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Hardscrabble Scramble
July 2001 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Learn To Slice

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Mike Whittington

If you have been watching any of the Wimbledon matches this year you have seen the value of the slice groundstroke. The ball stays so low on the grass that the top players in the world realize that there are certain situations that a topspin shot will not work. Did you see how the top pros use the slice to return serve? It just simply isn't possible to hit a big topspin shot while returning a booming serve on grass. Another time that a slice is useful is on a low ball when it is just impossible to get your racquet lower than the ball to produce topspin. If you get a low short ball bringing you into the net, slice allows you to get the ball back and keep it low while continuing to an offensive position at the net. If you are pushed wide on the backhand side, having a one handed slice backhand can make the difference in you being able to return the ball. Learning a defensive lob with a little slice on it can add great touch to your game in stressful situations. And what about when a ball bounces high around your shoulders? Attempting a low to high topspin shot on this one could put so much spin on it that the ball simply dies into the net. The slice groundstroke is a safer shot to use in these situations.

Hitting a slice forehand or backhand can not only get you out of a tough situation but can be a weapon as well. You can use it against that opponent that hates the low ball. Some players feed off hard shots right in their hitting zone. Taking the pace off with a slice can take the big hitter out of their game. Try mixing it up in the warm up and see how your opponent likes hitting different spins. If a player has an extreme Western grip then they will probably not like low balls. Steffi Graf built her game around her slice backhand by setting up points with low shots moving her opponent around the court. Having the slice can also allow you to hit devastating drop shots.

So how do you hit the slice? The first rule is to try and have a Continental grip. You can use an Eastern backhand grip although you have to turn the wrist back at contact. That grip is a more neutral grip that allows the racquet to slide slightly under the ball. Take your racquet back slightly higher than the incoming ball and take your racquet from the top of the ball to the bottom allowing the racquet to slide under and through the ball. If you are just starting to hit a slice then it might be a good idea to keep your wrist locked and think of it as more of a volley. This will prevent you from getting too wristy and popping every shot straight up. The more of them you hit the more comfortable you will feel in getting the proper amount of wrist action. You want to try to finish with your racquet going forward rather than across you body. Allow your non-dominant hand to move away from your body as you hit for balance.

The slice can be a delicate shot used on both the forehand and backhand. Give it some practice and it can be a great weapon in your arsenal.

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Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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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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