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Backhand Slice Technique | How To Achieve a Neutral Racquet Face at Contact

October 10, 2019

Many tennis players are of the belief
that the only way to slice a backhand is by opening the racquet face and then
carving underneath the ball. While it is possible to hit a slice in this manner
it is not what we see at the professional level. High-level tennis
players will have a neutral racquet face at contact. So in today’s video, I’m going
to show you why the neutral racket face is crucial and how you can use it to
improve your backhand slice. First, let’s examine how we achieve under
spin on the ball. So on the backhand slice if we open the racket face up the
ball will get underspin. So if I hit a ball with an open racket face I will be
able to get slice on it. However, if I hit the slice very hard then the open racket
face might cause the ball to stay up too high. A better way to create under spin
on the backhand slice is by going high to low. So professional players will
start with their take back around their shoulder height in some cases even
higher and now the next step is going down towards the waist area. So it’s this
high to low motion that creates under spin and now the next thing that happens
on the professional slices is that some players will keep their racket level as
they go across the body and other players will have the tip of the racket
and dip down ala Federer when they slice. So what creates the underspin is this
high-to-low motion. So if I go from a high position to a low position I get underspin and now the way you want to hit your slice is with a low trajectory
and this is where the closed racket face is crucial. You want to be able to hit a
slice backhand that doesn’t bounce very high on the other side and the other
person would have to bend down and hopefully you can draw an error that way
and the best way to create that is with the neutral racquet face at contact. And
this is how you achieve the neutral racket face of contact. You’re actually
not going to be aware how the racket face is positioned when you hit the ball.
There’s too much acceleration in that part of the shot. So players are unaware
how exactly their racket face is positioned. Of course they can feel if
they open the racket face way up but they will not be able to differentiate
between racket face that’s slightly open or completely neutral. So the only way to
create this neutral racket face at contact what you see from the
professional players is by changing your timing on the slice. And the way you’re
going to change your timing on the slice is by taking the ball later. Here’s what happens if you take the ball
too early on the slice. So if I have a continental grip and if I take the ball
too early or too far in front of my body becomes very difficult to create the
neutral position of the racquet face. I would have to bend my wrist down in
order to straighten my racket. Naturally, the further in front I go
the more the racket face opens up. In order to make good contact on the
backhand slice you must have the correct footwork and what happens at the
professional level is that you will rarely see an open stance slice backhand
like this. Only in emergency situations will you ever see a player attempt a
shot like this. Instead players will step around with their dominant foot. So they
will do a lateral step with their dominant leg and now automatically the shoulders
are turned and we have this sideways position. And now when you make contact
you should never go past the tip of your front foot and you adjust the timing by
waiting on the ball longer. So as you are stepping around with your dominant foot
you should never go past this point. And there are several advantages why you
must make contact later. So if I make contact around the tip of my front foot
see naturally the racket face is more neutral I don’t even have to adjust it.
It is very unlikely that the racket face will open up if I hit the ball this
close to my body. On the other hand if I go further out front naturally the
racket face opens up. So by waiting longer naturally the racket face will be
more neutral. Another advantage of waiting longer on the slice is that if I
make contact around the tip of my front foot it’s going to be easier for me to
connect the slice to my body. So the further in front I go I would lose the
ball it’s very difficult to hit a cross with power. So if I wait longer and make
contact later now I can hit across and connect it to my back muscles, I can
squeeze my shoulder blades together and I, therefore, get a lot more power on
the ball, something like this. There are going to be exceptions on the
open racket face. When we’re talking about a chip return for example where
we’re not really swinging at the ball we’re just absorbing the pace, there in
fact we can have a slightly more open racket face. Another example where the
racket face will be more open would be on low slices. So the lower the ball goes
the more you have to open the racket face to make the ball go over the
net. It would be very unlikely that you’re gonna make it over the net with a
neutral racquet face on a low slice. So if you want to hit hard low slices
that are gonna be tough to handle for your opponent you have to do three
things. Number one, you have to make a lateral step. Number two you have to go
high to low and number three you have to wait for the ball and make a later
contact. If you achieve that you will be able to hit your slice intuitively with
a more closed racquet face and will be therefore not letting the slice sit up
and you’re gonna hit it with a lower trajectory and it’s gonna be very
difficult for your opponent to handle. Thank you guys for watching this video.
Leave a comment in the section below I’ll be happy to respond, hit that like button
and subscribe if you haven’t already. I’ll see you next time.


  • Reply Wally Friend September 20, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Good video. I don’t change my grip from my normal backhand grip when I slice so I achieve a neural face at contact without any effort. My slices are knifing or lofty whenever I want. I think when you teach players to use the continental grip on slice they have make so many adjustments to keep the ball low. On the forehand slice, however, you have no choice but to use continental.

  • Reply chess brillance September 20, 2019 at 11:08 am

    As usual the best analyse out there! Thank you for your explanation because this move looks simple but it is definitely not.

  • Reply Alexander September 20, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Great explanation! Could you describe also how we should hit a return on a high ball like Federer does when returning a kick serve with a slice. Should we also do it with a neutral raquet position and where should be the contact point then? Thanks!

  • Reply Dmitry Private September 20, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    Hi Nikola. Great video. What you are suggesting makes sense. It will require a lot of practice and more awareness for an average rec player to hit/slice the ball late (as we are constantly told NOT to hit the ball late).
    Thank you!

  • Reply Mike Kenny September 20, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Great instructional video of the backhand slice, I've been working on mine for years and now realize I'm hitting it too far in front. Thanks, keep the videos coming!

  • Reply kjfoehr September 20, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Great instruction Nick, as usual! I have a natural slice BH, but some rec players have said I am "chopping" or "knifing" the ball with an abbreviated follow-thru, and that this is wrong. But I have pretty good results with it, so I keep doing it. I notice too that Rafa often appears to chop down hard on his BH slice, so I wonder, is it wrong or just a different kind of slice or what? If it's OK, should it be used in different situations than a regular slice or can it be used all the time instead of the regular slice?

    Also, in your videos you often talk about "losing" the ball. Could you define this more specifically? I think I know what you mean by that, but "losing the ball" doesn't really seem to capture the idea, in my mind. Obviously the ball is not lost; instead what we are losing is the connection of the full body to the ball, no? Isn't it something like breaking the kinetic chain because the arm gets too far away from the body, thus losing the power generated by the legs, torso rotation, weight shift, etc. You are then "reaching" for the ball and are left with mostly arm power. Have I got it or not?

    TIA, Kevin

  • Reply kjfoehr September 20, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    Your point about hitting the slice "late" is a good one. Another reason to not hit it early is that the racket face will angled more and more crosscourt the farther it is away from your body. I struggle with hitting them too far in front when reaching for balls going away from me toward the sideline. Then my racket face is usually angled too far to the right causing my shot to go out, wide crosscourt. But if I wait and hit it later, then I think many times I wouldn't be able to reach the ball at all because it is moving away from me. The only thing I can see to do in that case, since I'm not always quick enough to get closer to the ball, is to try to remember to push my hand further out to get the racket more parallel with the net and thus reduce the angle to the right. Any thoughts would be appreciated. TIA, Kevin

  • Reply Will Keyes September 20, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Where have you been! You are by far the BEST instructor I have ever seen. Thanks for sharing the nuances of tennis strokes!

  • Reply ripleygordon September 20, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Nik, excellent exposé of the backhand slice myth. A virtually, vertical racquet face with late contact for the best results, really helpful, thank you. Gordon

  • Reply Omar Khoury September 20, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you Nikola best explanation I have heard for hitting the slice without floating it. I think most of us should know this, that the contact point is further back for the continental grip but I didn't know this is what caused the ball to float. Thanks again.

  • Reply Muyu September 21, 2019 at 9:03 am

    This really makes sense. Thank you. I'll try this on the court.
    At the moment, I have no idea how advanced players can execute a backhand slice against a high ball. Would that be potentially another video?

  • Reply Intuitive Tennis September 21, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Related videos:
    3-Ways to hit a slice backhand
    Backhand slice fundamentals

  • Reply Peppino Acrivulis September 22, 2019 at 5:20 am

    Great Nikola. ..a professionist. . We love your videos

  • Reply Natachi Nnate September 22, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    Nick, you make this stroke look so easy! Can’t wait to learn how to slice!

  • Reply Kabir Shah September 23, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    Great video again. Realised the importance of having a great slice after watching the fifth set in the US open final. Nadal's variety with his slice helped him over the line.

  • Reply Leon Yi September 26, 2019 at 1:59 am

    Great instruction!

  • Reply Alen X September 26, 2019 at 7:44 am

    Yeah it kinda depends on the height of contact, the lower it is the more open the face has to be, and it also depends on the incoming ball how close or open and what swingpath to have, its alot of trial and error to get enough reps to master it.
    Another good tip is to also extend the left arm and stay closed, too many people open up way too much around on the slice.

  • Reply tennis 92 September 26, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Nik, I have a question. Would you say that all the backspin shots such as volleys, forehand slice and dropshots have the same contact point showed in this video?

  • Reply Nathan Miller September 26, 2019 at 11:57 pm

    Thank you for this nice video, very good information!

  • Reply Andy Garcia September 28, 2019 at 11:03 am


  • Reply Ezio Puiatti October 7, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Great video again
    Explains why I hit too many floaters…
    Will try out out

  • Reply Ronnie MCINERNEY October 8, 2019 at 3:25 am

    Great video!

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