If you’re looking to take your game up a notch, it’s time to grab a slice and add it to your return of serve. I know it sounds a little cheesy, but seriously, a little spin can go a long way…literally.
For those of you who don’t know what hitting a slice means, let me quickly talk about spin shots and how they behave. There are three main types of spin most people will mention on the courts and those are:
- Topspin — This describes when the top of the pickleball is rotating forward in the direction of its travel. Topspin causes a ball to want to dive down as it moves through the air and when the ball lands, the spin will cause the ball to stay low and accelerate forward of its bounce.
- Sidespin — Sidespin describes anytime when one side of the ball continuously rotates forward as the ball travels through the air. The pickleball spins either to the left or right and depending on its rotation, the ball turns to the left or right respectively as it floats through the air. Additionally, it often adds a surprising bounce kick away or into your opponent as they try to return the ball.
- Backspin — Opposite of topspin, backspin describes when the bottom of the ball is rotating forward in the direction of its travel. Backspin causes the ball to want to rise, counteracting gravity slightly and giving the ball a floating quality. Balls with backspin will tend to land further back than you expect (due to its semi-floatation) and checkup (bounce upward or back towards where they came from) when they bounce.
So coming back to the slice, this describes a swing that imparts backspin. A player could have a slice forehand and/or a slice backhand, either way they hit their slice, the ball will be coming at you with backspin. This leads us into the Tip of the Week:
Boost your return of serve with a slice!
We’ll get into the mechanics in a second, but let’s start with why you should return with a slice first. The reason is really as simple as 1, 2, 3:
- First, A ball with backspin tends to stay in the air longer. With the two bounce rule, we know our opponents have to stay back, so let’s use the extra airtime to get to kitchen line (and dominate!).
- Second, it’s much harder for opponents to hit a clean, strategic shot (lob or third-shot drop) when the ball they are hitting is spinning. Often times a spinning ball doesn’t set up for their swing where the returner is expecting it, and spin can do unexpected things when the ball hits their paddle.
- Third, it’s a very simple stroke to return the serve with, while increasing your probability to win the point.
This is why you’ll often see the professionals employing the very same tactic. Just remember, still hit it deep for the reasons laid out in our prior tip of the week, Relax…You Control the Return of Serve.
Now that you’re sold on returning with a slice, I’m going to leave it to Deb Harrison to explain the mechanics. If I were to give you one more big, insider tip focus on what Deb says about pushing through the ball. The only time I screw up this shot is when I don’t move my feet and take a big swing instead. Remember, push through the ball.
And if you have questions or tips of your own, just add them at the bottom of the page in the comments section.