Coaches are Over-simplifying The Pusher

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by HunterST, Jul 22, 2014.

  1. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Messages:
    3,412
    There are countless videos, articles, and threads about how to beat a pusher. The pusher is usually characterized as a player who has technically incorrect strokes and floats everything back. They are not capable of attacking a ball or hitting a passing shot.

    This isn't the type of player most people are encountering, in my opinion. I think most of us are dealing with the types of players I struggle with and consider pushers, and they're much more problematic.

    -They don't have big strokes, but they can hit the ball fairly deep and rarely make an error.

    -They are great on the stretch which makes it difficult to force errors.

    -If you come to the net off of a not-so-great approach, they have enough accuracy and feel to hit a good lob or make you hit a tough volley.

    -They're not going to rip short balls for winners, but they won't make silly mistakes off of them.

    These players force you to hit high quality shots. Beating them is not as simple as the standard "Work your way in and finish off the point with an easy volley" advice.
     
    #1
  2. Jim Lefty

    Jim Lefty Rookie

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Messages:
    260
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    I tend to agree with this.

    I think the biggest obstacle most people have with beating pusher is genuinely creating one's own pace. The 4.0 to 4.5 level is where one starts to be able to do this with any degree of confidence. One must be able to execute attacking shots at a whim to beat a skilled pusher.

    The whole notion of simply just attacking the net against a good pusher is suicide.
     
    #2
  3. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,444
    Definition of a Pusher seems to be in transition. I'm tempted to say what you describe here is not a pusher, but just a player who knows his game and plays within his limitations. I guess I can't say that because so many probably agree with you, so in a way...that makes it true in tennis lingo.

    Back in our day, a pusher would just push, prod and poke the ball back just past the service line with little or no spin control and little pace at all. Now it seems that a player who has mastered topspin, slice, kick-serves, even occasional power and more can still be called a pusher due to 2 reasons....mainly low UEs and not using big power on a regular basis. I don't get it really, because to me, this is just a good smart player.
     
    #3
  4. Bendex

    Bendex Professional

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    Messages:
    1,035
    You're absolutely right. It seems every club has someone like this. You have to be a very good player to beat them. I saw a 50 year old 'pusher' at our club dismantle one of the best teens in town.

    You have to make friends with a good pusher and play him as many times as possible. It will improve your game rapidly.

    My strategy is to be very patient, just keep moving them around until you get the short ball. Never try to hit a winner; always play for position (the winners will come anyway). You also have to practice hitting short balls endlessly, until you can play a nice firm angle without mistakes.

    If you try to follow most of the advice out there (take everything early, charge the net, etc.) You'll get carved up by the pusher (because you probably don't hit good consistent shots when you take it early, if you're not accustomed to taking it early).
     
    #4
  5. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,444
    Congrats, as now other players will now call you a pusher...:)

    But I like your advice, lol.
     
    #5
  6. Bendex

    Bendex Professional

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    Messages:
    1,035
    By not trying to hit winners, I hit winners all over the place. :) My 80% ball is still very quick.

    Dedicating one's self to easy power is also key to beating the pusher.
     
    #6
  7. user92626

    user92626 Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Messages:
    6,266
    Right on, 5263. :)

    Threads like this one are what mystify and wrongly assess good players. They perpetuate lots of myths and confusion, and those who buy into it continue to suffer.

    There's no such thing as "technically incorrect strokes and floats everything back" Technically incorrect strokes are the ones that send the ball wildly into the net or the back fence. Not the strokes that keep the ball in.

    Players that don't make "silly mistakes" or have "enough accuracy" to play you like a puppet master are skilled players in both execution and judgment.

    Let's cut out all the craps about "big strokes" or ripping the ball. Tennis is a game that you need to play with skills (keeping the ball in) and strength (being able to run down opponent's shots. Losers don't have either one or both, simply put.
     
    #7
  8. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Messages:
    3,412
    I agree with everything that has been said.

    Generating your own pace off of slower ball CONSISTENTLY is pretty tough for most players.

    Also agree that you have to play for position.

    5623

    You're right, these players might more accurately be called counter punchers or something like that. They're definitely good players. I'm just saying they're pushers because I think they're really who most of us 4.0 and above are losing to.

    Also, when I'm losing to them, I say things to myself like "This guy is just a farting pusher :mad: :mad:"
     
    #8
  9. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Messages:
    3,412
    Whoa, whoa, where did I wrongly assess good players or perpetuate a myth?

    To me, my post was clearly quite complementary. I'm just saying that when people say "I lost to a pusher!! :mad:" They're usually referring to a player who is very good and consistent but not that powerful.

    The point is, we need to address what is making us lose to these types of players (going for too much, being impatient, attacking in the wrong ways) and not the commonly prescribed advice of just taking shots early and coming to net.
     
    #9
  10. TeamOB

    TeamOB Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2014
    Messages:
    1,174
    Location:
    On the Kyrgios/Thiem/Zverev bandwagon!
    To many people a pusher is any player that does not hit with a lot of pace (a terrible definition). I played a 4.5 match recently against a bigger, stronger guy (who also happened to be a bit of a D-bag). His strokes were pretty good, but I quickly noticed a big weakness. His movement was pretty poor and he often went for too much when stretched. I really exploited it. I didn't hit anything hard, but tried to move him around a lot using drop-shots and angles. I forced many errors and won in straight sets. After the match the guy is walking off and says to his team (loud enough for me to hear): "There is no f***ing way I should have lost to that kid. His strokes were a f***ing joke. No weapons at all. I dictated play the whole time and he just chipped the ball back. Absolutely pathetic! There is no f***ing way I should be losing to a pusher at the 4.5 level." Just goes to show how misguided people are about the whole pusher thing.
     
    #10
  11. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    Messages:
    5,141
    Exactly. I play a counterpunching game to begin with, but if my opponent is that type of jerk, I'm going into full out no pace mode because: 1. It's probably the best strategy. AND 2. He deserves it.
     
    #11
  12. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Messages:
    3,412
    So it sounds like you guys agree with my argument that coaches (and players) are over-simplifying the problem. The players people are losing to do not fit the old definition of pusher.
     
    #12
  13. SoBad

    SoBad Legend

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    8,056
    Location:
    shiran
    Yeah, I hate playing guys who can’t hit a passing shot yet make you hit a tough volley. Pushers…:roll:
     
    #13
  14. Curiosity

    Curiosity Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    May 29, 2014
    Messages:
    477
    I see the pusher as a completely reasonable phenomena. The frustration comes, I think, to those who don't pay (or haven't had time yet to pay...) their tennis dues: Every junior should, really, become a pusher, then a grinder, and then what her natural talent implies, whether speed, power, or cunning.

    Strokes are under-taught. People gain big but unreliable strokes by improvising, without key elements to joint power to reliability. (Laugh. I'm not getting into what those elements are!) Physically most kids simply don't have the strength or joint solidity to become power hitters, and that phase should be used for pushing, slowly improving their strokes and court sense.

    As the power comes based on growth, good mechanics, and timing, the kid should become a skilled grinder, at which point they learn to make the pusher feel tired and awkward. With a little devotion the grinder gains a weapon, tactical sense, and preserves some of the patience she learned during the pusher and grinder phases. Then she wins. She considers pushers nothing but reliable ball machines, grinders as an opportunity to work on velocity, patience, and opportunity spotting, and her post-grinder opponents as the whole point of tennis, a real match, an opportunity to leave it all on the court and learn something new, again.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
    #14
  15. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Messages:
    3,412
    oops delete post
     
    #15
  16. user92626

    user92626 Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Messages:
    6,266

    ...and you continue to do it here.

    Not only a good player needs to be consistent, his shots also have to be powerful enough to outpace you.

    I did point out how losers lose to better players. Generally speaking it's almost always that they are being outpaced and forced into weird positions and can't get to the ball or can't put the ball back. Better players have better judgement of situations and better execution.
     
    #16
  17. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Messages:
    3,412
    I'm not even sure what you're talking about. You seem to be prescribing the "Pushers are bad players who win" mentality to me when I said nothing of the sort. Saying someone is a "good player but doesn't have much power" is just describing their game. I would be just as likely to say "He's a good player with big power, but can be inconsistent."

    My whole point is that the people who many call "pushers" are actually much better players and more difficult to beat than people think.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
    #17
  18. user92626

    user92626 Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Messages:
    6,266
    OK. If you reduced your thread to only this, then we pretty much agreed :)

    But I wanted to share my approach that I alluded to earlier and it was that I treat all players the same. Just the same physics and the same laws of the game. Simple and straight forward. No labels, no confusion, frustration for me. That's the point of my posts.
     
    #18
  19. jrs

    jrs Professional

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2009
    Messages:
    1,224
    Actually, I saw Sharon Fichman (sp?) Canadian player take Jelena Jankovic to 3 sets at the Rogers open. Fichman was playing lobbing, no pace pusher type match.

    After the match - Janovic walks off the court - grabs her coaches and went to a back court and asked the coach to start dropping balls to her - so she can drive them. At one point she starts yelling at the coach - he was dropping them with too much pace....drop them from lower height...she was really upset. But she demonstrated how to play a pusher. She stayed there 45minutes practicing hitting these low pace balls.
     
    #19
  20. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Messages:
    1,959
    Isn't it more a matter of the level you play at? You can be a pusher at 5.0 but you will seem like Fed to 3.5's. David Ferrer is a pusher. Few here could hit his rally ball back.
     
    #20
  21. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Messages:
    3,412
    I think it's important to label players. People use different strategies to win, and, to overcome those strategies, you have to be able to identify them and know how to react.

    Some players try to blow you off the court others just get the ball back and depend on you to make the error. It would be silly to not note what types of players you lose to.

    I think you're really missing the point of the thread, though.

    The important thing is people are losing to these types of players and there's really not any good advice out there about how to fix it. I don't care what the players are called.
     
    #21
  22. jrs

    jrs Professional

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2009
    Messages:
    1,224
    David Ferrer is considered a pusher?

    David Ferrer is considered a pusher? Wow....if that's considered pushing, I want to be a pusher. He hits with a lot spin and power!
     
    #22
  23. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Messages:
    3,412
    Yes, it seems the definition of pusher has evolved to mean a defensive player, which can be found at all levels of the game.
     
    #23
  24. user92626

    user92626 Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Messages:
    6,266
    When it comes to 'pusher' everyone has his own definition. It's usually all different but one common thing is the pusher beats them.

    To me, the "pusher" discussion is never smart or even coherent.
     
    #24
  25. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2007
    Messages:
    5,899
    Pushers used to be defined as hitters who pushed the ball - you could tell you were playing a pusher because they didn't hit much spin or pace. Today the term just means either a defensive player or a consistent player.

    I think the old definition was more meaningful, but I think it is too late to go back to it.
     
    #25
  26. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,229
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    To me, a pusher who CAN hit the ball hard and normal, but chooses to hit soft high balls just to extend the rally and NOT to win the point outright.
     
    #26
  27. jdubbs

    jdubbs Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2010
    Messages:
    2,276
    a guy that consistently hits a deep ball on a relatively slow hard court is very hard to beat, it takes a lot of patience.

    Ultimately, you have to have a big game and lot of topspin so they have a hard time hitting the ball back deep when you put a lot of topspin on it.

    Also, if they are sitting 6 feet behind the baseline, try hitting more angles or drop shots. These guys HATE to come to net and will immediately retreat.
     
    #27
  28. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,444
    I think you hit the nail on the head here.
     
    #28
  29. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2010
    Messages:
    4,862
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Some would call them "pushers", but the guys I lose to 4.0 and 4.5 are the least flashiest players you could possibly imagine. But all of them have a very common trait. They all seem to focus on high-percentage tennis and keeping the ball between the lines. Very average pace. Very average spin.

    But I swear they all seem to be using Wardlaw directionals -- whether or not they know it. They always hit safe. The great majority of their balls are CC shots. When they change direction, it is always an inside shot. I swear these guys almost never take the shot with the shortest ball flight path.

    I am really focusing more on playing high-percentage tennis now (using proper directionals). I can honestly say that it is winning me more points. But on the other side, it requires more fitness and patience. Rallies are much longer. It is so tempting to bail out of a rally, but you just can't do it.
     
    #29
  30. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2012
    Messages:
    829
    Location:
    UK
    You should have called back: "Next time you are completely dictating play, maybe you should choose to use your weapons to put the ball IN the court. Or maybe you weren't dictating and you lost because MY weapons and tactics dismantled YOUR game. The joke wasn't my strokes, it was that you were so busy trying to hit hard that apparently you didn't even bother paying attention to how I was beating you. "
     
    #30
  31. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Messages:
    1,959
    This is a difficult dilemma. It's actually kind of the dividing line between 4.5 and Open competition. You wil get destroyed by an Open class player if you hit mostly safe rally balls. They have the weapons to redirect them and attack.
     
    #31
  32. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    6,436
    well those Videos are likely directed at low Level hacks who face real pushers. a real pusher is IMO a guy who just bunts the ball back.

    if you are talking about a guy who hits correct medium paced Topspin strokes of both wings and doesn't make Errors even on the run that is not a pusher but a really good Player that is hard to beat even by good Players.

    against those guys there are no easy strategies you just Need to be able to Play good consistent offensive Tennis over a Long timeframe.

    but that is not the Weekend hack pusher those Videos talk about.
     
    #32
  33. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    6,436
    that is a myth anyway. he is not a power hitter (although I have him seen hitting 95 mph Forehand winners) but he takes the ball early and makes the Opponent run.

    against djokovic or nadal he is becoming defensive because they have more weapons and are able to push him back but against guys outside the top20 usually his Opponent is the one who is doing more running than him.
     
    #33
  34. Bendex

    Bendex Professional

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    Messages:
    1,035
    So we can all agree that the term "Pusher" is being used incorrectly. Perhaps a new term is needed. The young players around here use the term "hack" (eg. "you are such a hack"), but I'm not sure that is fair either.
     
    #34
  35. ace_pace

    ace_pace Rookie

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
    Messages:
    329
    I think of a 'pusher' as someone who uses pure consistency as a their main weapon. By pure I mean the exact same tempo and intensity. They basically wait for you to self-destruct.

    The only way to beat them is to actually have an effective combination of sound strokes, game style and strategy. You really need to know your game, and use it to its fullest potential. Players without this will never beat a pusher.
     
    #35
  36. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2005
    Messages:
    1,513
    Location:
    The crappest town in Britain
    How about "smart." After all, they rarely make bad decisions.

    If a player regularly chooses good shots, adapts to his opponents to exploit weaknesses, and waits for the right opportunities to hit aggressive shots, then that's just smart tennis.
     
    #36
  37. Bendex

    Bendex Professional

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    Messages:
    1,035
    I'm not sure they do much adapting or great shot selection. Generally they just keep rolling it back into safe areas.

    At the last tournament, one of my students had to play a "pusher" in the final. The pusher had had a pretty easy run to the final, driving the other kids crazy, but I sensed some vulnerability... I told my player "pushers are the way they are because they hate making mistakes... for the first few games you have to stay in the rallies with him and really use your legs to make sure nothing gets past you, make him make the mistakes until he gets angry." I was right, the other kid got angry and my player won the final.
     
    #37
  38. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2005
    Messages:
    1,513
    Location:
    The crappest town in Britain
    First off, playing high-percentage shots is what good shot selection is all about. A lot of people immediately blame their technique or footwork for every mistake, but they ignore the fact that they constantly choose low-percentage shots. Even players with good technique and footwork will make a lot of errors if they're constantly choosing the wrong shots.

    Secondly, if your student had started hitting winners from the forehand side but making errors off the backhand, do you think the opponent would have focused on the backhand? If so, then that's an adaptive player. From the sound of things, your player didn't show any particular weakness, so we can't tell whether or not the opponent had the ability to adapt. All we know is that your player stayed patient and played smart shots rather than trying to be aggressive at the wrong times like all of the players who lost to the opponent in earlier rounds.
     
    #38
  39. The forehand

    The forehand Rookie

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2014
    Messages:
    260
    Location:
    UK
    I like to alternate between being a pusher and a aggressive player. Since I have decent speed and can hit the ball hard. Also when somebody is stressing and losing their head let them make mistakes on their strong side and get them more angry and so they make more mistakes thats when I start crushing the ball to finish the match. I believe in Aggasi's book I recall Aggasi's father saying that if somebody loves his forehand then hit to his forehand and make him hate his forehand .
     
    #39
  40. user92626

    user92626 Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Messages:
    6,266
    "Pusher" has never been a consistent term to describe a player. Worse, it already developed a bad connotation.

    I would rather use "aggressive" vs "non-aggressive" style player.

    Aggressiveness correlates to shot consistency, power and placement and also opponent.
     
    #40
  41. xFullCourtTenniSx

    xFullCourtTenniSx Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Messages:
    1,960
    I agree. What the OP described was not a pusher. A true pusher is someone who dinks balls and makes you play shots for as long as possible, and is usually capped out at was it a 3.5 or 4.0 NTRP level?

    The evolved version of this is a counter-puncher, not a pusher. These guys are scary because they're very consistent off the ground, can actually vary their strategy, will actually wreck you with passing shots if you hit a poor approach, and will just as easily punish you for short balls. Part of it is a mentality, to stay tenacious but to play within one's one limits, part of it is the gameplay, which seeks not to crack open the point, but to instead let the opponent crack.

    If the person actually has a full swing, competent use of strategy and varied strokes, they aren't a pusher. We call those guys counter-punchers or defensive baseliners.

    Otherwise we could call Federer a pusher for some of the points he's played. Hell, he's even dinked his fair share of balls (though they were winners in his prime).

    People need to learn what a pusher really is, instead of labeling whatever they don't want to play or can't beat a pusher. A pusher is a negative term, and calling someone with respectable tennis a pusher is an insult they don't deserve.
     
    #41
  42. xFullCourtTenniSx

    xFullCourtTenniSx Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Messages:
    1,960
    But theoretically, with perfect footwork, speed, and technique (and I guess fitness to match), you should never miss a shot. I mean, if you could hit the ball 4 feet over the net with so much topspin it lands like 3 feet past the service line, you're never going to miss regardless of whether you choose to hit crosscourt or down the line. Of course, this is theoretical. In practice, you'll gain far more making smarter decisions than working towards a perfect shot that never misses (because not even Federer is that good).

    But theoretically, if you had the perfect shot, you'd be so superior to everyone that you would rarely (if ever) have to use your head to make good decisions.
     
    #42
  43. user92626

    user92626 Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Messages:
    6,266

    +1. I agree with you on the "definition" of pusher, if there's one. Also agreed that it's a negative term becuz of its inherent limited level. But someone like the OP thinks calling someone a pusher is complementary and describes a good and consistent player.
     
    #43
  44. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Messages:
    3,412
    Yeah, I just don't think it's worth quibbling over terms. The point is that people are losing to players who base their games on consistency and defense and all of the advice out there is about how to beat someone who dinks the ball over the net.
     
    #44
  45. CDestroyer

    CDestroyer Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    1,354
    A counter puncher can be fast, consistent, play with high margins but do not simply bunt the ball back without spin. They have good defense and in my experience they can have good passing shots, are patient and are good at irritating people with their game.

    Examples are Hewitt, Ferrer, Simon
     
    #45
  46. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2004
    Messages:
    4,895
    Counter Punchers are just hard to beat...There isn't any formula to beat em. You basically need to do most of what they do almost as well - plus have some legit weapons to give you the edge.
     
    #46
  47. Spin Doctor

    Spin Doctor Professional

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,088
    True counterpunchers, which is NOT what is being described here, can be beaten. Counterpunchers love pace. Give them no pace and hit slices and other slow shots (high loopy topspin) out of their comfort zone. Don't come to net. Strategy against pushers vs. true counterpunchers is totally different. Again, though, posters on this site are not very good at classifying various playing styles. I still don't understand what type of player is being described in the OP.
     
    #47
  48. user92626

    user92626 Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Messages:
    6,266
    Just curious, what type of player would you guys describe Nadal as?
     
    #48
  49. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2005
    Messages:
    1,513
    Location:
    The crappest town in Britain
    My point is that people should have realistic expectations of their abilities and choose their shots based on those expectations. When people make smart choices based on realistic expectations, they're called pushers (even if they're the type who chip and charge or take the ball early to make their opponents run). When people make bad choices based on unrealistic expectations, they're called aggressive.
     
    #49
  50. RajS

    RajS Rookie

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2013
    Messages:
    372
    Location:
    Campbell, CA
    Very attacking player with fantastic defense, whose strategy is quite simple and doesn't change much.
     
    #50

Share This Page