How to beat thia kind of pusher

Roland G

Hall of Fame
So the usual story, played this pusher yesterday and got completely destroyed. Total respect to him, he came with a game plan and executed to perfection.

I'm a baseline player, like to dicate from the back, move the player around and wait for a chance to approach or hit a winner.

This guy sliced everything back short, no pace, underpin etc causing me to overhit at the beginning and then eventually slow it down to his level.

When I did approach, his passing shot was a decent passing slice forehand or backhand or the dreaded underpin lob.

I was serving ok, but his slice return was high and floaty giving him time to recover for the next shot.

The only points I really won was when I could really rip one cross court or hit an overhead as I just couldn't get my usual baseline grind game going.

Need some advice please
 

socallefty

Legend
Learn to tee off on low, slow, underspin balls without making errors - do you think any 4.5+ players will have a problem hitting winners or forcing errors off slow, short balls? You just have to practice and get better at generating your own pace without making errors particularly on low balls. Get a coach for a lesson or two if needed as self-taught rec players avoid bending their knee as if there is a law against it and they also don’t have the footwork to stop with proper spacing from short balls.

In the meantime, did you try bringing him to net and passing or lobbing him? Also, was his BH slice or FH slice more bothersome for you? Whichever wing gave you less issues, serve and hit more to that side. My experience is that good slicers typically do it better with their BH although there are always exceptions.
 

OldManStan

Rookie
Have confidence in your shots and don’t give up on points. If they’re giving you short balls, attack with topspin approach shots and finish strong.

Read up on System 5 by Nick Bolleteri. Provides some interesting thoughts to approach the game. Here’s a short snippet:
 

zaph

Professional
My league is full of these kind of players and they are a nightmare to play. Now I am not sure they are actually pushers because they are employing an effective anti-pusher strategy. Pushers love defending the baseline, looking for errors from ballbashers, they hate playing at the net.

So what your opponent is doing is drawing you forward and then passing you. This is tough to deal with because their short junk is hard to generate any pace off and once you throw in a weak approach shot. You will get lobbed or passed.

I also found these players were fast, so unless you put the volley away they will once again get passed or they will lob you.

If you figure these guys out do tell me.
 

Crimsonchen

New User
To echo off the others, working on the net game and the approach shot is crucial. If you can come in and hit a short ball into one of the corners and then come in to finish the volley/smash, that would be ideal. Or at least that's how I've attacked pushers in the past. You need to be ready to attack short balls and finish at the net essentially. I like the idea of serve and volley too
 

pencilcheck

Hall of Fame
So the usual story, played this pusher yesterday and got completely destroyed. Total respect to him, he came with a game plan and executed to perfection.

I'm a baseline player, like to dicate from the back, move the player around and wait for a chance to approach or hit a winner.

This guy sliced everything back short, no pace, underpin etc causing me to overhit at the beginning and then eventually slow it down to his level.

When I did approach, his passing shot was a decent passing slice forehand or backhand or the dreaded underpin lob.

I was serving ok, but his slice return was high and floaty giving him time to recover for the next shot.

The only points I really won was when I could really rip one cross court or hit an overhead as I just couldn't get my usual baseline grind game going.

Need some advice please
Your approach shot sucks, fix it and you will start winning.

Or don't come to the net when your approach shot sucks.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
I fell I should beat my coaches with that bat lol
'Cause, like the OP I also just lost to a pusher (it was also my second hit of the day and the legs weren't there).
Haha. Wonder if a cricket bat would be more humane. It might be 0-40% heavier, but the greater surface area might sting somewhat less.
 

fundrazer

Legend
One thing that may help is to understand that such a player probably isn't going to put you under any pressure in the rallies. Should be able to play fairly safe in rallies, just focus on maintaining some depth and moderate pace and spin. Understand that you do not need to go for winners or try to force the ball. Eventually, he's likely to give you the right ball to go after. That's when you make your aggressive move in maybe going for a winner or approach shot.

This mindset helped me a lot with one of the pushers I played and struggled against for a few matches. Of course I've had some terrible outings against other pushers lately too...
 

socallefty

Legend
This is tough to deal with because their short junk is hard to generate any pace off
Why is it hard for you to generate pace off short junk? Can you generate pace off deep, slow balls or do only short, slow balls bother you? If you can’t generate pace off slow balls in general, that is a major hole in your technique that needs to be fixed as it means that you don’t take full swings at the ball with enough topspin to keep it in the court. If it is only short, slow balls you have problems with, it probably means that you are late getting to the ball and don’t have enough time to put a good swing on the ball before it drops too low. You might need to work on anticipation, split-stepping and other footwork issues like taking larger steps initially and then shorter steps to stop with good spacing from the ball - also, bending the knees to start your swing low is key to have a vertical swing that makes the ball clear the net.
 

Kralingen

Legend
At this point you’re not playing for money and you’re not playing for rankings. Tennis is purely a personal endeavor designed to be fun and challenging.

So why not rush the net? Why not try slices and drop shots of your own? Why not come forward every point and force him to hit a great passing shot every time? What do you have to lose? It will make both of you better players.
 

zaph

Professional
Why is it hard for you to generate pace off short junk? Can you generate pace off deep, slow balls or do only short, slow balls bother you? If you can’t generate pace off slow balls in general, that is a major hole in your technique that needs to be fixed as it means that you don’t take full swings at the ball with enough topspin to keep it in the court. If it is only short, slow balls you have problems with, it probably means that you are late getting to the ball and don’t have enough time to put a good swing on the ball before it drops too low. You might need to work on anticipation, split-stepping and other footwork issues like taking larger steps initially and then shorter steps to stop with good spacing from the ball - also, bending the knees to start your swing low is key to have a vertical swing that makes the ball clear the net.
It is pretty obvious, the ball is close to and below the level of net. You attempt to generate pace on that, you'ill either hit the net or go long. Serve volley players I have spoken to about this say that you shouldn't even try to generate pace in that position and placement is far more important.

The other issue is I play in Britain and I have tended to meet these kind of players on cold damp days. Combined with the tendency of council courts to have the net set too high, it becomes even more difficult to play thee kind of players.
 

a12345

Professional
The solution to the short low ball is to hit an approach shot which is low powered shot of your own, but with a load of topspin.

This is because since you're closer to the net you'll be able to hit with sharper angles, and also the weaker nature of your shot means that your opponent camped in the baseline can't even get to the ball. The ball will double bounce before it even reaches them.

If youre hitting a ball near your service line back to your opponent near their service line, and it has any angle to the left or right, it's not coming back.
 
Last edited:

Fintft

Legend
One thing that may help is to understand that such a player probably isn't going to put you under any pressure in the rallies. Should be able to play fairly safe in rallies, just focus on maintaining some depth and moderate pace and spin. Understand that you do not need to go for winners or try to force the ball. Eventually, he's likely to give you the right ball to go after. That's when you make your aggressive move in maybe going for a winner or approach shot.

This mindset helped me a lot with one of the pushers I played and struggled against for a few matches. Of course I've had some terrible outings against other pushers lately too...
On the contrary, I was playing too safe (after years or rallying) myself and I should have probably gone for margins more/sooner...
But my opponent wasn't using too many short balls, he also had depth etc.
 

stapletonj

Hall of Fame
you are a baseline player.
baseline players tend to not practice their approach shot much at all because they almost never use it.
In recalling my singles days in the 80s, I remember that an approach shot needs to be 3 things

1. deep
2. low
3. relatively near a sideline

If you only get one of these out of your approach shot, you are in trouble
If you get 2, you have about a 75% or better chance of winning the point
If you get all 3, you have a 95% chance of winning the point

stepping up and bashing a topspin approach is highly risky, even if it is deep and near a sideline, the ball is going to sit up to allow
your opponent a good crack at a pass or lob. If that's what you want to do, fine, but you should REALLY angle it short and off the court for a winner.
 

slipgrip93

Semi-Pro
From the baseline, maybe you could try to hit deep high and spinning, or flat and driving to the deep corners/inside-out, attempting to pressure his positioning and slices to be weaker, and not slow down your pace. (my armchair 2c)
 

socallefty

Legend
It is pretty obvious, the ball is close to and below the level of net. You attempt to generate pace on that, you'ill either hit the net or go long. Serve volley players I have spoken to about this say that you shouldn't even try to generate pace in that position and placement is far more important.

The other issue is I play in Britain and I have tended to meet these kind of players on cold damp days. Combined with the tendency of council courts to have the net set too high, it becomes even more difficult to play thee kind of players.
If your opponent is able to consistently hit shots that drop below the net before you make contact, then it is a problem. You do have to try to place it, but he will control the point pattern after that in terms of passing or lobbing you unless you can slice deep into the corners. In that case, job 1 is to figure out why your shots are not troubling him where he can hit short and low so often where you can’t get to them before they drop so low.

If an opponent’s shots are mid-court or towards the middle of the court with little topspin, that’s when I can easily hit short and low -either drop shots or short angles. I can also hit aggressive topspin shots deep to the corners off those balls. So, my opponent needs to hit deeper or closer to the sidelines or have much more topspin to prevent me from hitting short/low balls that trouble him. I call the middle of the court where it is not a drop shot or too deep the ‘suicide zone‘ as any good opponent will win the point if I hit even one ball that lands there. When I do drills with occasional players that I teach, we sometimes do a drill where we make a circle of tape in that spot and the junior has to make sure they avoid that - if they hit a ball that falls in the suicide zone, I usually try to hit a winner to show them what will likely happen in a match.
 

zaph

Professional
If your opponent is able to consistently hit shots that drop below the net before you make contact, then it is a problem. You do have to try to place it, but he will control the point pattern after that in terms of passing or lobbing you unless you can slice deep into the corners. In that case, job 1 is to figure out why your shots are not troubling him where he can hit short and low so often where you can’t get to them before they drop so low.

If an opponent’s shots are mid-court or towards the middle of the court with little topspin, that’s when I can easily hit short and low -either drop shots or short angles. I can also hit aggressive topspin shots deep to the corners off those balls. So, my opponent needs to hit deeper or closer to the sidelines or have much more topspin to prevent me from hitting short/low balls that trouble him. I call the middle of the court where it is not a drop shot or too deep the ‘suicide zone‘ as any good opponent will win the point if I hit even one ball that lands there. When I do drills with occasional players that I teach, we sometimes do a drill where we make a circle of tape in that spot and the junior has to make sure they avoid that - if they hit a ball that falls in the suicide zone, I usually try to hit a winner to show them what will likely happen in a match.
Your second paragraph isn't very helpful because the people I am playing are dropping the ball into the service box near the net. As for how they can do it? I don't have a powerful enough serve to stop them doing it.

To be fair I am getting more power but it has been relatively warm the last few times I have played. Hitting decent service power in warm conditions is easy. Experience has taught me doing the same when the weather gets colder is much harder.
 

socallefty

Legend
Your second paragraph isn't very helpful because the people I am playing are dropping the ball into the service box near the net. As for how they can do it? I don't have a powerful enough serve to stop them doing it.

To be fair I am getting more power but it has been relatively warm the last few times I have played. Hitting decent service power in warm conditions is easy. Experience has taught me doing the same when the weather gets colder is much harder.
I see that they are doing it on returns. You either have to develop more power/spin on your serves (not easy without lessons) or you have to get more directional accuracy where you can serve to smaller targets. I empathize with your comment about finding it harder to hold serve when it is cold. I get broken a lot more in winter, but I don’t let it bother me because I break the opponent‘s serve a lot more also. Also, in slow conditions (cold, high humidity), I don’t serve much to the opponent‘s stronger wing which is typically their FH - occasionally, an opponent‘s BH slice creates short angled returns which lead to unfavorable point patterns and then I avoid serving to the BH. Deep body serves are very good in cold conditions as it forces opponents to move their feet and get out of the way - if they are feeling sluggish in the cold, it can jam them. I’m a lefty and I try to use the slice into the body more in the winter rather than my wide slice into their BH.
 

stapletonj

Hall of Fame
"Hitting decent service power in warm conditions is easy. Experience has taught me doing the same when the weather gets colder is much harder."

drop your tension about 5 lbs when it gets cold.
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
Terrible advice in this thread.
Even ATP pros don't tee off on low slices.
They slice back. Learn to slice.
You do not dictate against a slicer unless you are a level above him.
 

spottishwood

Semi-Pro
I'd take a junk baller over High topspin baseliner any day. I approach the net every now and then and these slice hitting players can't pass me that easily. So I'd say improve your approach and try to rush him. Those sort of players won't miss so you just can't play passive and rely on UEs.
 

HuusHould

Professional
I would second the advice that it's difficult to tee off on a low ball, esp close to the net. That doesn't mean you shouldn't occasionally do it. But I'd be looking to;

1 (a.) Approach the net with slice - you can practice this on court by yourself feed with backspin 2m in front of you, wait for the 2nd bounce when it's lowish, move forward straight away though, slice the fh/bh, run through the shot and shadow stroke a volley and smash. (You can do the same slicing high balls, but it sounds like he doesnt give you many high balls?). Try to hit heavy slice approach shot, imo the more revolutions on the shot the better. Also, drill your volley and smash. Get someone you hit with to mix it up between the two for say 5 min non stop.
(b.) Serve and volley - If his returns are always at your feet, look to hang back a bit and slice a groundstroke approach shot instead of your 1st volley, (so it's more of a first strike chip and charge than S&V), then if he starts hitting deeper commit to coming right in as far as you can get and ideally volleying the return of serve, but half volleying if you have to.

2. Drop shot- From down low you'll have to go either inside out (but you can decide fh or bh in your bh court- you can decide late) or hit the dropshot with pure backspin (no sideways shape) - Again try to be as specific as you can in drilling this, what parts of the court does he slice to as his bread and butter? and what angle is the ball coming at? (simulate these as precisely as you can). You can replicate the angle and height of his shots against a wall or feeding to yourself on court, with backspin (this will of course come to you as topspin), but you'll need a skilled partner to replicate the backspin of your opponent's shot.

Punish him in your matches for playing short in the court and giving you angle to work with, by drop shotting. Encouraging him to hit deeper and more centrally. Then you can sneak into the net more often, when you have him on the run. In your return games come in even when the rally is neutral, occasionally (you're not expected to break serve so you can take more risk), so he has to keep one eye on the ball and one eye on you. (once or twice a set - particularly say at 15-40 break point up, when you might expect him to be a bit conservative) Chip and charge occasionally, esp if he's serving down the T or short and wide.

3. Take the ball early/neutralise up the middle - Skilled slice players will jerk you around and pull you out of court with slices with a bit of shape. It actually takes less skill to open up the court this way with slice than it does to roll topspin angles. So even if you don't plan on approaching the net, cut off the angle of his shots and aim for the centre hash. If he starts sneaking in to the net when you do this, you might need to aim closer to the lines more often when defending, but still try to play centrally as often as possible.

4. Make him move - In contrast to the previous point, (which refers to when youre on the defensive or neutral in the rally) when you can attack you want to again take the ball early, but also play aggressively into the open court.

5. Hit deep - in contrast to my 2nd point, when you do drive the ball, try to keep it deep, it's hard to slice any sort of ball that lands within 6 feet of the baseline.

6. Take the pace off your first serve - Start by trying to open up the court with your first serve. If you posess a decent slider and kicker, you can use them a bit more often on your first ball than you normally do, out wide to the deuce and ad courts respectively. Most pushers like pace (if you give them a constant fast paced serve they'll block the return back deep) and they are error free if you dont force them to hit on the move/stretched. Mix up the pace of your 1st serve, (so they're forced to adapt their swing) then take the reply as early as you can.
 
Last edited:

zaph

Professional
I see that they are doing it on returns. You either have to develop more power/spin on your serves (not easy without lessons) or you have to get more directional accuracy where you can serve to smaller targets. I empathize with your comment about finding it harder to hold serve when it is cold. I get broken a lot more in winter, but I don’t let it bother me because I break the opponent‘s serve a lot more also. Also, in slow conditions (cold, high humidity), I don’t serve much to the opponent‘s stronger wing which is typically their FH - occasionally, an opponent‘s BH slice creates short angled returns which lead to unfavorable point patterns and then I avoid serving to the BH. Deep body serves are very good in cold conditions as it forces opponents to move their feet and get out of the way - if they are feeling sluggish in the cold, it can jam them. I’m a lefty and I try to use the slice into the body more in the winter rather than my wide slice into their BH.
Not sure I can get much more power. To be fair my first serve reaches the back fence without hitting ground and I can hit a second serve which has enough kick to go clean over someones head.

Unfortunately to do this I am having to throw my whole body into the serve, so whether I can control this over three sets remains to be seen.
 

moonballs

Hall of Fame
In the rec players community there are guys practicing net skimming short slides for many years and reaching good levels to hold their ground against 4.0, 4.5 level. They are not pushers, more of junk ballers. Remember at the top level Fed is an expert at the short slices. Playing them always requires a lot of running lol.
 

mental midget

Hall of Fame
One thing that may help is to understand that such a player probably isn't going to put you under any pressure in the rallies. Should be able to play fairly safe in rallies, just focus on maintaining some depth and moderate pace and spin. Understand that you do not need to go for winners or try to force the ball. Eventually, he's likely to give you the right ball to go after. That's when you make your aggressive move in maybe going for a winner or approach shot.

This mindset helped me a lot with one of the pushers I played and struggled against for a few matches. Of course I've had some terrible outings against other pushers lately too...
this! pushers make you feel like you SHOULD be hitting winners all the time...just treat it like a practice session almost, push back a bit if you're not comfortable at the net. relax a bit and lower the urgency to end the point, and develop things until you get something high percentage to force the issue. assuming you're the 'better player', it might take longer but you'll probably win handily.
 

zaph

Professional
this! pushers make you feel like you SHOULD be hitting winners all the time...just treat it like a practice session almost, push back a bit if you're not comfortable at the net. relax a bit and lower the urgency to end the point, and develop things until you get something high percentage to force the issue. assuming you're the 'better player', it might take longer but you'll probably win handily.
Tried that, doesn't work. If you attempt to push back at the net you will get passed. These guys are fast and have enough skill once they have run a ball down to find the passing shot. The approach and the volley have to be good to have any chance of success.
 

vex

Hall of Fame
someone already said it but your problem is ANTICIPATION. What his racket to see which direction he’s hitting then be ready to move up. Get to the short ball half a second earlier hit it higher and start punishing him for hitting short. Then execute overheads and volleys to win
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
Not sure I can get much more power. To be fair my first serve reaches the back fence without hitting ground and I can hit a second serve which has enough kick to go clean over someones head.

Unfortunately to do this I am having to throw my whole body into the serve, so whether I can control this over three sets remains to be seen.
I can hit a full effort kicker that reaches head height, and I can hit a 70% effort kicker that bounces shoulder high.

Why don't you post a video of you hitting a kicker that goes clean over someone's head and I can help you hit that at 70% where you can do it for three sets and still bounce it head high?
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
I can hit a full effort kicker that reaches head height, and I can hit a 70% effort kicker that bounces shoulder high.

Why don't you post a video of you hitting a kicker that goes clean over someone's head and I can help you hit that at 70% where you can do it for three sets and still bounce it head high?
Username absolutely does not check out
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
Haha. Wonder if a cricket bat would be more humane. It might be 0-40% heavier, but the greater surface area might sting somewhat less.
Pad the person up before walloping the stuffing out of the person to minimise bruising
I'm a baseline player, like to dicate from the back, move the player around and wait for a chance to approach or hit a winner.

This guy sliced everything back short, no pace, underpin etc causing me to overhit at the beginning and then eventually slow it down to his level.
So this should be of no surprise to you but if you can't put away a short ball then I am reluctant to believe that you like to or are able to dictate from the back and wait for a chance to approach or hit a winner.

If he's slicing everything back short with no pace, then every shot he hits to you is "a chance to approach or hit a winner", which you say is what you like. My guess is that (relative to your level) you're just a bit more consistent and can hit the big targets with decent accuracy than your peers, but don't do as much dictating from the baseline as you think.

You'll never do away with UEs entirely when putting short balls away, but for the most part these should be easy. Have you tried short drop feeds? Once you get that crabwalking shuffle forehand winner vibe off short drop feeds, those short dinks you've described will quickly become a glorified ball feed session.
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
It's very hard to hit a slice short. Do you mean drop shot? The slicers I play drive the slice to the baseline. Slices tend to float long, not short. Opposite of topspin.
 

mental midget

Hall of Fame
Tried that, doesn't work. If you attempt to push back at the net you will get passed. These guys are fast and have enough skill once they have run a ball down to find the passing shot. The approach and the volley have to be good to have any chance of success.
maybe i didn't phrase that right, my point was to avoid the net if you're not comfortable up there and just raise your rally tolerance essentially--don't be on the lookout for winners unless they give you something high percentage to tee off on. in simplest terms, you should be able to out-push a pusher if you're the better player. like i said it might take longer but if they're waiting for errors...don't make any.
 

Roland G

Hall of Fame
Learn to tee off on low, slow, underspin balls without making errors - do you think any 4.5+ players will have a problem hitting winners or forcing errors off slow, short balls? You just have to practice and get better at generating your own pace without making errors particularly on low balls. Get a coach for a lesson or two if needed as self-taught rec players avoid bending their knee as if there is a law against it and they also don’t have the footwork to stop with proper spacing from short balls.

In the meantime, did you try bringing him to net and passing or lobbing him? Also, was his BH slice or FH slice more bothersome for you? Whichever wing gave you less issues, serve and hit more to that side. My experience is that good slicers typically do it better with their BH although there are always exceptions.
True, I wasn't getting underneath the ball and whipping it up enough. Also, I didn't notice which side he was less or more solid on
 

Roland G

Hall of Fame
Serve and volley. Attack attack attack. If you think your attacking enough attack more. Make them pass you with slice. Unless you are good enough from the baseline to beat this type of player if you hang back your playing right into their hands.
Will serve and volley like there is no tomorrow next time
 

Roland G

Hall of Fame
My league is full of these kind of players and they are a nightmare to play. Now I am not sure they are actually pushers because they are employing an effective anti-pusher strategy. Pushers love defending the baseline, looking for errors from ballbashers, they hate playing at the net.

So what your opponent is doing is drawing you forward and then passing you. This is tough to deal with because their short junk is hard to generate any pace off and once you throw in a weak approach shot. You will get lobbed or passed.

I also found these players were fast, so unless you put the volley away they will once again get passed or they will lob you.

If you figure these guys out do tell me.
I think pusher is a pretty mean term for this guy, he did have strategy to beat me and to his credit, it worked so respect to him. He wanted to give me no pace, pile a load of slow, low and junky balls on me and keep me away from the baseline, where I am most comfortable. Put it this way, I cannot wait to play him again
 

Roland G

Hall of Fame
I'd take a junk baller over High topspin baseliner any day. I approach the net every now and then and these slice hitting players can't pass me that easily. So I'd say improve your approach and try to rush him. Those sort of players won't miss so you just can't play passive and rely on UEs.
Give me a topspin baller any day!!!
 

Roland G

Hall of Fame
someone already said it but your problem is ANTICIPATION. What his racket to see which direction he’s hitting then be ready to move up. Get to the short ball half a second earlier hit it higher and start punishing him for hitting short. Then execute overheads and volleys to win
Will do
 

FlamingCheeto

Professional
what level are you playing at?
Best tips to beating a pusher:
1. Do NOT push back, worst thing you can do is start pushing back balls with no pace, short in the middle of the court.
2. cue from #1, take big cuts cross court with your forehand and make THEM RUN, tire them out as you run them from corner to corner.
3. once you push them back far enough, FOLLOW your approach to the net for an easy put away volley.
4. or cue from 3, hit a drop shop and bring them to the net, followed by an easy topspin lob, keeping them running and tiring them out.
 

Roland G

Hall of Fame
In the rec players community there are guys practicing net skimming short slides for many years and reaching good levels to hold their ground against 4.0, 4.5 level. They are not pushers, more of junk ballers. Remember at the top level Fed is an expert at the short slices. Playing them always requires a lot of running lol.
Too much running indeed, I want the ball to come to ME!
 
Top