Enjoying playing the pusher...

mightyrick

Legend
I haven't been around in awhile, but I thought I'd share an experience I'm going through right now in the competitive tennis ladder I play in. A bit of background...

I'm playing for just over two years now. I rose from the bottom of the ladder in about a year and half up to a high-3.5 level. In my ladder, I was regularly playing 3.5 and 4.0 players. I went from a slicer/dicer to a hard eastern forehand baseliner. My winrate was about .500. All was great for about six months...

Then... things changed...

I lost a few rounds in a row and dropped a few rungs. At that point, I was playing playing low 3.5 to high 3.0 players. Pusher retrievers. Then, I kept losing. At this point, I'm one rung from the bottom. The issue is that I've forgotten how to play pushers. In playing the 4.0s and high 3.5s, I'd forgotten how to really attack short floaters. I'd forgotten when to go for the overhead or when to let the ball drop. I was so frustrated.

But I have to say that I'm actually enjoying playing the bottom right now. I feel like I'm re-learning parts of my game that are lost playing good players. I treat each match now as almost a "practice" game... where I work on my overheads and inside-man forehand winners. I even lost tonight... but I lost on my own terms... trying to play aggressive and hit those aggressive shots. However, I didn't lose by much.

So for anyone who might be frustrated and is in a rut playing pushers, all I want to say is to treat these matches like a drill. Go for your shots. Forget about your misses. Use good technique and learn to punish those balls. Treat every short ball as if a coach was ball feeding you. Work on your game. It can be really fun. I'm losing, but I'm actually enjoying myself again. I'm pretty sure after a month or so of this, I'm going to start winning again. The kill shots are starting to fall in for me.

I never thought I'd say it, but playing some of these high 3.5 and 4.0s actually turned me into a more one-dimensional player. Nothing but baselining. Once I get back up to a competitive level again, I think I'm going to continue to hit regularly with 3.0 players. I don't want to lose those skills again.
 

tonygao

Rookie
that's the spirit, man.

I am around 3.0+ as well and recently I always try to play some experience 3.0+ players who are mostly pusher like. so far I bascially had no winning record against them and sometime I even lost 0:6 to them. but I believe soon I will find the way to crash them once my strokes get more steady and my match experience gets enriched.
 

Rogael Naderer

Semi-Pro
I enjoyed reading this, fact is you are better than them.

When you find a way to win against these guys, then find a way to beat them even better!

Playing people who, for instance give weaker service returns is a fun way of practicing your serve and volley or 1-2 punch strategies, or playing slicer and dicers is a good way of practicing your patience vs agression.

Enjoy it!
 

mightyrick

Legend
Playing people who, for instance give weaker service returns is a fun way of practicing your serve and volley or 1-2 punch strategies...
This is exactly how I lost my last match, but I had to much fun doing it.

I have a pretty good first serve. The pusher I was playing was just blocking it back with a short head-high floaters. I decided instantly in that first few games that I was going to try to do 100% S&V. I missed more 1-2 punches than I made, but the ones I made... I felt like Sampras. Most of those volley attempts I sent long.

One thing was clear though, if I'd have made half of those volley attempts... I'd have won the match. Those shots were taking so much time away from the pusher that they'd have been outright winners. No way he was getting to them in time.
 

TheOneHander

Professional
Forget about your misses.
I wish I could forget all about the missus.

But that sounds like a solid plan you got going there! It's always nice to lose a match on your terms (even though it would be nicer to win) because you knew you weren't beaten by your opponent. It shows growth and improvement. Keep it up!
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Dreaded lob high to backhand

There was a guy at my club who played at my level and had some smart winning shots that I dreaded.

One of his shots - he would lob high and deep to my backhand and then keep repeating it. I could play that shot back reliably for most players but he could continue hitting it until I made an error. I dreaded when he would start that sequence.

I happened to read a tennis book, Tennis Beyond Big Shots, G. Moran, that dealt with that exact situation. The book recommended hitting a similar crosscourt return, a lob or moonball back. Whenever your shot appears to be deep and troublesome to the other player -1) wait until he is committed to dealing with the difficult shot, 2) hesitate for disguise & suddenly come in, and 3) take the return out of the air. It worked great! Afterwards, I was always glad when he started that sequence.

So, for people who put them up and slow consider returning in the same way and more or less frequently coming in to attack their return.

Also, generally - Never decide to do this beforehand without sizing up their shot. Always pick your shots. Split step when they are hitting their return.

(BTW - Occasionally I looked like Sampras too on my serve & volley - with no split step - whenever they hit it right to me and I had gotten right over the net. The ones to either side I had to watch go by.)
 
Last edited:

Mick

Legend
....
I never thought I'd say it, but playing some of these high 3.5 and 4.0s actually turned me into a more one-dimensional player. Nothing but baselining. Once I get back up to a competitive level again, I think I'm going to continue to hit regularly with 3.0 players. I don't want to lose those skills again.
it's easier to play any kind of game/style to players who are a level lower than you are, they cannot put the ball away like players at your level or higher so i don't know if playing against them would do any good for the development as a tennis player. personally, i would rather play against players at my level or higher whenever possible because i want to be challenged when playing tennis.
 

sabala

Semi-Pro
A local teaching pro in my area has this on his website -

A GOOD PLAYING SCHEDULE INCLUDES:

1) 1/3 OF YOUR PRACTICE AGAINST PEOPLE BETTER THAN YOU.
IT INSPIRES YOU TO GET BETTER AND YOU MAY LEARN SOME THINGS FROM THEM. HOWEVER, IF YOU PLAY ALL YOUR MATCHES
AGAINST PEOPLE WHO ARE BETTER THAN YOU, THEN YOU ARE JUST PRACTICING LOSING.

2) 1/3 OF YOUR PRACTICE AGAINST PEOPLE AT THE SAME LEVEL AS YOU.
IT TEACHES YOU COMPETITIVENESS AND HOW TO PLAY UNDER PRESSURE.

3) 1/3 OF YOUR MATCHES AGAINST PEOPLE AT A LOWER LEVEL THAN YOU.
IT GIVES YOU PRACTICE WINNING AS WELL AS BEING ON THE OFFENSIVE. OFTEN TIMES, THERE IS MORE PRESSURE WHEN YOU
ARE PLAYING SOMEONE YOU KNOW YOU CAN BEAT. IT TAKES EXPERIENCE TO LEARN HOW TO BE THE DOMINATING PLAYER.
 

larry10s

Hall of Fame
A local teaching pro in my area has this on his website -
^^^^ everyone should read this
if you only play up all you learn is how to scamble
although you do get used to a heavier ball

when you play down you get to experienced really hitting out for winners and completing sequences of shots for winners
this will carry over to you matches against "better " players

how many times have you worked the point to the short ball and then hit it out or into the net or too much to the middle and lose the point against the better player???
well practicing finishing the sequence is usefull

playing equal is a barometer to whats equal:)
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
This is exactly how I lost my last match, but I had to much fun doing it.

I have a pretty good first serve. The pusher I was playing was just blocking it back with a short head-high floaters. I decided instantly in that first few games that I was going to try to do 100% S&V. I missed more 1-2 punches than I made, but the ones I made... I felt like Sampras. Most of those volley attempts I sent long.

One thing was clear though, if I'd have made half of those volley attempts... I'd have won the match. Those shots were taking so much time away from the pusher that they'd have been outright winners. No way he was getting to them in time.
Yes, you have learned how playing pushers can be better practice than you could buy with a teaching pro, at least for working on your strokes, tactics, and movement!
Way to go.
 

Failed

Semi-Pro
I enjoyed reading this, fact is you are better than them.

When you find a way to win against these guys, then find a way to beat them even better!

Playing people who, for instance give weaker service returns is a fun way of practicing your serve and volley or 1-2 punch strategies, or playing slicer and dicers is a good way of practicing your patience vs agression.

Enjoy it!
The truth of the matter is that he isn't better than them. If he loses to a pusher, he is worse than the pusher, on that given day at least. If he loses to a pusher consistently, then he is worse than most of the pushers on a consistent basis. It is no use having a baseline bashing game if you don't have what it takes to hit those shots over and over again. Practise hard on your volleys, don't be "overaggressive" with net play, choose good moments to close in. Especially on slower courts. Learn chip&charge and attack the second serve, drop shots are also your friends.

And the most important of all, respect the pusher. If he wins you, he is better than you. If he is better than you, you must practise harder in order to beat him.
 

mightyrick

Legend
The truth of the matter is that he isn't better than them. If he loses to a pusher, he is worse than the pusher, on that given day at least.
It depends on what the definition of "better" means. This is where I don't like ratings... but I understand why ratings have to exist. This concept is also the basis of the whole "Is Federer better than Nadal" argument.

The first issue is that "better" is not transitive.

If three players play each other and the results are:

Player A beats Player B
Player B beats Player C
Player C beats Player A

Who is "better"? Transitivity doesn't work here.

Let's look at my situation...

Mightyrick beats Decent Player - 50% of the time
Decent Player beats Particular Pusher - 90% of the time
Particular Pusher beats Mightyrick - 75% of the time

Is the pusher better than I am? On a head-to-head basis, yes. But on a global level? I don't know. Mind you, I'm not defining what "better" means. I'm only pointing out that "better" can mean different things... which by definition means that it is subjective.

In my situation, I actually think I'm better than these pushers. But only because I am trying to learn the "proper" way to beat them. I could definitely beat them by using a purely junk/lob/drop/slice/dice game. But I'd rather try to beat them the way that higher-level players do -- with short-ball put aways.
 

Mick

Legend
That sounds solid. It's not always easier to find 1/3 matches against harder oponents though.
i don't know how well this would work in real life

let's say we are 3.5 have a couple of hours to play tennis and can play with a 3.0, 3.5, or 4.0. i know i wouldn't make an appointment with the 3.0 unless both the 3.5 and 4.0 are not available :)
 
Top