The Art and Science of Victory
Forehand Slice Approach Shot

To be honest, the title of this page has too many words. The word 'slice' is redundant. You should always approach the net behind a slice. A slice bounces low and caries deep, vexing the passer. That doesn't mean that the answer to every short ball is to hit an approach shot and charge the net. If you have a great, big topspin forehand, just hit the kill shot and be done with it. Save yourself a trip to the net. Since there are so many pros have great, big topspin forehands you rarely see the slice approach these days. If you don't have a great, big forehand and can't put the ball away from the mid court, then you should master the slice approach. It is the 'one' in the one-two punch that is classic offensive tennis.

The Stroke

Slice approach shot - the best path to the net off the ground.

Keys to the forehand approach:

  • Grip - easiest to hit with the eastern or continental forehand grip but can also be hit with the semi-western.
  • Footwork - closed stance with cross-over step.
  • Back swing - Short, chest level and straight back. Keep your hand well inside the zone-of-experience.
  • Stroke - keep the racquet face pointing at the target for as long as possible by externally rotating the shoulder and pulling the racquet across the front of the body. I call this the racquet staring-down the target.
  • Follow through high.
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Cross Over Step

Cross-over step - lets you back swing early and execute the approach shot while making progress towards the net.

This is what makes the the approach shot an approach shot. You are on your way to the net when you execute the stroke and the closer you get tot he net the more consistent and effective your volley will be, so what is better than hitting the stroke and running to the net at the same time?

The cross over step allows you to turn your shoulders into the back swing and run towards the net sideways. You must hit the approach shot without breaking stride. You try to hit the ball while your weight is transferring from you right to left foot like a normal forehand, but it doesn't matter where your feet are when you execute the approach - as long as you are still moving forward.

Back swing High and Short

Back swing chest high - so that the racquet comes down into the ball for under spin.

Back swing should be simple, short with your hand at the level of your chest. It should also be early - you should bring the racquet back as soon as you recognize that you are about to hit a forehand and run with the racquet back.
Racquet Stares-Down the Target

Racquet face staring down the target - note how long the racquet face is pointing at the target before the completion of the follow through.

This is the biggest difference between the heavy topspin strokes such as the millennium forehand and classical strokes such as this one. The stroke promotes keeping the racquet face pointing at the target for an unnaturally long time. This guarantees success in spite of poor timing, incomplete back swing or an appalling lack of talent.

Technique: As in the Classical Forehand, external rotation of the shoulder through the point of contact keeps the racquet pointing forward. In addition, you pull the racquet across the body from right to left through the point of contact.

To achieve under spin. (which helps to keep the ball low after it bounces) the racquet is brought down through the point of contact then comes up at the end. The 'up at the end' part is what makes this a nice, consistent slice instead of a nasty old chop.

Pull-Across Follow Through

Pull across follow through - helps to keep the racquet pointing at the target and also adds a bit of nasty side spin to the ball.

This is a peculiar but important part of the slice forehand. In order to keep the racquet face on target for a long time you should feel yourself pulling the racquet across in front of your body. This has the disadvantage of pulling the racquet face out of the line of flight of the ball which decreases the probability that you will hit the ball dead center of the racquet, but this is more than compensated by the stabilizing effect this trick has on the face of the racquet. The end result is an amazingly accurate stroke that you can aim at a corridor over the net only a few inches tall. This contributes to a nice, low bounce - just what your buddy with the great passing shot hates.

An additional benefit is a little bit of side spin that this technique puts on the ball. Side spin is quite cool on an approach shot. A right handler's side spin tends to make the ball curve to the right in flight then jumps to the left after it bounces. That is not conducive to a nice, controlled passing shot. It is conducive to allot of pissing and moaning from the other side of the net.