Slice the low balls? OHBH question

MoxMonkey

Rookie
So when a fast flat shot comes in deep and shorthops my backhand side, it's difficult for me to hit the ball back with any real purpose. Sometimes I punch it back deep and occasionally I can get a good drive on it, but usually I dump it in the net, shank it, or send a weak ball back.

Over the last few months my backhand grip has moved into a complete SW backhand grip. I initially did this to work on a forward contact point, but as my stroke has developed the added topspin seemed worth it. Also being left handed I've been able to drive back high bouncing cross court forehands from RH players.

But it's hard to get under it on the short hop shin balls.

I went into a Conti grip and started slicing low fast balls with a ball machine. Floated/skied a bunch of em (I don't really slice much) but it feels like it is going to be easier to put consistent strokes on low balls with a slice.

Is it common/effective to slice low balls back?
 

Slicehand

Semi-Pro
Thats in fact the perfect ball to slice, i have an eastern grip in my one hander and still when it comes flat and low to it, its so easy to just "cut" it and put a lot of underspin to it, yo can try to drive them sometimes but if you are not perfect on your feet in that particular moment the most effective and consistent shot its gonna be the slice, when it comes with little pace or high and bouncing its harder, and the technique in your slice must be good, but flat, fast and low? Just make sure you dont open too much the face of the racquet at contact and cut it from up to down, very little effort and very good shot, if you dont slice much you will have to practice it and get comfortable with it, but for a one hander its a must have shot, also i would consider an eastern backhand grip, as its more versatile, but i dont know, maybe western feels better for you and adapts better to your body and style
 

MoxMonkey

Rookie
Thanks guys. I've felt it's been a big hole in my game. When I compete it's against other 3.0/low 3.5 players, and in a match format flat rockets that land in don't come my way much at all.

But when I freehit in the mornings it's mostly 3.5/4.0 players, and often end up in these gorilla ball hard hitting exchanges, where people hit their "60% of the time it works every time" shots. I find my weaknesses revealed there, even if it's opposite someone hitting with reckless abandon.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Whether it is a half-volley or not, any time ball is taken on the rise, it can be hit relatively flat or with topsin

In particular, check out the Bh at 0:17

 
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ZZdark

New User
As a fellow OHBH you def need to master the backhand slice if you want an edge or at least stay competitive. Mastering the slice will help you with your backhand volley/put away shots at the net.


Dealing with other 2HBH aggressive baseliners I know I won't be able to outrally them strictly from the backhand side. The 2hbh is built better for sustained rallies, taking high balls, and absorbing pace. With a 2HBH you can kinda have lackluster footwork and still punt it back like a golf shot while the OHBH's footwork is more demanding and requires you to hit the ball early. Hitting late with a OHBH is a guaranteed shank.


You need to adopt an all-court game to have success with a OHBH otherwise you're just at a disadvantage in prolonged baseline rallies. Ofc there's like Gustavo Kuerten or Thiem who can outrally from the baseline but they're the rare exception amongst pros.

Whatever happens, high, low, or short balls you want to slice it back deep preferably in a corner and outplay with a big forehand and net game (volleys/overheads). This is why Federer has been so dominant against better baseliners.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
As someone who can’t overpower opponents my level, I rely on shot selection and guile to beat people. Having a good low slice is a major addition to the armamentarium when your game is based on never giving the opponent clean wheelhouse balls to hit.

it’s also fairly easy to learn and make consistent as it has fewer body parts in motion.
 

toth

Professional
I have difficoulties to hit a decent slice reply from fast incoming balls, but i know, my thbh is a better shot than my bh slice.
As i see , with topspin i can hit faster balls consistent, with slice i can only hit slow balls in these situations.
 

Slicehand

Semi-Pro
I have difficoulties to hit a decent slice reply from fast incoming balls, but i know, my thbh is a better shot than my bh slice.
As i see , with topspin i can hit faster balls consistent, with slice i can only hit slow balls in these situations.
depending on conditions and at what height the balls comming to you its more tricky or less, but i find that when it comes low and fast, if you slice controling the face of the racquet and with a good up to down, you feed from the oponents pace, and its great defense, because it gives you a little more time to get in good position than if you try to respond with pace, unless you hit a high and loopy top spin shot, but i think thats more difficult to control if the ball comes really fast and low
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
So when a fast flat shot comes in deep and shorthops my backhand side, it's difficult for me to hit the ball back with any real purpose. Sometimes I punch it back deep and occasionally I can get a good drive on it, but usually I dump it in the net, shank it, or send a weak ball back.

Over the last few months my backhand grip has moved into a complete SW backhand grip. I initially did this to work on a forward contact point, but as my stroke has developed the added topspin seemed worth it. Also being left handed I've been able to drive back high bouncing cross court forehands from RH players.

But it's hard to get under it on the short hop shin balls.

I went into a Conti grip and started slicing low fast balls with a ball machine. Floated/skied a bunch of em (I don't really slice much) but it feels like it is going to be easier to put consistent strokes on low balls with a slice.

Is it common/effective to slice low balls back?
If the ball lands deep and is rising when you make contact, it's **much** easier to hit it back with a topspin stroke. The ball is moving up and your racquet is moving up - there's a much greater tolerance to slight mistakes in timing or swing accuracy. If you try to slice that ball that is going up, your racquet is going down when the ball is rising. That's a much tougher shot. When I come over a deep, flat ball, I shorten my swing and pretty much push the racquet head through the contact point keeping the face pointing forward as long as possible and with a slight upward trajectory - kind of like what I try to do with a topspin service return.

For low balls that are at or after their bounce apex, slice is easier, because the ball is going down and the racquet is going down, which makes the stroke more tolerant of slight mis-timing.
 

ubercat

Professional
So for a high rising ball if you swing parallel to the ground up s that the same effect as slicing a low ball? Seem like it would have the same RF angle at contact
 

MoxMonkey

Rookie
If the ball lands deep and is rising when you make contact, it's **much** easier to hit it back with a topspin stroke. The ball is moving up and your racquet is moving up - there's a much greater tolerance to slight mistakes in timing or swing accuracy. If you try to slice that ball that is going up, your racquet is going down when the ball is rising. That's a much tougher shot. When I come over a deep, flat ball, I shorten my swing and pretty much push the racquet head through the contact point keeping the face pointing forward as long as possible and with a slight upward trajectory - kind of like what I try to do with a topspin service return.

For low balls that are at or after their bounce apex, slice is easier, because the ball is going down and the racquet is going down, which makes the stroke more tolerant of slight mis-timing.
This makes sense to me if the ball is rising into ones hitting zone, like in what would be a baseball strike zone, top of the knees to the chest. But for a flat low dart of a fastball to the BH side, that hits a couple feet in front of you and is skidding in shin high, it is not easier for me to drive it with any decent topspin.
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
So for a high rising ball if you swing parallel to the ground up s that the same effect as slicing a low ball? Seem like it would have the same RF angle at contact
Yes, though I always try to swing downward on the ball. I probably swing downward too much. Because we have fairly fast hard courts where I play and I'm used to hitting against hard shots, I have a more vertical trajectory than is probably ideal. Consequently, on slow courts, I have a problem easily generating pace on an underspin shot and it tends to have a lot of spin and be a bit floaty, so it sits up asking to be hit.

I also seem to have less problems with launch angle control when I'm trying to increase the spin on the ball, versus just hitting down on it enough to maintain the spin. Again, that's probably a technique issue on my part but even on slices that I hit right off the ground, I have a fairly steep downward trajectory.

I hit a few of those slice backhands right off the bounce in the following video. The one at 40 seconds is that pretty horizontal trajectory - I normally don't do that and it looks like my footwork and positioning wasn't good and I got caught out. The ones at 58 and 1:17 are more typical of how I would try to slice a ball right off the bounce.


This was right after a pandemic-caused closure. Everything was hurting right after starting playing again. I'm actually surprised I made such good contact - I normally don't always, which is why I typically try to hit them flat if I can.
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
This makes sense to me if the ball is rising into ones hitting zone, like in what would be a baseball strike zone, top of the knees to the chest. But for a flat low dart of a fastball to the BH side, that hits a couple feet in front of you and is skidding in shin high, it is not easier for me to drive it with any decent topspin.
Here's a video where I take a very short hop on a fast, deep ball and top it back - it's the second ball I hit in this video. In looking at it, I think I described it well in my first post - I get low, shorten the swing, and basically push the racquet head face through the contact point keeping my wrist position as still as possible, and there's no forearm rotation at all, and using a very slightly upward trajectory. You can see that I maintain the same "L" shape between my forearm and racquet throughout the entire stroke and into the end of the follow-through. This is the same swing I would use for a topspin return of serve. I think his ball may have just caught the line or landed a hair deep. By keeping the racquet face pointing forward, I have the most tolerance for bad timing or misjudging the ball.


I have to say that this shot is the beauty of some sharply shaped poly strings. Even with that flattish swing trajectory, some strings are very good at reversing the incoming spin. That backhand contact point was no more than a foot off the ground, the ball I hit was probably moving about 60 MPH, cleared the net by a foot, and still landed not much past the service box so I had a lot of margin for hitting it higher and still keeping it in. In this video, that string is Volkl V-Square, which really does a great job of enhancing spin for a recreational player like me.
 

MoxMonkey

Rookie
Thanks for the post. That was the type of incoming in shot I was describing. Myself pulling off that return of said shot consistently is down the road a bit. Looks good though man.
 
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Injured Again

Hall of Fame
Thanks for the post. That was the type of incoming in shot I was describing. Myself pulling off that return of said shot consistently is down the road a bit. Looks good though man.
With modern racquets and strings, I don't think you should put off starting to learn that shot. It's useful in so many instances. Not only to drive deep balls back and serve returns as I've said, but the fundamentals are also really useful in doubles. If you watch higher level (4.5 and above) doubles, you'll see lots of times where players will need to half-volley a shot on their way to the net, and many times it is done with a vertical racquet face and a push of the racquet through the contact zone.

If you keep the fundamentals in mind - and mostly that you hit the ball 3-6 inches further in front of you than your normal backhand contact point and that you keep the racquet as quiet as possible, I bet you would learn how to hit it pretty effectively fairly quickly. It's much easier than trying to slice that same ball. Good luck.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
So when a fast flat shot comes in deep and shorthops my backhand side, it's difficult for me to hit the ball back with any real purpose. Sometimes I punch it back deep and occasionally I can get a good drive on it, but usually I dump it in the net, shank it, or send a weak ball back.

Over the last few months my backhand grip has moved into a complete SW backhand grip. I initially did this to work on a forward contact point, but as my stroke has developed the added topspin seemed worth it. Also being left handed I've been able to drive back high bouncing cross court forehands from RH players.

But it's hard to get under it on the short hop shin balls.

I went into a Conti grip and started slicing low fast balls with a ball machine. Floated/skied a bunch of em (I don't really slice much) but it feels like it is going to be easier to put consistent strokes on low balls with a slice.

Is it common/effective to slice low balls back?
The slice backhand is an essential shot for everybody regardless what type of topspin stroke a player might prefer. Keep at it and once you get it biting through the court, it should become a reliable option for handling a low ball.

The counterintuitive thing about the slice is that to effectively drive it, contact needs to happen further back beside us compared with where we catch the ball to hit it with topspin. Try doing a backhand slice in slow motion (without swinging at a ball) and watch how the racquet face opens up as the racquet arm progresses forward. Going after the ball too far ahead of us lets the racquet face slide under the ball and either float it too much or boost it skyward.

I also prefer the idea of setting the racquet slightly above the ball, but think of swinging through it from a higher backswing instead of going high-to-low where the move can get too choppy and weak. A good slice includes a mild smiley swing path that starts high and finishes high with the gripping hand leading the racquet throughout.

A great way to develop a solid follow through with a backhand slice is to finish the stroke with the tip of your racquet pointing in the general direction of your target while still maintaining the "L" that's formed between the racquet and your forearm.
 

Demented

Semi-Pro
Almost no one here uses a semi-western 1 handed backhand. It's a very niche shot that I have a feeling isn't well understood. I switched from a 2 handed backhand to a semi-western 1 hander a few years ago and you definitely can't hit low flat balls with it. Even crouching down the lowest ball that I can hit is upper thigh but the payoff is that I can hit any ball stomach height to a foot above my head with a full power top spin blast. Learn to slice and then get really frustrated when you play someone who has a deceptive bounce and tricks you into dialing up the wrong grip.
 
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