Balls with no pace put me off my game. Why?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Juan Cruz, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. Juan Cruz

    Juan Cruz New User

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    Anyway, here's the story: I play with a trainer whose father runs the courts I play in. The son plays a solid game from the baseline with lots of pace and I have earned how to deal with it slowly but surely. I love it when I can extend a rally with him for any length of time.

    One day, he calls sick and says his dad will be hitting with me that day. As it turns out, the dad is what you would probably call a pusher. No pace at all — sitters that are not so deep in the court. I thought i would be all over him, but I completely broke down.

    My rhythm was thrown off and so was my swing. Where with the son I would swing freely and smoothly, I found myself choking the racquet more against the "dead" balls the father returned. My timing was completely off, and my swing became more and more conscious as I was trying to generate the same pace I would if the balls coming at me were power shots. So I hit mostly long.

    Is this really what happens when you're used to one type of player and then get faced with another with a different style? I also thought it would be really easy to dominate someone with no pace, but apparently it is harder than i thought.
     
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  2. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    ^^^^

    This is why pushers dominate recreational tennis. It is really hard to deal with no pace and have to generate your own pace. You can't just block balls back like you can when you play against someone that hits the ball hard at you all the time and gives you a lot of pace to work with.

    You need to change your timing and improve your footwork to get up to the ball, and maybe even alter your stroke to deal with no pace balls. You can either try to hit it flat and hard with pace or to spin it back with either topspin or slice. But most of all, you need to practice a lot against people who don't give you any pace to learn how to effectively deal with it. You also need to focus more on the ball and not take no pace balls for granted.
     
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  3. KenC

    KenC Professional

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    Whether we like pushers or not, they are here to stay. The good news is, just as you learned how to hit against solid players, you can slowly learn how to hit against pushers to the point where you can completely dominate them and throw them off their game.

    Since they generally don't hit very hard, you have more time to set up and choose your shots to put them at maximum difficulty. You can also easily hit corner to corner until they drop from exhaustion. I also love to hit balls slightly short so that they find themselves coming into "no man's land" where they seem to feel very tense. If they don't recover I put the next ball right at their feet.

    There's also the psychological side of the game. I don't hesitate to say "We're not little old ladies, let's hit the ball like real men." Nothing destroys their rhythm like fear of being viewed as a wuss. I once told a guy my grandmother hits a harder backhand than him. From that point on he tried to impress me with a topspin backhand instead of chipping everything back at me.

    However, the real problem is this: they are just not fun, challenging, or even interesting to play against. Unless I really have to, I usually am frank and tell pushers that I need to improve my game and prefer to only play against people who can beat me with power, skill and strategy, not frustration. Honestly, given the chance to play a pusher, or work alone on my serve, I dedicate time to my serve instead.
     
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  4. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    I like playing against pushers. You can concentrate on improving your offensive side of the game. The fact that you might not always win is unfortunate but its part of improving..

    What I try to avoid is getting into a 'pusher war' which can happen quite easily if you have pushed yourself on occasion.

    And as a LeeD prememptive - when I say pusher I mean a guy who dinks and blocks the ball back not Andy Murray!

    Pete
     
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  5. Juan Cruz

    Juan Cruz New User

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    Thanks for the responses guys.

    I never really realized how poor my footwork was until I faced this old man. Being used to playing his harder hitting son, I was always just about a foot or so away from the baseline, which has sort of become my comfort zone. But this guy was the one who had me scrambling forward all the time with his short sitters, really throwing me off.

    Now I feel that maybe I should play the father once in a while as part of my routine (Maybe once a every two weeks, or so). I can only see myself improving by learning — or rather, overcoming— his game.
     
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  6. KenC

    KenC Professional

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    I don't particularly like Murray's style of play, but he is nowhere near what a real pusher is about. I tend to think of pushers as those that hit from their elbow, rather than their shoulder.
     
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  7. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    OK, forget "pusher" and add soft hitting retriever, good?
    Still, you gotta move your feet into position, turn your shoulders, watch the ball, and use a stroke that has a long strikepoint, so you don't just brush and lose the ball.
    Takes good technique to beat those "retrievers". But more than that, takes sweat, patience, and doggedetermination even if you think you should just blast them off the court.
    I never called AndyMurray a pusher. Sure, he can push at times, as can EVERY tennis player anywhere. But he can really zing some winners too.
     
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  8. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    Whats funny is I hear this complaint alot, but can't really relate to it. I have no problem against paceless balls (except maybe really low balls that bounce like knee height). I might still lose to pushers only because I hit the UEs before they do, not because their paceless shots actually give me difficulty. I on the contrary have a very hard time with hard, flat shots. I hate playing guys with big flat serves, especially to my backhand. I don't mind topspinny shots as much or even backspin shots, as long as I have time to prep for the ball. I hate when an opponent hits the ball early and takes time away from me.
     
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  9. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    We all have our devils and we all have to face and conquer them. I also thought I could beat most pushers until I faced a TomBrown (top 10 A player from the late '70's). He just sliced and diced till I got impatient, and beat me pretty badly the first 3 times we practiced together.
    Maybe you just need to face a better pusher/retriever/getter/fetcher ?
     
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  10. jmnk

    jmnk Professional

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    let me say this - the highlighted part is why most people have such huge misconception on what it takes to win a tennis match. Sure, pusher's paceless ball gave you no troubles at all - you just make UE on purpose because you want to?;) What is the difference between making UE because the opponent hit a hard ball vs. making UE because he hits soft? None. You just think you are better than a pusher - but you are clearly not if you can't beat him. Like the other poster above

    another one - he is soo much better than a soft hitting pusher that it is above him to play such a person. He would likely lose - but of course not because the pusher is just a better tennis player, no, it would be because the pusher happened to make no UE whatsoever. Which obviously has nothing to do with someone being better
    what a bs....
     
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  11. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    You need to watch the ball better! Inevitably, when I see someone struggle with slower shots, its because they are used to time their strokes, and then end up swinging too early on the slower balls. Essentially, you are guessing where the ball will be and failing because the opponent is not giving you the shot you are guessing.
     
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  12. jefferson

    jefferson Semi-Pro

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    I find that I need to work the point more, show more patience and set the point up better. Hit better angles, use the open court and put the volley away. You are not going to hit through him, but you can out play him. Good luck
     
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  13. jazzyfunkybluesy

    jazzyfunkybluesy Banned

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    Run that sob around the court like a headless chicken. Military style left, right, left, right. I still maintain that this is the way for Fed to beat Del Potro. It worked for Davydenko. Fed should have taken detailed notes!
     
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  14. Dave M

    Dave M Hall of Fame

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    Spot on comment.Som night at our club mix ins there is maybe 2 or 3 other people there that can hit the ball with any pace.It takes more concentration because you have time to think but its still important to chose your plan/tactic ango with itYou won' bore them off court with lobs as they will love it.Dont fall into the trap of hitting too hard though, easily done when you want to hit winners too quickly, move them around make the opening and put away the winner.
    Tennis is much simpler from inside by the pc than when on court isnt it?
     
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  15. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    You're not the only one! Jimmy Connors was like that. He played his best against hard hitters. For a long time, Connors really owned Lendl, because Lendl was such a big hitter. Ashe got his huge upset over Connors at Wimbledon when he decided to slowball him. Later Orantes did the same thing. However, Connors must have learned how to handle it, because slowballs didn't give him as much trouble later. It's seems paradoxical, but some players like pace and and trouble with the mush shots.
     
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  16. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    If you can get access to a ball machine, set it up to "push" and do a few sessions this way. Then mix it up with pace in the same session. I've gained a lot of consistency on different types of shots through shear repetition. You just can't be self-conscious practicing "easy" balls with a machine.
     
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  17. cncretecwbo

    cncretecwbo Semi-Pro

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    People have trouble because it seems easy to stop moving your feet. Once you stop moving your feet your form goes to crap and you start missing.

    Also, it isnt easy for most people to generate their own pace on every single shot, and most people dont practice this so the miss early
     
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  18. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    Where did you come up with this bolded statement from? Actually 90% of the time I hit UEs on completely routine shots under no pressure at all while not going for anything too risky. Also I can hit winners alot easier against a paceless ball than one that is hit deep and hard. I can rally longer against a pusher then i can against a bigger hitter, but never seem to win the rally because I'm not consistent enough. The only people I beat are really people who either 1) I can pressure them into hitting errors, or 2) they are overall less consistent than me on routine shots.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
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  19. KenC

    KenC Professional

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    Is the definition of a pusher one who makes no mistakes or UEs? If that were so the world's biggest pusher would also be ranked #1. You need to separate your pro-level definition of a pusher from the local club level pusher. The pro level pusher does it as part of strategy and can usually hit the ball in and strategically placed. The club level pusher doesn't use strategy and often hits out, into the net, and is just boring to play against. They may be content to get the ball back, but serious players are content when they improve.

    I may be arrogant by not playing against not so serious players, but my court time is limited and expensive. I much prefer to lose against a solid 5.5 player than beat a 3.0 level player.
     
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  20. mucat

    mucat Hall of Fame

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    Most of us does not have the pace to hit clean winner from the baseline, at least not routinely. You need to come to the net and finish them off.
     
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  21. apor

    apor Rookie

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    I, like most, have had my troubles with pushers/dinkers. As my level of play improved, so did the class of pushers I was hitting with.
    The most recent guy I played against took the first set from me, frustrating me the whole way. He managed to get most everything back to the middle of my court, with no pace. Just a little slicing and dicing.
    I decided to try a new plan, one we hear about on this forum quite often. I not only pulled him left/right as in the first set, but forward/backward as well. This he couldn't handle so well. I also charged the net almost every point. Since his passing shots were weak, and his lobs were sitters for my overhead, my plan resulted in an easy win with the second two sets.
    Had I continued with the original gameplan of baseline rallies with occasional net charging, I would have lost.
    The fact that his A plan was his only one, and that I had other strategies to try shows that those with more skill than their opponents will tend to win.

    This same guy, maybe not less than a year ago, would have pushed me to boredom, and a heartbreaking loss- where afterward you could have heard me say "but I'm obviously better than him"
     
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  22. mtommer

    mtommer Hall of Fame

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    On the soft ball you have complete control over what happens and by hitting an UE you only reveal your own limitations at the moment. With a hard ball, many UE are actually forced errors. With the hard ball you may very well be hitting an "UE" and no matter how hard you try, how much work you put in, you don't pocess the genetic gifts that allow you to play at that speed. It's revealing a limitation, potentially, that marks you as the level of player you're only ever going to be. Conversly, with the soft ball, there is no player out there who is relatively healthy and mildly athletic who can't beat a pusher (typical 3.0 pusher) given just a bit of practice hitting no pace balls, primarily because the pushed shots can be run down by any two year old (I don't mean that in a derogatory sense).
     
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  23. MAX PLY

    MAX PLY Hall of Fame

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    The problem for most folks who have trouble with pushers is that pushers do not expose a flaw in their game--it exposes a flaw in their strokes (and I include proper footwork as part of a proper stroke). When stroke mechanics break down over timing, there is a stroke problem. For those of you who have problems with pushers, treat it like a warm up--that is, keep your feet moving, drill a hole in the ball with your eyes and make sure you take a full followthrough. Pay more attention to the ball than your opponent or how he/she hits it. Eventually you will re-establish good timing and be able to do what you need to do. If the person is also a good retriever, then you just have to be patient and work the point just like you would against a good retriever who is not a pusher.
     
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  24. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    I'm not sure this type of pusher everyone always refers to actually exists. The kind that has terrible form, placement, and pace yet gets every ball over with amazing consistency. I don't buy someone can lack all of those things and still retrieve tough balls.

    To me it seems like these players either:
    A) will actually miss after a few shots or
    B) actually have good consistency along with good PLACEMENT and thus consistently makes the other player out of position.
     
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  25. LafayetteHitter

    LafayetteHitter Hall of Fame

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    I have a guy a half level below me that I know well who drives me crazy hitting slice shots that die. He almost always takes the first set off of me. At some point I will mature into the game and figure out the correct response.
     
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  26. KenC

    KenC Professional

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    I think by USTRP ratings a typical club pusher would never make it to 3.0 or above. What we see pros doing that is considered "pushing" is really part of strategy and really shouldn't be labeled as pushing; its more like "dirty boxing" or something similar, like maybe "ugly tennis?"

    Thinking about this, I think Federer must not like the idea of "pushing", or "ugly tennis", and prefers to lose instead of resort to it. Other players, notably Murray and Nadal, will do everything possible to stay in a point. I certainly throw up moonballs when a player has pushed me way out wide. I still don't think of this as pushing, its survival. Likewise a good lob against someone at the net is not pushing. Its actually an offensive shot.

    Staying at the baseline and just elbowing and wristing all balls back into play is pushing. Hitting pancake serves is pushing. I guess the difference is strategy.
     
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  27. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    This is something missing from todays game... and something that was done masterfully in the 70's and 80's. Change spins, pace and angles was a big part of the old school game... and it could drive power players crazy. Ashe dominated Connors in the 75 Wimbledon Final, 10 years older than Connors at 32 he sliced and diced his opponent into submission.

    With todays game and equipment they can completely overpower these players... taking out an element of the traditional game. Back then you could play this off speed game and still be able to trackdown balls hit by your opponent... with the power of todays game you can no longer stay in the firefight.

    It is not easy to play against a skilled and masterful player that can use change of pace, spin and angles, because they are not just pushers. There is a method in their madness. A big part of the game is being able to make your opponent out of there comfort zone... and this kind of player can give you fits, especially since they are pretty much extincted.
     
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  28. kslick

    kslick Rookie

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    I think my problem when I face this situation is....I keep returning shots back down the middle of the court, I don't bend my knees and get down to the ball but the main issue would be I don't take a complete swing and Follow throughI always seem to stop my swing. So if I can clean up these mistakes I think all will be good.

    The fact that a typical club pusher would never make it past 3.0 is completely wrong. You see this all the time as high up as 4.0.
     
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  29. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    Believe it or not, take the most primitive pusher game you can think of, and I bet there are lots of players like this dominating at the 3.5 level.
     
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  30. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Nah. You can get way above a 3.0 with just pushing - I'd say at least 4.0. Its probably a harder style for most players to do well with though because it puts a large emphasis on stamina and athleticism. And people with stamina and athleticism tend to learn a proper game..

    Actually most any squash pro can slice and dice his way at least a 3.5 level without ever really practicing tennis..IMHO. I do think though that the high level player with no strokes beating people is more of a myth then a reality. Most of the time its a question of one guy with no strokes beating a guy who THINKS he has good strokes.. :p The only videos of "pushers" I have seen don't really show them beating guys with tremendous strokes. Maybe they have a decent forehand and no volley or something like that...

    * again do not derail this thread with talk about super pushers - I am talking about rec. pushers who don't know how to play tennis "properly" the kind of guys you find in local parks.

    Pete
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
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  31. Juan Cruz

    Juan Cruz New User

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    Exactly!

    What I ended up doing was thinking about my shot too much instead of hitting freely and instinctively. I guess the lack of pace gave me too much time to think myself to death.

    I guess the biggest lesson for me here is learning to play outside my comfort zone.
     
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  32. olliess

    olliess Semi-Pro

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    One of the things I've found helps me when I hit against someone who hits with no pace and confuses me into tightening up and/or hitting out: hit with more topspin, not necessarily more pace.

    Reason is not to impress the guy, but to get myself relaxed and taking a nice, fast swing at the ball again. Then I can start working on feeling the corners of the corner and picking up the pace on my shots.

    YMMV!
     
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  33. Juan Cruz

    Juan Cruz New User

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    Let me just clear this up by saying the old man I speak of does play "properly". I think his age is really the reason he is hitting with little pace. But his placement and form (old school style) are pretty solid. You can tell he was a proper player in his day.
     
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  34. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    I doubt age has much to do with the lack of pace in his game. He might not hit the ball as hard at his age... but the drop off would not be that much. This is probably a style of play he has used all his life, it is just something that no one has seen much of in 3 decades.
     
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  35. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    But isn't a paradox? If their paceless shots didn't give you any difficulty, you wouldn't be making so many unforced errors before they do, right? :confused:
     
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  36. ttbrowne

    ttbrowne Hall of Fame

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    Most of us practice to react to a ball without thinking. To let our instinct take control. But pushers make us think and that is a problem for most of us.
     
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  37. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Agreed. I've even seen 4.5 level pushers. When you watch them play, you can't believe that they can even beat any 3.5 player, but they win all the time even at the 4.5 level.
     
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  38. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    ^^^4.5 guy probably counterpuncher IMHO. I bet he has a shot or two that are sneaky quick to put people away.
     
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  39. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    I don't know if I've played with pushers or not, but I definitely have played with ...weak-stroke hitters. Their hits always draw me into no man's land, but I have no problem beating them.
     
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  40. athiker

    athiker Hall of Fame

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    A few things alluded to above. Timing is obviously a big difference when facing slower, loopier balls. As mentioned really watch the ball and don't initiate your backswing motion too early. If you do there will be a pause in your stroke as you have to wait for the ball and then a jerk forward.

    Also as mentioned more time means more time to not only decide where and how to hit your shot, but more time to change your mind! Decide and go with it. Even if its not the perfect choice b/c the opponent moves, if they don't have a killer shot, you will have time to set up and make a new decision on the next ball. Don't change your mind on the current one.

    For those occasional shorter balls that are still loopy and bounce up high (above the net) try to develop a put-a-way swinging volley. I always just punched volleyed those balls, but am not great at punching w/ placement angle and pace so they often can get run down by an athletic player. I saw a bit, I think it was on Tennis Academy (Tennis Channel) about the swinging volley and have been working on it lately. Its been pretty amazing actually, and a heck of a lot of fun! As always, watch the ball of course, and make sure to follow through high so as not to hit the ball into the net. Maybe you already do this, but it was new for me as I was taught to punch volley most everything short.

    Good luck.
     
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  41. athiker

    athiker Hall of Fame

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    I don't think I was too clear on the swinging volley thing, at least not for some that may be relatively new. With the punch volley, I tend to punch through the ball with a bit of underspin, with the swing volley its a high forehand with topspin and full high follow-through.

    With the punch volley I would try to hit a nice sharp angle away from the opponent and hope it doesn't bounce high enough for him to retrieve it. Good volleyers do it w/ pace too, me not so much sometimes. With the swinging volley I aim for a larger area of open court and try to get it by the opponent more with pace.

    I know its not news to many, but it has really helped me end points in some matches lately against certain players.
     
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  42. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    +1. There is no greater joy than playing against someone who hits with no pace. I have all day to go over to the ball and set up and consider what shot I'd like to play. I get to lope around conserving energy, my opponent will do the running. And oh, what fun it is to be at net and have someone try to pass you with no pace.

    Those people who hit hard and flat . . . they drive me nuts. Gotta get there, gotta set up, gotta do everything right and in a big hot hurry. Often have to hit a ball on the run or while off balance. Must work so very hard to stay in control. Gah!
     
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  43. Blake0

    Blake0 Hall of Fame

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    Hit through the ball more then usual against pushers, don't forget the low to high though. Basically just move the pusher around, or stick him into a corner, then hit an approach and finish the point off at net. Other strategies you can look in to mix it up would be slicing, drop-and-lob, and also moonballing.
     
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  44. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Not really. They just get every ball back which makes you go for too much and miss, like any pusher worth his salt.
     
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  45. KenC

    KenC Professional

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    Guys, come on, you are giving these pushers too much credit at anything higher than 3.0. Even if they may go beyond we shouldn't reward them with a higher ranking. A 4.0 club level pusher should be called a "lucky 3.0" player. I like my emerging definition of a pusher based on real talent or "ugly" talent.

    The next time I find myself opposite an "ugly talent" pusher I am going to tell them that they remind me of how my 105lb. wife played before she got lessons.

    Or, "wow, you would be a great hitting partner for my 10yo daughter."

    Or maybe I won't sugar coat it and just say, "Wow, I didn't know you were gay."

    I have no mercy for ugly talent pushers.
     
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  46. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Juan, you need to understand something. When you hit the ball, you should not overhit. Sometimes you will get your shots in and overhit at the same time. It will feel like you are doing things right, up until you get the pace changed on you and then your timing and stroke crumbles.

    You have to learn to swing within your means, a rally stroke so to speak, and be in control of your balance.

    One of the things pushers do is test your ability to handle no pace. This believe it or not tests your footwork and balance more than anything. Using a cadence such as HIT-BOUNCE-HIT can help you make the adjustment to the different pace.

    Also, many people stop moving their feet because they are getting frustrated and anxiety starts to rise in them. This can shut you down because the pusher is also testing your ability to be as patient as him.

    People that play pushers also find out that they really don't move the ball around very well unless it is hard hit. Got to practice that.

    You need to stop and think. What were the key weaknesses in his game? Did he have good lateral movement? Forward movement? What about net play?
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
    #46
  47. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    43,454
    I think you might be confusing style of play with strokes. Pushing is a style of play, not how your strokes look. You can be a pusher with all sorts of different looking strokes.
     
    #47
  48. gzhpcu

    gzhpcu Professional

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Switzerland
    The problem with soft, junk balls is also handling their trajectory. While a hard hit ball comes toward you more or less horizontally (unless hit with enormous topspin), the junk ball has little speed towards you and it bounces more vertically. You can not use its speed to hit the ball back and you have to time it better since it is bouncing upwards or downwards. Just watch it carefully and don't rush your movement. Don't overhit it.
     
    #48
  49. KenC

    KenC Professional

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    I guess I have a definition of pusher that is different from most. I personally wouldn't call any Pro today a pusher. Even if there are those who play too defensively, they obviously have a lot of talent and can beat even the best with good strategy. I also think the reason why Federer is losing lately against JMDP and Djoker is because he refuses to play defensively or as a pusher, against stronger, younger players today. If anyone can purposely and consistently hit beautiful lobs and drop shots to win points, then all is fair on the tennis court. That to me is just ugly tennis, or winning ugly. While I don't particularly like it, I do appreciate good strategy on a tennis court. It makes agressive, offensive players rise a level or two in order to win and we all benefit by seeing great tennis unfold.

    What I define as a pusher, or as I used to call them, "hackers", are these people who are not students of the game and just slap the ball with the packet, or use the racquet as if it were a flyswatter. They never took a lesson in their lives but enjoy being on the court and swatting tennis balls. Maybe through a lot of playing they can get good enough to hold their own against a 4.0 player, but why bother? Although I rarely play against them, I do hate the fact that they seem to occupy all the best hours on the courts.

    While I am lamenting, there is another classic player that should be discussed, that being the "chronic overhitter" or the "ball-crusher" who like to look like they are better than Federer but never seem to ever hit a ball in. We never really complain about them because they always lose, but we never beat them: they beat themselves. All we have to do is get our serves in. Where's the satisfaction in that?
     
    #49
  50. Juan Cruz

    Juan Cruz New User

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2009
    Messages:
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    You just described my predicament spot on. The trajectory
    is what kills me. It's like "What am I going to do with that?!"
     
    #50

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