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View Full Version : How do you play an athletic pusher


johndagolfer
01-16-2010, 04:09 PM
I went to watch a team I am thinking of joining. It is a 3.5 adult league team. During warm ups I was watching and thinking I can hit with these guys easy. Then I watched my first pusher. Now I am scared.

Before you say pushers are easy let me explain how this guy played. He was super consistent and playing the push off both sides. He is very athletic with a long reach and he's very fast. He doesn't push to the middle he pushes to the the deep corners waiting for an error. He can handle most pace and if he gets into drop he's very adept at resetting the point with a arcing lob a few feet from the baseline (he did this 10 times, missed once).

So how do you face a guy who is:

Never tries for winners unless the ball is in slam range.
Really athletic
Doesnt make mistakes
Pushes the ball deep into the corners
Can actually charge forward with topspin if you leave a ball short
is a good vollyer and is really tall (good overheads).

johndagolfer
01-16-2010, 04:23 PM
BTW my game.

Good 1st serve(either like to slice out wide or hit flat down the T, good kicking 2nd serve)

Forehand is really solid and consistent

My backhand is solid, I slide really well when I am in trouble and hit a good topspin. It is not as consistent as more forehand though and I can make errors

Volley/overheads are fair, I tend hit then deep but sometimes with not a lot of pace.

Movement is what kills me. I have arthritis in both my ankles and am not very fast.

OHBH
01-16-2010, 04:27 PM
skidding slices short into the middle of the court. draw him in with one of these, if he is as tall as he sounds he may have trouble digging these out. So he gets the ball back but is now stuck in the middle of the court. hitting passing shots will negate his speed. Other than that, be aggressive when you have an easy ball

Steady Eddy
01-16-2010, 04:31 PM
He's good at overheads but I still think that's the way to beat him. Pull him to the net, lob deep, and to his backhand. You have to do alot of extra running to put away a lob that's to your backhand. Don't worry about mixing it up, either. Always lob to the backhand, even if he knows it's coming, it's where you want your lob. Don't give up if he puts the first overhead away! Keep lobing, keep looking for what he doesn't like, skyscraper lobs?, quick lobs?. When he fires an overhead in, get it back! Block it if you must, but don't just stand there conceding the point. Make him prove that he's got the overhead and the rest of the net game totally mastered. If he can still beat you, given that he's got a steady baseline game and mastery of the net game...how can be be a 3.5?

pooldog
01-16-2010, 04:40 PM
Keep the ball deep and down the middle . . . should avoid him creating tough angles for you to cover. Considering your ankle problems, maybe you're more suited to play doubles?

johndagolfer
01-16-2010, 04:46 PM
WOW he's a 3.0 and he schooled the 3.5 that he played 6-1 6-0. From the looks of it he self rated to 3.0 (looks like the first year in USTA).

As for my ankles, doubles would probably be easier on them, though I feel to be a good doubles player you need to move just as much as singles (all the lobbing and switching and moving to net.

I must say that I am getting in better shape each day and hoping that the loss of 20 pounds (have lost 30 already) will let me move better.

J011yroger
01-16-2010, 07:57 PM
Someone who hits deep to corners, doesn't make many mistakes, covers the court well, volleys and hits overheads well, and puts away easy balls is not a pusher, they are a quality tennis player.

Just sayin.

J

tennis24
01-16-2010, 07:58 PM
hit winners, good groundstrokes, close hard, and good volleys and serves

J011yroger
01-16-2010, 08:04 PM
hit winners, good groundstrokes, close hard, and good volleys and serves

Yea, I mean, if someone has a nice and well rounded game without obvious weaknesses the way to beat them, is to be better than them.

Unfortunately this requires hard work and practice.

J

THESEXPISTOL
01-16-2010, 09:05 PM
I guess you will have to overplay the guy.

yemenmocha
01-16-2010, 09:22 PM
Fishy description.

If he is exactly as described then he's not a 3.5.

He has to be weaker on some shots, or at least more prone to errors. Pushers are beaten by playing patient tennis and putting away shots that are high percentage put away shots. Otherwise they get you to make unforced errors by trying for too much.

Not all pushers handle all shots the same, even if neither their forehand or backhand is clearly weaker than the other. For example while having a patient rally I may notice that if I go for a higher, loopy & heavy topspin shot that sometimes the reply is weak or leads to more errors than normal trajectory shots.

Being a serve & volleyer helps a lot. You can't push against a decent S&V'er because the court angles favor the volleyer too much. I'm sorry, but not even Nadal can run down most angles that should be hit on the 2nd volley in a well-played S&V.

elee3
01-16-2010, 09:59 PM
Quickest way to help you deal with these type of players seeing that you are pretty confident with your groundstrokes is to take those low paced high bouncing groundstrokes or lobs on the rise immediately after they hit the ground if you are at the baseline. Pushers absolutely love the low paced high bouncing groundstrokes cause well they probably aren't very good at hitting harder stuff and most people (that are 4.0 and under) when they see this from the baseline is to let it bounce and then hit the ball when it is dropping. When the ball is slowly dropping, man is it really tempting to absolutely destroy the ball especially if this is the 10th similar shot from your opponent. When you blast it usually becomes an unforced error or the pusher just blocks it back so you start all over again. Or you might get a winner (if you are consistently hitting winners with little unforced errors you wouldn't dread pushers at all). When you hit these type of balls on the rise you need to be pretty quick so it cuts down on the temptation of hitting some crazy winner and it also cuts down the time for the pusher to recover (this is a huge goal for pushers, every action they do, they just want to give themselves a better chance at the next shot). If the pusher even gets to the next ball he probably had to sprint to that ball so it will tire him out quicker any how.

Other stuff that making dispatching pushers a lot easier is getting better at the net in general. Finishing points off at the net against pushers is the easiest way to finish points. Get good at overheads as well. Getting better at the net is probably the number 1 thing to work on if you want to be better able to handle pushers.

As Yemenmocha mentioned above, serve and volley is a great strategy against pushers since they tend to not be as confident in their passing shots. They probably push their returns as well. I don't really serve and volley against pushers since I really don't like rushing to the net. What I do instead is serve, get ready for the short ball and then volley.

athiker
01-16-2010, 10:10 PM
Someone who hits deep to corners, doesn't make many mistakes, covers the court well, volleys and hits overheads well, and puts away easy balls is not a pusher, they are a quality tennis player.

Just sayin.

J

I'm glad you wrote that, b/c I was starting to wonder if I was aspiring to become a pusher. :) I try to hit to corners, with a margin of safety, and wait for a shorter ball to come in on, hit that one deep to a corner as well and hope to volley the next ball against most anyone I play, I thought that was what I was supposed to try to do. I do make mistakes of course and I need work on my overheads (among other things), but that's what I try to do...is that not an "all-court" player? I don't hit slow loopy balls to the corner usually, so maybe that's the difference? Is that what this guy does? Mine aren't barn burners, but I think they are decent "real" topspin forehands and backhands with the occasional slice thrown in.

I thought the classic "pusher" description did not include coming to the net, but hanging at the baseline looping shot after shot back in play till the opponent commits an UE. This guy just sounds good and maybe playing below what his real rating should be. That's probably why he stood out to the OP. You will occasionally come across someone in league play that is just plain better than most at their rating. Hopefully they get bumped up the next year.

A fair number of guys come back to tennis in their late 30's or early to mid 40's and are rusty and really don't know what kind of rating they should have. They then get into some shape by playing, knock the rust off and can suddenly be playing a 1/2 level higher very easily.

I'd wager the easy majority of points are won at the 3.0 level, in singles especially, by what would generally be considered unforced errors and at the 3.5 level and pretty big chunk are too. So its easy to jump to calling someone a pusher at that level. We just don't have the skill to hit a big paced ball with a tight angle for a winner from mid court consistently enough to be going for those shots. For us its better to hit one more ball to the corner and hope for a decent volley, but many points are ended before it comes to that by an UE on a ground stroke...maybe not an easy groundstroke play, but an UE nonetheless. Anyway, I must be tired...I'm rambling and need to go to bed! OP, congrats on the weight loss...keep it up...that will definitely help you move around the court and save your ankles as much as possible.

johndagolfer
01-17-2010, 03:10 AM
Someone who hits deep to corners, doesn't make many mistakes, covers the court well, volleys and hits overheads well, and puts away easy balls is not a pusher, they are a quality tennis player.

Just sayin.

J

I am saying he can do all those things. But 80 or 90% of the time he just gets the ball back with low to medium low pace towards the side that you are either not covering or toward your weaker wing.

So basically he plays a pusher style, but has all the skills of someone better. If he's in trouble he resets the points with a bounding ball that is difficult for someone to put a way.

He may not be your typical pusher, he's better in my opinion, because he has learned to use other shots and not just stick to that one formula for winning.

J011yroger
01-17-2010, 05:15 AM
And if you attack the net, he probably lobs you right?

No easy strategy to beat him, you just need to be better.

J

armsty
01-17-2010, 06:04 AM
Just kick him on the change over or something. Limit his movement. Then try hit him in the doubles when you're serving to his partner.

All the pros do it.

TheOneHander
01-17-2010, 06:40 AM
I am saying he can do all those things. But 80 or 90% of the time he just gets the ball back with low to medium low pace towards the side that you are either not covering or toward your weaker wing.

So basically he plays a pusher style, but has all the skills of someone better. If he's in trouble he resets the points with a bounding ball that is difficult for someone to put a way.

He may not be your typical pusher, he's better in my opinion, because he has learned to use other shots and not just stick to that one formula for winning.

Personally, a pusher is someone who hates the net (and has no skills there whatsoever) and stays at the baseline and hits every ball back with no special placement. But this guy just puts every ball to your weakness and makes you work on getting shots into play off of your weakest shot. More or less, he's making you hit all of the pace off of your weakest shot.So he's just an extremely defensive minded counter puncher.

But he just sounds like he's exploiting your weakness. Covering up your weakness would be good, so it sounds like working on your less favored shot would be a smart choice (if not a slightly obvious one :) ) if you want to beat him. Almost sounds offensive. It's like he tries to appear defensive but at the same time exploits your weaknesses.

Hope this is somewhat accurate!

And congratulations on losing 30 lbs. john!

OneHander

johndagolfer
01-17-2010, 07:38 AM
Thanks for the words of encouragement. This is my first league ever and my first time back into tennis in 10 years.

I personally am going to try to hit deep spinners to his open wing and try to force a short ball to come in on.

My only problem is I am not sure I am totally fit enough to play against a style like that. I have been going to the gym for the last 6 months and just started adding road work into work outs. While I can move on my ankles decently it takes more effort.

Annika
01-17-2010, 02:41 PM
I say try to move him forwards and backwards alot. They're great running along the baseline putting them in corners if I remember correctly.

lostinamerica
01-17-2010, 07:13 PM
Yea, I mean, if someone has a nice and well rounded game without obvious weaknesses the way to beat them, is to be better than them.

Unfortunately this requires hard work and practice.

J

That pretty much sums it up for me.

When I was reading the description it sure did not sound like 3.0/3.5 tennis. I find the very fast/athletic retriever one of the hardest players to play myself. It becomes a mental war and Ihave found myself on the losing side on many occasions.

Jim A
01-18-2010, 07:39 AM
Hit at him or slightly behind, it much easier to look athletic when you are tracking balls down then when you have to turn and play a ball a foot behind you

If he's at the net, dip balls at his feet, make him bend down and play them

then when he starts to get used to the hitting behind, slice, etc hit some deep balls right down the middle, you have to change it up

blue12
01-18-2010, 07:54 AM
The biggest thing to remember against a pusher is to be patient. Don't let him get in your head. And don't panic if you hit a few of his balls to the fence. Just focus on your game and what you do best. If he sees you are not going to roll over for him then the pressure will be on him and you can begin to hit out more. Patience is key though.

smoothtennis
01-18-2010, 09:30 AM
Counter puncher plain and simple. Being very athletic and fast is also a skill and a serious tennis weapon.

A coulple of things here - Keeping it up the middle will reduce his angles and make it harder to pressure your court position that's one thing for sure.

If his speed is a serious weapon during the match, a very good way to work the point is to get a clean shot which takes him wide where you have a really OPEN court - step in and hit it right at his feet or just behind him. His speed then is a liability. However, you need to go to the open court as well to set this up so he knows that is your tendency. You have to set this up over a few games.

yemenmocha
01-18-2010, 07:52 PM
Can we stop with the euphemisms... "counterpuncher"... whatever. He's a pusher.

Z-Man
01-18-2010, 08:15 PM
This guy sounds like a good player. That gameplan will get great results at 3.5 and decent results at 4.0. If he develops a weapon, he could play higher. In my experience, very few people who hit big at 3.5 are ever able to move up to 4.0 or 4.5. The way to do it is to hit safe shots, and then gradually up the pace and accuracy of your safe shots. You should think about what he's doing right. Maybe you can pick up something that will help you.

However, if your mobility isn't great, you won't be able to outrun him or outlast him, so you'll have to hit him off the court. Be careful--the bigger you hit, the more you play into is game.

You might be able to find a weakness. Hitting down the middle and hitting behind him are both good things to try. Here is another idea: Can you hit low slices to his backhand? Some baseliners have trouble with that shot. Also, try out his down the line backhand--another shot that develops later in this kind of player. If he doesn't like low slices, and he doesn't hit his backhand down the line, you can try approaching with a slice to his backhand and looking for him to go crosscourt.

Z-Man
01-18-2010, 08:37 PM
Can we stop with the euphemisms... "counterpuncher"... whatever. He's a pusher.

"Pusher" is a person who beats inconsistent players without hitting winners. A "Counterpuncher" is a consistent player who attacks tactically.

mmaster
01-18-2010, 09:11 PM
sounds like santoro

johndagolfer
01-19-2010, 05:04 AM
Thanks all, I think I have come up with some strategies. Advantages I think I have over the person who lost 6 0 6 1 are that:
I have a bigger serve.
I have a better kick serve
I am much more consistent off both wings.
I hit harder and with more spin off both wings

My only negative is I can't move as fast

bukaeast
01-19-2010, 05:40 AM
You say he can handle pace. Can he handle slow, soft balls. Mix it up. Don't let him get into a rhythm with your pace.

Matt H.
01-19-2010, 08:20 AM
Someone who hits deep to corners, doesn't make many mistakes, covers the court well, volleys and hits overheads well, and puts away easy balls is not a pusher, they are a quality tennis player.

Just sayin.

J


LOL. yeah, that's what i was thinking as i was reading the first post.


Whenever I play against a guy who is really consistent, I just buckle down, go for my shots, and force myself to stay positive. You have to accept that you're going to lose points you that you really shouldn't have. You also have to accept you're going to miss shots too. Even if you pride yourself on the quality of your serve or think you have a big serve, you're still going to get broken a few times. Just keep your head together and go for it.

A simple strategy is good depth and spin down the middle to try and push him back. When you get a shortish reply from him, you go for a corner. After you hit the shot, take a step forward. Then go for the other corner, or back to where you put the first ball. You have to observe the situation and be aware of his footing and balance, and then you pick whether you want to go behind him or hit to the open court and move in.

zettabyte
01-19-2010, 09:06 AM
Can we stop with the euphemisms... "counterpuncher"... whatever. He's a pusher.

So, to you, a pusher is (per the OP):

Goes for high percentage winners.
Commits few unforced errors.
Hits the ball deep into corners.
Can attack the net on short balls.
Has solid net play and overheads.


No offense, yemenmocha, but Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!11!1elevnty-one!!

The guy is a consistent, good player playing at the wrong level. The OP felt like denigrating him b/c he makes few mistakes. But consistency does not a pusher make.

johndagolfer
01-19-2010, 09:18 AM
So, to you, a pusher is (per the OP):

Goes for high percentage winners.
Commits few unforced errors.
Hits the ball deep into corners.
Can attack the net on short balls.
Has solid net play and overheads.


No offense, yemenmocha, but Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!11!1elevnty-one!!

The guy is a consistent, good player playing at the wrong level. The OP felt like denigrating him b/c he makes few mistakes. But consistency does not a pusher make.

I don't feel I denigrated him at all. In fact, if you read down in the posts I stated that he played a pusher style but was better because he mixed in attacking play when you weren't expecting it.

I simply stated that his main attack (80% of the time at least) was to shoot the ball deep with low pace and wait for the opponent to make errors.

It's definitely a tough style to beat, but I feel I've gained some perspective on how to try to attack it.

zettabyte
01-19-2010, 10:43 AM
I don't feel I denigrated him at all. In fact, if you read down in the posts I stated that he played a pusher style but was better because he mixed in attacking play when you weren't expecting it.

I simply stated that his main attack (80% of the time at least) was to shoot the ball deep with low pace and wait for the opponent to make errors.

It's definitely a tough style to beat, but I feel I've gained some perspective on how to try to attack it.

The only point I'm trying to make is, by your description, the player in question isn't really a pusher, at least in the way that most people define them.

Which of course begs the question "what is the definition of a pusher"?

When I use the term I'm referring to someone with weak strokes who blocks the ball into play with the intent of landing it in the center of the court (the safest place to aim), rarely if ever attacking, rarely if ever approaching the net, and winning almost all their points on unforced errors.

If I were to come up against someone who could place the ball deep into my corners (albeit with low pace), attack my short balls, and win consistently at the net, I wouldn't think "pusher". I would think "smart", "consistent", and "defensive". He can beat you, but chooses not to take low-percentage risks.

Anyway, my point is that the list of attributes you gave don't define a pusher. At least to me.

I play a pusher in my league. The guy has a weak forehand, frames 1/3 of his backhands, and runs like the wind. His balls travel 10 to 20 feet over the net, land at or the service T, and move really slow. He also lobs well when attacked. He doesn't hit winners, he waits for errors.

When you play him you're stuck trying to attack a no-pace ball from the center of the court. Minimal angles to work with, and you have to bring all the pace yourself. To me, that's a pusher.

fwiw.