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What’s the best way to beat a “pusher” in a tennis match?

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During my freshman year at Cleveland State University, our team traveled to Florida to play a series of games against teams there. In one game in particular, I met a player who literally defined the term “Pusher”.

This guy was fast and had stamina. He had decided from the start that he was in no rush to get off the pitch and that he would run any punches I gave him; and believe me, I was throwing heat. After losing the first set, I decided I wasn’t going to let this guy beat me. After all, I was the “best” player with “better” shots, right?

As I was about to return to the court to start the second set, a thought occurred to me: how did I lose points? I hadn’t spoken to my coach (he was coaching another player at the time of the changeover), but this is the first question I knew he would ask me.

I asked myself this question and the answer came back: “Unforced errors”. Ok, so now I had something I could grab hold of. Well. What was causing the unforced errors? Impatience and lack of a good plan I finally decided that I had to make a plan on the fly. I did, and besides being a little more patient, I came back to win the game in three sets.

In order to understand what I did and how to apply it to your game, you first need to understand the pusher’s mindset. It really is that simple. The pusher tells himself to just bring each ball over the net, no matter what. When playing a baseliner, the pusher is not too concerned with placement, and will usually end up placing the ball in the middle of the court, just over the “T”. When faced with a serve and volley player, the pusher will try to get every ball and lob down consistently, hoping you either miss a volley or blow overhead. Facing a versatile player, the pusher will combine the two tactics mentioned above.

What to do? Well, now that you know how the pusher thinks and plays, it’s time to find out where his weakness lies and exploit it. The pusher has a LOT of weaknesses in his game – or he wouldn’t just “ push back ” the ball every time! I want you to think long and hard about this, and really let it sink in. Okay, now let’s see where the pusher is weak.

First of all, pushers don’t master “hard” ground shots, if they have something that looks like good ground shots to begin with. From this alone, we can glimpse several weaknesses:

o Pushers find it difficult to generate power and combine it with precision, which is a prerequisite for having “good” ground strokes.

o Pushers have difficulty hitting passing shots, for the same reasons just listed.

o If a pusher has weak ground shots, they probably also have weak serve.

o Pushers have a hard time with high balls, again for the reasons listed above.

o Pushers hate that points end quickly, because those are points that they probably lost!

Now that we know the pusher’s weaknesses, we can devise a plan to exploit them. The first thing you need to do when playing a pusher is make him do what he doesn’t want to do; and one of the things HATE pushers have to do is generate their own “rhythm,” or power when hitting the ball, because they can’t control it. One way to get the pusher to do this is to hit your ground deep, about ¾ speed with LOTS of topspin. This forces the pusher back from the baseline and causes him to generate his own power, rather than just using the power of a hard blow you hit him.

Another way to get the pusher out of his game is to serve and volley, because he can’t hit passing strokes very well. (Again, if they could, they wouldn’t be a “pusher”). If they try to lob you, put the ball away; if they lob you well, hit the top anyway and stay at the net. Constant pressure will loop the pusher. If they hit you over and over and there’s nothing you can do about it, you need to improve your serve before trying this tactic.

Yet another way to beat the pusher is to “chip-and-charge”; enjoy every short ball the pusher hits you and hit the net. Don’t just go to the net to be there, or the pusher will kick you in all day long. Arrive on a short ball, make a good approach and be ready for the pusher’s response.

Since the pusher’s mentality is “I’ll break down every shot you hit”, have him do just that – on YOUR terms. Strike at ¾ speed, well placed shot at an angle to the side; then struck a long, deep blow. This forces the pusher out of his “ side-to-side moving ” game (which he likes to do) to move up and back at difficult angles. When you finally get an opening to hit a winner, don’t force the angle or speed; just hit another well placed rapid shot towards your target. More often than not, even if the pusher gets the ball, the response will be weak or a lob at best.

Use these techniques the next time you’re on the pitch – and watch the ‘pusher’ disappear!


Source by Kyril Popoff

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