The Pivot and Shoulder Turn
The first step of the slice backhand is the pivot and the shoulder turn. As you come out of your split step, pivot with your outside foot, transfer your weight to that good, get the heel of your inside foot up, and turn your shoulders. Just like on the topspin forehand or backhand ground strokes, this “pivot and shoulder turn” motion is also how your tennis racket starts to come back on the slice backhand. You can use your arms to angle the racket head up slightly, but that is different than using your arms to bring the racket back.
At the same time you are performing the pivot and shoulder turn, you also need to change your grip to the continental grip, with your hitting hand’s heel pad and index knuckle resting on the second bevel of the tennis racket handle. The best way to change to the continental grip during this step is to simply relax your hitting hand’s grip on the racket and then twist the racket into position using your non-hitting hand (which should be gripping the throat of the tennis racket). Once the racket is in the correct position for a continental grip, re-grip the racket with your hitting hand.
Let’s take a look at this first step of the slice backhand in action at 1:17 in the video above. Coming out of his split step, the very first thing that Oliver does is he pivots with his outside foot, transfers his weight to that foot, and turns sideways. In this particular clip, we can’t show you Oliver changing his grip because he knew he was hitting a slice backhand and therefore already was already holding the tennis racket with a continental grip. From the side view, you can also see that his racket head is already angled up in the ready position again because he’s planning on slicing the tennis ball. If his racket were angled more downwards in the ready position, he would bring it up to be more vertical as he turned his shoulders sideways.