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

Ok, we’re shaking things up today with this version of “What’s The Right Shot?”.

It would be more appropriately titled “What’s The Right Fundamental?”.

We’re going to pick apart a slice backhand from one of the world’s top 60s senior players, my LifeShotz business partner, Tony Dawson.

After watching this video, let me know in the Comments area below which vital fundamental do you think I’m going to train on with the upcoming “Answer” segment video?.  Thanks in advance …

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  1. Hi Brent,
    Slice also requires lift — so the fundamental is “End high…” which prevents one from “chopping”

    • Morning Peter.

      Terrific feedback on the importance of eventually finishing up high so that it’s not a purely downward hack …


  2. Looks like a reasonable return of serve, some pace but a bit shallow and straight towards the server – in fact close enough to tuck him up a bit. Tony doesn’t back up and play a defensive slice, but takes the ball inside the baseline, his weight moving forward through the shot – slice can be aggressive too. Not retreating behind the baseline is part of a mindset rather than pure stroke mechanics, but it’s still something you need practice consciously.

    • No question Richard that not backing up is a mindset, especially off of the return of serve.

      The return of serve is average, but still, too many players automatically server and retreat …


  3. 1) Long follow through on upward path with relatively straight arm through swing;
    2) Wrist is firm and held so that racquet follows line of forearm; racquet head is consequently lower, making it important to take ball on the rise.

  4. That how one swings for a slice backhand depends on the type of incoming ball – its pace, height, depth, and spin – and what type of slice one wishes to hit. Nuttin more fun than over-thinking. 🙂

    • And that’s the problem with you smart guys KB 😉

      BTW, had an inspiring and eye opening nearly 2 hour practice session with the great Fred Robinson yesterday here at Mission Hills.

      Talk about the right way to apply brains into the geometry and stats of the game. Wow …


      • Would love to hear more about it. There’s a reason why you guys have “5.0” by yer names and why you have gold balls and the rest of us don’t. I’m still reeling from how close to the sidelines he put so many balls against me in New Orleans. Such *precision*. It was the same with Landauer in dubs in Naples. There’s definitely something “different” with you guys. . .

        • KB.

          Fred gave me his theory on accuracy, why he thinks it’s THE most important skill to possess as opposed to power, and then we proceeded to hit crosscourt groundies to a specific target at about 75% power.

          When tennis becomes all about simply hitting the ball to a target (and not in relation to your opponent), you relax …


  5. I, too, am in my 60’s and still learning the fundamentals of a good one handed back hand. What I see is that he is squared to the net, he’s bringing his racquet back timely, he’s hitting the ball at the right location and when he hits the ball his weight is on his forward (right) leg. I am not familiar with is his follow through after he makes contact…..

  6. Spent last year developing slice backhand. Still working on it. He transfers his weight very well when he hits the ball among other things in his preparation for the shot.

    • Good effort Sam to put quality time into developing a slice backhand.

      It’s VITAL that well possess one.

      Good call on Tony’s weight transfer …


  7. I believe the most important thing is leaning into the shot in order to get your body weight to add to the speed of the return.

    • Morning Billy.

      Leaning in to get body weight against the ball is important, but it’s got to be done on balance.


  8. The movement of hitting arm from left to right with high finish so you can sit some glasses on the strings like it was a tray at the end.

    • That is a good finish SRC, but be careful with too much of a left to right swing path.

      I prefer you work on more of a forward towards the target swing path.


  9. I see a few great things;

    first, he counter balances the ball strike with his trailing arm going in the opposite direction of the front arm, stabilizing the stroke

    Next, he leans his shoulder into the ball, weight forward, I think when this is not done it is the big mistake most rec playerts are making

    The last thing I notice, he continues racket toward the target instead of toward the ground, now there are some great slicers that went to the ground with the stroke, for instance stefi graf, but I think you get a more penetrating slice when your follow through brings racket towards the target

    • Pman.

      Pleased to read you’re bringing out the difference between Tony’s slice and toady’s modern pro style severe high to low swing path.

      And then you throw in Stefi. Too good 😉


  10. rob owen says:

    high, low, high he does not get the racquet up on the back swing to bite into the ball…

    • Hi Rob.

      One of the things I like is that Tony doesn’t start too high with his backswing.

      In fact, he preps almost directly behind the eventual contact point.

      You don’t need a severe high to low swing path to impart underspin. A natural continental grip will do that for you.

      Less can go wrong …


  11. rich jaffe says:

    Hi Brent,
    That is an old school slice backhand just like the great Ken Rosewall use to hit them. I love it. Backswing much lower that what is taught today`. Tony stays sideways beautifully throughout the shot , he transfers his weight nicely with his back hip finishing higher than his front hip, and his high finish is the proper way to finish the shot so that you don’t chop down on the ball. Todays more modern slice that most of the top pros his is with a much higher backswing. The knuckles are facing the sky and the hands start out more by the shoulders. The swing pattern is high low high. Tony hits a penetrating slice and I like the excessive follow through from left to right with the racket to get more bite on the ball. I hear many pros say to finish the slice on the same side of the body. That may be a good way to learn the stroke , but to really drive through it you must keep the racket path moving across your body. I also like the way Tony brings his left arm back but not to much back for balance. Overall I like the old school driving slice and in many ways seems more efficient than the high take back in todays game.

  12. The focus will be on the rotation of the body.

  13. I would think the back swing should a little and the follow thru as well. That being said I know Tony is a top notch player and I’m sure his sliced BH is very effective. Larry Turville’s is constructed more like I’m talking about and let’s face it it doesn’t get better.

    • Morning Ron.

      Larry Turville – hmmmm.

      One of the best slice backhands I’ve ever seen.

      And accuracy? Amazing …


  14. Eric carlson says:

    Brent, ec here……great new format.
    Tony’s preperation is great….great footwork, well balanced, shoulder turn, then really transferring
    his weight from his left inside foot to his right so that he makes contact fully in front of his right foot allowing him to drive the ball and finish into a ready position….have a great day!

  15. Dipping his shoulder and putting his bodyweight into the shot to really drive the ball.

  16. Rene Rivera says:

    Everyone has covered slice in comments . I’m interested in your music list . nice sounds. thanks

  17. I think he opens up too early, like pulling away from the shot. I would prefer to see both the racquet and his body weight follow thru, even with one step going towards the target then reset.

  18. The foot work is outstanding in setting this shot up also his footwork in being ready for the next shot,

  19. Great footwork, balanced weight transfer, follow thru following ball flight. Racket head started above wrist level but dropped during hit/follow thru. Will that create control issues?

    • Morning Rich.

      All of the great fundamentals you mentioned will create control …

      Not issues, but consistent control.


  20. He is remarkably relaxed. The motion is still coming from his body, and he’s NOT over-using his elbow like you would if you were hammering nails.

  21. There are so many critical parts of the stroke
    that Tony does well…I’m going to guess straightening
    the elbow at contact.
    I wish I could have seen where and how the ball landed
    to get the full effect of the stroke.
    Thanks Brent

    • Hi Danny.

      Love the reference to the straightening of the elbow.

      That is the stroke. Not a straight arm swing. It’s the forward straightening of the arm that initiates the swing.


  22. Think focusing on the high finish brings all the other elements into proper position.

  23. Finally Huntley mentions something I noticed. He seems to open up a bit more than I have been taught. I was thinking you might be stressing staying sideways to the net through the shot.

    • Hi Mary.

      No question that staying sideways is vital.

      Tony does open up more than I like, and I know Tony would agree.


  24. I think the fundamental your going to focus on is the shoulder turn so tht your looking over your shoulder to see the approaching ball.

    • Morning Larry.

      That’s a great fundamental. Look over your racket shoulder in the set up.

      Show your back to your opponent.


  25. Staying. Sideways. Through the stroke

  26. Anonymous says:

    I like that he didn’t back up on the return and the disguise of the shot. It was quick and deliberate.

    • Morning Anon.

      The return of serve was not deep. Too many of us back up automatically after the serve.

      Tony’s response was to take the ball early, minimize the stroke mechanics, and …


  27. Hey Brent & others,

    The first thought was look at the foot work and balance. The second thing, and I stress this a lot when teaching to to keep that elbow straight so that his point of rotation is coming from his shoulder while he is moving forward through the ball.

    You’ve got a lot of fodder in this forum to work with here Brent. It’s amazing how many different things that you can pick up on from just one shot. Way to hone in on the specifics. I can’t wait to hear your recommendations. Keep swinging away!!!

    See you on the courts of the world,
    (if only in spirit),


    • Hi Mike.

      Appreciate your feedback. Thanks.

      Are you in the Chicago area? For whatever reason, I’m thinking you are.

      If so, I’m going to be at the College Park Athletic Club in Bannockburn Sunday May 4, 2-4 pm for a Chicago area WebTennis subscriber meet and greet and hit balls.


  28. The finish.

    • Hey Lou.

      The finish is a good one and should be modeled for sure.

      But that’s not what I’m training on tomorrow 😉

      Check back then.


  29. Major Dan says:

    first of all , I have no idea what you are going to focus on tomorrow – looking forward to it.
    Just want to comment on two things I see:
    1 – Tony rocks his body (left to right) through the shot and his arm/hand have only a minium of movement in relation to his body before and into contact – this is not an arm swing-type shot. He has a short backswing and meets the ball about at his front knee, no farther forward than that…
    2 – his grip is approximately a Continental but he appears to be ever so slightly forward of that (toward a forehand). I would conjecture that with him playing the ball somewhat deep in his stroke, this opens the racquet face a bit more to aid in getting some lift and depth.
    If I’ve got this grip thing wrong, what is he doing that gives it that appearance?

    • MD …

      Pretty tough to see Tony’s exact hand position with such a small video resolution. I’m not in front of my iMac which has a much larger resolution, but Tony was schooled in the Vic Edward’s Aussie school of tennis back in the day, and a strong Continental grip is what was taught.


  30. I have a pretty good one-hander myself (and hit both top and slice) so my comments are relative to how I hit my BH.

    I think the one thing Tony does right is getting his weight forward and leaning into the shot off his front foot and he obviously swings under and thru the ball – both forward and across his body and he hits the shot with pretty good balance and has a natural recovery step for balance with his back foot. his contact point is also pretty good – just in front of his right hip and the swing is pretty level across his body – so it’s not a chop or overly defensive slice.

    however – it doesn’t look like a really aggressive BH slice drive either as there isn’t much shoulder turn or much of a ‘power move’ from the hips/lower torso that I use when I’m trying to hit a hard aggressive slice drive. he also isn’t as sideways to the net as I usually like to be when I’m hitting my BH and I usually have a bit more of back swing/ shoulder rotation.

    To me it looks like Tony is hitting a pretty safe shot and just using the returner’s pace to get the ball back cross court and relatively deep (since he’s not chopping at the ball or coming aggressively under it). he’s also not coming in on this ball – though his stroke technique on this particular shot almost looks like the shorter swing that I might use on a BH approach – just trying to use the returner’s pace and slice it back deep while coming in.

    others have noted that he has a low and short back swing – but that may just be a function of him feeling a bit hurried and/or not wanting to be too aggressive with the shot. It can also be a matter of personal preference – no 2 swings are the same – but Fed, Stan, Gasquet etc. all have higher take backs.

    I usually take it back higher – largely a function of more of a shoulder rotation – but I’ll use a shorter swing like Tony is using on this shot if I’m hurried or hitting a more defensive short or a BH approach.

    The only think I think you don’t want to do is over rotate and get the racquet behind your back – or away from your body – because both will cause timing problems and way too many things can go awry as you start your swing and get the racquet into the hitting slot (same thing on the FH). In other words (assuming a closed stance) it’s OK to get the racquet back behind your back hip (towards the back fence) – but you don’t want to over rotate and get the racquet behind your back so that’s its starting to come around towards the side fence. and of course you don’t want your arm/elbow away from your body on the backswing. certainly – your elbow may get away from your body on the actual swing if you are reaching for the ball outside your ideal hitting zone – but you are going to have less control and more things can go wrong the further away from your body your elbow gets.

    I’m a big believer in KISS (keeping it simple stupid) and not over thinking things or over exaggerating any motion. you just want to get the racquet back – close to your body – to a comfortable position – high or low – so as be able to easily time the forward move (really a pulling motion that accelerates the racquet into and thru the hitting zone) while getting some weight into the shot either by stepping into the shot or pulling across your body. the follow through should just happen naturally and will obviously be different if your hitting under and across/through for a slice or up and across/through for a topspin shot.

    everything else is just timing and feel and you’ve got to hit a few to get the right timing and feel on your topspin and slice/sidespin shots.

    • Good stuff John.

      The high set ups by the pros are VERY tough to copy and model.

      There’s so much precise timing required to be consistent.

      Unless you can get out on the court 3-4 hours a day and work on this stuff, you’re right, employ the KISS method.

      So, question for you, what do you think is the most important reason for Tony moving and stepping forward against the ball?


      • Theft of time?

      • brent – tony (or anyone) staying tight to the baseline and stepping in to the shot allows him to: (i) get some weight behind the shot, (ii) maintain his court position, and (iii) take a bit of time away from the opponent.

  31. John C (another one) says:

    I agree with whoever said my compatriot Tony opened up a bit early, but , BUT, he stayed down, came forward and importantly kept his head still and down and focused.

  32. I have contrary opinion on this, anyway many thanks for your posting, worth reading it.

  33. I have different opinion on this, in any case many thanks for your post, worth reading it.

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