27 June

A summer of serving: Part Four, mastering the slice

Our summer of serving continues with the slice, your go-to serve for a reliable second serve with a reasonable margin of error

This is such a useful serve, especially when serving into the ad court. It should take your opponent right out of the court.

Do go on line to check out training tips. Top Tennis Training (see above) is a great example of the wealth of expertise available to you. Keep searching and comparing approaches till you find one that clicks with you.

The Grip

As with the flat serve, you should seek out the back-to-basics chopper or handshake grip. (Try using your racket as an axe imagining the rim/edge of the racket to be the axe head).

Although you might find the "slice" action easier to locate with a forehand grip, changing your grip has the disadvantage of advertising your serve to your opponent and the serve itself is likely to be weaker.

The Toss

Getting the toss right for an effective slice serve is a bit of a toss up (pardon the pun) between ease and disguise. Generally, if you aim a little to the right of your shoulder (assuming you are a righty) and a little in front, finding the slice contact point will be easier. The downside is that an astute opponent may recognise your intentions. If you can, keep the toss the same as for your flat serve and still hit the slice point. See also our summer of serving guide to where to stand and how to toss the ball

The slice point

How good are you at concepts? Can you think in three dimensions and do you still look at analogue clocks? The problem with finding the right way to hit the ball to achieve slice is you have to be a bit of a multitasker and abstract thinker.

Not only must you think about where to hit the ball (that is, which part of the ball), you need to think about how to hit it and path the racket head is taking as it meets the ball.

1) Aim for 2.30pm! You will hear something like this time and time again when you are discussing the slice serve. If a tennis ball is a clock, you are aiming not for 12 (the top of the ball) or 6pm (the bottom) but somewhere on the top quarter. 

2) Brush, don't punch or push... You really are aiming to give the ball a nasty surface burn, a rasping, brushing swipe that sets it spinning.

3) Low to high is still your mantra. As the racket comes into contact with the ball, it will start the ball spinning on a path from the bottom quarter across and up as it makes its way to the 2.30pm target.

Still finding that hard to grasp? Don't worry, a lot of players have trouble at first. The truth is not even Einstein could take this formula and immediately spin it into action. 

The best ways to make progress are to absorb as many on-line videos as you have stomach for, and to take your experimenting on to court. You may have to hit many balls but eventually you will begin to get the feel for the stroke and see your ball curve in trajectory.

Adding power and direction

Unlike the flat serve, brute force or racket speed may not be what is required to add effectiveness to your serve. Getting the technique right is so important to the slice serve that easing off on the power of the shot is a very reasonable trade off. Better technique means more spin which will help the ball swing more through the air and continue that directional swerve when it hits the ground. Following through into the court with your body will add weight to the shot.

Directional changes should be achieved not by changing the toss but by the way you rotate the upper half or the body with your serving shoulder pointing toward where you want the ball to go.

Do let us know how you get on!