It’s time we stop bashing “pushers”

R1FF

Professional
When I start applying this theory to some of the people I play against, it holds up. Spot on.
Im further dissecting this at this moment.

I passed on earlier opportunities to marry girls that were better in bed, but higher maintenance / less chance of long term success. I waited until I found a girl that was both pretty & stable before committing to family... like a nice high & deep topspin backhand that allows me to jog up to the net for the easy volley on their weak return.

And had I never come across one? I was prepared for the tennis match of life to never end. And I woulda lost, because Father Time is a pusher, and he’s undefeated as a result. But like tennis, I eventually learned to volley so I halfway look like I know what Im doing.

All my peers? Rushed into things. Mostly all divorced or miserable.

We’re 8 yrs in. Things getting better with each year. I just started my 5th year of tennis, and starting to make huge strides... Maybe proving that “pushing” is the best foundation to build from.

Then again, Im a huge proponent of risk taking in business. Maybe that’s why Im not retired yet even tho I should’ve been 10 yrs ago. Hmmm.

Wow. What a rabbit hole to go down. So much to unpack here.
 
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shamaho

Professional
True story.

As I said before, the one junker in my stable is at his best once he’s down big. He just stops caring and wacking away at low % slices... the less he cares, the better he does.

At least the orthadox pusher is trying to win. I can respect that.

The junker I know? He starts winning when he’s given up! Uber frustrating!!!
Oh that happens to me and I'm 180 away from pusher family - not a basher also... though.

When I'm so frustrated and I feel like walking away in disgust but don't do it out of respect for my opponent - but I totally and utterly just give up - that's when it starts clicking!

I play in a very soft way placing balls at will, I end up toying with my opponent until.... I have serve to close out the set... then it's back to regular programming LOL :)

For me, It's the very best mental state to be it - total detachment - just not easy when you're 5/5 or closing out a set...
 

Steady Eddy

Hall of Fame
At the end of the day, this wont change:

1. Never try to over power a pusher
2. Never try to out push a pusher
3. Out skill the pusher by controlling the point / winning at the net

That’s it. Anything else is unjustified sour grapes is it not?
Or bring the pusher to the net. Most pushers have no net game.
 

nCode747

Semi-Pro
Or create angles to open up the court.
If the opponent is still beaten by said "pusher" then the latter is the better match player regardless of skill set.
I've had success with pushers by hitting drop-shots and lobs as often as possible.
Make the pusher run, then increase the pace of the game when it's your serve.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Or bring the pusher to the net. Most pushers have no net game.
Singles pushers have no net game but the doubles pushers often do. Doubles pushers rely on lobs and angled slices to counter act their easily poachable groundies. They often have developed net games with angled volleys. They won't kill the overheads like Pete Sampras, but they'll aim them away from trouble.

My success with doubles pushers is to stand deeper in the service box to take any weak lobs with an overhead. It's definitely hard work especially on sunny days. I greatly prefer to play doubles pushers indoors.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Just to separate the facts from the rumors, I didn't play college tennis but I am rated 5.0 by the USTA.

Technically, you did graduate from a University with a top tier D1 tennis program, and you played a little tennis while you passed through.
Maybe that's where I got confused.

I have watched some of your "peak form" videos and you definitely could have played college tennis somewhere.
 

Rosstour

Hall of Fame
My buddy did it to me again today. I had 40-15, 4-3 in the first. And he just started dinking. I lost that game and the next one, then we each held until the breaker, which I lost.

was so exhausted and frustrated from losing the first that I dropped the second at love in about 20 minutes. The games were close until 4-0 and then I just went into tank mode.

I guess it's a plus for me that I pressured him enough to resort to that, but it was obviously incredibly frustrating to lose the set and the match that way. He was probably more angry at himself than I have ever seen so I have to take that as a good sign amid the abject humiliation of getting bageled.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
My buddy did it to me again today. I had 40-15, 4-3 in the first. And he just started dinking. I lost that game and the next one, then we each held until the breaker, which I lost.

was so exhausted and frustrated from losing the first that I dropped the second at love in about 20 minutes. The games were close until 4-0 and then I just went into tank mode.

I guess it's a plus for me that I pressured him enough to resort to that, but it was obviously incredibly frustrating to lose the set and the match that way. He was probably more angry at himself than I have ever seen so I have to take that as a good sign amid the abject humiliation of getting bageled.
I used to be your buddy. Against my current most-regular hitting partner, I used to always know that I could shift into lockdown pusher mode at the end of the set to finish him off. It was a tried and true tactic.

But recently, during the pandemic, we’ve both been playing more, and we’re both playing at a higher level than before and both in better physical shape. I’m usually still a step better than him. But the last several times I’ve gone into pusher mode against him, it has backfired on me. He had reached a level where he simply doesn’t miss when I give him extra time to execute his baseline shots to the corners.

In this new normal (with both of us at a better average level than before), when I’m a little bit off my game, my best closing strategy has been to take fewer risks by slicing more, but keep offensive pressure by continuing to work the sides of the court to keep him moving more than me, and to take net-approach ops when he gives them to me.
 

MaxTennis

Semi-Pro
Maybe that's where I got confused.

I have watched some of your "peak form" videos and you definitely could have played college tennis somewhere.
Definitely agree with this. A ton of schools were trying to recruit me (D3 Liberal Arts Colleges), but I wanted to focus on academics and UCLA was a better fit.
 

junior74

G.O.A.T.
I play mainly on a very slow clay court, and quite often I have too little fire power to hit through some defensive guys. It's very frustrating to have to start over three or four times within a point and never get any power to build on.

If you're playing a pusher, and I mean a real floater, use softer strings to save your elbow :)
 

Rosstour

Hall of Fame
I used to be your buddy. Against my current most-regular hitting partner, I used to always know that I could shift into lockdown pusher mode at the end of the set to finish him off. It was a tried and true tactic.

But recently, during the pandemic, we’ve both been playing more, and we’re both playing at a higher level than before and both in better physical shape. I’m usually still a step better than him. But the last several times I’ve gone into pusher mode against him, it has backfired on me. He had reached a level where he simply doesn’t miss when I give him extra time to execute his baseline shots to the corners.

In this new normal (with both of us at a better average level than before), when I’m a little bit off my game, my best closing strategy has been to take fewer risks by slicing more, but keep offensive pressure by continuing to work the sides of the court to keep him moving more than me, and to take net-approach ops when he gives them to me.
Who is normally the better player between you guys?

My HP is much better than me...he's ten years younger, at least 8 inches taller, and he played college tennis whereas I did not. He can hit a lot harder and is more technically sound. So me forcing him to push/dink is a huge deal, if I can just remove the mental obstacles.
 

R1FF

Professional
My buddy did it to me again today. I had 40-15, 4-3 in the first. And he just started dinking. I lost that game and the next one, then we each held until the breaker, which I lost.

was so exhausted and frustrated from losing the first that I dropped the second at love in about 20 minutes. The games were close until 4-0 and then I just went into tank mode.

I guess it's a plus for me that I pressured him enough to resort to that, but it was obviously incredibly frustrating to lose the set and the match that way. He was probably more angry at himself than I have ever seen so I have to take that as a good sign amid the abject humiliation of getting bageled.
Any time an opponent has the ability to completely shift gears/strategy in a match, it’s a very useful weapon.

You have everything going well, and it’s hard to go away from what was working, but if they make wholesale changes to their gameplay, then it’s almost as if the match has started over.

And that is the rub. How good are we at being able to (1) recognize the match has metaphorically started over and then (2) act accordingly, meaning completely reset our approach to each point as if there is no established rhythm to the match.

Heck, how many of us even have the sorta variety to our games to actually shift strategies?

Either way, I think a mental reset is the cure. Easier said than done.
 

Rosstour

Hall of Fame
Any time an opponent has the ability to completely shift gears/strategy in a match, it’s a very useful weapon.

You have everything going well, and it’s hard to go away from what was working, but if they make wholesale changes to their gameplay, then it’s almost as if the match has started over.

And that is the rub. How good are we at being able to (1) recognize the match has metaphorically started over and then (2) act accordingly, meaning completely reset our approach to each point as if there is no established rhythm to the match.

Heck, how many of us even have the sorta variety to our games to actually shift strategies?

Either way, I think a mental reset is the cure. Easier said than done.
Yeah, I realized that I was going to have to out-dink him to win the match, and I am just not going to do that. It's not a tournament. I was totally deflated, this guy and I have some really thunderous rallies and now all of a sudden he's just dinking everything and hitting drop shots. I just checked out.

He was still hitting 100+mph serves, so that was even more annoying.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Who is normally the better player between you guys?

My HP is much better than me...he's ten years younger, at least 8 inches taller, and he played college tennis whereas I did not. He can hit a lot harder and is more technically sound. So me forcing him to push/dink is a huge deal, if I can just remove the mental obstacles.
I win about 95% of the time. He is more technically sound overall on the baseline than me, but I am a litter quicker and have a big edge in the net game.

He used to play me closer, but playing more often has increased the separation between us, because the extra practice time enabled me to retool my forehand approach shot into a weapon, which used to be a big exploitable hole in my game.
 

R1FF

Professional
Yeah, I realized that I was going to have to out-dink him to win the match, and I am just not going to do that. It's not a tournament. I was totally deflated, this guy and I have some really thunderous rallies and now all of a sudden he's just dinking everything and hitting drop shots. I just checked out.

He was still hitting 100+mph serves, so that was even more annoying.
Im not saying you’d have to out dink him.

Im saying that you’d have to do a mental reset as if the match just started, and he was dinking from the onset. The strategy there isnt to dink back at him. It’s to firmly take control of the point and get to the net for easy high % putaways. You cant win from the baseline anymore.

The strategy you needed to employ is the easy part.

Getting the mental shift to take place is the hard part. For me at least.

I’ve had guys I play against that do this to me. They might go into pusher mode or auto-rush the net. And it’s not like I cant beat them still, but it’s if I even recognize that I need to completely forget everything previous about the current match.
 

Rosstour

Hall of Fame
Im not saying you’d have to out dink him.

Im saying that you’d have to do a mental reset as if the match just started, and he was dinking from the onset. The strategy there isnt to dink back at him. It’s to firmly take control of the point and get to the net for easy high % putaways. You cant win from the baseline anymore.
lol, going to net is pretty low-% for me

It's pretty much a no-win situation.
 

R1FF

Professional
lol, going to net is pretty low-% for me

It's pretty much a no-win situation.
If you hit him to the corner, and come to net, I cannot think of a higher % stroke than the easy volley that is coming your way.

If your volleys need work, well, there you have it, you know what you need to do. Work on your volleys. Trust me, I've been where you are. You're not hopeless, you just have a major hole in your game that absolutely needs addressing. There's no excuse for not being able to volley easy putaways. Which is what his dink strategy will create if you hit him into the corners. He's either going to attempt a low % passing shot or lob. A good % of the time he will just UE the passing shot. Other times he'll miss and you'll just have to volley. And 1/2 the time his lob will be weak giving you the overhead. The %'s are very much in your favor unless you just refuse to come to net and it that case...

...if you dont like the solution, well, then there isnt really a problem.
 

Rosstour

Hall of Fame
If you hit him to the corner, and come to net, I cannot think of a higher % stroke than the easy volley that is coming your way.

If your volleys need work, well, there you have it, you know what you need to do. Work on your volleys. Trust me, I've been where you are. You're not hopeless, you just have a major hole in your game that absolutely needs addressing. There's no excuse for not being able to volley easy putaways. Which is what his dink strategy will create if you hit him into the corners. He's either going to attempt a low % passing shot or lob. A good % of the time he will just UE the passing shot. Other times he'll miss and you'll just have to volley. And 1/2 the time his lob will be weak giving you the overhead. The %'s are very much in your favor unless you just refuse to come to net and it that case...

...if you dont like the solution, well, then there isnt really a problem.
This is excellent strategy against a real pusher, but against a 5.0+ who went to pushing because he was missing too many of his normal semi-pro grounstrokes and couldn't stand having scoreboard pressure from a far inferior opponent...coming to the net is a more dicey proposal.

What worked was returning the short dinks with drop shots, but I don't have the touch to pull that off over and over for an entire set/match.
 

R1FF

Professional
This is excellent strategy against a real pusher, but against a 5.0+ who went to pushing because he was missing too many of his normal semi-pro grounstrokes and couldn't stand having scoreboard pressure from a far inferior opponent...coming to the net is a more dicey proposal.

What worked was returning the short dinks with drop shots, but I don't have the touch to pull that off over and over for an entire set/match.
I see. I must've missed where you said he was a 5.0

So he went into basically a high % defensive/push mode? And Im assuming he has the athleticism & anticipation to get a good jump on any sort of aggressive return you hit, even if you hit his dinker with good topspin to the corner? I guess Im just not seeing the advantage he's gaining by giving you a weak short ball. Seems like the perfect opportunity to hit a winner or chip a high % approach shot. Make him chase it and you are still in a good position at the net I would assume.

But Im just thinking out loud. Too hard to give advice in this case I suppose.
 

Rosstour

Hall of Fame
I see. I must've missed where you said he was a 5.0

So he went into basically a high % defensive/push mode? And Im assuming he has the athleticism & anticipation to get a good jump on any sort of aggressive return you hit, even if you hit his dinker with good topspin to the corner? I guess Im just not seeing the advantage he's gaining by giving you a weak short ball. Seems like the perfect opportunity to hit a winner or chip a high % approach shot.
Yeah you got it. lol

His first step and reach are great. So he can get to anything but my hardest, flattest, most well placed shots. Or a perfect dropper.

That's the only way to earn points off him outside of making him come to net and hitting a passing shot by guessing right. If I'm not at my absolute best then bagels or breadsticks are on the menu.
 

R1FF

Professional
Yeah you got it. lol

His first step and reach are great. So he can get to anything but my hardest, flattest, most well placed shots. Or a perfect dropper.

That's the only way to earn points off him outside of making him come to net and hitting a passing shot by guessing right. If I'm not at my absolute best then bagels or breadsticks are on the menu.
I have a 5.0 Im currently trying to schedule a match with.

He’s a defensive/push minded player from the onset. In our history of playing sets I’ve won very few games because he’s so consistent. And when I do put him in trouble, he can get aggressive on command - with consistency. It’s definitely frustrating. He doesn’t make errors.

We havent played in a LONG time. My level has improved a lot since then so maybe I can apply some pressure and force some mistakes. But I know how he plays because I’ve seen him against other 5.0’s and their aggressiveness or pace meant nothing. His purely defensive & high % play totally nullified whatever they threw at him. He is willing to make every point a 10+ hit rally. It’s very effective.

Patience & having the stroke consistency is the required requisite to even make a match competitive with a guy like this. Im assuming. Because I dont know. He’s the only guy I’ve ever met this high of a level that plays this “patient”.
 

just out

New User
To OP, this thread proves it is not time. For me, too many old wounds inflicted on me by the pushers when I was young and couldn't handle it mentally. I can smile about it now but not then.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Yeah you got it. lol

His first step and reach are great. So he can get to anything but my hardest, flattest, most well placed shots. Or a perfect dropper.

That's the only way to earn points off him outside of making him come to net and hitting a passing shot by guessing right. If I'm not at my absolute best then bagels or breadsticks are on the menu.
When he goes into lockdown-D pusher mode, your best bet is to accept the gift of extra time, and then focus on putting more mileage on his tires. He’s giving you an opportunity to make him do the running. If you can cardio stress him a little and soften him up, then you might have a shot to level the playing field when you get to the pressure points at the end of the set.
 

Jono123

New User
Ive played quite a few pushers. The best ones tend to be very fit and quite tall, giving them the ability to get everything. Their natural habit is the base line, so drop them short and bring them in. Also tall people dont tend to like lunging forward much much either.

You dont see too many pushers in the 4.5 / 5.0 level as the free points on UE's arent there.
 

lskater

New User
Anybody ever seen competitive "pusher" volleyball? I mean one team just taps the ball over everytime rather than setting it and spiking it? No..you know why...?? because it's boring and nobody wants to play that way
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Anybody ever seen competitive "pusher" volleyball? I mean one team just taps the ball over everytime rather than setting it and spiking it? No..you know why...?? because it's boring and nobody wants to play that way
This reminds me of a humorous anecdote from 30 years ago. My freshman dorm was competing against other dorms in an intramural volleyball tournament. We had a player on our team that was 6’6” tall with long arms who had grown up playing competitive volleyball. He could have played D1 volleyball if he hadn’t gone to a school with a top-10 D1 program. I am very competitive, so I kept making the obvious suggestion to our team that we should set for this guy, as his spiking ability was deadly. But my senior RA would have none of that - he was 5’10”, not that athletic, yet convinced that he had the ability to spike a volleyball. Whenever I reiterated my suggestion to set for our big guy with spiking talent, my RA would yell back at me, “I can spike!”
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Anybody ever seen competitive "pusher" volleyball? I mean one team just taps the ball over everytime rather than setting it and spiking it? No..you know why...?? because it's boring and nobody wants to play that way
Or competitive "pusher" golf where the guy (or gal) just hits 7 irons off the tee and down the fairway.
 

R1FF

Professional
Anybody ever seen competitive "pusher" volleyball? I mean one team just taps the ball over everytime rather than setting it and spiking it? No..you know why...?? because it's boring and nobody wants to play that way
I’ve never seen even the best pro tennis players take the “volleyball” approach and go for the spike every time.

Football teams dont hail mary on first down.

Basketball teams benefit from eating up the shot clock.

Baseball players that only swing for home runs strike out a LOT.

But hey, do you.
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
One of my childhood friends had a dad who was really into tennis. I was young and was into it from the perspective of watching, but didn't have the time or resources to ever take it up with any intent. Anyway, my buddy's dad would occasionally take us out to some nearby courts and hit the ball around with us. I remember him saying at one point: "Keep hitting it deep and down the middle, and you'll be famous by Christmas." I believe this is the essence of what people call the "pusher" style of play. Now this advice came 40 years ago, when the string and racquet revolution was only just beginning, but I think it still applies.

Many of the people I play tennis with at my level (3.5) have taken no formal instruction and are just out on the court for fun and exercise. Some may have decent looking strokes, but most have goofy awkward strokes with hacker gimmick shots, terrible footwork, and make poor shot selection choices (not to mention poor court positioning). But that's the name of the 3.5 game, really. If you were more consistent or made better decisions, and could execute, you'd be a 4.0, but you can't, so you aren't. Simple as that. The people who are winning are hitting the ball deep and down the middle - maybe not LITERALLY - but actually pretty close to literally... they try to keep the ball deep against their opponents, and try to hit to big open spaces, rarely trying to "thread the needle", rarely taking big risks and rarely ever choosing to take a lower percentage shot even when it would be a sure winner if they hit it in play.

At this level of tennis, most points are really about who makes the first error (most often "unforced") rather than who makes the first winner. All it takes to really "force" an error at this level is to keep the ball in play longer - either you'll run the other guy out of patience, or they will just not be able to consistently hit 4 balls in a row in play. If you can hit 5 balls in a row in play, at 3.5, you're probably going to win more matches than you lose.

I had a conversation with a guy last week - he's 35 years old, very athletic, strong, fast, but with very rudimentary strokes - has only been playing tennis for a year - was a multi sport varsity athlete in high school. He was telling me about his singles match the previous week. The guy he was playing came out on the court and really "won" the warmup. My friend said he was intimidated and so, went into what he called "total defense mode" with his game. My friend could run down everything the other guy could hit, that wasn't out, and would just slice or moonball it back. My friend wound up winning 6-0 and 6-1 after being totally intimidated during the warmup by a guy who had pretty strokes and could hit the ball hard, but apparently not consistently. He said his opponent was PISSED.

I told my friend "that guy just went and told anyone who asked that he just got beat by a "pusher". My friend hadn't heard the term before... funny stuff.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
I told my friend "that guy just went and told anyone who asked that he just got beat by a "pusher". My friend hadn't heard the term before... funny stuff.
I think a lot of pushers don't know what the term means or don't know that it applies to them. I've never seen too many pushers that describe their game thusly.
 

Cawlin

Semi-Pro
I think a lot of pushers don't know what the term means or don't know that it applies to them. I've never seen too many pushers that describe their game thusly.
To be clear, I wasn't admonishing my friend when I described this "pusher" label to him. My friend was speaking to me in some sort of apologetic tone - as if he felt bad or guilty that he won this match in this way - the way you might feel bad(ish) about the net cord ball that drops right on the other side for a winner - as if he hadn't earned the win or something. I told my friend that he will likely start hearing that term "pusher" and not to worry about it. I told him that people use it when they really mean "this guy just beat me by not making mistakes and I wasn't patient enough/skilled enough to beat him". I advised my friend to not even think twice about it and to be pleased with his win - it showed he was able to adapt and to be mentally stronger than his opponent - all excellent "tennis IQ" stuff. I also told my friend that if he is doing something like that in a match and he sees the other guy getting frustrated, to keep doing it. Anyway - just wanted to be clear about it. In no way was I bashing his "pushing" playstyle, as I think that if you win with it, it's just as legitimate as anything else.

In EVERY sport there are the same sorts of mantras - play within yourself, play your game... as a baseball pitcher, I had to pitch my game, it was no use for me trying to overpower a hitter with my so-so fastball, instead, I focused on the breaking stuff and offspeed stuff, hitting the corners, getting them to chase, and and mixing in the fastball when they didn't expect it, and above all, NEVER giving them something they could hit. I never played the "overpower showdown" game, I played the "frustrate you and make you look stupid" game, and I won a lot of ballgames that way... if only I could play tennis as well as I could pitch all those years ago...

Why should tennis be any different?
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Im further dissecting this at this moment.

I passed on earlier opportunities to marry girls that were better in bed, but higher maintenance / less chance of long term success. I waited until I found a girl that was both pretty & stable before committing to family... like a nice high & deep topspin backhand that allows me to jog up to the net for the easy volley on their weak return.
Isn't it nice to wait (sit and chill) while string of women orderly parade in front of us to choose? Like being at a good sushi restuarant where they serve sushi dishes on a conveyor belt.


I pity the fools that have to work hard, look hard and have to settle for a woman matching his status in life. Such fools.
 

time_fly

Hall of Fame
Now that cameras and radars are so cheap, I think there should be a new rule in tennis: any ball struck after the bounce from behind the service line must break 40 mph or be called an illegal dink-push. :)
 

hwtaft

New User
I had a conversation with a guy last week - he's 35 years old, very athletic, strong, fast, but with very rudimentary strokes - has only been playing tennis for a year - was a multi sport varsity athlete in high school. He was telling me about his singles match the previous week. The guy he was playing came out on the court and really "won" the warmup. My friend said he was intimidated and so, went into what he called "total defense mode" with his game. My friend could run down everything the other guy could hit, that wasn't out, and would just slice or moonball it back. My friend wound up winning 6-0 and 6-1 after being totally intimidated during the warmup by a guy who had pretty strokes and could hit the ball hard, but apparently not consistently. He said his opponent was PISSED.

I told my friend "that guy just went and told anyone who asked that he just got beat by a "pusher". My friend hadn't heard the term before... funny stuff.
I sometimes wonder how it's fun to play like this.

I won't lie, when I play better opponents I definitely turn into a counter puncher and start hitting balls more middle of the court and try to rally for as long as I can. It certainly could be called a pushing because i'm not trying to hit big. But that's generally because they're outplaying me and it's all I can do is to keep the point alive. However, matches like that never turn out to be 6-0,6-1 in my favor. I typically lose them. The times I win them tightly I typically still get offensive when given the opportunity.

But I just can't imagine slicing and moonballing for an entire match as my ideal method of paly.
 
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