There is both a forehand and backhand slice. Both are useful tools to keep in your arsenal. Probably 95% of players only ever practice the backhand slice, but the forehand slice can be useful in certain situations, and it should be practiced as well. The grip is the same as your volleys – continental. The idea is to put backspin on the ball.
There are three kinds of slices 1) A floating slice that takes a long time to land, and gives your opponent no pace 2) a knifing slice that stays low and skids through the court, and 3) a dropshot, which lands 1-2 feet in front of the net, and bounces no further than 3 feet from the net.
Ideally your mechanics on each shot would look exactly the same, and only the angle of the racquet face would determine which of the three options you choose to hit. This way your opponent has no idea what to expect.
The basic swing mechanics are 1) turn your shoulders, 2) the racquet drops to parallel to the court, or descends towards the ball from slightly above. The grip is a volley grip, and you are putting backspin on the ball as you cut under it. On the backhand slice you want to keep your shoulders closed even after you hit the ball, and you want to extend your left hand back, almost squeezing your shoulder blades together to maintain balance. You want to step in through the ball, either with a shuffle step, or karaoke step (left foot moving behind your front right foot) as you move into the court through the shot.
The backhand slice (approach)
Notice in the above gif:
- I keep my head on the same level throughout the shot, keeping good balance and my eyes on the ball.
- I keep my legs bent and move through the shot.
- My font leg steps from my heel to my toe to facilitate transfer of weight forward and through the ball
- My back leg moves in a karaoke step behind my front leg, to continue forward momentum through the ball.
- I keep my shoulders parallel to sideline throughout the shot, and extend my left arm out behind me as I hit the ball to maintain that parallel structure in my shoulders.
I do not chop downward at the ball, or think about “carving” the ball for spin. Instead I hit through the shot and move through the shot.
The Forehand Slice
Notice how in the above GIF:
- I start with a shoulder turn, and my non-hitting hand on the racquet
- I step heel to toe with my leading foot
- My back foot karaoke steps behind my front foot to keep forward momentum
- While I try to keep the racquet as compact to my body as possible, my forward lunge causes it to lag behind me, generating power. Had I thought of taking it behind me, my swing would have become much too large and unwieldy.
- My head stays relatively level, but there is still too much up and down movement.
For dropshots, it’s best to disguise them by hitting them toward your opponent. Visually it will look just like a regular slice for the first second, which robs them of time to get there. If disguise is not so important, it’s generally best to hit it to their backhand, typically the weaker side.
Forehand Dropshot (approach)
Notice in the above GIF:
- I try to keep my legs bent and my head on the same level.
- I keep my eyes on the ball well through the shot.
- I step heel-to-toe, and land on that leading foot after a forward hop, maintaining forard momentum.
- I follow through the shot in an upward motion. I do not chop down on the ball. Following through with the body and racquet is of great importance to maintain control of the ball.
Dropshots are typically hit only when you are inside the baseline after your opponent has hit a weak or short ball. One effective technique is to prepare as though you are going to hit a powerful approach shot, and then at the last second chip a dropshot and approach the net.
If you are running in quickly towards a short ball, and are going to hit a dropshot, you have to try and land the ball closer to the net (I typically try to land the ball right on the net), as your forward momentum will tend to push the ball further than you would think.
You must always follow your dropshot to the net, and stand approximately 3 feet from the net awaiting their return. If it is a good dropshot, your opponent will be forced to hit the ball upward, and you can then volley it into the open court, or alternatively hit it right at them hard. Hitting a volley right at your opponent when you are both at the net is usually the best shot as you increase your margin for error (no lines involved), and it is very difficult for them to get out of the way.
Even if your dropshot is crummy, you still must follow it into the net as it puts pressure on your opponent to pass you.
Bad Forehand Dropshot
Notice how here, I strike down on the ball with no follow-through, and I do not maintain any forward momentum through the shot. I do not follow through with my back leg, or continue in towards the net. I am just standing static. This makes it very hard to control the ball, and it also telegraphs your shot to your opponent so they can see it coming a mile away. Not to mention it leaves you flat footed and in poor position (probably).
Also in the above GIF you can see how I take my eyes off the ball right before I hit it because I am too eager to see where it will end up. On dropshots especially, you have to watch the ball.
One effective tactic when your opponent gives you a weak ball, is to feign as though you are going to hit a penetrating forehand approach, then hit a clean little dropshot to follow in to the net.
If you do not follow your dropshot into the net, your opponent should simply dropshot you right back. Since they are so close to the net, it is an easy shot to hit, and you have little time to react if you are at the baseline. If your opponent dropshots you, conversely, you should always dropshot them back if they are not at the net. If they DO follow their dropshot into the net, you can either try to hit the ball softly and low and their feet so they pop it up, or lob it over them to their backhand side. Pros frequently go for the sharp angle dropshot crosscourt, but this is dangerous since if your opponent gets to that ball, they have a clear shot up the line to pass you.
To practice your touch around the net with dropshots and angles, practice playing with an opponent. Both players start at the net, and one holds the ball on top of the net in the center of the court. Let go of the ball, and it will fall to one side. From there, have fun trying to use angles and spin to beat your opponent while keeping the ball in the mini-tennis court. The guys over at essential tennis have a video of themselves playing this drill out. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=158&v=r3fVeqbHscA