What Is a Slice in Tennis? Your Match-Winning Secret

By Patrick

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Tennis is a game of strategy and variety. Being able to hit different types of shots with control and purpose can help you keep your opponent off balance and open up the court for winning opportunities. One such shot that every tennis player should have in their arsenal is the slice.

Slicing the ball is an essential skill in tennis that can help you defend, change pace, and move your opponent around. When executed properly, a slice can be one of the most effective and deceptive shots in the game. Mastering this stroke can elevate your level of play and unlock new tactics for outsmarting your competition.

In this complete guide, you’ll learn what a slice shot is, why it’s such an important skill, and step-by-step instructions for hitting a proper slice for both forehand and backhand. With the right technique and focused practice, you can develop a formidable sliced shot to take your tennis game to the next level. Let’s get started!

What Is a Slice Shot in Tennis?

A slice shot (or just “slice”) is a tennis stroke hit with underspin, causing the ball to travel at a lower trajectory than a normal flat or topspin groundstroke. Slicing the ball gives it a curving, skidding motion through the air and off the court.

To produce this underspin, the player brushes down and across the back of the ball with an angled, open-faced racket. This imparting of backspin creates Magnus effect lift on the bottom of the ball, resulting in the lower flight path.

The slice is typically used for defensive purposes like neutralizing pace, staying in a point, or extending a rally. However, the slice can also be utilized offensively as a change of pace shot or approach shot for coming into net.

No matter the intention, proper form and technique is required to execute a proper tennis slice.

Benefits of the Slice Shot

Introducing the slice into your game can provide a number of advantages:

Defense – One of the main benefits of the slice is defensive. Hitting a lower bouncing shot can allow you to return a ball that you may not reach otherwise. Slicing up in the court against a hard striker can disrupt timing. The uneven bounce of the slice when hit from a defensive position can induce errors from your opponent.

Change of Pace – Flattening out pace by hitting a slower slice can disrupt your opponent’s rhythm, especially if they’ve been hitting out with heavy topspin. This variation of speed is an important tactic.

Movement – Slicing to a player’s weaker side or away from their strike zone can move them out of position and open the court for your next shot. Pulling them wide with angles is an excellent offensive play.

Approaching – The slice serve and slice approach are common patterns to come to net. The low skid allows you to set up straightforward volleys to finish the point.

Consistency – The slice movement pattern allows for controlled, repeating strokes. Focusing on technique can lead to fewer errors when executed properly.

As you can see, introducing the slice shot into your tennis game can expand your capabilities from multiple standpoints. Now let’s look at the various slice shot types.

Different Slice Shot Techniques

Though the general motion is similar, there are a few variations of the tennis slice:

Backhand Slice – The most common slice is the single-handed backhand slice. The dominant hand holds the racket like a hammer and guides the stroke while the non-dominant hand stabilizes.

Forehand Slice – The forehand slice follows a similar brushing action but requires modifying the grip and preparation. This stroke is less common but still useful.

Two-Handed Backhand Slice – The two-handed backhand can also be sliced with both hands guiding the racket face down and across the ball.

Drop Shot – Executed with finesse, the slice drop shot hits the ball at a sharper downward angle resulting in a shot that just barely goes over the net.

Lob – Hitting up on the ball with slice can produce a defensive lob to send the ball high and deep into the court.

Serve – Many players utilize a slice serve, sweeping the back of the ball from low toss to high contact point to achieve spin.

Understanding the various slice shot types will help you learn the specific techniques and how to apply them during play. Now let’s look at exactly how to hit a proper slice shot.

How to Hit a Proper Tennis Slice Shot

Executing an effective tennis slice takes practice and proper technique. Follow these key steps to develop a consistent and deceptive slice shot:

Set Up Sideways in the Ready Position

As the ball approaches, turn your torso and front shoulder to the side with the non-dominant hand holding the throat of the racket and your dominant hand extended up the handle. The racket face should be angled back and facing the path of the incoming ball.

Low-to-High Swing Path

As you make contact with the ball, sweep the racket face upwards and forwards along the target path you want the ball to travel. This low-to-high swing path is key for imparting underspin.

Brush Underneath the Ball

Imagine you are brushing underneath the backside of the ball, finishing over your shoulder. You want to graze the strings up the back of the ball slightly before contact to put topspin on it. The follow through will continue rising up and away from your body.

Point Shoulders and Body Toward Target

Keep your shoulders, hips, and chest oriented towards your intended target during the swing motion. This directional positioning helps aim the shot accurately.

Land on Your Outside Foot

As you finish the stroke, your weight should be moving into your front foot, landing on the outside edge for optimal body control and balance.

Guide with the Dominant Hand

Though both hands are involved, the dominant hand leads the racket throughout the swing path, brushing underneath the ball for spin. The non-dominant stabilizes at the throat of the racket.

Loose Grip Pressure

Avoid squeezing the racket handle too tightly. Maintain a relaxed grip to allow better wrist hinge and a fluid swinging motion.

With the proper fundamentals, you can start grooving this essential tennis shot. Let’s look at some tips to improve the quality and consistency of your slice even further.

Tips for Improving Your Slice Shot

Hitting an occasional lucky slice here and there is one thing, but developing a technically sound and reliable shot requires work. Use these tips to upgrade your ability to hit slices:

Contact Out Front – Many newer players make contact too close to their body instead of forward in the strike zone resulting in a weaker shot. Extend your follow through to hit farther in front.

Level Swing Path – Ensure you are sweeping the ball across your body, not swinging upward too vertically. You want to brush up on the back of the ball, not downward directly into the top of the ball.

Point Knuckles Down – Keeping your hand knuckles pointed downwards helps angle the face of the racket correctly through the impact zone for imparting underspin.

Racquet Face Awareness – Concentrate on controlling the angle of the racket face as you make contact with the ball. This will greatly affect the spin and direction of the shot.

Knees Bent – Maintaining bent knees during the swing allows better balance, weight transfer, and stability throughout the motion.

Follow Through – Fully finish every slice shot. Holding the finish position for a moment will groove proper swing technique.

Upright Posture – Remain upright through the ready position, backswing, and follow through. Bending at the waist hinders swing motion.

Toss & Hit Zone – Start slower, tossing easy balls in your ideal contact point to dial in timing and positioning. Then gradually increase speed and slice spin.

Weighted Balls – Warm up with weighted balls to prepare your muscles for added exertion required to slice spin on the ball. Heavier balls accentuate swing flaws.

With applied practice, these tips will help refine your tennis slice technique for incorporating it seamlessly into matches. Now let’s go over some common mistakes to avoid.

Common Slice Shot Mistakes & Fixes

Developing a repeatable and reliable slice shot requires eliminating bad habits and fine-tuning your technique. Here are some common flaws with fixes:

Late Contact – Holding your swing too long and contacting the ball late as you are still rising upward results in a weaker shot without control. Start your swing sooner.

Rushing the Stroke – If you feel hurried or off-balance when hitting a slice, your footwork and readiness likely needs improvement. Set earlier with more deliberate footwork.

Rigid Wrist – A rigid, fixed wrist through the swing prevents proper hinging motion required to brush under the ball for spin. Keep your wrist relaxed and loose.

Open Racquet Face – Having the face too open on contact will result in shots spraying right or left instead of your intended direction. Keep the face closed and perpendicular to your swing path.

** Hitting Downward** – If you are hitting down directly on top of the ball, you are slicing incorrectly. A proper slice brushes up the backside of the ball to impart underspin.

No Follow Through – Neglecting the full follow through eliminates crucial racquet speed needed to generate sufficient spin and pace. Finish every slice completely.

Crossing Over – Swinging downward across your body from outside to inside prevents effective brushing action up the back of the ball. Swing upward and forward along your aiming side.

With proper setup, backswing, contact, and finish – along with correcting common faults – you can build a fundamentally sound slice shot for executing in matches.

Incorporating the Slice into Your Tennis Game

Now that you understand the keys to a proper slice technique, here are some ways to integrate it into your match play:

  • Change direction on cross-court rallies by slicing down the line or angling wider.
  • Hit defensive slices high cross-court to take time away from big hitters.
  • Slice slower balls short and low to pull opponents into net for passing shots.
  • Apply sidespin to widen the directional miss on weaker strokes like backhands.
  • Use slice more frequently on clay courts for uneven bounces and on grass for skidding.
  • Slice your returns of serve to float the ball back deep or neutralize pace.
  • Employ the slice lob when retreating from hard-hit approach shots.
  • Sprinkle in more slices during long rallies to disrupt rhythm and induce errors.
  • Slice second serves for variation and higher percentage.

With an advanced toolkit of shots, you have more options to change strategy based on your opponent and court surface. The tennis slice is a foundational technique to blend into your skillset for maximizing your tactical advantage during matches.

Final Tips for Excelling with the Tennis Slice Shot

Mastering the slice shot takes repetition, adjustments, and an eye for incremental improvement over time. Use these final tips to excel:

  • Film yourself hitting slices and compare to proper technique to identify flaws.
  • Visualize brushing under the back of the ball through the ideal low-to-high swing path.
  • Start closer to the net hitting gentle slices until you can consistently execute proper form.
  • Don’t neglect your weaker side – practice forehand and backhand slices equally.
  • Play practice sets hitting every groundstroke as a slice to ingrain muscle memory.
  • Notice how speed, spin, arc and bounce differ when you fine-tune swing variables.
  • Observe other players utilizing slices effectively during matches.

With dedicated practice and focus on sound mechanics, the slice shot can elevate your tennis game and open up new dimensions of variety and control.


The slice is an essential shot that belongs in every well-rounded tennis player’s skill set. Learning to hit crisp, low-skidding slices can enhance your ability to defend, change pace, move opponents, and approach the net during matches.

Understanding the keys like proper grip, diagonal brushing swing path, racquet angle, and balanced finish will equip you to hit consistent slices with purpose and spin. Refine your technique even further by correcting common errors and integrating deliberate slice shot drills and games into your practices.

Wielding this versatile shot will make you a more complete player. The slice allows you to vary trajectories, speeds, depths, widths, and spins to outmaneuver opponents and keep them off balance. Mastering this artful shot can elevate your level of play and unlock new competitive weapons.

The next time you step on court, try implementing more slices to enhance your all-court diversity. With a well-constructed slice in your arsenal, you’ll have the skills to compete confidently and strategically against any type of opponent or play style. Work on grooving a world-class slice and watch your tennis rise to new heights.

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