How can a racquet be good at slice but not topspin?

pumpkinpi

Rookie
Or, you know, good with spin but not slice. I noticed on a few TW Racquet Reviews that a racquet had a slice score of like 86, but then a topspin rating of like 80. How come they aren't identical? I mean, they're both where the ball sort of "rolls" off the racquet, right? So please help me understand what makes a racquet good at slice, and what makes it good for spin. Thanks!
 
Or, you know, good with spin but not slice. I noticed on a few TW Racquet Reviews that a racquet had a slice score of like 86, but then a topspin rating of like 80. How come they aren't identical? I mean, they're both where the ball sort of "rolls" off the racquet, right? So please help me understand what makes a racquet good at slice, and what makes it good for spin. Thanks!
Gravity.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Or, you know, good with spin but not slice. I noticed on a few TW Racquet Reviews that a racquet had a slice score of like 86, but then a topspin rating of like 80. How come they aren't identical? I mean, they're both where the ball sort of "rolls" off the racquet, right? So please help me understand what makes a racquet good at slice, and what makes it good for spin. Thanks!
The topspin scores are probably based on which racquets seemed to provide the most spin.

The slice is more of a placement shot, so the scores might be based more on which racquet provided the best control of the slice.
 

pumpkinpi

Rookie
It also has to do with the string pattern. Generally speaking a closed 18 x 20 will have better slice potential than topspin.
Would an open pattern like 14x18 have better or worse slice potential than 18x20? I know the spin will be a lot higher...
 

Yamin

Semi-Pro
They are probably scored differently because it's not just the amount of spin generated. The score probably accounts for the angle at which is comes over the net and how effective it is overall.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Higher swingweight, more polarized rackets are really good for slice as are 18x20 string patterns. Thinner beams also seem to be better at slice than wider beam frames. I think in general, rackets that hit lower launch angle will slice better.

I hit wicked slices with my Phantom 93P 18x20 whereas my Pure Drive always seems to float the slice balls too much. The Pure Drive definitely gets more spin than the Phantom but needs to be aimed into more generous windows.

Slice is less dependent on RHS than topspin and so rackets with easy RHS aren't necessarily great for slice.
 

flanker2000fr

Hall of Fame
B
Or, you know, good with spin but not slice. I noticed on a few TW Racquet Reviews that a racquet had a slice score of like 86, but then a topspin rating of like 80. How come they aren't identical? I mean, they're both where the ball sort of "rolls" off the racquet, right? So please help me understand what makes a racquet good at slice, and what makes it good for spin. Thanks!
Because they are completely different shot mechanically. Even the best slice will only achieve a fraction of the rpm's of a decent topspin shot. You're driving through the ball a lot more on a slice, which is the only way of giving it any kind of speed and penetration, otherwise it will float and sit up. Hence typically 18x20 patterns work better on a sliced backhand, as more contact on the strings will allow for that flatter drive (same as for a flat FH). Heavy spin, on the other hand, is better achieved with open patterns which naturally produce a higher launch angle and more space for the strings to move.
 
B


Because they are completely different shot mechanically. Even the best slice will only achieve a fraction of the rpm's of a decent topspin shot. You're driving through the ball a lot more on a slice, which is the only way of giving it any kind of speed and penetration, otherwise it will float and sit up. Hence typically 18x20 patterns work better on a sliced backhand, as more contact on the strings will allow for that flatter drive (same as for a flat FH). Heavy spin, on the other hand, is better achieved with open patterns which naturally produce a higher launch angle and more space for the strings to move.
Hmmmm... it doesn't look like you have a good slice backhand :D

What you're describing is an underspin backhand. Kind of like Ashe had.
 

mvg93456

New User
B


Because they are completely different shot mechanically. Even the best slice will only achieve a fraction of the rpm's of a decent topspin shot. You're driving through the ball a lot more on a slice, which is the only way of giving it any kind of speed and penetration, otherwise it will float and sit up. Hence typically 18x20 patterns work better on a sliced backhand, as more contact on the strings will allow for that flatter drive (same as for a flat FH). Heavy spin, on the other hand, is better achieved with open patterns which naturally produce a higher launch angle and more space for the strings to move.
I disagree with some parts of this but you generally have the right idea. They are fundamentally different shots

Topspin is generated primarily by your mechanics, you need to hit up and over the ball (windshield wiper), but a racket with a more open pattern and a bigger headsize has a higher launch angle so it will help you add some rpm's to your shot. Lighter rackets also help you get more whip on your motion (ie more topspin)

For a slice you don't have to drive through especially if the ball coming at you has some pace. But the idea is to keep the ball low, where in topspin shots you're trying to keep the ball high. The lower launch angle will help keep your slices nice and low and out of your opponents strike box.

A heavy 18x20 with a small headsize is better a keeping the ball low (better for slice), while a lighter 16x19 with a bigger headsize will have a higher launch angle (better for topspin)
 

gazz1

Semi-Pro
Rackets with easy topspin typically have open string patterns and produce high launch angles.
I think that you don’t want your directional control impacted so much by string movement for slice, which is why tighter string patterns produce better slice than the really open ones.
I actually don’t have a good slice, so I’m certainly no expert, but I can see a huge difference between my blades and my clash 98.
I’m guessing that it’s not as much about rpms as it is about directional control with slice?
 
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flanker2000fr

Hall of Fame
Hmmmm... it doesn't look like you have a good slice backhand :D

What you're describing is an underspin backhand. Kind of like Ashe had.
It's actually one of my better shots, but I can see why you would say that.

One can obviously impart more backspin than this, but the RPM is still going to be a fraction of that of a topspin shot. And while one can have a more or less vertical motion to achieve this, driving and finishing towards the target is still fundamental.
 

McGradey

Semi-Pro
And while one can have a more or less vertical motion to achieve this, driving and finishing towards the target is still fundamental.
If you watch this (and agree with their analysis), they actually say the reason Federer's slice is so good and so aggressive is precisely because he doesn't finish towards the target like many others do.


I've tried hitting the slice with that pendulum motion and it's not easy. I find it much easier to hit it cleanly with the finish towards the opponent as you said. Probably why most players do so.
 

zipplock

Hall of Fame
I've generally thought of slice as a control shot and topspin as a power shot (I know, you can use topspin for control). Most racquets provide more control or more power, so depending on which they provide, would be better suited to slice or topspin.
 
It's actually one of my better shots, but I can see why you would say that.

One can obviously impart more backspin than this, but the RPM is still going to be a fraction of that of a topspin shot. And while one can have a more or less vertical motion to achieve this, driving and finishing towards the target is still fundamental.
Federer's backhand slice has been measured as having the highest spin rate of any groundstroke, measured at 5300 rpm.
 

jmacdaununder2

Hall of Fame
Higher swingweight, more polarized rackets are really good for slice as are 18x20 string patterns. Thinner beams also seem to be better at slice than wider beam frames. I think in general, rackets that hit lower launch angle will slice better.

I hit wicked slices with my Phantom 93P 18x20 whereas my Pure Drive always seems to float the slice balls too much. The Pure Drive definitely gets more spin than the Phantom but needs to be aimed into more generous windows.

Slice is less dependent on RHS than topspin and so rackets with easy RHS aren't necessarily great for slice.
I know right!! Thought it was just me; with the PDT+ to knife a slice in the same ballpark as my Princes, I've worked out I have to hit the ball later, come around the outside of ball more - like on a high volley - and increase the downwards angle of my swing to mitigate the PDT+'s higher launch angle. Still not as effortless and intuitive as with the Prince though.
 
If you watch this (and agree with their analysis), they actually say the reason Federer's slice is so good and so aggressive is precisely because he doesn't finish towards the target like many others do.


I've tried hitting the slice with that pendulum motion and it's not easy. I find it much easier to hit it cleanly with the finish towards the opponent as you said. Probably why most players do so.
I do it both ways, and I think (no video evidence) that the pendulum motion requires some pace from the opponent. I know when I have enough time to carefully think about it, I have a forward vector going on. But when I am returning a hard shot an inch from the baseline that I haven't gotten back much for, what comes off my racquet is a laser beam TV shot. I suspect that the more rapid pendulum motion was used. In both cases my off arm still has time to spread in the opposite direction.

That's just me. Probably a recipe for poor playing! ;-)
 

blablavla

Legend
Or, you know, good with spin but not slice. I noticed on a few TW Racquet Reviews that a racquet had a slice score of like 86, but then a topspin rating of like 80. How come they aren't identical? I mean, they're both where the ball sort of "rolls" off the racquet, right? So please help me understand what makes a racquet good at slice, and what makes it good for spin. Thanks!
it relates to the mechanics of the shot, and as well to the mechanics of how you execute the shot.

for top spin,
- thicker beam
- open pattern
- high stifness
- light static weight
- moderate SW

thicker beam, open pattern and high stifness all work in providing you access to "easy power".
light static weight and moderate SW will result in potential to swing the frame faster, which is required to achieve high RHS (racket head speed).
finally, this higher RHS is divided by the player into pace + spin, cause if you would for example use this higher RHS for say 80% spin and 20% pace, the result will be a floating ball, easy to be attacked by the opponent.
so the combination of stiff racket, that provides plenty of easy power, combined with high RHS will unlock the spin potential.
it is of course possible to use a thin beam frame as well, but that will require much more from the player, and therefore will limit the pool of players capable to play the shots.

for slice,
many players say that a thin beam helps the racket to travel faster through the air
the so called closed pattern, e.g. (18x20) helps to keep the ball low
the same thin beam + closed pattern is very much control oriented, control as in placement into really tiny targets
so the result is an underspin shot, that won't fly as fast as a top spin shot for example, but if used correctly, is still something that can help your strategy

but then, frame and string technology is one thing, and the very specific player is another thing.
quite honestly, I was able to very easily produce good slices with my old PA, which is regarded as a top spin frame and since I moved to Gravity, I really had to focus on training my slice, as without dedicated training, it was a joke, not a slice.
so, check what works best for you.
 

mtommer

Hall of Fame
Ummm, okay, wow. The short answer to the op's question is simply that we as human beings hit the two types of spin in completely different ways. Thus, what makes a racquet good for one type of spin compliments "our" motion needed to produce said spin.
 

Dragan

Semi-Pro
In my experience, the higher the swingweight and static mass, the better racquet is for slice shots (but the mass may be detrimental for other shots), Not quite sure if denser swing pattern is actually better, for example Wilson Six.One 95 16x18 is equally great (if not better) for slices as 18x20 version.
 

Johnny-Cage

Rookie
I use a Blade CV 18x20. It has a wicked slice but topspin is just so so... I’m a player who hits flat and topspin equally so 18x20 is a better choice of string pattern for me, better than 16x19.
 

Irvin

Talk Tennis Guru
Or, you know, good with spin but not slice. I noticed on a few TW Racquet Reviews that a racquet had a slice score of like 86, but then a topspin rating of like 80. How come they aren't identical? I mean, they're both where the ball sort of "rolls" off the racquet, right? So please help me understand what makes a racquet good at slice, and what makes it good for spin. Thanks!
Slice and topspin has more to do with technique than anything else. For a slice shot you need enough mass so you can plow through the ball moving the racket high to low. For a top spin shot you’re moving the racket from behind you and just before impact you pronate you arm moving the racket off it’s initial path from back to front to a path more from right to left. I know once you strike the ball the racket actually starts a more pronounced right to left movement. But in just a split second you much start changing direction and accelerate the racket in a different direction.

i just recently made a racket matching jig and used the bearings from a fidget spinner for my pivoting assemble. I noticed without bearings (30 g) in a spinner it was a lot easier to twist a spinning fidget. The inertia of a fidget with and without bearing is a difference of 0.2 kgcm*2. 20 SW point is 100 times greater than that.

if I have a racket that is too heavy with too high a SW it may be great for my slice shots and feel great for a flat forehand but it won’t be too great for topspin unless I start hitting the ball with a looping forehand. OTOH is I have a racket too light with too low of a swingweight I can whip it around so my topspin is great but the slice suffers. The challenge is to find that happy medium where all your shots or your technique benefit from the racket specs.
 

ryushen21

Hall of Fame
Or, you know, good with spin but not slice. I noticed on a few TW Racquet Reviews that a racquet had a slice score of like 86, but then a topspin rating of like 80. How come they aren't identical? I mean, they're both where the ball sort of "rolls" off the racquet, right? So please help me understand what makes a racquet good at slice, and what makes it good for spin. Thanks!
In general, I would say that's a function of mechanics more than equipment. But some players might value placement on the slice more than the action on the ball whereas on a TS forehand they really want to see that ball jumping up. It could be a subjective interpretation of what's supposed to be an objective rating.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
Or, you know, good with spin but not slice. I noticed on a few TW Racquet Reviews that a racquet had a slice score of like 86, but then a topspin rating of like 80. How come they aren't identical? I mean, they're both where the ball sort of "rolls" off the racquet, right? So please help me understand what makes a racquet good at slice, and what makes it good for spin. Thanks!
If you have some down time and want to nerd out with some of this stuff, you might enjoy reading some of the material put out by Rod Cross and Crawford Lindsey. They've done a lot of scientific analysis in the realm of how strings, racquets, court surfaces, and tennis balls all interact with each other and how different variables contribute to our shots. Their book Technical Tennis is a sort of Reader's Digest (more compressed) version of a much more lengthy paper they produced a few years ago. I think they have at least a few articles posted in TW's Learning Center, too.

What's important to remember with the slice is that we're not reversing the direction of rotation on the ball like we do with a topspin shot. Since a slice is more of a redirection of the ball (compared with a tospin shot), I definitely have an easier time hitting a decent slice with a heavier and more stable frame than with what I consider to be more of a middleweight. For me, heavier is up toward 12.3-12.5 oz. and a middleweight is around 11.3-11.6 oz.

Slice doesn't depend on swing speed nearly as much as a topspin shot - it's not reversing the rotation of the ball - so a really heavy frame might slice great for me even if I can't swing it too fast. A racquet reviewer could easily hit decent slice with a hefty frame, but also have trouble getting the racquet speed and control that they want if that heavier racquet swings slower than what they need for a topspin stroke.

Also lots of voodoo going on in terms of string patterns. I've played some frames having rather open patterns that left me struggling to generate much of any spin at all on the ball, but I've also used others with ultra dense patterns that could churn out bananas spin for me. No exotic string types required. Be careful not to rule out trying a certain racquet just because of its string layout. String patterns don't predict all too much of a frame's overall performance in my humble experience of playing, stringing, etc.
 

Irvin

Talk Tennis Guru
If you have some down time and want to nerd out with some of this stuff, you might enjoy reading some of the material put out by Rod Cross and Crawford Lindsey. They've done a lot of scientific analysis in the realm of how strings, racquets, court surfaces, and tennis balls all interact with each other and how different variables contribute to our shots. Their book Technical Tennis is a sort of Reader's Digest (more compressed) version of a much more lengthy paper they produced a few years ago. I think they have at least a few articles posted in TW's Learning Center, too.
Unless I’m mistaken Crawford Lindsey is or was TW Professor. @TW Staff is that accurate?

And don’t forget their book The PHYSICS and TECHNOLOGY of Tennis.
 

QuadCam

Professional
Or, you know, good with spin but not slice. I noticed on a few TW Racquet Reviews that a racquet had a slice score of like 86, but then a topspin rating of like 80. How come they aren't identical? I mean, they're both where the ball sort of "rolls" off the racquet, right? So please help me understand what makes a racquet good at slice, and what makes it good for spin. Thanks!
Great "slicing" racquets tend to produce a low bouncing "drive" type of slice shot. Meaning... you can hit a slice shot with a very flat trajectory, enough backspin so that it bites and skids off the ground and stays low on the bounce. These tend to be 18x20 patterned racquets.

Open patterned racquets (14x18 - 16x20) tend to give you a slice produces too much backspin....and the ball can float upwards off the frame. Good for hitting dropshots, though but not so easy for low bouncing drive slices.
 

QuadCam

Professional
Federer's backhand slice has been measured as having the highest spin rate of any groundstroke, measured at 5300 rpm.
Have you ever seen Dolgopolov's backhand slice? I've never seen or heard anything like it. the ball whistles like a wiffle ball coming off his strings. It's nuts!
 
If you have some down time and want to nerd out with some of this stuff, you might enjoy reading some of the material put out by Rod Cross and Crawford Lindsey. They've done a lot of scientific analysis in the realm of how strings, racquets, court surfaces, and tennis balls all interact with each other and how different variables contribute to our shots. Their book Technical Tennis is a sort of Reader's Digest (more compressed) version of a much more lengthy paper they produced a few years ago. I think they have at least a few articles posted in TW's Learning Center, too.

What's important to remember with the slice is that we're not reversing the direction of rotation on the ball like we do with a topspin shot. Since a slice is more of a redirection of the ball (compared with a tospin shot), I definitely have an easier time hitting a decent slice with a heavier and more stable frame than with what I consider to be more of a middleweight. For me, heavier is up toward 12.3-12.5 oz. and a middleweight is around 11.3-11.6 oz.

Slice doesn't depend on swing speed nearly as much as a topspin shot - it's not reversing the rotation of the ball - so a really heavy frame might slice great for me even if I can't swing it too fast. A racquet reviewer could easily hit decent slice with a hefty frame, but also have trouble getting the racquet speed and control that they want if that heavier racquet swings slower than what they need for a topspin stroke.

Also lots of voodoo going on in terms of string patterns. I've played some frames having rather open patterns that left me struggling to generate much of any spin at all on the ball, but I've also used others with ultra dense patterns that could churn out bananas spin for me. No exotic string types required. Be careful not to rule out trying a certain racquet just because of its string layout. String patterns don't predict all too much of a frame's overall performance in my humble experience of playing, stringing, etc.
Great book. File under "required reading" :)
 

ryushen21

Hall of Fame
Open patterned racquets (14x18 - 16x20) tend to give you a slice produces too much backspin....and the ball can float upwards off the frame. Good for hitting dropshots, though but not so easy for low bouncing drive slices.
While open patterns can produce a slightly higher launch angle than denser ones, if the ball is floating up on you that's a result of technique more than an effect from the string bed. If you are hitting the shot properly, you can produce that nice low slice shot regardless of pattern.
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
QuadCam said:
Great "slicing" racquets tend to produce a low bouncing "drive" type of slice shot. Meaning... you can hit a slice shot with a very flat trajectory, enough backspin so that it bites and skids off the ground and stays low on the bounce. These tend to be 18x20 patterned racquets.

Open patterned racquets (14x18 - 16x20) tend to give you a slice produces too much backspin....and the ball can float upwards off the frame. Good for hitting dropshots, though but not so easy for low bouncing drive slices.
Have you ever seen Dolgopolov's backhand slice? I've never seen or heard anything like it. the ball whistles like a wiffle ball coming off his strings. It's nuts!
Dolgopolov uses/used an open pattern, spin-effect racquet to hit those amazing underspin shots.

A couple of things I haven't read in any of the posts. First, launch angle on topspin shots works on underspin but in reverse. So racquets with high launch angle on topspin must be tilted more open on underspin shots. For high launch angle setups hitting against a heavy underspin shot that skids through and may have minimal or still some backspin, the amount of tilt feels pretty significant and makes it feel like a lot of precision is needed to firmly hit a driving slice that has a lot of velocity because that's a low margin shot. In that way, high launch angle racquets are much less forgiving, at least with my technique, on underspin shots.

The second thing I haven't read is that for the majority of underspin shots, there is a fairly small velocity differential between the spin on the ball and the stringbed at the point of contact. That's because the ball typically picks up topspin off the bounce, and the racquet path is moving downward. It's conceivable that for some significant percentage of underspin shots, the downward velocity of the racquet almost exactly matches the spin speed of the ball. I took some video about a year ago with some yellow/blue Gamma pressureless balls and the exit spin rate on many of my normal underspin shots was pretty indistinguishable from the incoming spin rate. I am guessing that this very low differential allows hitting underspin shots consistently despite the low margin for error. I know that for me, I can consistently hit a slice low over the net, while flat to topspin groundstrokes have at least twice or more variation in height.
 

QuadCam

Professional
While open patterns can produce a slightly higher launch angle than denser ones, if the ball is floating up on you that's a result of technique more than an effect from the string bed. If you are hitting the shot properly, you can produce that nice low slice shot regardless of pattern.
You really have to change your technique for penetrating slices depending on the openness of your string bed. Every once in awhile, I'll pull out one of my old Michael Chang Princes. (95 sqin. 14x18) Using the same technique that I use with my 16x19 tecnifibres does not result in the same slice. The prince will have greater backspin but with more float (and stop) to it. The Tec will fly flatter and skid on the clay. I really have to work hard to hit a low skidding slice with the Prince.
 

smalahove

Hall of Fame
You really have to change your technique for penetrating slices depending on the openness of your string bed. Every once in awhile, I'll pull out one of my old Michael Chang Princes. (95 sqin. 14x18) Using the same technique that I use with my 16x19 tecnifibres does not result in the same slice. The prince will have greater backspin but with more float (and stop) to it. The Tec will fly flatter and skid on the clay. I really have to work hard to hit a low skidding slice with the Prince.
i agree.

one thing though, when comparing topspin and slice, is to realize they’re not opposite sides of a spectrum. A low skidding slice will by def have less underspin than a slice that sits up. An open pattern will impart a higher launch angle and more underspin than a tight pattern.

From the back of the court, a low deep slice with pace and little underspin, is more difficult to handle than a higher, deep one with more underspin, as the latter will sit up more, ie bounce higher with less forward momentum.
 

mental midget

Hall of Fame
While open patterns can produce a slightly higher launch angle than denser ones, if the ball is floating up on you that's a result of technique more than an effect from the string bed. If you are hitting the shot properly, you can produce that nice low slice shot regardless of pattern.
this. different swingweights etc will have different effects on the same technique, but changes in technique can produce pretty much the same effect with any racket. it's just some composite material and strings, the physics is all the same. heavier rackets produce more 'biting' slices because...they're heavier and transfer more power through the ball relative to a light racket for the same stroke. but if you can firm up your wrist and cut through the ball effectively you can produce the same effect with a light racket. and of course that stroke would produce an even more penetrating slice with the heavy racket...and would probably sail long.
 

ryushen21

Hall of Fame
You really have to change your technique for penetrating slices depending on the openness of your string bed. Every once in awhile, I'll pull out one of my old Michael Chang Princes. (95 sqin. 14x18) Using the same technique that I use with my 16x19 tecnifibres does not result in the same slice. The prince will have greater backspin but with more float (and stop) to it. The Tec will fly flatter and skid on the clay. I really have to work hard to hit a low skidding slice with the Prince.
Ok, keep telling yourself that.
 
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