Athletic junk baller / pusher ! A real challenge for a 3.5er

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by kanulondon, Nov 15, 2013.

  1. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    So I turn up for a friendly match against a guy who I met on a social tennis website. I was slightly nervous as he rated himself as 'Advanced' whereas I only but myself down as intermediate.

    The usual formalities aside, he seems a really nice guy. However I notice something when warming up, first he insisted we warmed up for erm like 2/3 minutes and I was shocked when he suggested we just crack on and play. But I just went along with it (we had only booked the court for 1hr anyway). I also noticed extremely poor tekkers (technique) when he was knocking up, but I know this means nothing.

    On starting the match he basically fitted the junk baller / pusher archetype. He made me really work for all my points and seemed to get a racket on my harder than usual first serves. They all ended up really high in the air and sometimes I was able to crush them back, but as we all know at the 3.5 level to crush consistently from the back of the court is no mean feat .

    I ended up winning the first set none the less 7-5. It was a messy set and we both broke frequently. In the second set however it wasn't really happening for me and I would have loved to have seen my UE count as basically he had a feast on my errors. However I enjoyed the set as I had a high number of winners, but it doesn't mean anything.... I went down 6-2. We played a third but it was a bit half baked and we needed to go, I started swinging wildly and lost quickly 6-1. So basically I lost 5-7 6-2 6-1

    After the first set I kind of knew I had the potential to lose here as the way he played reminded somewhat of this famous guy

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8SZynE4N1w

    And also of a match a played 3 or so years ago. Basically my opponent had very good footwork and seemed never to be out of court. As such hitting winners really required concentration and placement and that's where the UE's crept it and ended up dominating.

    Although disappointing this is actually EXACTLY the type of player I need to play. As I feel it will teach me to properly construct point and force me to go for my shots. Indeed he commented on the number of volleys I played, I decided I didn't want to go into tip tap warfare and hang around at the back of the courts, so I utilized the net as much as possible but his lobs were unbelievable even off hard penetrating shots he left me stranded.

    Also I need to work on fitness and mental concentration a bit more as I felt the last set was over in 10-15 minutes. I was already in the car mentally.

    Any ideas of how I can work on that and indeed any war stories of beating really athletic pushers?

    I played another chap a week or so ago and he was a nice guy, I felt a bit sorry for him as he had good form on forehand but very bad on back hand. When he hit his shots they were right in my 'wheel house' as the saying goes, so I just popped them back full pelt with interest. It was a great knock up for me.

    However this guys did the pusher junkballer thang, no pace, no form, high spinny shots + drop shots + being all over the court.

    Really wished a recorded the match, I had the camera and stand but just never took it out.

    Will feedback after I play him again in a few weeks

    Sorry for the rambling post
     
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  2. Silent

    Silent Semi-Pro

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    Well, here's a thought. And it goes against one of the things that make tennis unique but since you know the match will only last a certain amount of time, why don't you just push the ball back ?

    What does it matter if you win the match 2 sets to 1 rather than 3-2, or 15-love ? Don't go for winners too quickly, your fitness only has to last for the hour.
     
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  3. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    Sorry I should have explained. We booked 1hr but in reality we played for nearly two and no one came to bump us off court afterwards. But playing with that hanging over is indeed a distraction. In hindsight I should have just played 1 set or two sets and work round that. Instead we played best of 3 and the last set was just a nonsense.

    I could push back, but as has been mentioned on so many other posts, I don't think fighting pushing with pushing is a good tactic to improve my game

    KL
     
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  4. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    My daughter lost to one of these players in districts. This girl did nothing but moon ball every single shot after losing the first set. You could hear her coach telling her "higher, higher". This same girl went on to face the PA state champion in the next rd and she won four games.. She was the only girl to get even a single game off the state champ the whole tournament.. and yet she was not even seeded and had a regular season record of like 6 and 9 or something.

    As far as this guy rating himself as advanced, I have a very close family member who call's himself a 4.0 and he's lucky if he is a 3.0.
     
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  5. Vlad_C

    Vlad_C Semi-Pro

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    Most pushers just hit back straight at you. When that is the case, it's not so bad. Use it a practice session. Be patient. Focus on hitting with good form. Construct your points patiently. Make them run, and get them out of position eventually.
    Also, bring the pushers up to the net with some drop shots. This often takes them out of their comfort zone, and you might find it easy to win points at the net.
     
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  6. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    To be honest I am still weirdly looking forward to our match up. If I played the same game plan the match would have lasted for an eternity and I would have been even more fatigued.

    This guy was better than a complete novice pusher as he hit angles and loads of lobs.

    I literally hit 20 or so smashes and only tanked a couple. However I was lobbed 10 or more times
     
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  7. Silent

    Silent Semi-Pro

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    Whenever I'm in trouble, and I believe this can work at the 3.5 level (I'm a 3.0), I serve to the body and aim for the backhand as much as I can. On approaches, you know the lob is coming, so use it to your advantage and retreat quickly, do not respect his passing shots.

    Aside from that, keep the ball deep and make him run from side to side. I'm guessing his shots aren't that heavy so redirecting should be within your abilities.

    Most importantly, do not get down on yourself.

    If he can constantly aim deep to the corners and keep you on the defense, then your ball is too easy to hit.
     
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  8. daved

    daved Rookie

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    Tough to beat

    Athletic 3.5 pusher...that was me.

    Started playing tennis 5 years ago. Played usta 3.5 singles my first two years after starting in the game. Won almost every match in usta, also played well in club play. Competed well, I should say.

    Now working on more complete game to be able to move up to 4.0 or higher and actually struggle to win a bit more than in my first couple of seasons.

    I'm a lifetime decent athlete, skinny and extremely fit (bike racer, runner). EXTREMELY determined and competitive. Could give a poop about style or technique -- whatever it takes, baby.

    Very hard for guys to beat me at 3.5 if I stuck to my game plan. People noticeably hated playing me and I even had some guys I beat in usta complain after I beat them about me not giving them a real match.

    To me, a win is a win. I am only changing my game because fitness, concentration and determination are not enough by themselves to win at 4.0 and above.
     
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  9. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    The shirtless guy is rare - never encountered a guy like that. He seems to be good player playing like a wise guy..


    The problem with the pusher that I have is

    #1. I don't effectively attack their short balls - including the serve.

    #2. They force me into the net - and I have to backtrack to cover lobs..

    The best way to deal with pushers is to convince them to play doubles but on the other team. And then all their crap becomes easy smacks for the net player..

    Hehe. The alternative to that is to get good - and that's much harder.
     
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  10. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    I'd do the above and also try to get more free points out of my serve and ros. Finally I would press them even more with harder FH.
     
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  11. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    That's not what a pusher does, that's what a good tennis player does.
     
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  12. directionals

    directionals Rookie

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    I find that a lot of pushers like pace. So hitting harder may not be the answer unless you can do that consistently to force a short ball or error. Give them some junk balls and they actually might not like them.
     
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  13. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    There will always be an athletic pusher better than you - even Federer has one. Some things you can do:

    Approach the net and try to end the points quicker.

    Try the overhead smash on some of the high bouncing balls.

    Learn to hit the offensive down-flat forehand on a high ball instead of moonballing it back. I saw this up close at the Carlsbad WTA during a Hingis practice session against her doubles partner Hantu. Hantu being tall was delivering some high bouncing ones to Hingis, and she stretched up high and flattened them hard with a little side spin. It requires taking it early and lots of energy but she was doing it regularly.

    Apart from the fact that your opponent may just be better than you, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the above situations are exactly those which are NOT present in "hitting" sessions. Hitting high balls can be tiring on the shoulder for someone who has always hit only in the comfort zone. So include a pusher in your mix of hitting partners.

    I have a guy who hits with me every Friday night. He is a highly-evolved 4.0 pusher with no backhand who can run down any ball and relies purely on wrist for some deadly uncomfortable high top spin and his non-existent backhand consists of just touching the ball and getting it close to the net in the most uncomfortable position possible. But my game has improved tremendously in the more than 5 years I have been playing with him while he has remained the same.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
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  14. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Agree with the above point. You got to get aggressive if you dont have the patience and fitness to sustain long moon-ball rallies. If youre unfit, and cant consistently hit balls in the opposition court, then you got to get a game that suits you, or get fitter/more patient. As far as Im concerned, its a very good skill to knock the ball around continuously forcing your opponent to make another shot. You gotta respect your opponent. If an opponent can beat you, he's better than you on that given day. End of story. The scoreboard doesn't lie.

    Attack the net on the second serve. Approach down the line and come into the net whenever you get a short ball. Aim to finish the points quickly. Think about where youre hitting the ball. Think patterns. Dont just pop back another groundstroke that he can easily hit back. Work on setting him up to give you a chance to approach the net.

    You might think "but I dont have a net game" - go develop one. Or "I dont think about where Im hitting the ball, I just hit it" - go read a book about strategy, and get thinking about your game.

    The pusher devours mindless knock-about tennis. Its their standard breakfast. You got to be proactive and have a plan.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
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  15. willeric

    willeric Rookie

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    It's easier to play defensive than offensive. By this I mean it is easier to get the ball back in play rather than hit a winner. This is why there are a lot more pushers/junk ballers/slicers etc, that offensive players. (And there is nothing wrong with that or that style of game)

    At the 3.5 level, you probably can't hit the ball hard enough with enough consistency to dominate the defensive player. This is actually true at all levels. At 4.5 the level of "defensive" players goes up and it's harder to hit winners against them.

    It's tough to find the right balance where you are going for enough on your shots without bringing unforced errors.

    You see this at the pro level too. Novak tends to get very defensive and wait for his opponent to make mistakes.
     
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  16. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    ^^^^
    While I agree that Djokovic only became #1 after learning how to defend as well (as opposed to being only an attacker), he almost never "tends to be very defensive and wait for the opponent to make mistake", on the contrary, he has the confidence that his deep, penetrating shots will push the opponent back...

    And that's how I try to play as well, at my humble level.
     
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  17. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    There are few like you at the park I play. I'm just curious. What's your mindset and game plan like? From what I observe, I imagine that at soon as a point starts you guys only focus on putting the ball back, deep and safe, whatever pace and spin is fine as long as opponents do not get to rip it, right? I also imagine you guys have like a marathon competition mindset, ie gonna outlast you, right?
     
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  18. daved

    daved Rookie

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    Mostly it's just a complete unwillingness to lose.

    I'll never forget the first USTA match I played, 3.5 singles.

    The guy I was playing was the other team's captain, big guy, former college basketball player. We had a long delay before we played and I told him I had barely played tennis. He told me I should have competed at 3.0 for a year before playing 3.5. For me…well, let's just say I nodded, smiled and decided there was no EFFING way that guy was going to beat me.

    He won the first set 6-1. He was up in the second set 4-1. I won the second set 6-4 and the super tiebreaker 12-10. I simply wasn't going to lose.

    Since that first season I have had to step back from that perspective a bit because otherwise I was never going to improve past 3.5. Now that I have a more complete game the next step for me is to meld a bigger skill set with my original laser focus and determination.
     
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  19. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    My guess is you probably have the fitness to go with that unwillingness. Specifically, not only don't you feel pain from exerting your physicality, but you also get some sort of high from endurance and possibly pleasure from seeing your opponent in pain. :)

    I have never seen an overweight guy who's willing to play prolonging junk balls.

    Look, I don't know anyone who enters a competition and ready to accept loss from the get go . They only accept it when they have to, ie their physical can't tolerate the pain anymore.

    Another question for you: have you tried your game against a strong 4.0 or 4.5? Again, I'm just curious. I wonder how would your unwillingness stack up against them? I mean do you at some point tell yourself it's just too much to chase down every one of their shots and simply give up?
     
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  20. gebruikershaes

    gebruikershaes New User

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    Offcourse no one wants to lose, but I prefer losing and hitting with beautifull strokes than pushing and winning. Pushing is just not the way tennis should be played. I always hope pushers get their ratings up fast enough to get their assses kicked by players who eat their junkballs for breakfast. For me it's just an absolute horror to watch a pusher play..
     
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  21. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    Sorry I've been away and not had the chance to reply. Thanks for the fantastic responses. Here are some of my thoughts
    Totally agree here, but if I did this for every point honestly we would have been there all night. He just put the ball in play, I however wanted to force the issue. I won a lot of points coming into the net and must have had a VERY high winner count. But my UE count must have been equally high. Very fine margins...
    Good advice. I didn't target his back hand nearly enough. It was not any use, just put him in the next point. So many slicey, spinnies balls. It was a real challenge. However I know I have to be quicker off the mark, I came into the net A LOT and he even commented on how good my volleys and smashes were. In fact my legs STILL feel heavy as I reckon I hit x3 as many smashes and most of the time I was jumping as well. I also agree that against someone who's not really going to make basic errors (due to his shots) I need to put more work on the ball. Honestly if you saw say just 5 minutes of the match, where I was on a hot streak you would think it was man against Boy! But please note I have NO COMPLEX or issues here. Yes I was dominating and playing agressive, smashing shots off the park, however if you watched the following gfive minutes you'd have seen me smash the balls into the net, hit long, hit wide and double fault. Basically UE's galore.
    ha! You sound like him as well :) Again I have NO COMPLAINTS, the scores don't lie. He beat me fair and square and like I said, I actually like our matchup as I HAVE to play some of my best tennis to beat him. In contrast to the other match I mentioned where the other guys hard, deep forehand where aligned perfectly for me and I could just bat them away. I do think I can beat this guy, just need to focus more. When I think back I was quite mentally tired after such an unexpectedly tricky first set. I now know what he brings on court and I can better prepare.
    I know it's harder and I intend to get good, if I do get good ie, up my level this could definitely be a breadstick matchup, until then he's providing excellent practice for me. I got more out of his match then I have had in my last 5 matches as he make me take another shot. Most other people will make their own UE eventually but he didn't do so that much.
    Totally agree about doubles, his shots will get punished.

    Re: Net. I agree, I am kind of forced to the net as many shots are short/spinny/etc however when there I wasn't doing enough at times and he got the lobs going..
    I did this, but the UE's crept in. I got maybe 5 - 10 forced error points on my serve and a few aces. However he did manage to get the rest back, very high and deep. It was a great tactic as it just neutralised the point
    Agree and disagree. He shots at times were very weak and fell short and as such meant I came into the net. I also came into the net a lot of my own accord (off strong DTL or CC shots)
    This guy liked everything I gave him! Although when I cranked up the FH he couldn't deal with it. But I can't hit those type of shots all the time. I need to use them sparingly. I need to make my rally ball shots less moon ballish and maybe flatter and a tad harder without all out ride or die shot making

    KL
     
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  22. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    Good advice. He is better than me as he won! The scores don't lie. I hope to have a similar experience to you if I keep on playing with him. I've played so many different guys of late but this one guy was all about athleticism and getting the ball back, that's it. He was half bragging about running 6 minute mile pace so I know he's a runner.
    As mentioned I did all the above but the issue was my UE's. Not sure if they were due to fatigue or something or having to think so much for each point(or I'd be there all night)
    No nonsense advice HJ. Points duly noted. I believe I have acceptable base fitness and can play for hours on end but again the way he played it was like he tired me out quicker as I had to do so much more running and jumping and smashing! I definitely have an agressive streak and will let that guide me against players like this, just need to stop the UE's!
    This is essentially me all over and my problem. That's what make it a great matchup. I remeber being at the net one time and he lobbed me, I smashed, he someohow got it back, I smashed again and the pattern repeat itself 3 times. fair play to him, he's a defensive guy for sure. I'll work towards a happy medium

    KL
     
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  23. samarai

    samarai Rookie

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    so U belittle the guy for beating U. Sorry to burst the bubble but most of us recreational hacks just didn't grow up getting trained in tennis. Most of us picked it up for the exercise so our strokes are not perfect but they are effective.
     
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  24. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    I didn't belittle my opponent. He is the better player as things stand.

    There's will always be the age old debate about form over function. This isn't such a debate. I'd happily lose to him 10 more times playing the way I played than win once or twice playing his game. Nothing against the way he played I just like playing aggressively, smashing, hitting winners, etc

    What I wasn't used to was the amount of running and work I needed on the ball to get through his EXCELLENT defense game

    I believe he actually alluded to what you just said on his profile "I like tennis for the workout it gives me" and certainly my body was hurting after playing him.

    KL
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2013
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  25. daved

    daved Rookie

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    My wife is like that. She hits every stroke like a 6.0 or former WTA player (I'm not exaggerating -- she is an unreal athlete), but she just doesn't care about competition per se. Competes well and easily at 4.0-5.0 but doesn't even like to do it. She likes to hit.

    In my experience lots of players show up for matches not caring that much about winning. Or at least not enough to suffer to win.

    And, no, my 3.5 defense-based game does not work against 4.0-4.5 players. Either their defense is better than mine (and that's one long-a** match) or they spank a majority of my weak balls for winners.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2013
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  26. Baxter

    Baxter Professional

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    Wow, a reality based self assessment on TT. You don't see that very often around here.
     
    #26
  27. tennismonkey

    tennismonkey Semi-Pro

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    the only thing uglier is watching somebody lose to a pusher because they don't have the consistency or weapons to beat a pusher.
     
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  28. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

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    First of all, keep that attitude, I personally like it a lot!
    Second, the more you play him or his type, the more used to it you'd get obviously...

    I don't agree with one answer you got "that you probably don't hit hard enough to put the ball past a pusher"- certainly it's not what I see: usually for a pusher to beat me, his overall level of play has to be way higher than mine (and usually they are capable of hitting pretty hard themselves). Disclaimer: presuming that I don't have a big meltdown or something lol
     
    #28
  29. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    Hi All,

    Just a quick update for you. I played said Athletic Junk Baller and things hadn't changed that much! He was still gettng most of my balls back, however I did change my tactics and was more patient and I must admit I increased my shot tolerance a lot more and topsin moon balled to good effect, often coming in behind them.

    I was up in the first set breaker 6-0 and joked with my opponent how I lost a tie break from 6-0 before...haha.

    Guess what happened? Yep, lost it again 6-8.... totally unbelievable. Had ample oppurtunities to kill the set but my senses just left me. Need to practice my breakers. So I lost the first 6-7 but I won the second a lot easier 6-4. Which was quite surprising as my head was gone in the first few games disgusted at myself with my loss.

    Anyways, enjoy your tennis and thanks for the tips
     
    #29
  30. eelhc

    eelhc Hall of Fame

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    I too like to practice and play against these types of players. It really helps me work on my mental discipline and focus as well as point construction (think more about setting up winners than winners).
     
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