I’m asked a lot about the slice backhand and what makes it tick. Here are what I feel are the essentials:

  1. Rafael Nadal slice backhand

    Outside edge up

    Use the Continental grip! A very slight backhand or a composite grip (slightly towards the forehand) are doable as long as they’re slight enough to avoid compensating the wrist position during the forward swing.

  2. Make sure the outside edge of the racquet is “up” or aligned with the inside edge at a minimum at the conclusion of the backswing. There are those who condone a 30% drop of the outside edge at that point but I think it’s risky unless your timing is exceptional. Edge up, outside in, smooth continuous swing to conclusion
  3. In most cases you should align the racquet head just slightly above the contact point so as to avoid scooping or chopping during the forward swing.

    James Blake, slice backhand

    Outside edge up

  4. In a figurative sense, swing to the outside of the ball or outside-in. In other words like you were going to hit the left side of the ball if you’re right handed. Of course you don’t actually do this, but this image will stabilize the wrist position you established by getting the outside edge up. One of the most common problems with the slice is the dropping of the wrist during the forward swing.
  5. As you swing forward, smoothly pull the butt of the handle with the leading edge of your hand and let the racquet face come along for the ride. In the best case scenario the swing will finish pretty much like it began with the palm still facing down. Make sure to make a complete swing! Too many players tend to decelerate the racquet head when they hit the slice.

By the way, in a more condensed version, everything above applies to the backhand volley.