Backhand Slice Instruction
Although not as popular as it used to be, the backhand slice can still be used to great effect. It can be used in a variety of ways; it's extremely effective as an approach shot, a dropshot, a lob, and it's especially useful against players who have difficulty countering low balls, particularly on fast courts - like grass.
Perhaps the player most renowned for his backhand slice was Ken Rosewall. Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf were two players who also had notable sliced backhands.
Of today's players, Tim Henman has one of the best. You can read what Tim has to say about the backhand slice on this page of his site.
Although the shot is usually played with one hand, Jimmy Connors had an incredibly effective two handed slice backhand that he liked to angle short and wide off high balls.
The grip is fundamental to the backhand slice. Ideally, it should be anywhere between an Eastern backhand grip and a Continental grip. (Click here for tennis grips.)
If you use a grip that's too Western, there'll be a tendency to slide across the back of the ball. Also the elbow will tend to get too high, completely destroying the shot. If you use a grip that's too far around to the forehand side, you'll have no power in the shot as the wrist will feel very weak on contact with the ball.
The shot is played off the the right front leg (for righties), with most of the weight on the right thigh. A closed stance is used with the player side on to the oncoming ball.
Take the racket back slightly higher than the intended contact with the ball. The left hand cradles the throat of the racket, and it also dictates the angle of the racket face in the backswing position. The racket face should be slightly open, so that the flight of the ball won't be either too high above the net, or into the net itself. Unless you're a very advanced player, in which case you probably have the "feel" to slide underneath the ball if you want to take pace off the shot. Keep the racket face at the same angle through the whole shot.
To use Ken Rosewall's backhand slice as an example, he would frequently skim the net cord with his shot; he had such fantastic control that he needed very little margin for error (net clearance), such was his accuracy.
The swing itself should be very smooth, keeping the racket head above the wrist all the way through the shot. Don't try and generate pace by using lots of arm speed. Generate your pace with the timing of the shot. You should be leaning into the ball and hitting through the shot. Keep the wrist locked at all times, and keep the hand high in the follow through; i.e., don't let the hand relax and fall away with a subsequent drop in the racket head. At all times, attempt to keep your arm, wrist, hand and racket in line with one another.
Start with the elbow in a comfortably bent position, tending towards straightening the arm as you play the shot. The non-racket hand should be used to maintain balance; i.e., it should travel in the opposite direction of the racket hand. You should have the feeling of your shoulder blades squeezing together as you swing. After initial contact, keep the ball on the strings as long as possible, and finish with the racket head pointing in the direction that you'd like the shot to go.
For more information on the backhand slice, you might like to check out the sites below...
Tennis Server - Backhand Slice Instruction
BBC Tennis Academy - Backhand Slice Instruction
Tennis On The Line - Backhand Slice Instruction