One of the most under-rated shots of all time: Steffi's backhand slice! - TennisForum.com
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 01:50 PM   #1
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One of the most under-rated shots of all time: Steffi's backhand slice!

The experts, as well as a large contingent of fans, both predicted Steffiís slice would not last long. It was always the one shot of hers that was the most criticized, and pretty often refereed to as her Ďweaknessí. The fact of the matter is that Steffi Graf faced three generations of tennis greats with her legendary backhand slice and emerged victorious more often than not- without having to completely alter her game. No one sliced as well as Steffi in her prime. Her low skidding balls would give the baseline sluggers (players that play with a lot of pace off both sides) fits of trouble. Her slice was so consistent, so relentless, so effective, and so unusual in the modern game. Whether Steffi was using her slice to set up her forehand, take the air out of the ball, drop shot, or simply retrieve the ball, it was as much of a factor in her wins as her legendary forehand.

As most of us already know, slice is generated by hitting the ball with a high to low motion with the racquet. Steffiís balls had tons of backspin on them. The backspin combined with her tremendous racket angles kept her balls really low to the ground. Her left hand would be cradling the throat of the racquet, then she would whip the head up and slice it back down into the shot, flattening out her follow-through across her body. The combination of low skidding balls and a much slower ball (slice slows the ball down,) forces power hitters to generate their own pace. Most hard hitters prefer to play with pace and generally arenít as effective generating their own pace. Steffi implemented her slice, not always to simply get the ball across the net, but also as a means to interrupt her opponents rhythm and to neutralize the rallies. Steffiís slice was a very fluid motion and was hit with a great deal of precision and pinpoint accuracy.

Steffi incorporated different types of spins and used them all to her advantage- side spin, extreme underpin, drop shots, angle shots, and even chipped backhands. Slower players that donít bend their knees that well when hitting low bouncing balls have the most trouble. Thatís why LindZ and Monica had so much trouble. Steffi was also great at using her slice to give her opponents balls that werenít hit into their respective Ďstrike zonesí. This didnít bother Seles as much because she had a large strike zone, but players that have to really setup for their shots can easily find themselves out of rhythm.

Steffiís slice was effective on all surfaces too- on grass courts her balls were coming very fast and they usually stayed extremely low to the ground which made it difficult for players to come over with topspin and hit outright winners. Like most shots, good technique is critical and although Steffi generally isnít really know for having good technique on her shots (she plays a very unorthodoxed style of tennis- you canít teach someone to play like her because she did a lot of the things instructors tell you not to do,) for the most part, her technique on the slice was textbook. On the hard courts Steffiís slice was the perfect way for Steffi to buy herself some needed time to set up and hit her forehand. On clay she would often times use slice for placement and would then drag opponents from one side of the court to the other. Also on clay Steffi had a chance to use her dropshot a lot more often. When the ball dies on clay forget about it.

Graf faced three generations of tennis greats. In the 80ís she surpassed Martina and Chris and was the most dominate player in the later half of that decade. In the early-90ís she held her own against the likes of Seles, Sabatini, and Arantxa. Even when Seles took over as number one in Ď91 Steffi was undefeated in both matches they played that year. And during Monicaís second year at number one Steffi won an impressive 71 out of 78 matches- so although she was not the dominate player, she most definitely held her own. After dominating the sport for most of the middle of the decade, she then reemerged victorious against the new kids on the block; Hingis, the up and coming Williams Sisters, and LindZ (Steffi was the first person to defeat LindZ in America when Lindsay took over as number one in the world). I wonít go as far as to say she won any of her many matches solely because of her backhand, but I will go as far to say she didnít lose many matches because of it! We all know that a weak backhand slice is a very good defensive shot at itís best and at it's worse it is usually extremely vulnerable to attack. Steffiís could be a deadly offensive shot that forced a ton of errors and was anything but a weakness. Of course the slice won't really work when someone is hugging the net- in those instances a Plan B is needed, thankfully Graf's topspin was sufficient, but that's another story.

Others may have hit the ball harder off both sides, served faster, volleyed better, or even hit harder forehands than Graf , but not many hit a more effective slice than Steffi (Ken Rosewall (sp?) the sole exception).
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 01:51 PM   #2
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Go Steffi!
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 01:55 PM   #3
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 02:06 PM   #4
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I downloaded the 1993 (thats Jana/Steffi right?) Wimbledon Final on BT and was awestruck by Graf's game. Too bad I missed her.
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 02:18 PM   #5
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It is the same with all those slicers (Novotna, Navratilova)....
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 02:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazillo
It is the same with all those slicers (Novotna, Navratilova)....
but steffi's was the best
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 03:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j-mac
but steffi's was the best
It was a different slice though, because the other two girls were attacking with it.
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 03:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazillo
It was a different slice though, because the other two girls were attacking with it.
steffi could attack AND defend with her backhand

she had the best overall backhand slice

navratilova's and novotna's were great. but they couldnt keep them coming from the back of the court like steffi did

irina spirlea also had a good backhand slice

katarina studenikova's wasnt bad either- she used it to her effect to beat monica seles wimbledon 1996
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 03:08 PM   #9
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I like the slice Henin-Hardenne is playing nowadays.
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 03:11 PM   #10
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sabatini, mauresmo, henin-hardenne and martinez all had/have good slices
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 03:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j-mac
steffi could attack AND defend with her backhand

she had the best overall backhand slice

navratilova's and novotna's were great. but they couldnt keep them coming from the back of the court like steffi did...
Margaret Smith Court could and did keep them coming- I have yet to see footage of her coming over the backhand. She hit a chip, slice, dropshot, and backhand slice drive both crosscourt and down the line deep and with a lot of bite on it- and hit all her passing shots with a variety of slices, successfully. Two other players with slices every bit as good as Steffi's were Virginia Wade and Billie Jean King. And let's not forget Evonne Goolagong- Wade once described Evonne's slice backhand as "it came across the net at you as if it had a nest built around it"- with reference to how it just sat on the court when it landed- awfully tough to dig out!
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 03:53 PM   #12
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I loved Steffi`s slice backhand, I`m loving it even now. I like to play slice too...and I`m sure because of... Steffi
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 03:56 PM   #13
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And then there is Lori McNeil- fantastic slice backhand
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 04:02 PM   #14
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under-rated? please? everone always talks about her bh slice. nothing underrated about it.
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 05:17 PM   #15
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under-rated? please? everone always talks about her bh slice. nothing underrated about it.
I agree.

Steffi's backhand slice was excellent but it's hardly underrated - on this board anyway.

If anything I'd say it's overrated around here.
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