Sunday, October 24, 2021

Understanding Under Spin

Coach Wayne

Photos by Wayne Clark | Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida’s Director Ryan Reader, demonstrating my backhand slice practice drill.

In previous columns, I have discussed the thought process of striking the ball, along with the theories of the apex and flight of the ball. I have also described how gravity impacts the flight of the ball and have emphasized the need for applying spin to the ball in order to control its flight path.  

So, let’s now address the physical aspects required to execute a stroke and apply underspin (aka “slice”) to the ball.  

In this column, I am going to address applying slice on the backhand. This can be utilized for groundstrokes, dinks, and volleys. 

Let’s begin with an understanding of the importance of being aware of the angle of the face of our paddle as it contacts the ball. 

In order to apply slice to the ball, I must get the face of the paddle under the ball. To accomplish this, I need to get the face of the paddle open. 

In the sport of tennis, players will use a variety of grips depending on if they are hitting topspin or slice on both the forehand and backhand wings. 

In the sport of pickleball, while utilizing different grips for different shots can be applied, the necessity of utilizing a grip change is not necessarily required. 

The grip we want to use is called the continental grip. I refer to it as the corporate handshake grip. You want to grip the paddle like you are shaking hands with it, applying firm and comfortable pressure.  

The continental grip.

Utilizing this grip allows us to change the angle of the face of the paddle by turning our wrist. My knuckles are facing upwards, getting the backhand side/face of the paddle facing the sky, allowing me to make contact underneath the bottom of the ball. 

Here is a practice drill to help you get used to opening up the face of the paddle using the continental grip. 

Take a ball and balance it on the face of your paddle, drop the ball off the paddle, let it bounce on the ground, then catch it and balance it on the paddle again. 

Make sure you are getting down to the level of contact with the ball with your legs, and not your back. 

Once you have conquered catching and balancing the ball on the paddle, now switch to just bouncing the ball on the paddle and begin to slide the paddle underneath the ball at contact, applying underspin. Repeat this motion until you can do it confidently 10 times in a row. 

Finally, when you can consistently get 10 in a row, begin to experiment with changing the amount of spin you are applying to the ball each time you strike it. 

In next week’s column, I will address what motion is required from the rest of our body during executing a slice backhand. 

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years’ experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161. 


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