From Pusher to Shotmaker.

Ripper

Hall of Fame
The same as everyone here, when I started playing tennis, my game plan was simple, get everything back. One day, I got destroyed by an advanced shotmaker and decided I wanted to play like him. So, my game plan went from simple to, even, more simple: HIT WINNERS! Problem with this Blake type of approach was, against Agassi type of players, who keep you running like crazy, I used to miss a bit too much. However, now, I've toned it down a bit and, actually, play with much more intelligence. On a good day (basically, when I play with good energy and focus), I can, now, beat anyone... well, I need to believe it :grin:

Edit: Anyway, the purpose of this post is, simply, to say to pushers out there that you can change your game (and get out of that level you're stuck in), if you want to. It's not going to be easy, but nothing that's worth it is easy to obtain. The most difficult part, for me, was learning to hit, while on the run, with the pinpoint directional accuracy that's required for this. It took a huge effort to go from one extreme to the other, but I did it. You can, too!

Edit 2: Hummm, well, you don't have to go from one extreme to the other, like I did, but, at least, get out of full pushing mode ;)
 
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Oxford

Rookie
Congrats on your success. :)

but...


Don't wanna rain on your parade but there are plenty of pushers who will return just about any power shot you throw at them. And they will push you with position shots, slices, angles, lobs, passing shots etc. They might not be a baseline powershot basher but what they got; they know how to beat you.
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
It's sad really, some pushers that I have seen. I warmed up with a fine pusher recently that actually could hit real honest topspin with directional control and PACE, and hit winners with it. But the minute the match starts, all that fades instantly, and it'S back to the chopping slices to get it back, or weak blocks.

Some guys simply cannot accept losing to improve their games. And I guess thats fun to them. It has to be or they wouldn't persist doing it over time.

Yes it can be done - but to cross from pusher over to the other side...they have to spend time on technique, and practicing that technique. That is what I call the 'bitter tea' required to build a better game. This not only takes time, patience, and setting the ego aside, but it also takes knowlege, which many may not possess or have access to.
 

Sliceboy2

Rookie
Return as much as you can and wait for the opportunity to hit a winner, If your opponent can return 1000 times you should be able to return 1001 times, then chances are you will win every point on the rally. If you feel that you are always getting pushed and on the run, you know that he is better than you, you need to improve. That what my trainer said to me when I was starting to learn tennis.
 

LuckyR

Legend
There is nothing wrong with having an aversion to unforced errors. That is how accomplished players are able to hit with significant pace and still get the ball in. Otherwise, if a beginner just starts cranking up the pace in a quest to get "better" and is spraying heavily hit balls all over the back fence, do you really think that one day that guy is going to wake up and the balls will magically start falling in? How's your buddy the Toothfairy?
 

habib

Professional
It's sad really, some pushers that I have seen. I warmed up with a fine pusher recently that actually could hit real honest topspin with directional control and PACE, and hit winners with it. But the minute the match starts, all that fades instantly, and it'S back to the chopping slices to get it back, or weak blocks.
In many cases, this is a result of a lack of match confidence. These guys are free swingers in practice, but tighten up during matches and can't hit their shots with nearly the same freedom or effectiveness. So..they resort to just getting it back in.
 

dman72

Hall of Fame
It's sad really, some pushers that I have seen. I warmed up with a fine pusher recently that actually could hit real honest topspin with directional control and PACE, and hit winners with it. But the minute the match starts, all that fades instantly, and it'S back to the chopping slices to get it back, or weak blocks.

Some guys simply cannot accept losing to improve their games. And I guess thats fun to them. It has to be or they wouldn't persist doing it over time.

Yes it can be done - but to cross from pusher over to the other side...they have to spend time on technique, and practicing that technique. That is what I call the 'bitter tea' required to build a better game. This not only takes time, patience, and setting the ego aside, but it also takes knowlege, which many may not possess or have access to.
On my forehand side, I can hit the ball as hard as anybody, and in warmups and practice I do, but I now back my pace off by quite a bit when a match starts. Why? Losing to too many people who just kept hitting it back until you hit the ball 6 inches long or into the top of the net.

I guess if I was playing every day and devoting most of the time playing to practice, my goal might be to just hit the snot out of the ball, but I'd also like to win some matches. I play 2-3 times a week and it's mostly matches, and if I stop making errors, I can beat most of the guys that I play. So I either 1) Keep trying to crush the ball and lose 2) Concentrate on not making errrors with the strokes I have now.

This is the reality of 3.5-4.0 life. When I win the lottery and start playing every day, I'll work on my bashing more.
 

Ripper

Hall of Fame
...but I'd also like to win some matches. I play 2-3 times a week and it's mostly matches, and if I stop making errors, I can beat most of the guys that I play...

This is the reality of 3.5-4.0 life. When I win the lottery and start playing every day, I'll work on my bashing more.
In the process of switching from pusher to... anything else, some losses have to be accepted. The only way to learn how to, actually, hit winners IS TO TRY. Obviously, it's not only a matter of deciding to do it. There's a lot of work to be done. However, imo, advancing from "3.5-4.0 life" is worth it. And you don't have to play everyday, just make the best out of the time you have at the courts.
 

Oxford

Rookie
In the process of switching from pusher to... anything else, some losses have to be accepted. The only way to learn how to, actually, hit winners IS TO TRY. Obviously, it's not only a matter of deciding to do it. There's a lot of work to be done. However, imo, advancing from "3.5-4.0 life" is worth it. And you don't have to play everyday, just make the best out of the time you have at the courts.

Agreed. Great post. That is my life right now. I swing away using stuff I am working on. Yep, I am a work-in-progress and expect to beat myself and I do.

But then I have those MOMENTS where my desired game shows up and my form starts nailing winners FH and BH or serves and slices are unreturnable.

I have been going through months of getting beat bad on the court. I mean a ton of 0-6 games. But I just laugh about it and keep to my overall plan. You have to be willing to take your beating to get better. There is no way around it. How can you improve otherwise.

And now I am starting to win more and win with my aggressive game. My opponents are kinda freaking as they see my higher level playing giving them fits. I still have a long way to go but on the right track.

Don't be hesitant to lose in order to win alot more later on. ;)

ox
 

limitup

Professional
It strikes me as odd that so many people that aren't pros care about winning. I guess it's just how your brain is wired. I'd much rather have a fun, exciting, challenging, "push it to the limits" game than be a pusher. Who cares if I lose? Being a pusher is a complete waste of time if you ask me. I actually refuse to play pushers because it's not fun. Isn't that why we play tennis??
 

lethalfang

Professional
It strikes me as odd that so many people that aren't pros care about winning. I guess it's just how your brain is wired. I'd much rather have a fun, exciting, challenging, "push it to the limits" game than be a pusher. Who cares if I lose? Being a pusher is a complete waste of time if you ask me. I actually refuse to play pushers because it's not fun. Isn't that why we play tennis??
Exactly!
I am not a tennis professional and I do not play for any meaningful teams, thus, it is NOT MY JOB to win. I play to have fun. That's it, to have fun.
Except that I have no problem playing pushers. It's fun when you never have to play defense in a match. :-D
 

LuckyR

Legend
Good point!! Why do the rules even specify keeping score?

Because it is a form of competition, that's why! I'm better, you're worse, climb to the top of the pyramid etc...
 

Mick

Legend
Exactly!
I am not a tennis professional and I do not play for any meaningful teams, thus, it is NOT MY JOB to win. I play to have fun. That's it, to have fun.
Except that I have no problem playing pushers. It's fun when you never have to play defense in a match. :-D
I am with you. I like playing against pushers more than against any other types of player because they don't attack and they would give me time to prepare for my winning shots.
 

Elyod Nanoc

New User
There is nothing wrong with having an aversion to unforced errors. That is how accomplished players are able to hit with significant pace and still get the ball in. Otherwise, if a beginner just starts cranking up the pace in a quest to get "better" and is spraying heavily hit balls all over the back fence, do you really think that one day that guy is going to wake up and the balls will magically start falling in? How's your buddy the Toothfairy?
Yes, I do think he is going to wake up and the balls will magically start falling in and the Toothfairy is very healthy even though she(or he,maybe) is very busy.

btw Santa clause is also healthy and having fun with Mrs. Clause, but one of the elves died from turbocluloses(I don't know how to spell that)
 

lethalfang

Professional
Good point!! Why do the rules even specify keeping score?

Because it is a form of competition, that's why! I'm better, you're worse, climb to the top of the pyramid etc...
Winning is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to become a better shot maker, and therefore a better player.
Winning is merely a symptom of becoming a better player. When you do things right, winning and losing will take care of themselves.
When you only focus on winning, like eternal pushers, you don't get far.

Edit: the reason winning is not the ultimate goal is that, there will ALWAYS be players against whom you'll NEVER win, but that does not mean you should quit improving.
 
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LuckyR

Legend
Winning is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to become a better shot maker, and therefore a better player.
Winning is merely a symptom of becoming a better player. When you do things right, winning and losing will take care of themselves.
When you only focus on winning, like eternal pushers, you don't get far.
My advice is to switch to a "scored" event like figure skating, that way rationalizations like: "I'm a better tennis player, even though I lost the match", will have some credence.

BTW, don't play Bait and Switch by misquoting that anyone was only focusing on winning.
 

LuckyR

Legend
Yes, I do think he is going to wake up and the balls will magically start falling in and the Toothfairy is very healthy even though she(or he,maybe) is very busy.

btw Santa clause is also healthy and having fun with Mrs. Clause, but one of the elves died from turbocluloses(I don't know how to spell that)
Hahaha....
 

lethalfang

Professional
My advice is to switch to a "scored" event like figure skating, that way rationalizations like: "I'm a better tennis player, even though I lost the match", will have some credence.

BTW, don't play Bait and Switch by misquoting that anyone was only focusing on winning.
Why do pushers push? Because it gives them immediate chance to win. Yes, some people only focus on winning and winning now.

On an unrelated note, you ain't gonna be an ATP Top 10, so you ain't gonna win any meaningful matches. Might as well have some fun while hitting the ball.
 

Ripper

Hall of Fame
This seems to have turned in to a "should I care about winning or not" discussion. Look, I do care about winning. There, I said it. However, I wanted to move up and out of the 3.5-4.0 level, too. So, I had to work hard at it. And, as part of the process, I had to lose some matches, too. If there's another way, tell me, eventhough it would be too late, because I already did it that way. In any case, I can, now, focus on winning, again... and against much harder competition ;)
 

herosol

Professional
are you a pusher if one:

1. You're not just sending it back, it has the direction you want, maybe not with the best pace, but its getting there

2. Your winners are not constructed by excellent shots, rather you find openings where any decent groundstroke could be a winner
 

lethalfang

Professional
Nope, not a pusher.
The only winners a pusher will ever hit are frame shots.

are you a pusher if one:

1. You're not just sending it back, it has the direction you want, maybe not with the best pace, but its getting there

2. Your winners are not constructed by excellent shots, rather you find openings where any decent groundstroke could be a winner
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
On my forehand side, I can hit the ball as hard as anybody, and in warmups and practice I do, but I now back my pace off by quite a bit when a match starts. Why? Losing to too many people who just kept hitting it back until you hit the ball 6 inches long or into the top of the net.

I guess if I was playing every day and devoting most of the time playing to practice, my goal might be to just hit the snot out of the ball, but I'd also like to win some matches. I play 2-3 times a week and it's mostly matches, and if I stop making errors, I can beat most of the guys that I play. So I either 1) Keep trying to crush the ball and lose 2) Concentrate on not making errrors with the strokes I have now.

This is the reality of 3.5-4.0 life. When I win the lottery and start playing every day, I'll work on my bashing more.
Backing pace off in a match is not pushing if you are still using good stroke mechanics...it just means maybe you are tight. We all get tight.

I have played guys that are NOT pushers, that have every stroke, topspin forehand, backhand, overhead, and volleys----and they don't use ANY PACE. These are not pushers. They can make every shot. There is nothing wrong with this.

You CAN get comfortable enough in a match to start hitting looser, and playing the game you envision, as long as it is realistic. The only way to loosen up and not be tight in a match is to understand and embrace what it is that makes you tight. It is different for everyone. Wanting to win too badly can do it. A pretty girl watching can do it. Maybe you can't stand some opponents. Maybe you pull the trigger too soon consitently and it makes you think you can't hit out. Finding the key is hard, but it can be done.
 

beernutz

Hall of Fame
Interesting. I try to move my opponent around in order to increase their rate of UEs. Part of that strategy is moving them forward then passing or lobbing over them. I will also take short balls and hit approach shots in order to come in and finish the point with a volley or series of volleys. OTOH, I rarely hit winners of any kind when both myself and my opponent are behind our respective baselines. Does this make me a pusher? Semi-pusher?
 

Ripper

Hall of Fame
Interesting. I try to move my opponent around in order to increase their rate of UEs. Part of that strategy is moving them forward then passing or lobbing over them. I will also take short balls and hit approach shots in order to come in and finish the point with a volley or series of volleys. OTOH, I rarely hit winners of any kind when both myself and my opponent are behind our respective baselines. Does this make me a pusher? Semi-pusher?
Not a pusher, in my book... but not a shotmaker, either.
 

[ GTR ]

Semi-Pro
Interesting. I try to move my opponent around in order to increase their rate of UEs. Part of that strategy is moving them forward then passing or lobbing over them. I will also take short balls and hit approach shots in order to come in and finish the point with a volley or series of volleys. OTOH, I rarely hit winners of any kind when both myself and my opponent are behind our respective baselines. Does this make me a pusher? Semi-pusher?
Counterpuncher?
 

Jackie T. Stephens

Professional
are you a pusher if one:

1. You're not just sending it back, it has the direction you want, maybe not with the best pace, but its getting there

2. Your winners are not constructed by excellent shots, rather you find openings where any decent groundstroke could be a winner
Exactly, and thats why I'm such a good pusher!!
 

GuyClinch

Legend
Sooner or later you have to play to win though. I find this argument that well you should be trying to improve your game and thus hitting out all the time silly.

Do you play basketball and only launch three pointers because those layups wouldn't be "Improving" your "game." Do you play pool and only go for ridiculous combo shots because you want to "improve." I doubt it.

It's just as dumb in tennis to do so. Play to win. Actually hitting with pace and direction HELPS YOU WIN against better players. So you will learn to do that eventually. You need world class speed to beat good players as a "pusher."

Play to win. Push when it's a good time to do so (your on defense, out of position etc etc) but try to hit with pace and direction when things are going right for you. That's how the pros do it - that's how we should do it.

Pete
 

LuckyR

Legend
Why do pushers push? Because it gives them immediate chance to win. Yes, some people only focus on winning and winning now.

On an unrelated note, you ain't gonna be an ATP Top 10, so you ain't gonna win any meaningful matches. Might as well have some fun while hitting the ball.

I am not addressing the "pusher" question, since that term means many different things to different folks. However, if a person (you?) will lose to a guy who plays very high percentage tennis because that person continuously makes unforced errors, then they are worse at tennis than the other guy. They can rationalize that they play a higher level of tennis or somesuch, but they are inferior at tennis right now. They may and probably will improve. But to think that a high percentage player will not also improve is naive.

On your unrelated note. Tennis was invented long before people played it for money. What Pros do is irrelevent to the discussion of trying to win a competitive game. There is a lot more to life than money, believe it. What makes you think that my matches mean any less to me (or other Forum members) than Pro matches do to Pros? I have never thrown a match in my life, unlike say, Davydenko...
 

dman72

Hall of Fame
Sooner or later you have to play to win though. I find this argument that well you should be trying to improve your game and thus hitting out all the time silly.

Do you play basketball and only launch three pointers because those layups wouldn't be "Improving" your "game." Do you play pool and only go for ridiculous combo shots because you want to "improve." I doubt it.

It's just as dumb in tennis to do so. Play to win. Actually hitting with pace and direction HELPS YOU WIN against better players. So you will learn to do that eventually. You need world class speed to beat good players as a "pusher."

Play to win. Push when it's a good time to do so (your on defense, out of position etc etc) but try to hit with pace and direction when things are going right for you. That's how the pros do it - that's how we should do it.

Pete


Precisely. If you want to hit with pace with me on every shot, I'll do it...in hitting. But, you may see that same pace about 10% of the time during a match, because hitting that hard is bad tennis for someone at my level, and for most guys I play.
 

Ripper

Hall of Fame
Anyway, the point here is, if you consider yourself a pusher and are happy with your game style, you shouldn't let anybody tell you to change it, because it's a legal and legit style. HOWEVER, if you consider yourself a pusher and would like to change it, just go for it. Stop being afraid, you can do it. Achieving anything in life requires moving out of your comfort zone and this is no different. Once the process is over, you'll have a new comfort zone on a higher playing level. Why is that bad? That's all I'm saying.
 

LuckyR

Legend
Anyway, the point here is, if you consider yourself a pusher and are happy with your game style, you shouldn't let anybody tell you to change it, because it's a legal and legit style. HOWEVER, if you consider yourself a pusher and would like to change it, just go for it. Stop being afraid, you can do it. Achieving anything in life requires moving out of your comfort zone and this is no different. Once the process is over, you'll have a new comfort zone on a higher playing level. Why is that bad? That's all I'm saying.

No sweat, many power baseliners were once pushers. Getting that high percentage mentality through one's skull is definitely beneficial in reaching the higher echelons of tennis.
 

sliceworks76

New User
What interests me is the flawed definition of a "shotmaker" as someone who goes for their shots and hits hard. To me, this is the type of person who also misses a lot, which makes them really dumb. They're also easy to beat, which is fun for me.

At the 4.0-4.5 level, just hitting harder and going for winners is not the way to win matches. The difference is largely due to speed, consistency, and tactics, which have little to do with pace. While it might be more "macho" to hit bigger, it's less manly to lose 6-1, 6-1. To each his own, I guess.
 

desilvam

Rookie
There is nothing wrong with pushing the ball back deep. Depth is often more important than pace or spin.

Which of these 2 hypothetical players is the real pusher?

Player 1 - Consistently 'pushes' the ball back very deep, using flat or slice groundstrokes.

Player 2 - Hits shots with a big swing and lots of topspin that consistently land around the service line.
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
Anyway, the point here is, if you consider yourself a pusher and are happy with your game style, you shouldn't let anybody tell you to change it, because it's a legal and legit style. HOWEVER, if you consider yourself a pusher and would like to change it, just go for it. Stop being afraid, you can do it. Achieving anything in life requires moving out of your comfort zone and this is no different. Once the process is over, you'll have a new comfort zone on a higher playing level. Why is that bad? That's all I'm saying.
Well this is a great point, but in all honestly, I don't think it is possible for many pushers, and this is why...

Increasing both spin and pace require more than just starting to hit harder. Those two very key things developed so they can be used in a consistent fashion, are more the results of well developed and refined technique combined with good footwork, than anything else.

Many of the honest to goodness pushers I know, have technique that would make you shudder and hide your children. They have so many stroke and timing flaws that they would have to start from ground zero to change it, and they are not going to do that. They have no choice but to push.

I feel strongly, that the key factor for a person, wanting to go from pusher to a strong ball striker, is a keen focus on technique. And that doesn't happen playing matches. That happens in a practice session with a willing partner. And then you try to translate that into matches if you can stand losing.

Here are a list of things I would give a pusher that is willing to work, on moving from pusher to striker.

1. Stance - (Platform), how you set up your feet to be balanced, and allow a power transfer with the body.
2. Grips - Which grips to use for what type of forehand or backhand.
3. Unit Turn - Loads the 'potential' for power needed to hit strong shots.
4. Contact Zone - How far out front is optimal for contact without muscling the ball. This produces better timing, and greater power with less effort. This can take a LOT of work.
5. Drilling 1-4 without hitting hard. This should be done for weeks/months.
6. Head Movement and Balance - Keeping the head still through contact, not looking up.
7. Footwork - Not leaning out for shots, but taking one more step to remain balanced.
8. Combining 1-7 and beginning to move the ball around so they have to move and set up and stay balanced at all times.

Ok, so this is like a huge amount of things to work on, and takes months to ingrain and learn well. This is combined with regular playing, but is the FOCUS of the first level. And notice, forehand is the focus at first, backhand is coming later. If you can do it on one side, you can darn well learn it on the other side too. :grin:

Everything begins to build on top of the stance, footwork, balance, and contact zone.

When this looks and feels 100% better, then start adding more subtle elements of technique.

9. Arm and wrist - Most pushers bend (motion) their elbows a lot prematurely in their strokes. This is a huge flaw that must be removed on both sides. They should focus on proper arm and wrist alignment, and then allowing the body to drive the stoke. This will cause their timing to have to adjust. It's hard.
10. Grips Revisited - Now that the footwork, legs, body and contact zone are in place, and we fix the arm and elbow, we may need to look at the grips again. The grip should allow the stroke to flow effortlessly as the body unloads from the stance. This is a critical combination that must be right for good timing, power, and consistency. A grip adjustment can change the contact zone.
11. Slice Backhand - Fix any flaws here, this should be bread and butter for the ex-pusher to stay in the points while they work on their topspin backhand in practice, LOL.
12. Topspin Backahnd - Step 1 thru 11 in due time. Figure 6 months to a year to feel comfortable unless you are a natural or hit a 2HBH.

Ok, you guys see where I am going with all of this.

The point is...this is the process, or something similar to it, to improve technique. You don't want to have to THINK about technique in matches. You have to build and drill each component, so the next piece can be stacked on top, and you think about that current piece not the previous one.

I'll end this ridiculously long post now, but the idea is to continue with court coverage, high balls, low balls, spins, volleys, overheads, serves, etc, until your game start to fill out.

Sorry for the long post. I hope some find it useful.
 

lethalfang

Professional
What interests me is the flawed definition of a "shotmaker" as someone who goes for their shots and hits hard. To me, this is the type of person who also misses a lot, which makes them really dumb. They're also easy to beat, which is fun for me.

At the 4.0-4.5 level, just hitting harder and going for winners is not the way to win matches. The difference is largely due to speed, consistency, and tactics, which have little to do with pace. While it might be more "macho" to hit bigger, it's less manly to lose 6-1, 6-1. To each his own, I guess.
What you're describing is a James Blake wannabe.
 
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