A slice backhand is almost as essential for players who use a two-handed backhand as it is for one-handers. While it is possible to hit a slice with two hands, the one-handed slice is much easier and more versatile. From here on, slice will refer to the one-handed variety.
The word slice originally meant sidespin, as it still does for serves, but it is now commonly used as synonymous with backspin for groundstrokes.
One-handed backhand hitters need a slice to
- drive through balls that are too high for topspin (typically above chest height)
- get out of trouble when not prepared early enough to hit topspin or flat (the slice backhand can be hit slightly later)
- handle extremely low balls
- give the arm a rest from the more strenuous topspin shot
- handle wide balls
- handle low balls
- in strong winds, where the shorter backswing for the slice makes clean contact with the ball easier
- on fast courts, where the ball tends to stay low and time for preparing each stroke is minimal
- Used as an approach shot, it skids low, preventing the opponent from getting under the ball enough to hit topspin, thus usually yielding a rising (rather than dipping) ball that's easier to volley.
- Two-handed backhand hitters who have not learned to also use one-handed backhands will have trouble getting down to low-skidding slices.
- Slice makes the ball float farther in the air. Opponents can be surprised by the resulting depth and caught too late to prepare properly for their shot.