art of Doubles) came out with a later edition that said topspin was of little use in doubles. Heresy, that.
:-D

He thinks for most adults topspin is way over-rated since most adult rec players play doubles and you can play doubles properly your whole life without ever needing topspin to compete
I suppose I can see someone making this argument in my head, but in actual experience I've never seen it pulled off. I've been playing 4.0/4.5 men's tennis for a number of years, and while I think you can hit effective baseline slice shots it's a harder shot to pull off. This is one of those conversations that I struggle to encapsulate online because there's a lot of qualifiers.

I know you can play a "chip and charge" return at any level rec tennis. Likewise, as this thread has been exploring, I believe there are a number of scenarios where you can mix in a slice for an effective shot. Where I struggle to get on board with the all-slice plan is shot difficulty. You have to put the ball in a much tighter window than a topspin shot, and that means you're going to make more errors.

I'm imagining a point where the opposing team has both made it to the net. Your partner is up, but you're still back in the court. Hitting a slice that doesn't get returned for a winner is going to be hard because you're going to have to go so close to the net. If you hit a topspin shot at the same height, it would probably drop below the net cord before they make contact, forcing them to at least bring the shot up a little.

I can't speak for other levels, but in the tennis I've played a slice-heavy doubles game has never been more effective than good topspin. Admittedly, there have been very few people who relied heavily on it, but everything about the mechanics make me believe that's founded in the shot difficulty.

For what it's worth, I think the slice is more effective in singles than doubles. Most notably because you don't have to worry about the precision required to avoid a net player. As S&V said it's also a great way to force people to play a more "vertical" game, whereas going short on topspin can end up giving your opponent a ball right in their strike zone.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I'll go out on a limb and say that an all-slice game is most effective at the lowest levels. That's because lower-level players don't have the footwork to handle a ball that isn't coming to them. They also often lack slice of their own, which is often the best reply to good slice.

If at 3.5 you told me that I had to face someone with good topspin or equally good slice, I would pick slice. But that is only because I can slice and because I don't mind coming to net. I also find it easier to track the flight of the ball with slice because the flight is more straight -- I know the most important thing is to close hard. With topspin, watching the ball is a challenge because it feels like it is moving all over. Also, the wind-up and finish that topspin players use is intimidating, whereas slice preparation doesn't look so fierce.

I think many 3.5 baseliners would give the opposite response.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
Absolutely brilliant point at 2:38
Moonball was a genius set up shot.
It is worth watching a few times until you understand what happens.

The very last point is also classic 3.5 maniac
No pace to a basher’s backhand is one of my keys to success. It usually only takes a few balls to get a free point. The trick is getting it to their backhand, which means you need strategic shots to the forehand side to open the court.
 

TnsGuru

Professional
Forehand slice for emergency use only. I knew someone who hit a fantastic slice forehand just about everytime but couldn't hit a flat or topspin when he needed to. As a slice rally ball it has to have bite and has to be deep to be effective andf if you slice too much you're offensive forehand will not be as reliable when you need to have it.

There was a time I used the squash shot too much and lost feel for the topspin. Use it sparingly is your best bet.
 
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@Cawlin don't confuse pro skills with rec 3.5 skills.

I remember getting into a huge debate here about heavy topspin moonballs. The posters here insisted that EVERY moonball would be CRUSHED back for a WINNER by even a 3.0 In reality, that is just utter garbage. I've moonballed any rec level and caused free points, in the real world.

More people can handle slice than moonballs. You are a smart tactical player, and you've seen something. Follow it up. If you're playing 3.5, don't listen to anyone here. You'll be told that EVERY slice of yours will be CRUSHED back for an EASY WINNER. Bull ****. Film a match, and count the number of times your slice causes an error vs. gets put away for a winner. Watch how many free points you get from slicing. The BEST 4.0 and under players are slicers, period. Slicing totally throws topspin champs off their rhythm.

Read winning ugly. It's time. $5
https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/067188400X/ref=tmm_pap_used_olp_0?ie=UTF8&condition=used&qid=&sr=
 
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Cawlin

Semi-Pro
Just turned it on.
Thanks!
Sometimes there is odd serendipity in my life. Last night, my wife and I took a break from our usual pattern and went out to a local sports bar/restaurant for some dinner. We arrived at around 8:30 and the booth we were seated in had a small TV which was already tuned to that match when we arrived. Ordinarily we wouldn't even bother to turn those TVs in the booths on... and they NEVER broadcast tennis in such places unless it's the final of a grand slam or something but there it was... not only Tennis, BUT the celebrated slicer we've been talking about!!! I will choose to view this as serendipitous, because I am an optomist, even though it's probably just unrelated coincidence.

We got there when Maria was on her comeback in set 2 and watched that and the final set with the sound off. This thread was on my mind the entire time. While Maria didn't win this match, she sure gave Keys a heck of a scare. I like the way Maria sets up all of her points with slice but still has the option for some precise TS shots DTL and whatnot in addition to her fine touch shots and lobs. Meanwhile, Keys looks like a basher who is awkward at best with touch shots/drop shots and so forth... formidable at the net and certainly can mash some screamer groundies... but playing a skilled slicer/touch shot artist/junker/pusher (whatever other term you'd want to use) like Maria on clay is quite an equalizer! I definitely like Maria's game for the variety, but I think she'll have to get a bit more aggressive to climb much higher in the rankings.

 
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SavvyStringer

Professional
@Cawlin don't confuse pro skills with rec 3.5 skills.

I remember getting into a huge debate here about heavy topspin moonballs. The posters here insisted that EVERY moonball would be CRUSHED back for a WINNER by even a 3.0 In reality, that is just utter garbage. I've moonballed any rec level and caused free points, in the real world.

More people can handle slice than moonballs. You are a smart tactical player, and you've seen something. Follow it up. If you're playing 3.5, don't listen to anyone here. You'll be told that EVERY slice of yours will be CRUSHED back for an EASY WINNER. Bull ****. Film a match, and count the number of times your slice causes an error vs. gets put away for a winner. Watch how many free points you get from slicing. The BEST 4.0 and under players are slicers, period. Slicing totally throws topspin champs off their rhythm.

Read winning ugly. It's time. $5
https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/067188400X/ref=tmm_pap_used_olp_0?ie=UTF8&condition=used&qid=&sr=
I agree. Not so much with forehand slice because I only do it defensively but the other night I just couldn't groove my top spin back hand so I went to slice. It worked great. I was getting errors from my opponent left and right. They would hit one into the net because they didn't get down to it, then lift the next well out trying to get it up and down. 5 or 6 years ago we had a guy playing 6 on our college team that had a slice forehand. He got the yips as a freshman and just couldn't get over it. He hit an exclusively slice forehand and managed to win a few matches. I don't recommend it but it can be effective if you have the fitness and patience. Personally, I only use forehand slice as a reset. If I'm stretched wide and I need to hit one down the line or if they're hitting with more pace than I want and I want to slow it down. Even then, if possible I will step around it and hit a backhand slice to have better directional control.
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
@Cawlin don't confuse pro skills with rec 3.5 skills.

I remember getting into a huge debate here about heavy topspin moonballs. The posters here insisted that EVERY moonball would be CRUSHED back for a WINNER by even a 3.0 In reality, that is just utter garbage. I've moonballed any rec level and caused free points, in the real world.

More people can handle slice than moonballs. You are a smart tactical player, and you've seen something. Follow it up. If you're playing 3.5, don't listen to anyone here. You'll be told that EVERY slice of yours will be CRUSHED back for an EASY WINNER. Bull ****. Film a match, and count the number of times your slice causes an error vs. gets put away for a winner. Watch how many free points you get from slicing. The BEST 4.0 and under players are slicers, period. Slicing totally throws topspin champs off their rhythm.

Read winning ugly. It's time. $5
https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/067188400X/ref=tmm_pap_used_olp_0?ie=UTF8&condition=used&qid=&sr=
I've only seen a few guys who can "CRUSH" a high groundstroke from behind the service line at my level. Two of those are line 1 players on my ALTA 3.5ish men's dubs team and are really closer to 4.5 than they are to 3.5 players imo but ALTA doesn't force individuals to move up once they've been established on a team, and the third guy is a consummate "junker" with totally unorthodox form - hits an eastern FH... and his "forehand crush" shot is more of a sidespin shot (due to his grip and lack of instruction on form) and it is pretty (WILDLY) inconsistent. Most guys who get a shoulder high ball deep in the court just back up and wait for it to drop to around waist height and loop back a moderate TS shot or poke a flat shot somewhere but they certainly don't "CRUSH" it. I get a TON of "moonballs" high to my backhand all the time in matches and in recent months have been just taking those balls on the rise and slicing the sh*t out of them with good results. Often what I see from someone who gets one of my deep slices is that they will dump it into the net once or twice, then hit it long or wide the next couple times.

Sure more people can handle slice than moonballs, but "handle" is kind of the operative word there, right? If they "handle" the slice by floating a mid-court sitter, or fluffing it to the net guy - that's still a good result for me.

I have what my one friend calls "strrrong forrrehand" (said with rolled 'r' in an eastern European accednt) with pretty heavy TS - not as consistent as I'd like it to be, but pretty decent and heavy, but now and then I can't get the groove on it in a match and with the addition of forehand chipping slices, at least I can take a bit of pressure off of that wing and still retain some placement, if not pace...

I DO know that when I hit my BEST forehands at good slicers, they just sit back and slice them right back to me... this is what caused me to bring my BH slice back into my game.

As for Winning Ugly - already have a copy of it, it's on the reading list. The weather's good now though, so reading is taking a back seat to getting out on court... I'll get into it for sure though! Thanks!
 

CosmosMpower

Hall of Fame
I use a forehand slice to return a really high bouncing topspin shot that is at eye level or above. It crosses the net low and skids with a low bounce and usually forces a neutral or weak response. I also use a short forehand slice in the serve box to bring in baseline bashers that are uncomfortable at net.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
I've encountered a lot more slice forehands since I started playing age limited events with 45+ and 50+ crowds. Those who present the most challenge place it very well. I end up beating most of these players since I leg things out consistently and have greater mobility than most of these guys are used to. Even though their placement tends to be good, they don't have enough pace. But if I slow much more, I'll be in trouble against these guys.
 
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