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How To Beat a Pusher
First let's define the term 'Pusher' and acknowledge that for those who may play this style of Tennis, doesn't mean this is something bad, subpar or lacking in ability. Actually, I have a very good friend who has won several local tournaments with this style. I asked him one day why he played this tactic and his simple answer was, "It worksand if it ain't broke - don't fix it".
Yes indeed playing against this style can be the most frustrating day of tennis you can ever have unless you figure a way to defeat this method. Personally I have no problem playing a match against this style of Player, although admittedly I don't appreciate warming up with this style of play all because warm-up should be beneficial to both Players and if your warm-up is only a microcosm of what's to come, it doesn't give you an opportunity to get loose & honed in on your range. So if you are about to do battle against someone who plays the Push style, it's ok to ask them if they could hit with top spin during your warm-up rallies so you can groove your strokes. However you may find, your opponent sometimes isn't capable of providing this to you, which means you are in for a long day. And this will indicate what level of Tennis Player your partner is at and possibly yourself as well if you are basically rated equally. Generally speaking a Player who Spins & Pushes the ball and can't provide anything other than that, is probably going to be somewhere between a 3.0 - 3.5 level Player.
So what is a Pusher anyway? This player hold their racquet in either the Continental or Eastern style grip. They are generally not capable to use the Western grip and doesn't hit with top spin. Their balls are mostly flat with little bounce. The shots tend to lack in power and if you enjoy a fast pace ball, you will have to generate all of the power off your racquet which means you will have to use even more top spin to bring the ball down.
It will be very important to get down low due to the lack of bounce you might be use to dealing with. The first set will be hard to manage given you will be fine tuning your shots against this style but the good news is, if you are able to solve the equation, your opponents' shots will not change in the next set.
The Pusher slices on both wings, if you can't handle low under-spin floating balls that seem to take forever to get to you, then you're gonna have a serious problem. So I suggest you get your running shoes tightened up because attacking the net is going to be your road to success. Be prepared for an onslaught of Lobs so I'd suggest when you approach, do so behind a hard penetrating shot that puts them off balance or running from one side or the other. DO NOT charge behind something weak or non-committal. Hit your corners and hit them hard. When you need to volley away a possible return of your approach shot, PUNCH that volley away. As John McEnroe would say, "Stick It". You will accomplish far more than a few points, you will have established a criteria and your opponent will try to adjust their game to avoid that outcome. So on comes the drop shots.
Try not to stand too far behind the baseline because you will then have to expend too much energy getting to the drop only to see the ball sailing over your head for the lob passing shot.
What to watch for ...
Constant Drop Shots
Lobs if you're at the Net
Low floating under-spin shots
Flat no pace forehand shots
Backhand Slices and/or Backhand Lobs
(And for the more experienced Pusher)
Forehand slice drops to the side court that spin away from you.
It will not serve you well to adapt their pattern of play in order to combat this style. You must play your game at all cost but incorporate a few tactics that you may not normally use with a topspin player, like attacking the net, chipping & charging and aggressive volleys as DEEP as you can get them. Always try to keep your opponent hitting off their back foot.
Serving to a Pusher is easy, go out wide as much as possible by striking the ball off the side as if you are peeling a potato. And the follow-through is downward as opposed to outward. You will toss the ball slightly (slightly) did you read it is "slightly" ok so you will toss the ball slightly to the left up over head.
The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.
something to add... as a plethora of my coaching charges have trouble with this player... DON"T OVER HIT!!!! i repeat DON"T OVER HIT!!! the key to beating a pusher is advancing in the court and playing aggressive, STEADY tennis, DON"T PUSH BACK !!...don't try to crush the return because it's a sitter, or smash the floater from the midcourt, play aggressively placed shots with steady pace...try and end points quickly by taking time away, remember if you hit a shot from the dervice line you are already taking half his reaction time away by playing forward in the court, you don't have to add any pace to the shot, by now you should have the guy on the ropes, it's not the first shot that wins the point, but it sets you up for the shot that will...lastly, get rhythm with your feet, cause you won't get it from your opponent...extra footwork will help adjust to the off pace junk that pushers often throw at you...
my 3 easy keys for beating a pusher:
1: MOVE IN!! Take the ball earlier..don't wait for it!
2: STEADY PACE!! never 100% pace, 75% should do the trick, limit your errors...
3: FOOTWORK FOR RHYTHM!! adjust to off pace by focusing on your feet (you'll be less likely to overhit then too!)
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