The Slice Serve
The slice serve is a highly effective serve that can become a huge weapon when perfected. What makes the slice serve unique is the sidespin applied, which causes the ball to move from right to left (if you’re a righty) and continue to move in that direction off the bounce.
The slice serve’s name comes from the brushing action, or slice, applied to the tennis ball to produce sidespin.
- Natural to hit: If you’re using the continental service grip, then the slice serve is likely the serve you’ll find most natural hitting based on the contact point and angle of the racquet used, which we’ll discuss below.
- Open up the court: One of the most effective uses of the slice serve is to pull your opponent out wide in the deuce court if you’re a righty and ad court if you’re a lefty. By doing so, you’re opening up the court and providing yourself with a broad range of shot-making opportunities.
- Crowd your opponent: Another frequent use of the slice serve is to hit up the center of the service box so that the ball moves into your opponent’s body after it bounces. A body serve will crowd your opponent and make it hard for them to get out of the way to hit a clean return.
- Low bounce: A well-executed slice serve forces your opponent to use their legs and bend down or hit out of their strike zone because the ball stays low due to its sidespin.
- Opposite arms: If you’re right-handed and playing a lefty or vice versa, then the slice serve can be a great weapon to attack your opponent’s backhand out wide in the deuce court if you’re a righty and the ad court if you’re a lefty.
- Consistency: Because the slice serve requires a generous amount of sidespin to be effective, many players tend to overhit, which often leads to inconsistency.
- Telegraphing: Often, players will exaggerate their toss to achieve more spin, and in doing so, give away the fact that they’re about to hit a slice serve. It may not matter if you execute the serve well, but that split-second tip may give your opponent an edge on the return.
Slice Serve Technique
Let’s take a look at how to hit a slice serve with proper technique.
While some players and coaches might suggest that you can use an eastern grip for your slice serve, I’d recommend against it for two main reasons.
First, if you’re using an eastern grip, you’re most likely overcompensating for poor technique.
Second, changing your grip can be a dead giveaway to your opponent as to what type of serve you’re about to hit.
The truth is, a continental serve grip is highly effective for all types of tennis serves. You just need to learn to use it for a great slice serve, which takes time and patience.
Similar to the flat serve, you’ll want to place your toss about 12-18 inches in front of you and approximately 6 inches to the right of your tossing arm’s shoulder at the peak of the toss, allowing for natural contact with the ball.
Initially, you may be inclined to toss the ball a little farther right than you do for your flat serve to make contacting the side of the ball a bit more pronounced and establish feel.
However, if you do adjust your toss, keep in mind that a good returner might pick up on the change in your toss and give them a hint of the type of serve and where you might be inclined to hit it.
Contact Point & Racquet Angle
With the slice serve, you’ll want to make contact with the outer edge of the ball to generate sidespin. However, you’ll also want to hit up slightly to give the ball a bit of topspin so that it drops back down into the court.
Here’s a photo to show you what your contact point should look like for a slice serve. It’s subtle, but hopefully, compared with the flat serve, you can tell the racquet is coming toward the ball at an angle with a bit of upward motion.
This motion gives the ball the spin or slice that you’re looking for while also making sure there’s just enough topspin to bring the ball back down into the court.
Slice Serve Video
Here’s a video that brings together all the different pieces of a slice serve and once again includes a pause so you can see the toss placement, contact point, and racquet angle as part of the entire service motion.
Slice Serve Tips
Here are a few tips to help execute an effective slice serve:
When you’re learning the slice serve, it can be relatively easy to overhit as you attempt to generate side spin. However, with practice and the proper technique, you shouldn’t need to swing considerably harder to create more spin.
In fact, hitting a slice serve at 75% of your max swing speed can be a great tactic because the sidespin combined with the change in pace will often throw off your opponent.
Go Out Wide
The slice serve is perfect for opening up the tennis court. If you’re a righty, hitting a slice serve out wide in the deuce court will draw your opponent off the court, leaving the rest of the court open for a follow-up shot that puts you in a position to move forward and attack.
Keep Court Surface in Mind
A slice serve is a fantastic weapon on any court surface. However, you can use it to your advantage on certain court surfaces.
For example, if you’re lucky enough to have access to grass courts, keep in mind that the slice serve is a fantastic serve for this surface. The ball will naturally bounce less on grass, which plays terrifically with the slice serve, which also doesn’t bounce high. The result can be a very low-bouncing serve that is hard to return.