You can learn from the Australian's radical downward swing pattern. (AP Photo)

No shot demonstrates the evolution of the pro game better than the slice backhand. In the wooden-racquet era, the slice was a drive shot hit with moderate underspin. In today’s game, it often has more backspin than the biggest forehands have topspin. You can understand why by observing Tomic’s radical downward swing pattern.

1

Tomic’s hitting hand starts at shoulder level and then moves downward, toward the middle of his calf.
 

2

This downward swing applies tons of spin on the ball, but it may be difficult for most rec players to pull off because of the timing. It can also cause players to give up pace unnecessarily. There is one key element that bridges the gap between old and new for the slice backhand: Tomic keeps his hitting arm straight before, during and after contact. That’s critical for a great slice at any level.
 

3

The racquet head stays well below his wrist when he extends into his follow through.


John Yandell is the publisher of the TennisPlayer.net digital magazine and an instruction editor for TENNIS.