Bungalow Bill - sticking to your natural game.

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Chris.L, Jul 13, 2004.

  1. Chris.L

    Chris.L New User

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    Bungalow, just some questions for you if you have the time please!

    I have played tennis tennis competitivly since i was 15. I am 20 now, i play about 2/3 times a week in comps, also i just came back from our University games where i lost 2/3 singles and 3/4 doubles.

    I was reading a couple of posts on this board saying, if you want to win frequently over most opponents, then push and dink the ball, but if you want to truly advance as a player then you must go for your shots during matches etc.

    This REALLY made me think hard about my game and where its heading.
    I noticed at the uni games level, a consistent player with softer shots is ripped apart. I had no power on my serve, no bite on my shots, i won at club level over less consistent players, but these guys (mostly top state ranked) simply didn't let me breathe, i had no time to 'work' my softer hitting game on them.

    I changed my game last year to a conservative baseliner style
    kept the ball deep, didn't go for much etc. .... it worked, i had nice shots, nice double handed backhand, very flat off both wings, but not powerfull, i just moved the ball around the court passivly. Hit no double faults. Despite winning usually, i find my self completely and utterly 'owned' and dominated by players who go for winners and have big shots.... and play high level comps.

    I beleive my natural game was my original game before i started to play conservative, this is almost a complete emulation of Jelena Dokic... flat as anything, goes for winners.
    last night i played like this and won 7-6 in a comp against one of the best players! Playing aggressive like this i immediatly got my opponent on the defensive and dictated the point.... i felt really good.
    I guess my questions are:

    *If i hit flat naturally should i stick to this and develop it?
    *Is it true that pushers/dinkers win at the low level but better players will attack and eventually be better?
    *Should i continue to play my natural flat style and risk losing to complete hacks? (this is what concerns me the most) ... is it worth ditching my conservative game and simply hitting flat/hard a little more?

    In all honesty, it is the last point that scares me the most, i am scared of losing to weaker players by 'self destrucing' with errors on the court as i try to hit flat style. Do you think it is worth it?
    My game is unique for a male player in the way that i lack any topspin, and play like dokic (serves, groundies, everything like her!)

    ... i think i can win at the higher level playing like this, but it will simply take some mental strength because i am sure i will suffer some awful losses playing like this and i will want to return to me comfort zone and hit softer, less intense groundies.

    i think after seeing the defecits of playing high percentage tennis against top players as i did at the uni games and getting owned( although i wasn't thrashed), it may be worth considering playing an attacking game... despite the flurry of errors that may come with it.... and the shocking losses.


    Thanks for any replies to this, i look foreward to you comments!

    Regards,

    Chris.
     
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  2. atatu

    atatu Hall of Fame

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    I'm not Bill, but a couple of comments. First, I think there is something to be said for sticking to your "Natural Game" Nick Saviano talks a lot about this in his book "Maximum Tennis" which is right up there with "Winning Ugly" as a great tennis book, IMO. Having said that, I would take issue with the statement that "pushers" win at lower levels but not at the higher levels. It's all relative and on every level you'll have some players who are more consistent and some players who hit more winners. People on this board have called Nalbandian "a pusher" and compared to some pro players, he may be, but he still wins. You can win at a high level with consistency, it's all relative.
     
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  3. TwistServe

    TwistServe Guest

    Pushers win because they keep every ball in play, forcing you to eventually make a mistake.. Unless you too revert to pushing, and that makes the game pretty pathetic.. its like watching 2 girls play ping pong, than whoever is the better pusher wins..

    But pushing doesn't work when the other play pounds your soft balls and still makes fewer mistakes.

    But ya if you can pound the balls flat and make them in.. then you'll be real tough to beat..
     
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  4. ferreira

    ferreira Rookie

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    Atatu, with all respect, Nalbandian a pusher? You can not be serious!! Of course it all depends on your idea of pushing, but there is no way that a guy as aggressive as him can be called a pusher. And to whoever siad he is the ultimate club player: were you referring to the All England Lawn Tennis Club? :lol:
    Cris L., it will all depend on how you can manage frustration. Playing S&V at 4.0 and 5'9'' against my 5.0 partner I call it a true victory if I score 4 games in a set, which is very seldom. And that only happens when my serve is REALLY on. I usually average around 2 games per set, and get bageled every two matches. But a year ago I could have opened a bagel shop. Today I can give other 4.0 a tough match, which I couldn't a year ago. But I can also get whacked. Frustration is a part of my game and I've learned to deal with it. But it is NOT easy on the ego. All that said, I suppose you've guessed where I'm going: go for the big game. You already know you have, so now it's a matter of making it increasinlgy constant. Last of all, I once read that a brazilian female player while watching Guga - with whom she was friends - at the French Open in 1997 was impressed, because until a few months before she had never seen Guga hit more than 2 balls into the court in a row. He'd just go for broke.
     
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  5. jun

    jun Semi-Pro

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    David Nabandian isn't all that aggressive. He's pretty close to pusher or whatever you'd call him. Of course if he gets an chance he will go for his shots.

    Look at Lleyton Hewitt, he's still top 10 or so, and he's ultimate pusher.
     
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  6. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your question. I apoligize I haven't answered sooner. Right now, we are in the middle of remodelling our home and some work related things are keeping me away from the boards.

    I have an answer for you, but as always the definition of a "pusher" is often used improperly.

    A "pusher" IMO is someone who hits the ball without completing the stroke. In other words, they push the ball by taking a half stroke to move the ball to a different part of the court and "wait" for the opponent to make an error in any one of the departments that could cause a mistake (i.e. adjustments steps, balance, not bending the knees, anticipation, overhitting). A pusher is someone who plays extremely conservative tennis and only waits for the opponent to make the error. A pusher will not risk hitting out or "taking" a chance to hit a winner. They only play for the other player to beat themselves from extreme conservative play.

    When players reach the pros, IMO there aren't any "pushers". Almost all the pros play and hit the ball with full strokes. They will take chances to different degrees. They have backswings and followthroughs. They may choose to specialize in defensive play, offensive play, or a combination of both in varying degrees.

    If a pro didnt play with full strokes, they would get eaten alive (imagine pushing the ball against Agassi). As I said before, "pushing" is an extremely conservative way to play tennis which places very low to medium paced balls in play.

    If you play a player that is in shape and has developed his full swings, that player can easily take control of the point and not give any chance for a "pusher" to get any foothold in the point.
    In other words, the "pusher" will be just blocking the ball and playing on his/her heals just to stay in the point. That is a losing way to play as you move up to higher levels of play. With this said, you can infer from my response that a "pusher" will reach a certain level before they start to get clobbered. Usually, this is the 4.0 - 4.5 area.

    With that said, if you get a player that is out of shape but has developed strokes and can be considered a 5.0 player once they fix their conditioning issues, a pusher can play havoc on this player if not beat him altogether. That is the nature of the game. The nature of the game of tennis is you usually lose games by creating more errors then your opponent does. So a person out of shape with good full swings will make more errors because of the complexity of his game vs. someone who simply pushes the ball over the net.

    Make no mistake about it, it is harder to play with full swings then pushing. Full swings require timing, balance, speed, footwork, and the ability to stay in control. Once someone knows how to hit the ball with full swings and can keep the ball in play with authority consistantly, the art of when to play offense and defense starts to kick in. This is usually about the 5.0 level.

    So, you have to be willing to lose matches in order to get better. All advanced players have been there. We all have had to be willing to lose in order to learn to play advanced tennis with advanced strokes. But like any other sacrafice, the rewards are always greater than doing nothing and staying status quo. It is a lot like snow skiing, if you want to ski Black Diamond mogels, you have to be willing to fall.

    The biggest hurdle in learning to hit like the pros, is age. The younger you are the less likely there are any "mental" blocks or "ego" blocks to contend with. The older you get, the harder it is to accept defeat for awhile.

    So it is up to you. You cant practice like a pro and then play matches like a pusher. It is in match play that a player finds his weakness with a win or a loss.

    Finally, remember there are no pushers in the pros IMO. A pro player will choose to either play on the error side of the game or the winners side of the game. Usually, the players that can generate excellent pace will play for the winners side of the game (offensive). A player that plays on the errors side of tennis is play more conservative (defensive). But they alll possess good strokes and take chances.
     
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  7. Chris.L

    Chris.L New User

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    Thanks for everyones replies.

    Bill, i suppose what you are saying is that i should cut my losses and keep attacking, if i am truly better i will beat the pushers eventually, despite the fact that i can beat them now playing passivly.

    It takes a lot more focus and concentration to be an attacking player, i guess i will try and stick to this game for a while and see if i can improve.

    Taking some bad losses will be tough.... especially when i know i could beat them playing more conservative....
    But as i said.... i am not a pusher at all, but i am not at all powerful or aggressive, thus i got 'owned' by some of the more aggressive players. Now i will try to become one of these myself.

    Aside from the bad losses, the only other limitations i face are in regards to my flat hitting gamsestyle (ie. Dokic).... but i will try and overcome this by playing more regularly.

    Thanks for everyones advice!
    (i should really post here more often) :wink:
     
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  8. mattlikovich

    mattlikovich Rookie

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    I've played some pushers at the sectional junior level and lost some and won some. I've lost to some that just keep it in and then attack the short ball. Then I saw a seeded player completely destroy the pusher that beat me. All he did was hit corner to corner, making the weaker player just get the ball back, but eventually he'd hit one short, and the seeded player would put it away.

    Also recently, I just won a local men's clay singles tournament. I remeber last year playing in it, just trying to get the ball in, sometimes not even swinging full strength. This year, however, I used a fast and consistent swing on all my shots. I've gotten more consistent, so I have better stokes, but not once did I think, gosh I have to keep it in, or I hope I don't hit it long. I'd say go for your shots, and eventually you will know when the best time is to go for the winners. You cant hit really agressive on every shot, but you will learn the best time when to do it. I hope this helps.


    Matt
     
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  9. jun

    jun Semi-Pro

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    here's my 2 cents.

    I think it would boil down to what you do better. If you are quick move extremely well, solid, consistent groundstrokes, but no big serve, or no big groundies that can generate winners or weak replies, you might be better off being so called "pusher". You can play like Hewitt in other words. Keep the ball deep crosscourt, nothing too fancy. Sort of like counterpuncher.


    If you have got big serve, big forehand that can generate winners, then you are probably better off being attacker. Try to gain control of the point with your big shots and finish the points off at the net. You will probably go for your shot more often than pusher or counterpuncher.

    obviously "being aggressive" means different for these two different types of players.

    Either way, you are going to have to go for your shots if you GET the shot that you WANT. For me, my best shot is inside out forehand off mid ball. If I get that shot, I will go for it. Even though I miss, that was a good shot. On the other hand, my crosscourt forehand isn't that strong. I will rarely try to hit winner off that shot. And if I attempt it, it's a bad shot selection.

    Roddick missed 3 out of 4 break points against Federer in Wimby final by going for inside in forehand. Roddick said in the interview that he missed those shots, but they were good shot selection.
     
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  10. Nosoupforyou

    Nosoupforyou Rookie

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    I'm sort of going through this right now, I'm a low-mid 4.0 right now, but i want to get to 5.0 atleast by the end of next year, I play about 10-15 hours a week. I have good strokes, but they can break down under pressure and i tend to revert to pushing when I am under pressure or atleast I did. However, I am trying to translate my good strokes when i rally into my game. The other day i lost to a guy 6-2 6-1 because I really went for my shots and tried my new strokes out, i might have would have probably had a 60% chance of beating him if I'd reverted to my old strokes but I didn't. My point being that even though I will probably lose my next few matches I feel that it will be good for me in the long run.
     
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  11. ferreira

    ferreira Rookie

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    BB, you mentioned what for a long time was the missing link to my understanding of tennis, the complexity of the game at higher levels. That is what seems to explain the valleys in the "peaks, pleateaus and valleys" concept of game development. As you improve, you start seeing the game in a different dimension, but until you have automated the patterns of strokes/footwork/agility needed at that level you will be losing even to players you usually beat. It feels like being in no man's land.
     
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  12. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    It is not easy wanting to play with good technique. The swing is more complex the fuller you make it. All the preparation you have or haven't done to execute a full swing or a "correct" swing with all the elemenst will "show up" in a match situation. This is when people will shy away from what they are trying to do in practice.

    Sampras is a classic example of this. When he started to hit the onehanded backhand, he lost almost all of his matches for 4 years. Now, the rest is history. The word is, he had a pretty darn good twohanded backhand. So my respect is out to Sampras because he was willing to put in the work and put his ego on the shelf in order to develop his backhand so he could compete.

    So do you think he was pushing the ball over the net learning how to hit his new backhand in matches? No way Jose.

    Also, someone mentioned above that Hewitt is a "pusher". That is just down right absurd. Hewitt is far from a pusher. Hewitt understands that the power he puts on the ball is not going to blow someone away. So his strategy is to take time away from his opponent and use his strength (speed) to open the court. Hewitt's game revolves around longer points. So he will nuetralize an opponents power so eventually his power can win the point with a more open court. HEWITT DOES NOT PUSH THE BALL!!!!!!!! He hits the darn thing and hits it well.
     
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  13. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    I dont know if attacking is the right word. If that is how you like to play that is your style or preference of play. Using full strokes and not abbreviated strokes is what I am talking about. In other words, I should see a backswing and a followthrough with good swing speed in your groundstrokes. I should see your volleys crisp and executed with precision and authority. Pushers dont have these kind of swings.

    You can choose to be offensive (net rusher) or defensive (counter-puncher) that is up to you. But dont be afraid to make a mistake whether it is a physical mistake (improper footwork), a mental mistake (went for the wrong shot or hit a short ball long), or a technical mistake (hitting through the ball, with good follow and the ball went long) in your matches.

    That is where you grow because you get determined to improve and learn how to play tennis the way you know you can play.

    A pusher will forever be in their little bubbles of 3.5 - 4.5 tennis. They will get their victories from players that are still developing and growing. That is very irritating to a player that wants to do it right. Pushers dont have to practice that much to keep there pushing ways in order. They just show up and beat the unsuspecting technically better player. They make the better player address the issue that is wrong with their game.
     
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  14. ferreira

    ferreira Rookie

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    Bungalo, I think you gave it the proper emphasis. Calling Nalbandian the "ultimate club player"... come on, really!!! I think you chose one of the best examples. The thing about Hewitt is not the he does not attack, but since his strokes are not as the big guys' he has to wait for a better chance to attack.
    I've seen tournaments with top 200s, on clay, and they were NOT pushing.
     
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  15. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Calling pro players pushers is "crazy talk".
     
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  16. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    I agree. But it's just a description for a player who tends to win their matches more by letting their opponents make errors instead of ripping for winners themselves.
     
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  17. nyu

    nyu Rookie

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    Here's my 2 cents. I started tennis as a hack the summer before my sophmore year of high school. I played varsity basketball at the time, so have always been extremely quick on the court, and would just run everything down and slice and dice it back. It worked pretty well...until I reached the semi's of tournaments and would spend 2 hours running back and forth retrieving balls from the patient and hard hitting upper level players that had solid strokes. I would take matches off of these players every once in a while, but I would never be able to take 2-3 of them in a row.

    The past 3 years have been a transition period from hack to solid counter-puncher. I started first with my serve, losing numerous games to double-faulting as I began to go for every serve. I'm not saying I would try to hit a bomb on every serve, or place it into a corner, but rather, I made up my mind to hit a full stroke and hit every ball with a specific intent, whether it be first or 2nd serves. 3 years later, at only 5'6, I can't hit bombs, but I can place the ball well and can mix up pace and spin. The rest of my game followed, gradually reducing the amount of half-strokes I would hit in the clutch during matches. I'm not all there yet, and am only a 4.5-5.0 in New Mexico(which is a strong 4.0-mid level 4.5 in New York.

    The point is that I lost many matches to much weaker players when it came to technique, but once I began to hit my groundies more consistently and move the ball around the court with full-strokes heavy topspin, tennis has been a h*lluva lot more fun,a dn I can finally beat some of the players that used to completely hit me off the court. I agree with BB;it's not neccesarily how hard you're smacking the ball, but rather having an intent with the balls you hit, hitting a full stroke, and being agressive(even if it means a short angled drop-shot or sky lob.)
     
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  18. nyu

    nyu Rookie

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    BTW, sorry bout the grammar, it's 3 am and i'm a bit fuzzy.
     
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  19. jun

    jun Semi-Pro

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    B Bill.

    I think it really depends on how you define pusher. I think in Winning Ugly, Brad Gilber referres Chang as pusher (or was it retriever?). And he also says that he has been called pusher as well.

    Obviously, according to your defination, pro level players can't be pushers..I guess it all depends on the definition..

    BTW, thanks for the advice on the serve. I can't even remember if I thanked you or not....
     
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