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alfajeffster
Nov 17th, 2004, 06:49 PM
I know I've posted about this shot before, but the past few days I've been thinking about this shot in particular, and after reading a few posts from LDVTennis regarding Serena's attempts at this shot this week, I actually pulled out a vintage Graf match to analyze the stroke all over again. Last night I watched the 1993 San Diego semi-final between Steffi Graf and Conchita Martinez, which, at least for the first set and a half, was one of the best played tennis matches I've ever seen. Both players used the slice backhand, but I noticed a huge difference not only in the pace, but the way Graf's backhand slice actually ate up the court and drove the Conchita not only off, but wide of the court just trying to dig it out. Are coaches just not teaching the girls to knife this shot like that any more?

Andre_Co_Uk
Nov 17th, 2004, 06:53 PM
Sabatini had a better back hand slice.

Most players today are technically inept. They are schooled in the art of bash the thing to shreds.

LOL vintage Steffi.

alfajeffster
Nov 17th, 2004, 06:57 PM
Sabatini had a better back hand slice.

Most players today are technically inept. They are schooled in the art of bash the thing to shreds.

LOL vintage Steffi.
Sabatini may have had better technique than Martinez on the slice, but Conchita was much quicker and got behind the ball earlier much more often on that side, and as a result had a more effective slice backhand that Gaby- whose slice was often-times a defensive shot hit while she was reaching for the ball. Neither player hit it as hard or with as much bite as Graf or Novotna or Navratilova.

manu32
Nov 17th, 2004, 07:01 PM
sabatini had a top spin backhand not a slice!!!!

Andre_Co_Uk
Nov 17th, 2004, 07:08 PM
Sabatini may have had better technique than Martinez on the slice, but Conchita was much quicker and got behind the ball earlier much more often on that side, and as a result had a more effective slice backhand that Gaby- whose slice was often-times a defensive shot hit while she was reaching for the ball. Neither player hit it as hard or with as much bite as Graf or Novotna or Navratilova.

Yeah I’ll buy that. Gabriela did lack a little in the footwork, and movement department. I think if she had gained success over Steffi in the Wimbledon final her career and game would have hit new heights. She’d have gained the confidence to try a more attacking approach like the three Ladies you mention (Martina Nav, Steffi and Jana).

Andre_Co_Uk
Nov 17th, 2004, 07:14 PM
I forgot to add: As for Conchita, I don’t think she was the most gazelle-like of movers on court, but her postional play on court was excellent. I always thought of her as a player with a great tennis brain. Personally for myself, there was far more to her game than the dreaded moonball.

manu32
Nov 17th, 2004, 07:14 PM
steffi had the better slice backhand

alfajeffster
Nov 17th, 2004, 07:21 PM
sabatini had a top spin backhand not a slice!!!!
Gabriela Sabatini had all the shots on the backhand side- the heavy topspin, the flat drive, the slice, the dropshot, and the topspin and chipped lobs, as well as the backhand overhead. The slice was just one component of her very good backhand side.

Andre_Co_Uk
Nov 17th, 2004, 07:24 PM
Gabriela Sabatini had all the shots on the backhand side- the heavy topspin, the flat drive, the slice, the dropshot, and the topspin and chipped lobs, as well as the backhand overhead. The slice was just one component of her very good backhand side.

It makes you wonder what may have been for some of the players from the late70's - early 80's. If they had a decent first serve.

alfajeffster
Nov 17th, 2004, 07:29 PM
It makes you wonder what may have been for some of the players from the late70's - early 80's. If they had a decent first serve.
Oh, God, if Sabatini had ever developed a decent first service motion (without all those hitches), she'd definitely have won 5 or 6 or possibly more majors!

Andre_Co_Uk
Nov 17th, 2004, 07:43 PM
Oh, God, if Sabatini had ever developed a decent first service motion (without all those hitches), she'd definitely have won 5 or 6 or possibly more majors!

Hehe, I'm not a crazed Sabatini fan. ;) When she played, I was be happy if she possessed a serve that could reach the other side of the net (eg playing Gigi Fernandez at the US Open, I think they ball bounced twice before reaching the net on a few serves in this match) I just feel she lacked the killer instinct. Something that all great champions have in abundance.
When she played doubles with Steffi, I was always under the apprehension that Steffi had a little voice in her head saying 'Oh I'd love to give her a shake'. :)

Surely Carlos Kirmayr worked a miracle to get her to be more agressive. Which culminated in her winning the US Open, and reaching the Wimbledon final. When she played Leila Meshki in the quarters, wow, what a dreary affair that was. And the change around with her approach come the semis was remarkable.

I suppose you still say the ball was out in the tie-break. ;) When Gabriela had match point.

LDVTennis
Nov 18th, 2004, 03:27 AM
The slice backhand, one of my favorite shots.

PERCEPTION
The general assumption is that it is an easy shot to hit. I guess that may be due to the fact that for some blocking the ball is equivalent to hitting a slice backhand. A hacker on the public courts does that and he or she thinks they are slicing. They are NOT.

BEAUTY & PERFECTION
There are some things in sport, like formations in football and edges in figure skating, that only a select few who know enough about the sport can really appreciate. A slice backhand is one of those things. I recently had to explain to a friend what makes the slice backhand a beautiful shot. I had to think about this before responding. Knowing that my friend is a figure skating fan, I thought this might make sense. The best slice backhands trace a pattern, just like a skating blade does in completing a school figure. The pattern that the best slice backhands trace in the air is that of an S-curve. The racquet starts out at shoulder height, moves across, down and out in front of the player's body.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY
In order to trace that S-curve, the player must have amazing racquet control. There is a point along that S-curve (i.e., two consecutive curves in opposite directions), for instance, where the failure to close the face of the racquet can lead to the ball taking off. That point would be at or slightly after the apex of the first curve.

STARTING POINT
A flexible and universal grip. I use a Continental Grip on the shot. I think Steffi did as well. The more western your grip is the less absolute control one has of the face of the racquet. Hence, the more difficult or tame the shot becomes.

Players who use a western grip on their forehand have the tendency to address the ball with the racquet face in its horizontal position, even if the grip on the slice backhand is more open. That's just something I noticed recently. With the racquet in that position, the swing won't fully complete the S-curve. After the first curve that is, the racquet stops moving down and out toward the net. Instead, it usually moves out to the side, on the backhand, left to right.

The brilliance of Steffi's slice backhand is that it traced the complete S-curve. Moving the racquet from low to high (first curve) would only have allowed her to float the ball over the net with a moderate amount of pace. It is the second curve, not the first, that makes the ball go faster and bite into/skid through the court.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD SLICE BACKHANDS GONE?
Most of the blame rests in the grips today's players use to hit a forehand and a double handed backhand. The Western grip on the forehand over time renders even the best player's wrists inert. On the two-handed backhand side of today, the left hand and wrist is more active than the right hand, causing the right hand again to become even more innert.

Therefore, by the time the best players start to learn how to hit a slice backhand, they no longer have any feel or real flexibility left in their right hand or wrist to really complete the S-curve as described above.

That's my theory.

AimeeLizAni
Nov 18th, 2004, 03:42 AM
"Vintage Steffi"......That's the best style of play!

rhz
Nov 18th, 2004, 07:23 AM
Steffi has the best backhand slice!! no one is/was even close

alfajeffster
Nov 18th, 2004, 11:56 AM
...I suppose you still say the ball was out in the tie-break. ;) When Gabriela had match point.
It most certainly was, and I pride myself on being a very fair person when it comes to line calls (I know, we've all heard that before, but it's true with me- I even have problems with playing my own serves when I see them out and the returner plays them). I've watched quite a few Graf matches over the years, both in person and on TV and video, and I can say quite honestly that she has consistently been one of the fairest tennis players I have ever seen regarding line calls- ever.

There was a time when I was much younger that I argued line calls- never getting ugly like McEnroe or Connors or on occasion Navratilova, but to the point of calling for an umpire during a tournament once. I have since learned to focus more on paying attention to the ball, and what my options are with the ball, and nothing else. Line calls will take care of themselves. I will get some bad calls, and will get some good ones, and the moment I start to think that I can actually direct which way line calls go, is the moment I stop paying attention to the ball.

alfajeffster
Nov 18th, 2004, 12:03 PM
The slice backhand, one of my favorite shots.

PERCEPTION
The general assumption is that it is an easy shot to hit. I guess that may be due to the fact that for some blocking the ball is equivalent to hitting a slice backhand. A hacker on the public courts does that and he or she thinks they are slicing. They are NOT.

BEAUTY & PERFECTION
There are some things in sport, like formations in football and edges in figure skating, that only a select few who know enough about the sport can really appreciate. A slice backhand is one of those things. I recently had to explain to a friend what makes the slice backhand a beautiful shot. I had to think about this before responding. Knowing that my friend is a figure skating fan, I thought this might make sense. The best slice backhands trace a pattern, just like a skating blade does in completing a school figure. The pattern that the best slice backhands trace in the air is that of an S-curve. The racquet starts out at shoulder height, moves across, down and out in front of the player's body.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY
In order to trace that S-curve, the player must have amazing racquet control. There is a point along that S-curve (i.e., two consecutive curves in opposite directions), for instance, where the failure to close the face of the racquet can lead to the ball taking off. That point would be at or slightly after the apex of the first curve.

STARTING POINT
A flexible and universal grip. I use a Continental Grip on the shot. I think Steffi did as well. The more western your grip is the less absolute control one has of the face of the racquet. Hence, the more difficult or tame the shot becomes.

Players who use a western grip on their forehand have the tendency to address the ball with the racquet face in its horizontal position, even if the grip on the slice backhand is more open. That's just something I noticed recently. With the racquet in that position, the swing won't fully complete the S-curve. After the first curve that is, the racquet stops moving down and out toward the net. Instead, it usually moves out to the side, on the backhand, left to right.

The brilliance of Steffi's slice backhand is that it traced the complete S-curve. Moving the racquet from low to high (first curve) would only have allowed her to float the ball over the net with a moderate amount of pace. It is the second curve, not the first, that makes the ball go faster and bite into/skid through the court.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD SLICE BACKHANDS GONE?
Most of the blame rests in the grips today's players use to hit a forehand and a double handed backhand. The Western grip on the forehand over time renders even the best player's wrists inert. On the two-handed backhand side of today, the left hand and wrist is more active than the right hand, causing the right hand again to become even more innert.

Therefore, by the time the best players start to learn how to hit a slice backhand, they no longer have any feel or real flexibility left in their right hand or wrist to really complete the S-curve as described above.

That's my theory.What a fantastic explanation of this shot. I personally have more difficulty slicing the ball crosscourt with as much depth as I'd like (when the situation warrants), as I am used to abbreviating the stroke to gain the "chip" approach shot, and especially when hitting the chip down the line, the bottom half of the "S" curve, as you so eloquently point out, is shortened to almost create an inverted question mark. My trouble comes from having too many options on my backhand side, as it is far and away my best shot, and on mid-court balls I would just as easily drive the ball to either corner by coming over it or hitting it relatively flat. Hana Mandlikova had this same problem right throughout her career- too many options on the backhand side. As the chip down the line is my favorite approach shot, I have conditioned my wrist to feel good creating this abbreviated motion, and have to really think about finishing the "S" to give the cross-court slice backhand depth, pace, and action. I had almost forgotten how that feels- thanks for reminding me of something I really need to work on LDVTennis!

bandabou
Nov 18th, 2004, 12:25 PM
I think it isn´t a matter of talent....it´s matter of how the girls are taught to play now. Because EVERYBODY was TAUGHT to play tennis and thus hit slices. Today the girls aren´t taught to play that way......but don´t call them untalented, just wrongly coached.

Sharapower
Nov 18th, 2004, 02:11 PM
Why necessarily "wrongly" coached ?
The debate should start on the question "Why isn't the slice backhand taught anymore ?"
The answer lies in the global strategy/philosophy of tennis which changed a lot since the era of Graff, Sabatini et al.
The slice backhand used in baseline rallies is a "patient" shot and even sometimes a defensive shot. It's not designed to make shots winners but to drive the opponent to make a fault. This isn't clearly not the modern conception of tennis. Today, the victory belongs to the one who's going the more for winners. Modern players can be tricked by slice backhands used sporadically but a player who would use a majority of slice backhands instead of flat/topspin today is condemned to watch deadly winners from his/her opponent. The slice is not a "lethal" weapon in itself, it's rather the effect of surprise and the change of pace which makes it effective. And this effectiveness increases with the height of the opponent.
The best use of slice today IMHO is as an approach to the net, on middle court balls, but it's not exactly the same technique as the pure baseline slice : it's a shot in a forward movement.
So I understand easily that coaches and players won't spend a lot of time working out a shot that could not be used with success but a few times in a match.

bandabou
Nov 18th, 2004, 02:22 PM
Interesting point, quasi.....I was just disputing the notion that today´s players shouldn´t instantly be seen as being less talented as their predecors just because they don´t use the slice backhand as often.

when you go see who had the best slice-backhands you can also see that most of the time the backhand was their weaker side: Graf, Federer ( relatively speaking) or it was used for approaching the net: Martina N...

Graf and Federer used the slice just as you described....to get a short ball so that can unleash those famed forehands...but since today´s players most are probably most solid from the backhand side, I think the slice backhand isn´t as important for them.

alfajeffster
Nov 18th, 2004, 02:35 PM
Why necessarily "wrongly" coached ?
The debate should start on the question "Why isn't the slice backhand taught anymore ?"
The answer lies in the global strategy/philosophy of tennis which changed a lot since the era of Graff, Sabatini et al.
The slice backhand used in baseline rallies is a "patient" shot and even sometimes a defensive shot. It's not designed to make shots winners but to drive the opponent to make a fault. This isn't clearly not the modern conception of tennis. Today, the victory belongs to the one who's going the more for winners. Modern players can be tricked by slice backhands used sporadically but a player who would use a majority of slice backhands instead of flat/topspin today is condemned to watch deadly winners from his/her opponent. The slice is not a "lethal" weapon in itself, it's rather the effect of surprise and the change of pace which makes it effective. And this effectiveness increases with the height of the opponent.
The best use of slice today IMHO is as an approach to the net, on middle court balls, but it's not exactly the same technique as the pure baseline slice : it's a shot in a forward movement.
So I understand easily that coaches and players won't spend a lot of time working out a shot that could not be used with success but a few times in a match.
While this explanation has some merit, I also think you are missing the entire picture on the backhand side, especially with the women players. With the notable exceptions of Justine Henin-Hardenne and Amelie Mauresmo, all of the top women players have two-handed backhands, and were taught from a very early age to hit with two hands on that side. When a player is taught to play with both hands on the backhand side, is is often-times a very difficult thing to expand the capabilities of that side, as the variety of a two-handed backhand is not nearly as large in breadth and scope as what can be accomplished with a one-handed backhand. LDVTennis rightly pointed out that the grips also have as much to do with the lack of sting and offense in most slice backhands we see today- not the absence of coaching the stroke- the stroke still is extremely offensive and effective when hit properly, however, the game, and more specifically, the range of capabilities has been limited and stifled by teaching players to play with western grips and two-handed backhands. Imagine how good Venus Williams could have been if she had been taught to play with continental grips and a one-handed backhand, with the idea that she would progress into a natural serve-and-volley style of play. She would have been nearly unbeatable, and she most certainly has the frame and body type to be able to hit an effective slice backhand with bite and pace.

Is the direction the game is going, or more importantly, the way it is being taught, serving the future of the game itself (irrespective of the player), or is it serving to extinguish it?

CrossingDelancey
Nov 18th, 2004, 05:34 PM
While this explanation has some merit, I also think you are missing the entire picture on the backhand side, especially with the women players. With the notable exceptions of Justine Henin-Hardenne and Amelie Mauresmo, all of the top women players have two-handed backhands, and were taught from a very early age to hit with two hands on that side. When a player is taught to play with both hands on the backhand side, is is often-times a very difficult thing to expand the capabilities of that side, as the variety of a two-handed backhand is not nearly as large in breadth and scope as what can be accomplished with a one-handed backhand. LDVTennis rightly pointed out that the grips also have as much to do with the lack of sting and offense in most slice backhands we see today- not the absence of coaching the stroke- the stroke still is extremely offensive and effective when hit properly, however, the game, and more specifically, the range of capabilities has been limited and stifled by teaching players to play with western grips and two-handed backhands. Imagine how good Venus Williams could have been if she had been taught to play with continental grips and a one-handed backhand, with the idea that she would progress into a natural serve-and-volley style of play. She would have been nearly unbeatable, and she most certainly has the frame and body type to be able to hit an effective slice backhand with bite and pace.

Is the direction the game is going, or more importantly, the way it is being taught, serving the future of the game itself (irrespective of the player), or is it serving to extinguish it?


One could speculate why we’re so moderate at tennis, yet can tell the Pro’s how to play.;)

Hehe, the ball was in!

FrauleinSteffi
Nov 18th, 2004, 05:39 PM
Capriati used the slice to beat Serena in the Us Open this year:)...Capriati & Davenport are far & away the cleanest purest ball strikers on the woimens side.....Steffi's Slice was the best ever...22 slams!...She kept everyone digging up low & hard shots to pop to blast her atomic forehand!:)

Denise4925
Nov 18th, 2004, 05:52 PM
The slice backhand, one of my favorite shots.

PERCEPTION
The general assumption is that it is an easy shot to hit. I guess that may be due to the fact that for some blocking the ball is equivalent to hitting a slice backhand. A hacker on the public courts does that and he or she thinks they are slicing. They are NOT.

BEAUTY & PERFECTION
There are some things in sport, like formations in football and edges in figure skating, that only a select few who know enough about the sport can really appreciate. A slice backhand is one of those things. I recently had to explain to a friend what makes the slice backhand a beautiful shot. I had to think about this before responding. Knowing that my friend is a figure skating fan, I thought this might make sense. The best slice backhands trace a pattern, just like a skating blade does in completing a school figure. The pattern that the best slice backhands trace in the air is that of an S-curve. The racquet starts out at shoulder height, moves across, down and out in front of the player's body.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY
In order to trace that S-curve, the player must have amazing racquet control. There is a point along that S-curve (i.e., two consecutive curves in opposite directions), for instance, where the failure to close the face of the racquet can lead to the ball taking off. That point would be at or slightly after the apex of the first curve.

STARTING POINT
A flexible and universal grip. I use a Continental Grip on the shot. I think Steffi did as well. The more western your grip is the less absolute control one has of the face of the racquet. Hence, the more difficult or tame the shot becomes.

Players who use a western grip on their forehand have the tendency to address the ball with the racquet face in its horizontal position, even if the grip on the slice backhand is more open. That's just something I noticed recently. With the racquet in that position, the swing won't fully complete the S-curve. After the first curve that is, the racquet stops moving down and out toward the net. Instead, it usually moves out to the side, on the backhand, left to right.

The brilliance of Steffi's slice backhand is that it traced the complete S-curve. Moving the racquet from low to high (first curve) would only have allowed her to float the ball over the net with a moderate amount of pace. It is the second curve, not the first, that makes the ball go faster and bite into/skid through the court.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD SLICE BACKHANDS GONE?
Most of the blame rests in the grips today's players use to hit a forehand and a double handed backhand. The Western grip on the forehand over time renders even the best player's wrists inert. On the two-handed backhand side of today, the left hand and wrist is more active than the right hand, causing the right hand again to become even more innert.

Therefore, by the time the best players start to learn how to hit a slice backhand, they no longer have any feel or real flexibility left in their right hand or wrist to really complete the S-curve as described above.

That's my theory.
I have not reached that lesson in my tennis clinics yet, but I'm visualizing the shot in my head as you describe it, and trying the shot with my phantom tennis racquet. However, I got confused when you said, "Moving the racquet from low to high (first curve)..." I thought that would be the second curve. The shot as you describe it is moving the racquet from shoulder high with a Continental grip moving the racquet head around the apex of the first curve of the S to strike the ball and following through the strike of the ball around the apex of the second curve (low to high) to give it spin and velocity. Am I wrong? Please explain.

manu32
Nov 18th, 2004, 06:11 PM
Capriati used the slice to beat Serena in the Us Open this year:)...Capriati & Davenport are far & away the cleanest purest ball strikers on the woimens side.....Steffi's Slice was the best ever...22 slams!...She kept everyone digging up low & hard shots to pop to blast her atomic forehand!:)

steffi had the best and capriati and davenport are able also.......
but the others,i am not sure.......

alfajeffster
Nov 18th, 2004, 06:59 PM
One could speculate why we’re so moderate at tennis, yet can tell the Pro’s how to play.;)

Hehe, the ball was in!
One could also speculate that the teacher need only to be able to communicate effectively in order for the listening pupil to learn, however, in the words of Tony Trabert "You can coach all you want, but always helps if you've got a good horse."

great graf
Nov 18th, 2004, 07:07 PM
i think steffis slice was the best,it was hit low and hard,i feel sabatinis slice lacked pace as watching some seles sabatini matches monica was able to really get on top of gabbys slice with steffis she wasnt.

Joni Mitchell
Nov 18th, 2004, 07:27 PM
There’s nothing to the game. It’s obvious those who can’t play teach.

I’ve never played the game, bet I could had coached Steffi to 22 slam titles.

You people make it sound all so difficult, it's not!

LDVTennis
Nov 18th, 2004, 09:39 PM
I have not reached that lesson in my tennis clinics yet, but I'm visualizing the shot in my head as you describe it, and trying the shot with my phantom tennis racquet. However, I got confused when you said, "Moving the racquet from low to high (first curve)..." I thought that would be the second curve. The shot as you describe it is moving the racquet from shoulder high with a Continental grip moving the racquet head around the apex of the first curve of the S to strike the ball and following through the strike of the ball around the apex of the second curve (low to high) to give it spin and velocity. Am I wrong? Please explain.

The confusion here is that you're not taking into account the position of the racquet at take back. That is the low point of the first curve.

Now begin your swing by lifting the face of the racquet so that you can brush the backside of the ball from high to low. The point of contact with the ball will be at or near the apex of the first curve (as I noted above) or practically speaking at or near the point where your racquet begins moving downward after you first hit the ball.

If you want an average, floating type of slicing backhand your work is over. Just keep moving the racquet down or to the side from left to right. But, if you want a more offensive slice backhand like Steffi's, you need to keep driving the racquet out toward your target. So, just after brushing down across the face of the ball, all in a split second, of course, and before the tendency to drop the face of the racquet takes over, lean into the shot more, and push the face of the racquet out toward your target. That will complete the second of the two curves and give you the most stylish slice backhand among your friends and fellow competitors.

The more you practice it, the more you will want to start moving the face of the racquet out to the target almost as soon as you are finished brushing down across the face of the ball. Indeed, the more you close the gap between these two events, the brushing that imparts spin and the pushing of the face of the racquet out toward the target the closer you will get to having a slice backhand like Steffi's.

I hope that answers your question. If not, I'll try to elaborate.

LDVTennis
Nov 18th, 2004, 10:31 PM
There’s nothing to the game. It’s obvious those who can’t play teach.

I’ve never played the game, bet I could had coached Steffi to 22 slam titles.

You people make it sound all so difficult, it's not!

Joni,

Are you serious?

Prior to hiring Heinz (sp?) as a coach, Steffi's game had plateaued. If you are so smart, please tell us what you would have done to raise Steffi's game to a new level?

We know what Heinz did? And, we know that it worked. And, I feel confident now in saying that had he never played the game or studied it like he did he never would have known what to do to change her hitting patterns and to increase the margin for error on her forehand.

If someone had asked me back then, at a time when my own technical knowledge of the game was at a rudimentary level, what Steffi needed to do I don't think I would have even recognized what was wrong.

But, Heinz did. And, the reason he did and I didn't is that he had better technical knowledge of the sport than I did back then. Therefore, he quickly recognized not only what was wrong, but what to do.

Obviously, since you're such a natural, I don't need to tell you what he did. You can probably tell me. Huh! Because the game isn't that difficult, is it? So, I'm curious to hear what you would have done? As I told you, we know what Heinz did and it worked. So, this is your chance to show us that not only is the game not that difficult, but also that you are not as naive as some of us have already deduced you are.

Denise4925
Nov 19th, 2004, 12:47 AM
The confusion here is that you're not taking into account the position of the racquet at take back. That is the low point of the first curve.

Now begin your swing by lifting the face of the racquet so that you can brush the backside of the ball from high to low. The point of contact with the ball will be at or near the apex of the first curve (as I noted above) or practically speaking at or near the point where your racquet begins moving downward after you first hit the ball.

If you want an average, floating type of slicing backhand your work is over. Just keep moving the racquet down or to the side from left to right. But, if you want a more offensive slice backhand like Steffi's, you need to keep driving the racquet out toward your target. So, just after brushing down across the face of the ball, all in a split second, of course, and before the tendency to drop the face of the racquet takes over, lean into the shot more, and push the face of the racquet out toward your target. That will complete the second of the two curves and give you the most stylish slice backhand among your friends and fellow competitors.

The more you practice it, the more you will want to start moving the face of the racquet out to the target almost as soon as you are finished brushing down across the face of the ball. Indeed, the more you close the gap between these two events, the brushing that imparts spin and the pushing of the face of the racquet out toward the target the closer you will get to having a slice backhand like Steffi's.

I hope that answers your question. If not, I'll try to elaborate.
Thanks LDV. It answers my question and I'm going to try it.

Sharapower
Nov 19th, 2004, 06:12 AM
While this explanation has some merit, I also think you are missing the entire picture on the backhand side, especially with the women players. With the notable exceptions of Justine Henin-Hardenne and Amelie Mauresmo, all of the top women players have two-handed backhands, and were taught from a very early age to hit with two hands on that side. When a player is taught to play with both hands on the backhand side, is is often-times a very difficult thing to expand the capabilities of that side, as the variety of a two-handed backhand is not nearly as large in breadth and scope as what can be accomplished with a one-handed backhand. LDVTennis rightly pointed out that the grips also have as much to do with the lack of sting and offense in most slice backhands we see today- not the absence of coaching the stroke- the stroke still is extremely offensive and effective when hit properly, however, the game, and more specifically, the range of capabilities has been limited and stifled by teaching players to play with western grips and two-handed backhands. Imagine how good Venus Williams could have been if she had been taught to play with continental grips and a one-handed backhand, with the idea that she would progress into a natural serve-and-volley style of play. She would have been nearly unbeatable, and she most certainly has the frame and body type to be able to hit an effective slice backhand with bite and pace.

Is the direction the game is going, or more importantly, the way it is being taught, serving the future of the game itself (irrespective of the player), or is it serving to extinguish it?
Don’t worry, I don’t miss the entire picture on the backhand side at all. My answer concerning the one-handed vs. two-handed would be similar to my previous post: if the big majority of coaches teach the two handed backhand, there’s certainly a rational explanation. I have a clue that it’s due to the difficulty of controlling the backhand shot, flat or topspin, with a single hand: centring the ball, giving the proper effect… In compensation, the one handed backhand, gives the advantage of allowing a less accurate footwork than the double-handed, but the improvement of athleticism in tennis makes this advantage less important nowadays. Being aggressive with a single-handed backhand is clearly far more risky than with a double-handed. That doesn’t prevent great players like Amelie or Justine and Federer, Gaudio on the men’s side to go for winners from the backhand side but it’s also notorious that this is the most vulnerable side for all these players. And I add that a powerful single handed flat or topspin backhand is biomechanically more stressing and increases risks of injuries for the back, the shoulder and the right pectorals (while I grant you that the double-handed gives an exposure to a left wrist tendonitis).

The wide-spread prejudice that a double-hand backhand is not suitable for an approach to the net tends to be proved wrong by a lot of players, especially male: Ancic, Safin or Nalbandian for example. You evoke the case of Venus Williams, it would probably have been nice to see her serve and volley but at the time she was still a dedicated and dominant player, she didn’t need that to win matches as far as she could overpower anybody from the baseline, coming in to the net to close the point only if necessary. I guess that today it’s a little bit late for her to change her game (though “it’s never too late”, but I think she’s not eager to it, maybe she’s even not eager to do what it takes to come back at a top rank).

Lately we saw Maria Sharapova making successful attempts to serve and volley, of course she’s far from mastering it yet but she seems definitely determined to improve it in order to make it an integral part of her game. It will certainly be very interesting to observe this new development, as far as Sharapova in the beginning is a player who belongs to the Williams power-tennis standard as opposed to the Henin-Mauresmo variety standard. Sharapova and her staff just try to adapt to the current reality of the tour and they’re aware that more net-game and some serve and volley is the future of the game, so I think you should not be feared of some “extinguishment of the game”. Here I have to agree that along with this, Sharapova would be well-inspired to implement a one handed sliced backhand approach…

Greatest
Nov 19th, 2004, 07:51 AM
Why necessarily "wrongly" coached ?
The debate should start on the question "Why isn't the slice backhand taught anymore ?"
The answer lies in the global strategy/philosophy of tennis which changed a lot since the era of Graff, Sabatini et al.
The slice backhand used in baseline rallies is a "patient" shot and even sometimes a defensive shot. It's not designed to make shots winners but to drive the opponent to make a fault. This isn't clearly not the modern conception of tennis. Today, the victory belongs to the one who's going the more for winners. Modern players can be tricked by slice backhands used sporadically but a player who would use a majority of slice backhands instead of flat/topspin today is condemned to watch deadly winners from his/her opponent. The slice is not a "lethal" weapon in itself, it's rather the effect of surprise and the change of pace which makes it effective. And this effectiveness increases with the height of the opponent.
The best use of slice today IMHO is as an approach to the net, on middle court balls, but it's not exactly the same technique as the pure baseline slice : it's a shot in a forward movement.
So I understand easily that coaches and players won't spend a lot of time working out a shot that could not be used with success but a few times in a match.


The best post in this thread.

The advent and propagation of the power game had a significant impact on how the game is played at the pro level. The “prehistoric” shot-of-choice, the slice, has seen virtually no change in its presentation for perhaps one hundred years. The simple physics of the slice makes it almost impervious to the kind of changes we have seen associated with topspin shots.

One of the contributing factors for the slice becoming less a weapon and more a situational stroke is the arrival of the Seles breed of power players in women's tennis who punishes and attacks every weak ball at every opportunity......which ultimately drove the defensive weak "slice backhand" shot to near extinction.

vutt
Nov 19th, 2004, 10:34 AM
One of the contributing factors for the slice becoming less a weapon and more a situational stroke is the arrival of the Seles breed of power players in women's tennis who punishes and attacks every weak ball at every opportunity......which ultimately drove the defensive weak "slice backhand" shot to near extinction. Well, I think Roger Federer and his successful slice backhand contradicts your logic. Unless you are trying to say that woman do generate more power than men in these days. :angel:

alfajeffster
Nov 19th, 2004, 12:27 PM
The best post in this thread.

The advent and propagation of the power game had a significant impact on how the game is played at the pro level. The “prehistoric” shot-of-choice, the slice, has seen virtually no change in its presentation for perhaps one hundred years. The simple physics of the slice makes it almost impervious to the kind of changes we have seen associated with topspin shots.

One of the contributing factors for the slice becoming less a weapon and more a situational stroke is the arrival of the Seles breed of power players in women's tennis who punishes and attacks every weak ball at every opportunity......which ultimately drove the defensive weak "slice backhand" shot to near extinction. First off- the slice backhands that Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and any of the Serena/Maria slices that you saw were not, and are not even in the same league with the ones that Graf hit- quite successfully against Seles I might add, and I don't even want to get into that debate in this thread, but suffice to say Graf systematically picked apart the two-handed forehand of Seles with her aggressively sliced backhand crosscourt right throughout their rivalry.

I am not saying that the players today should "revert" to playing the aggressive slices that Graf used over 95% of the time on her backhand side. What I am saying is that they should attempt to incorporate this kind of aggressive shot into their repertoire of shots, as a tactical move to unseat the droning rhythm we saw in that tactically barren Serena Williams/Maria Sharapova final a few days ago. At this point, they are both incapable of generating an aggressive slice that bites into the court deep and moves their opponents directionally for position. They use the shot merely to break up the rhythm, and if you notice, almost always do it when they are out of position or get such a slice from their opponent and their own rhythm has been broken. It is so much more than a monkey wrench to be thrown into the mix- it is a tactical move that can and will work very well in picking apart the games of all these players with western grips and open stance cover-the-ball style of baseline play we see today. It is a natural progression of the game that people are ignoring, unfortunately.

Great Seles
Nov 19th, 2004, 05:30 PM
First off- the slice backhands that Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and any of the Serena/Maria slices that you saw were not, and are not even in the same league with the ones that Graf hit- quite successfully against Seles I might add, and I don't even want to get into that debate in this thread, but suffice to say Graf systematically picked apart the two-handed forehand of Seles with her aggressively sliced backhand crosscourt right throughout their rivalry.

.

Successfully?

Graf's backhand was actually a REAL weakness....time and time again, Seles would punish the backhand over and over with deep sharp angles, wait for a short reply, and then pound the ball down the line to Steffi's forehand.....it was a strategy that Monica had devised with her dad and Zoltan, her brother, and it really worked well, because Monica didn't have a weaker side.......

Also, Graf had major trouble coming over the ball on the backhand side......Graf's overwhelming winners were ALWAYS on the forehand side.....

Steffi could usually compensate for pace by running around her backhand and hitting inside out forehands.

But against Seles, who hits the ball very hard on both sides, on the rise and with such blistering pace, Steffi couldn't do that as much...she didn't have as much time, wheras aginst ASV, martina, and sabatini, she did.....

I remember when Steffi was seen desperately practicing a two handed backhand at Roland Garros, after she lost in staright sets to Monica at the 1990 Berlin, before the French......

And Steffi, unlike her fans, has candidly adnmitted many times that she would have liked to have had a two handed backhand for more power....Who knows she might have been a much greater player if she had this shot instead of the defensive slice..

alfajeffster
Nov 19th, 2004, 05:40 PM
...Graf's overwhelming winners were ALWAYS on the forehand side...
This portion of your post brings us back on topic- the slice backhand. Once you accept that there is more to tennis than hitting winners, you can actually begin to appreciate and use all the aspects the game affords. Nowhere was this lack of a balanced approach to using all the aspects of the game more evident than in the Serena Williams/Maria Sharapova match a few days ago. If you can understand the concept that the second serve normally isn't hit for a winner, but rather for placement to set up the point, you are well on your way to appreciating how effective a slice backhand, when hit properly, can be, both offensively and defensively. Not only that, it quite naturally lends itself to the ultimate disguise when hitting a drop shot off the backhand side, which Graf did many times effectively against Seles and all of the players you named in your post. The slice also makes not only approaching the net, but the backhand volley itself a much more natural shot to hit. The game didn't go anywhere- the choices that coaches are making when teaching youngsters how to play has. It's not too late, and just watch- the effective slice backhand will return in the next few years- it's obvious that it has to.

FrauleinSteffi
Nov 19th, 2004, 05:47 PM
In the 95 & 96 US Open Finals & in the 99 French Open semi Steffis Slice had Monica digging the ball up at feet level she netted or pushed long or wide several balls because of that Steffis slice SETUP her Forehand Hello people duh! It forced them to pop up a weaker shot & Steffis speed(better than any woman period!) allowed her to hit atomic forehand winners...Steffis backhand was a great shot not weak she always hit it well..knifed it with good speed kept it low & it gave players so much trouble her topspin backhand was hard & good & did her well at Wimby against Martina in 1988 & 1989..Us Open Final against Navi 89.....Novotna at Wimby Final 93, & in the French Open Final in 1999 it gave Hingis fits....Steffis slice was the best slice in womens tennis..if it was soooo weak how did she win 22 Slams & have 107 wins in tourneys & 377 weeks at no #1 & enter the HOF this year :)

justine&coria
Nov 19th, 2004, 06:34 PM
I loved watching Graf, but her backhand was a real weakness !!
And sometimes it was very boring to watch Graf making many sliced backhands in a row.
She lost many matches because of that backhand : i remember some of her opponents just came to the net hitting on her backhand, then Graf tried to hit a "normal" backhand (because she was in danger) and this backhand often was out or ending in the net.

Sorry but that kind of game wouldn't work today. And she used it too much : slice backhands can be a weapon when not used all of the time.
Of course, you can find many impressive shots Graf had with her backhand, but it's not as efficient as a topspin backhand.

alfajeffster
Nov 19th, 2004, 06:37 PM
In the 95 & 96 US Open Finals & in the 99 French Open semi Steffis Slice had Monica digging the ball up at feet level she netted or pushed long or wide several balls because of that Steffis slice SETUP her Forehand Hello people duh! It forced them to pop up a weaker shot & Steffis speed(better than any woman period!) allowed her to hit atomic forehand winners...Steffis backhand was a great shot not weak she always hit it well..knifed it with good speed kept it low & it gave players so much trouble her topspin backhand was hard & good & did her well at Wimby against Martina in 1988 & 1989..Us Open Final against Navi 89.....Novotna at Wimby Final 93, & in the French Open Final in 1999 it gave Hingis fits....Steffis slice was the best slice in womens tennis..if it was soooo weak how did she win 22 Slams & have 107 wins in tourneys & 377 weeks at no #1 & enter the HOF this year :)
I really did want this thread to focus on the slice backhand itself, and as boring as it may sound, I think the shot itself is much greater that Steffi Graf will ever be- especially since I don't know her personally, and probably never will. I admire her tennis a great deal, and yes, I do have her autograph, but the game itself, and the slice backhand, is much more important. If it were possible to play a video of Graf or Novotna or Navratilova or Billie Jean King or Evonne Goolagong, and black out the player- kind of like that instructional video that McEnroe and Lendl made back in the 80s, and just watch the black form of the athlete hitting the stroke, I think people would actually begin to get it. It's a terrific shot- one of the better ones in tennis IMO.

justine&coria
Nov 19th, 2004, 06:44 PM
In the 95 & 96 US Open Finals & in the 99 French Open semi Steffis Slice had Monica digging the ball up at feet level she netted or pushed long or wide several balls because of that Steffis slice SETUP her Forehand Hello people duh! It forced them to pop up a weaker shot & Steffis speed(better than any woman period!) allowed her to hit atomic forehand winners...Steffis backhand was a great shot not weak she always hit it well..knifed it with good speed kept it low & it gave players so much trouble her topspin backhand was hard & good & did her well at Wimby against Martina in 1988 & 1989..Us Open Final against Navi 89.....Novotna at Wimby Final 93, & in the French Open Final in 1999 it gave Hingis fits....Steffis slice was the best slice in womens tennis..if it was soooo weak how did she win 22 Slams & have 107 wins in tourneys & 377 weeks at no #1 & enter the HOF this year :)
Monica Seles has a great game : I love watching her too. But her footstep is weak and that's the main reason why Steffy's slice can annoy her.
Sometimes she hits the ball and you wonder how the ball is in : I mean, sometimes she hits the ball standing on only one leg (the other leg is very "high") etc. [but it's fun to watch]

And you have to understand that most of the players don't like playing against someone who plays a lot with slice. Not because it's difficult to return, but because it slows the game, frustrates the player and makes him/her make the fault.
Nowadays women players are powerful and slice don't disturb them as before (except when they're made at the right moment).

Graf's game was based on her forehand !! Had she a slice forehand, she wouldn't have won 20 Slams : isn't that a proof that a sliced shot is weaker than a topspin one ?

alfajeffster
Nov 19th, 2004, 07:46 PM
...Graf's game was based on her forehand !!
Not to be argumentative, but this is a popular misconception IMO. Graf's game was not based on her forehand, it was based entirely on her outstanding footwork. She was arguably the fastest female ever to play tennis (with apologies to the great Pauline Betz), and her quick feet and olympic sprinter-like movement around the court allowed the rest of her game to flow. Navratilova and Bud Collins once had a discussion on this, and they both came to the same conclusion- she's all the way in the backhand corner running around her backhand to be able to hit the inside-out forehand all the time because she was one of the few players quick enough to actually do this- on balance nearly every time. It is a remarkable thing to do consistently, and she did it most of the times on the balls of her feet or even in the air, which is extraordinary.

Why is it I always get suckered into straying off topic when discussing Graf? I think I'll asky my psychiatrist about this, only first I'll have to actually hire one...:lol:

Have a great weekend everybody- and SLICE, SLICE SLICE!!!!!:p

LDVTennis
Nov 19th, 2004, 10:44 PM
Well, I think Roger Federer and his successful slice backhand contradicts your logic. Unless you are trying to say that woman do generate more power than men in these days. :angel:

Last night, during the coverage of the Masters Cup, Pat McEnroe and Mary were discussing Federer's slice backhand.

In typical fashion, Mary scored first with the most banal point: The ball bounces low or funny, causing all kinds of trouble for Federer's opponents. Net effect is a weak return that Federer can put away with his forehand.

Also in typical fashion, Pat gave the question a bit more thought: It is not just that the ball bounces low or funny. It is that Federer's oppponent is already under pressure to steer the ball back to the backhand side.

Now, that may have sounded like a non sequitur to some TV viewers, but only because Pat assumed he was talking to people (Mary included) who understood just how more difficult it is to hit a wide/angled crosscourt shot off a sliced ball. Depending on the exact profile of the ball (i.e, spin, bounce, speed, trajectory), it is not an easy thing to go back crosscourt with much of an angle because the defensive tendency against slice is to keep the face of the racquet as open as possible so that you can counteract the effects of the slice at point of contact. Against Federer (as it was against Graf) if you don't get the ball back wide to the backhand, however, the point is typically over.

By the way, after Pat made his apparent non sequitur, a lightbulb went on in Mary's head: So Federer uses his sliced backhand, she states, just like Graf.

By George, Mary, I think you are finally getting it.

Volcana
Nov 19th, 2004, 10:57 PM
High-techs as usual, are the culprit!:) Well a bit. You generate a LOT of pace with those things. Topspin makes the court bigger, so you can hammer a topspin shot. That power slice of Steffi didn't have much margin for error. It not simply a case of it not being taught. It's hard to learn and if you're off with it, you're likely to make an error, or give your opponent an easy shot to hit.

Now with wood rackets, you HAD to hit your slice with pace, or it would just float there, waiting to be put out of its misery.

I use that shot. When I'm on the service line. It's just too easy to f*ck up from the baseline. Especially since you can cut the ball to the side from the baseline and get a safer shot that runs away from the opponent.

LDVTennis
Nov 19th, 2004, 11:38 PM
I really did want this thread to focus on the slice backhand itself, and as boring as it may sound, I think the shot itself is much greater that Steffi Graf will ever be- especially since I don't know her personally, and probably never will. I admire her tennis a great deal, and yes, I do have her autograph, but the game itself, and the slice backhand, is much more important. If it were possible to play a video of Graf or Novotna or Navratilova or Billie Jean King or Evonne Goolagong, and black out the player- kind of like that instructional video that McEnroe and Lendl made back in the 80s, and just watch the black form of the athlete hitting the stroke, I think people would actually begin to get it. It's a terrific shot- one of the better ones in tennis IMO.

I have her autograph too. Two, in fact, one on a poster of her that hangs in my home office and the other in a tournament program. They are among the best examples of her handwriting I've seen. She was sitting down when she signed them. And, they were the last she signed that day as the autograph line (still quite long after 45 minutes) was cut right behind me.

I was looking at it today and lo and behold what do I see but the "S" curve. Those who have her autograph may know what I am talking about. Obviously, it goes without saying that Steffi's first name begins with an "S." But, in her autograph the "S" is no ordinary "S." It is the most dynamic, handwritten "S" I have ever seen, nothing fussy about it, nothing florid about it. Just a pure graphic flourish.

The "G" is also quite a letter. While it not as big as the "S," the basic part of it, minus some of the segments leading to the "r", looks like a stylized tennis racquet.

In both examples I have, the "G" is placed in middle of the much bigger "S." Could it be the racquet that just traced the "S"? Interesting idea to ponder. It gets even more interesting when you think that Germany is one of the important sources of illuminated manuscripts (medieval period painted books, typically liturgical in nature). Like the letters in those books, Steffi's "S" and "G" almost tell a story.

But, back to the topic at hand. The more I studied the aesthetic qualities of these characters (letters), the more it occurred to me that only someone with a very supple wrist and hand could have created these characters. And, that is exactly what one needs if one is going to hit a slice backhand.

LDVTennis
Nov 19th, 2004, 11:49 PM
High-techs as usual, are the culprit!:) That power slice of Steffi didn't have much margin for error. It not simply a case of it not being taught. It's hard to learn and if you're off with it, you're likely to make an error, or give your opponent an easy shot to hit.

No one said it was easy.

If it were that easy, we could all hit it as well as Graf could. You've tried. I've tried. Alfa has tried. D is trying now. And like you, we've probably come to the conclusion that to hit it like Graf you need divine timing and balance. (In my description above, I wasn't kidding about all the things you need to do in a split second.)

Just another good reason why she has 22 major victories and we don't.

FrauleinSteffi
Nov 20th, 2004, 05:26 AM
Navratilova was a great player too but Steffi had great Slices too & of course her forehand was the best:)