By Irina Tereschenko
The ability to change pace and spin of the ball is one of the essential characteristics of a well-rounded/all-court pickleball player. Adding slice to your arsenal will allow you to effectively mix up the rhythm of the point and, hopefully, take away your opponent's strike zone. Therefore, a slice approach/return of serve becomes one of the ways to put pressure on the passer, forcing him or her to lift the ball up or use a slow dink—a good strategy against a power player or a tall player. The photo progression is an example of how to maintain balance and control of the slice, while gaining forward momentum to the net.
Exhibit 1 (BH slice photo 1-2+ FH return Photo 2- 3) - Line Up.
First reaction after the split step is turning your shoulders in the direction of the incoming ball and establishing your weight on the outside leg. This helps judge the distance to the ball and not run into it. I use my non-dominant hand to support the paddle before the shot on the backhand. Grip is continental on the dominant hand.
Exhibit 2 (BH slice photo 3-4 + FH return photo 4- 5) - Step In.
My next step in to start transferring my weight forward and take a step toward the ball, while maintaining a low center of gravity. My paddle is back, above my wrist and the palm is facing the court on the forehand (back of my hand is facing the court on my backhand). This is a first checkpoint in the swing—from here I can stay fluid through the motion and my paddle is lined up to put massive backspin on the ball.
Exhibit 3 (BH photo 5 + Fh return photo 6) - Contact Point.
Immediately prior to the contact point, my paddle is slightly open and even with the wrist. I am simply letting my arm swing from high to low and away from my body—the bottom edge of my paddle controls the backspin. Avoid flicking the wrist/changing the angle of the paddle to maintain maximum control of the shot.
Exhibit 4 (BH photo 6 +FH return photo 7) - Follow Through.
The length and direction of the follow through dictate the pathway of the ball (short, deep, crosscourt, etc.). Keep your head still at the spot of the contact point and accelerate through the ball while gently biting down your bottom lip. I am using my non-dominant hand for counter balance, which allows me to remain sideways and continue to gain momentum moving forward, without getting spun out of control by the speed of the swing (Checkpoint number two).
Exhibit 5 (BH photo 7-8 + FH photo 8-9) - Transition.
I try to stay relaxed until the end of the follow through and let my arm slow down on its own. My head is still balanced in the same spot, but my eyes are now looking forward as I am trying to anticipate the next shot. The focus is on the the swing pattern/movement of my opponent. Follow the path of your approach/return to put yourself in the best position to cover both angles of the passing shot after the split step.
Irina Tereschenko is a 2016 Nationals Singles Gold Medalist and 2017 Silver Medalist at Nationals and the US Open (singles and doubles). Irina also enjoys tennis, snowboarding and traveling. For more information, join SickTRX on Facebook.