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Hardscrabble Scramble
July 1999 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Backhand Slice And Dice

Mike Whittington Photo
Mike Whittington

If you have been watching Wimbledon you have probably noticed the beautiful slice backhands most of the pros are hitting. You see it more often on grass courts than other surfaces because the ball is coming so low and fast that it makes it difficult for players to come over with topspin. We can all learn a lesson from watching the pros at Wimbledon this year.

A slice can be a great shot to add to your arsenal of shots. Not only does it get the ball low to your opponent but also it is a great shot to hit when a ball is hit low to you. Take note of the good footwork and knee bends by the professionals. Even with their extraordinary ability to hit great shots, they still find themselves in positions to just chip or slice the ball back.

On the backhand side I would suggest hitting with one hand. You will still use the non-dominant hand to support the head of the racquet on the backswing. Also make sure you are using a continental grip to facilitate the slice. Shorten your backswing and brush slightly from the top of the ball to the bottom. You should feel like you are hitting the upper left side of the ball. This is a feel shot that takes some practice. You will probably hit some balls straight down and then float a few when over compensating, but you will get the hang of it after some practice. The shot depends on a good racquet angle to keep the ball low. You will want to lead with the front edge of the racquet but not open the racquet up so much that you pop everything up. Keep the racquet head slightly open throughout the shot. The swing will look very similar to a slide in a playground. The racquet will start high but will not take an abrupt downward motion. You will make contact out in front of your body. You will end with the racquet going out toward your target similar to a slide. Steffi Graf has one of the best slice backhands you'll ever see and she uses it as a very offensive shot.

Remember to bend your knees so that your can keep your swing from being such a high to low movement. You'll find that you can keep the ball lower with a slighter decline in the racquet movement. Watch the pros and then try it for yourself. With a little practice you could add a new shot in plenty of time for next year's Wimbledon!

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This column is copyrighted by Mike Whittington, all rights reserved.

At the time at which he wrote this column, Mike Whittington was a USPTA pro in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he served as director of tennis at the Hardscrabble Country Club.


 

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