Slice approach shots are a lesser used, but still effective, method of approaching the net. Slicing the ball keeps it low, forcing your opponent to hit up on the tennis ball and, hopefully, giving you an easy volley to put away. This video looks at the mechanics involved in the tennis slice approach shot on both the forehand and backhand sides.

The slice approach shot is important for several reasons. First, it can be a good change up. If you’ve been hitting a lot of topspin approach shots, your opponent probably isn’t expecting you to slice the tennis ball when you come into net. Second, sometimes when your opponent hits short the ball will stay low. These balls can be difficult to hit with topspin aggressively. In these situations, the slice can be a more effective approach shot. Furthermore, because slices stay lower than topspin groundstrokes, your opponent will probably have to hit up on the tennis ball to clear the net, possibly giving you an easy volley.

The most typical type of slice approach shot is the backhand slice. At 37 seconds in the video we watch me hitting a slice approach shot. We start by focusing on my footwork. This is one of the keys to the shot. When I hit I need to take a carioca step. My back foot (my right foot because I’m left handed) steps behind my front foot as I hit. This allows me to stay sideways and facilitates the proper backhand slice mechanics.

At 1:15 we watch an entire slice backhand approach sequence. I start by closing on my approach shot. When I hit the ball I take that carioca / drop step, enabling me to stay sideways and continue to close the net.

At about 1:30 in the video we clip to the over-the-net perspective. You’ll see that I’m hitting my slice approach down the line and aiming approximately 5 feet inside both the sideline and the baseline. This should give me sufficient margin for error.

At 1:47 in the video we discussion forehand slice approach shots. It’s not a shot you should typically use. If you can hit a topspin approach shot, you should. That shot generally puts more pressure on your opponent than a slice forehand approach. However, it can be a good change up if your opponent is playing very far behind the baseline. The technique for a forehand slice approach shot is pretty similar to a forehand volley. At 2:10 in the video I shadow the shot. When I pivot with my outside foot and get my racket into position, my preparation looks very similar to how I would prepare to hit a forehand volley. The main difference in the length of my swing. It’s going to be a little bit longer than a forehand volley because I have to generate more pace. I swing through the ball — there’s some downward component to my swing but not a ton.

At 2:50 I demonstrate the entire forehand slice sequence. One thing you’ll notice when I hit this shot is that my body doesn’t get as sideways as it does for a groundstroke. After I hit the ball down the line I continue to close the net and (hopefully!) put the net ball or so away.

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