What’s The Right Shot? #44 – The Answer

Beautiful!  This was one of my favorite posts!

What great interaction.

So, let’s get to it, here’s the fundamental I want you to take away.

It’s all about taking time away from your opponent …

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  1. I did not comment the first day, but what else I like here is that in addition to the simple racket prep he uses a racket path that pretty much parallels the baseline as he cuts down and across the back of the ball (using the off arm to counter balance and keep the body aligned), giving the ball some pretty good side spin to go with the back spin. A lot of rec players swing basically back to front on this shot, but the ATP guys cut across the ball. Looks nice and easy, no big deal — in fact that takes some skill.

    • Morning Robert.

      Your last comment is good. Making it look easy.

      I haven’t posted about this recently, but one of the things I like to include in my practice sessions is 10-15 minutes of simply being s m o o t h …

      Smooth with seeing the ball – let the muscles in your face hang as you react to the direction of the incoming shot, smooth with your grip tension where it’s relaxed, smooth with your movement where you’re like a ballroom dancer – your head glides on top of your shoulders, and deliciously smooth as you release your swing all the way to its finish…

      If you practice ‘smooth’ a couple of times a week for 10-15 minutes at a time, guess what, your brain will begin to think that ‘smooth’ is where it’s at 😉


  2. This is one thing the slice back hand is good at doing. Take the ball near or before the top of the bounce and use their pace. I came off an open match in the 70’s at the WI open. A few guys had watched my match against one of the Chicago boys. They all commented on how they liked how early I took a lot of my backhands. I never really knocked the socks off the ball on that side but hit it solid, got it back quickly and often.

    • Good feedback Mike.

      Right. Take the ball early. Take away time from your opponent on this point, but even better, build up concern in their mind for future points …


  3. As far as start of the stroke lining up with the ball that would be good if he also does it with his topspin and thus can disguise this shot or use it as a dropshot take away too. Federer disguises his backhand well because its the same stroke until the last second. High take back on all backhands.

  4. Not what I would call a classic slice but he has it down pat. Usually the classic prep is the “box” where the the backswing takes the racket back a bit higher almost parallel to the baseline with the wrist/racket at right angles to the forearm. Now stepping forward is good if the trajectory is low and the ball is falling -you get more pace with a shorter compact swing as shown. However if the ball was hit deeper and/or higher the swing shown would not cut it obviously.

    • Hi Nicolas.

      It’s classic enough of a slice to be effective in the way Tony took the ball early, but even more importantly, a simple set up = shot making consistency.


  5. rich jaffe says:

    I mentioned in my last post that I like the low take back, and Tony’s swing path is correct as he finishes high on the shot. His weight transfer is good and I’m in total agreement that many recreational players step back initially. Trying to hit the ball on the rise and taking time away from your opponent is paramount at the higher levels of the game. One point I wanted to address is that Tony does open up his body to soon and brings his back foot forward. I realize he is a solid player and I don’t want to be to critical ,but the slice backhand should be hit with the body staying sideways throughout the shot. He brings his back leg through the shot and I feel the back leg should stay back. On a two handed backhand there is nothing wrong with bringing your back leg through, but to hit an efficient slice one needs to stay sideways lean into the ball and keep the back leg back to avoid opening up the shoulders to soon.

    • Hey Rich. Thanks for your detailed feedback.

      Tony is slightly off balance when he initiates his swing which creates the need for that back foot to come around.

      However, the stroke doesn’t have to be technically perfect to do what Tony has done here – take time away from his opponent.

      I’d rather see us do what Tony did here rather than having to wait a hair longer to insure all of the elements of a perfect technique can get organized.


  6. Eric carlson says:

    Great lesson. Im going to to the court this morning with my students (one is 70, the other is 55)
    Lately i’ve noticed a lot of rec players (and maybe me!!) are a little late with the shoulder turn and they end up stepping sideways instead of stepping into the slice backhand. This causes a much weaker shot and lack of direction….ok…off to work!
    ps Brent….keep throwing in these fundamental videos—i think they are going to be very well received. Basically you are pinpointing areas to improve so that you Can Hit The Right Shot.

    • EC. Morning …

      Glad to read you liked this format.

      Absolutely. I’ll continue to throw in these technical nuggets to enhance the strategies of “What’s The Right Shot?”.


  7. I wouldn’t slice a ball hit that short . I would think that a topspin drive would be a better option, wouldn’t you ?

    • Not really Jay.

      It’s much tougher to follow a topspin drive in IF you feel you’ve really conked it to the open court.

      Tony can feel the quality of his slice in terms of depth, direction, and pace, and if he likes the feel, it’s much easier for him (and us) to take advantage and move in to net.


  8. I really like your advice about not backing up too much. Even if backing up gives me more time, it also gives my opponent time and a better opportunity to come to the net. I’ve been working hard to hold my ground and look for every opportunity to move forward. That includes sometimes taking a looping high shot out of the air or just after it bounces instead of letting it force me way back.

    • Morning Richard.

      You’re right.

      If you think about it, and if you did a scatter chart of where your opponents’ returns of serve actually land over the course of let’s say 10 matches, I’ll bet you’d fins that a huge majority of those returns of serve land short enough to where you don’t ever need to back up after your serve.

      Of course, there are times when the return is deep, but if I’m looking for it, I have no problem playing a transitional volley from inside the baseline, moving forward, and forcing my opponent into yet another passing shot …


  9. Steping too soon would take your power away from the slice, so the timing of the step, I think, would be crucial to a good penetrating slice . Comments?

    • Totally agree Richard.

      Stepping too early means your weight transfer is done by the time you make contact.

      So, balance (and posture) is a great skill to always hone …


  10. Brent,
    What I learned from this segment is the importance of being smooth. I have seen this in all your videos but until you talked about it in the prior post it never really clicked. What a great idea practising being smooth each practise session.

    • Hi Larry.

      Glad you picked up on that.

      I had a 2 hour mid afternoon practice session this past Monday at the Mission Hills CC (Rancho Mirage) on their grass courts with Fred Robinson, one of the top players in the world in the 60s.

      It was all about rhythm hitting and directing balls to a target without the need for major power.

      Needless to say, it felt great 😉


  11. Vernon Gibson says:

    Gee, I thought you were going to comment on his serve, which looks pretty damn good!! 😉

    • Now that his serve has been brought up, I’ve been wondering if Tony knows that they changed the rule about having to keep one foot on the ground – back in 1961. 🙂

  12. You didn’t comment on this and Tony did it—on my backhand, to avoid getting out in front too early, keeping my elbow close to the body really improves the shot—gives it more power. Take time away from the opponent but don’t be too eager—otherwise it becomes a push shot.

    • Good advice Newt on not reaching too far out in front.

      One of the worst tennis teaching cliches has ben to hit out in front.

      Yes, a specific spot in front is correct, but too often we take liberties in out in front and it ends up too far out there.

      Find that one and only ideal contact point that is yes, in front, but it’s a specific spot.

      Keeping your elbow in, or even better, letting it hang down to your side, will insure a better and more consistent point of contact.



  13. Great post!Thanks for letting us to know about this, very useful!

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