Winning with the backhand slice

by Jonas Eriksson

The backhand slice is mostly seen as a defensive shot to win time, change pace, and get back into position. But there are pros that use it as a weapon.

Have you been watching the Western and Southern Open? It’s nice to have ATP tennis back and I try to watch as much as time allows through TennisTV. They usually do a solid highlights package per match if you can’t watch the full match. Yesterday I saw a part of the match between Dan Evans and Andrey Rublev. I thought it would be entertaining and I wasn’t wrong. Rublev hits the ball like there is no tomorrow, while Evans is more of a strategizing player who cleverly uses the backhand slice more than most players on the tour.

There are a few players that resort to the slice more than not and most of them are one-handed backhand players. Federer is a great example of a player that changes direction, tempo, and uses the backhand slice as a weapon. He often uses a short cross-court backhand slice to draw the player in towards the net for example.

Feliciano Lopez is another player that prefers the slice over his topspin backhand. Perhaps they just feel like it’s an easier shot, but they do use it to great effect and can sometimes hit winners even with a slower shot as the slice.

Dan Evans Backhand Slice Masterclass

But yesterday was all about Dan Evans and how he defended and moved the ball around with the slice. He does not have a bad one-handed topspin shot when he hits it, but he definitely feels more comfortable using the slice. I would say 80% of his backhands are sliced. You would think that on the ATP Tour that shot would be punished over and over, but it’s not quite as easy.

If the slice is low and heavy and well-placed, you would need to have a Nadal-esque forehand to hit a winner. Nadal loves to play against that shot, but he is lefty with a massive forehand topspin jab. Most players don’t have that kind of weapon in their arsenal.

In Rublev’s case, he is a player that often goes for broke on both wings. He sometimes seems to lack that plan-B and in this match, he was missing a bit too much in critical moments to get away with it. And like always, Evans defended well, used his forehand when he had the chance, hit some nice volleys, and took the W.

So if you don’t have a great topspin backhand. Don’t worry too much, you can still get by with your slice backhand. Just look at players like Fernando Gonzales, Roger Federer, Feliciano Lopez, and Dan Evans (Del Potro also likes using the backhand slice a lot, perhaps due to pre-existing wrist injuries).

What do you think of the backhand slice? How often do you use it? 

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Tennis Lion August 24, 2020 - 20:07

It’s interesting that when Dan was playing a couple of weeks ago at the Battle of the Brits in the UK he was rolling the backhand as much as slicing. He probably reverts more to the slice against tougher players. What does seem to be the case is that the slice backhand is one shot that the racket makes a noticeable difference. Namely a small head with narrow beam and heavy weight is what you need to get the real nasty shot that stays low, goes deep, but still skids through relatively fast. Lighter rackets with more open patterns tend to make the ball float and lose pace more. Dan’s Six One 95 is the ideal weapon for that shot, and it’s impressive that he can play many other shots creatively with it too.

John August 25, 2020 - 07:57

the slice is a great way to add variation to your shots and give your opponent something different to deal with – different bounce, different speed. The low, deep, skidding slice is great attacking shot.


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