Is The Slice Right?

Fred Drilling
Fred Drilling
Nationally ranked teaching pro Fred Drilling asks, “Which is more accurate and effective, a topspin shot or a slice shot?”

There are many players who still use the Continental grip (the traditional backhand and volley grip) on the forehand side as well; and hit mostly slice or almost flat forehands. Fred points out the Jimmy Parker “seems to control the ball quite well with his slices.”

Larry Turville says…

Larry Turville slice
Larry Turville slice
In a very valuable lesson I took from Larry Turville, he said to me, “In senior tennis, there is no reason to hit any backhand other than a slice.”

And when he fed me balls to hit, he would not watch my form hitting the ball as much as he watched the ball when it struck the court. He wanted to see how much “bite” I was getting on the stroke.


On my forehand, I use a semi-Western grip and attempt to hit with a fair amount of topspin. Sometimes in a singles match, I can default (a little bit like Rafa) hitting TOO MUCH top … and not enough drive to the ball.


Not sure I agree. For years, I have been hitting almost exclusively the slice backhand; and it has been “passable.” But when playing against the Top Guys, I found they have been able to take the offense off my slice backhand (which honestly, is not a strong as Larry T would like to see).

So I worked over the summer to develop more of a “driving backhand.” I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “topspin” backhand; but not one that floats over the net.

For me, it more suits my “tennis personality” in liking to try to be offensive than defensive.

What do you think… slice or drive?

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9 thoughts on “Is The Slice Right?

  1. when i was younger, i always hit a two-handed backhand (learned from watching bjorn borg on tv) . once i started playing senior tennis, i went to the one-handed slice because i no longer could get easily in position to hit the two-hander. it is so much easier on the body hitting the backhand slice. i still hit the two-handed when i get jammed or find myself getting into the proper hitting position easily.
    in regards to the forehand, i used to hit it as flat as possible (once again, learned from watching jimmy conners hit his on tv). of course, i was trying to hit as few as possible, because i was going to the net as soon as i could. hitting the slice forehand allows you to get to the net easier than the topspin forehand, based on your footwork.
    since they moved the net so far away from the baseline in recent years, i now hit my version of topspin as i spend most of the time on the baseline (ha).
    we are always learning and adjusting, aren’t we?

    JoMac, good thoughts. see you soon? george

  2. Why not wisely use both slice and topspin backhands? There’s often a belief that a slice backhand can’t deliver much offense from the baseline except as an approach shot. But that’s not true. In rallies, it stays low, can be pinpointed deep and short and can therefore do much to elicit a short, attackable ball — particularly versus players with semi-Western or Western grips. Often in rallies I’ve found hitting a topspin backhand frequently provides the opponent with a fairly user-friendly ball. But, yes, it’s nice to have a topspin backhand for passing shots, various service returns and, yes, taking a ball that lands inside the baseline and giving it a good whack.

    And it’s really not hard to build a technique that delivers both.

    On the forehand, mostly flat and topspin. Sidespin not bad, though, for certain transition and approach shots. And underspin, of course, for drop shots.

    JOEL – right, the more weapons in the arsenal, the better the battle. thanks. george

  3. When Fred was in the juniors in Southern California, his big stroke was his forehand – in fact that was probably 75% of his game. His backhand kept the ball in play and was mostly sliced. He approached net with his very strong forehand and could win points off his approach shots. His serve as good, but not great. I remember playing with Frank Ripley (from Palm Springs) against Fred and Chuck Bleckinger in a doubles match in our tournament in Fullerton (my home town – my father ran it). Frank had a very strong serve and volley game and played about even with Fred otherwise. Ultimately, because Chuck was better than I was, we lost, but the real fun was seeing Frank and Fred battle it out. Fred’s forehand against Frank’s aggressiveness at net. Fortunately Chuck had a bad day so the match was fairly close. Fred was also very steady. SEB

    Sheldon, Fred’s big stroke is still his (mostly flat) forehand! thanks, george

  4. WARNING: extremely boring post to follow.

    Had to go to solely slice years ago (wrist issue). Immediately emailed Jeff Davis for tips after seeing him play at the National Public Parks. Turns out that he’s just a better athlete than I. 🙂 Bottom line, have been on a quest to try to figure the shot out ever since.

    Made a bunch of “freeze frames” from (mostly) YouTube slow motion videos. They seem to pretty consistently show an “open to (nearly) square to open” pattern for the racket face (with exceptions for really high balls and for balls with massive topspin on them). Volleys seem to show something similar in most circumstances. Here’s the URL for those who’ve read this far. Seems that an awful lot of online instructors tell us to keep the racket face open through contact. . . kb

    Kevin, what i see in your photo display is not an open raquet face, but a perpendicular one. thanks, george

  5. All I know is this … Whatever Fred Drilling and Larry Turville say – just do it 😉

    I’d love to hear from those players who still have a tough time controlling their slice backhand.

    If there’s a challenge with this shot for you, what typically goes wrong?

    As always, good stuff George.


    Brent, i am one of those players … my slice backhand floats (and frequently, floats long). thanks, george

  6. When I am playing best, my slice backhand is a real weapon. People say I keep it very deep and it just bites the court close to the baseline and does not come up. I often hit this as an approach shot. I can hit the approach either up the line, as is traditionally the play, or deep cross court. If I get it deep enough, it seems not to matter that much whether the shot is up the line or cross court — the slice adds so much “sting” that it is equally effective. When I am hitting the ball best, the slice causes the low ball to land at or near an opponent’s feet and it takes a very strong opponent, or one with good luck, to be able to get the ball back or even on the racquet strings. Normally, two handed backhand players have a better chance of flicking my deep slice back with their wrists; one handed players have the most trouble returning my backhand slice and they often miss or frame the return.

    But I am not always consistent with the shot. I sometimes get into a less aggressive mind set and start hitting the slice short or with less bite. When this happens, I know I am in for a long day. This can happen when I lose confidence in the shot when they get called long. Then, I tend to default to a less aggressive backhand drive. Then I lose my aggressive edge and it becomes more like a war of attrition if I get into a backhand/ backhand exchange. I usually try to find a short backhand to hit a run around forehand in that situation, either inside out or inside in. But then I am playing a different game that my comfort zone and anything can happen.

    I actually can hit a moderate topspin backhand, but I rarely hit it these days. I simply cannot put enough topspin on the shot with my one hander to make it really kick, and if I hit too short, I also run the risk of giving the opponent an opportunity to hit a run around forehand for a winner return. Back when I was younger, I actually could hit a fairly strong one handed topspin backhand and I would not hesitate to use it to go for an up the line pass or an extreme cross court backhand winner with topspin. But, alas, those days are gone. I am now a weak old man.

    Marty – I have been on the receiving end of your effective slice backhands many times! thanks, george

  7. Good morning,
    When I was in my teens and 20s I had a good one hand backhand. 75% topspin and was my more consistent shot. Now in my 60s I am thinking alot more slice just because I have trouble getting into position to hit an effective topspin backhand making the risk reward wrong. With the slice I can keep the ball deep or approach the net without getting into a perfect a position.

    (Always looking for drills to improve my footwork.)

    Randy Beerman

    Randy, yup, footwork is key to all shots! thanks, george

  8. Slice vs Topspin – the larger racquets favored by many of the superseniors are much easier to slice than to generate topspin. A traditional “players” racquet does both about equally well but the topspin is generally more penetrating, forcing (grass courts is another subject). Having both and making the correct decision and execution on each shot is the ideal to me but the Andrew Rae type players show that an exceptional slice can be enough.

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