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Player to Player: Handling Slice Shots

April 28, 2012 07:05 PM
Have a question? Receive advice from your fellow tennis players!
Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.

Player to Player:
This week's question from Oscar:
I have been playing tennis for over 40 years and never had tennis elbow until recently. I am right-handed and have always hit a decent one-handed backhand, however I cannot hit my backhand with power due to the pain. I am considering switching to a two-handed backhand. Is this a good Idea?
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@USTA.com, and include your name and hometown.
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!

Last week's question from Chris
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
What’s the best thing to do when your opponent slices the ball during a rally? I usually try to lower my racquet and hit normally, but it usually goes into the net while scratching my racquet.
Player Responses:
Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.

What makes returning a slice shot tough is how low the ball stays due to the backspin. It is a common error for a player to squat to meet this shot. After all, isn't "bending your knees" a cliche used by many coaches? By doing just will cause the racquet scraping and your shot ending in the net.

Try focusing on bending your back knee. Imagine having a camera on a tripod on the tennis court. Lower all of the tripod legs less than three feet. With all the legs at the same level, you'll be seeing the net in your viewfinder. By only lowering the rear legs, you'll be shooting above the net. I like to refer to the back-knee technique as the "photo finish." Your racquet will be tilted correctly to allow your follow through to "finish" above the net. You will also find that racquet will be touching the court with the head guard portion, rather than the 3 or 9 o'clock area.

One other tip is be sure to use either a Continental (slice) or Eastern (flat) grip in meeting the ball. A Western (topspin) grip will definitely result in your shot going south, literally.

Clint C., Los Gatos, Calif.

Assuming that you are already correctly holding your racquet in front of you during your rallies, there are two things to be aware of when a ball is sliced at you. First, the slice rotation tends to direct the ball slightly downward when it bounces off your strings. Therefore, you need to chop into or get your racquet slightly under the ball to give it the extra lift it needs to counteract that downward tendency. Secondly, if the incoming ball has sideways spin, this can be countered by reversing the curved path of the ball, i.e., if the ball is twisting out to your right, your racquet strings need to be moving across the ball from your right to left. With proper timing, this will cause your return ball to retrace the same curved path the ball had when it came at you (in mirror-image fashion). So work on reversing the sideward spin, and hitting slightly under the slicing ball, if you want to get a better handle on your volley game.
Ken S.

It is great to be able to handle the slice backhand or forehand and also be able to hit them. keep your eye on the ball, maybe bend your knees a little more. Don't try and change direction of the shot or hit a winner much on the return of the slice because it is mostly a defensive shot. You could, though, catch it early and rush the net.

Kevin C., Bel Air, Md.

As I see it, the answer to this question may be different, depending on a few factors. First, it depends on what shots you have in your arsenal. Second, it depends on whether the slice is a "floater" slice or a power/aggressive slice. And, third, it may depend on the playing surface.

So let’s start with your skill level. A good counter shot to a slice is always another slice (especially on the backhand side), but countering a slice with a slice can be a tricky shot for the beginner or intermediate player. It requires good timing, excellent footwork, confidence and experience. For the lesser-experienced player, I think a moderate topspin shot is your best bet. Now if the slice is a "floater," I would recommend countering with a strong topspin shot that attempts to move your opponent off the court. On the other hand, I recommend countering an aggressive/power slice with a neutral or even defensive topspin shot that "keeps you in the point."

As far as playing surface, clay and hardtru play slower and usually allow more time to react to a slice. The same rules apply as stated above, but having a counter slice is even more important on the slower courts.

Overall, one of the most important aspects to countering a slice (no matter what counter shot you choose) is reading your opponent’s slice early and anticipating where you need to be positioned so that you are in the right spot. That’s my two cents.
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
Click here for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.


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