Relishing Pickleball: Slicing the Ball

David Zapatka

Slicing serve returns and dinks are favorite shots of mine. A slice puts backspin on the ball. The slice makes the ball travel from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock back toward the player who contacted the ball. These shots can be hit with a forehand or a backhand. A slice is effective for these reasons.

* Backspin causes the pickleball to travel longer in the air as opposed to a flat shot. This gives you more time to get to the kitchen line.

* A slice tends to skid a little and will stay low to the ground after it bounces. This makes the ball harder to attack.

* The spin also causes some sliding or skipping on the opponent’s paddle causing control problems for them.

Consider adding the slice shot to your game using these ideas.

* Start your return-of-serve stroke with the paddle held higher (shoulder to head height) than your normal drive-return stroke where your paddle position is around waist height. To generate the proper backspin on your slice, your paddle needs to travel down and forward through the ball on an angle.

* To properly hit a slice return, open the paddle face up toward the sky at least 45º. This open paddle face combined with the high-to-low paddle trajectory will generate the needed backspin for your slice to be effective.

* Use a short backswing and make contact out in front of your body. Do not pull your paddle across your body. Do not chop or stop your stroke prematurely. Swing your pickleball paddle from this high position in a straight line down and forward toward your target using one continuous motion. Move your non-paddle arm in the opposite direction, behind you, to create balance.

* As soon as you’ve made contact, move your feet and body forward to follow your shot. This will create more power and spin. Remember to stop and balance yourself before hitting the next shot.

* Use this same strategy when hitting a slice drop shot from the backcourt. The difference here is that you will be softly hitting the ball into the kitchen instead of driving it through the middle.

* Again, use this same strategy when hitting a slice dink from the kitchen line. Once again, you want to hit the ball softly over the low part of the net, the middle of the net, to keep your ball low as it travels over the net and stay low when it bounces.

* For guidance, watch the experienced players hit slice dinks. Their strokes are smooth and fluid. They follow through when hitting the ball.

Practice these suggestions and learn to hit the perfect slice drive returns, slice soft returns into the kitchen and slice dinks to keep your opponents at bay.

Have a question about pickleball? Want to know more about the sport, the rules, or equipment, or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].