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Three Secrets for Destroying Pushers

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  • Three Secrets for Destroying Pushers

    Would love to get your thoughts on my latest - "Three Secrets for Destroying Pushers"

  • #2
    I have followed all your technical articles but this one was just fun. The description of the pyschology clicked and made a lot of sense. I have been working on my drop shot as I am not sure I am ready for the pain of the mirror.

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    • #3
      Pushers

      This article is a great one for amateur players. Pushing as a game-style maybe at the bottom of the hierarchy in terms of respect, but it's important that players, and especially upcoming juniors, respect pushers for the tough-to-beat opponents they really are. I have great respect for pushers. I've often employed pushing as a the tactic myself. Well, why not? In some scenarios it works well....

      I think the mirror tactic is a good one. Actually, once all the other options have been exhausted and nothing else has worked, games often descend in to a mirror game anyway. It's just the smart thing to do if it means you'll lose the match if you don't.

      It's very difficult to generate pace of a dead ball. It takes good technique to do it, technique many club players don't have. This is why the pusher can be a living nightmare to play for club players who aspire to be shotmakers.

      Drop shots are a great tactic for breaking up rhythm. An angled short ball can work just as well too. Pushers are often uncomfortable at the net so it's a tactic with a double effect. 1) breaks up rhythm. 2) puts them in a a place they don't like to be.

      I always tell students that being a pusher is a legitimate game-style, so don't slag pushers off, deal with them instead. I do drills in my squads where players must take it in turns to be a pusher. No winners allowed. Pushers must loop or float balls deep while to other tries to deal with it. I like drills like these because they teach my players that pushing can be a valid option for themselves in matchplay. All game-styles are valid and players MUST realise this a respect pushers as much other players.

      Andy Murray as a junior was smart. He moved very well and could blanket the baseline and would push and cajole against players who hadn't the guns to hit through him. He'd bide his time until opportunities came up to seize the point. This is probably how he came to be a counter puncher with superb defensive skills.
      Last edited by stotty; 01-26-2013, 01:21 PM.
      Stotty

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      • #4
        Well said! Your remarks about the short angled ball are well taken and I saw Andy do exactly as you said, mix in a little pushing when he won his first challenger in California!

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        • #5
          While I agree that pushing is legal, I disagree that its "legitimate" tennis. Just because its legal, doesn't mean its ok.

          Its like intentionally trying to hit someone at the net with a passing shot. Its legal. But its really poor etiquette to do so. Its one thing to occasionally do it because you have no choice. Its another to constantly do it. To me, the same goes for pushers.

          But moving on, I acknowledge that whining about it isn't going to change anything. The weaselly pusher will exist till the end of time. And yet despite my disdain for them, its what makes tennis so great. You'll never truly find two playing styles exactly alike. And its not always the strongest and fastest and tallest that win. You can win by being a lame pusher too. Its the great equalizer.

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          • #6
            Disdain of pushers...patience is a virtue.

            Originally posted by aethyr View Post
            While I agree that pushing is legal, I disagree that its "legitimate" tennis. Just because its legal, doesn't mean its ok.

            Its like intentionally trying to hit someone at the net with a passing shot. Its legal. But its really poor etiquette to do so. Its one thing to occasionally do it because you have no choice. Its another to constantly do it. To me, the same goes for pushers.

            But moving on, I acknowledge that whining about it isn't going to change anything. The weaselly pusher will exist till the end of time. And yet despite my disdain for them, its what makes tennis so great. You'll never truly find two playing styles exactly alike. And its not always the strongest and fastest and tallest that win. You can win by being a lame pusher too. Its the great equalizer.
            One of the difficulties that a “tennis player” has when they encounter a pusher is that they lack respect for their opponent and the tactics. Even though the tactics of a “pusher” are fundamentally sound because of the over emphasis of keeping the ball in play and patience...many have a difficult time summoning any respect for the tactics and therefore they are frustrated before the real task begins. The task of dismantling the pusher. I prefer dismantling as opposed to destroying.

            To try and destroy something so fundamentally solid and exquisitely annoying is to go down the wrong path from the get go. Better to approach the problem with a calm and patient attitude and the tactics that are spelled out in the article. Pushers are not evil at heart its just that they attack a fundamental flaw that most human beings have...a lack of patience. If you are impatient and you are making mistakes, the emotional toll on the psyche may be what beats you in the end, every bit as much as the pusher’s tactics.

            I teach my students the push game as well. You never know when it may come in handy. We all aren’t wired like Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal. If you have to resort to less glamorous tactics...why not? If you think about it the shots that a really good pusher possesses include shots like the drop shot, lobs and the ability to keep the ball deep in the court and above all...never missing. These are traits and attributes that any true tennis student or player must possess in order to be a player. Don’t let pride get in your way...if you want to win!

            There is much to be learned from the pusher actually. The ability to change the tempo of a match many times is the difference between winning and losing. Matches are often decided by a difference of one or two points. If at some point of a match it makes sense to change the tempo and try to push your opponent to his limits of patience...it is better if you have the ability to do so. You just might find that the best way to dismantle some of the biggest hitters at your club may be to get their goat with a contest of wills...or patience. One can never get to the point where they feel that patience is beneath their dignity. Attitude is going to play a big part in a hard fought contest with a pusher.

            I believe you said as much aethyr...in so many words.
            Last edited by don_budge; 02-01-2013, 02:15 AM.
            don_budge
            Performance Analysthttps://www.tennisplayer.net/bulleti...ilies/cool.png

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            • #7
              aethyr,

              Well, you definitely have the same option chosen by my friend the teaching pro mentioned in the article who just doesn't engage.

              If you have the tactics and the fortitude the satisfaction of this type of win is phenomenal. In some later articles in this series I am going to relate a few examples of matches I played against some famous bay area pushers and how I put these tatics into practice and the (almost always..) desired outcome.

              John Yandell

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              • #8
                Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
                aethyr,

                Well, you definitely have the same option chosen by my friend the teaching pro mentioned in the article who just doesn't engage.

                If you have the tactics and the fortitude the satisfaction of this type of win is phenomenal. In some later articles in this series I am going to relate a few examples of matches I played against some famous bay area pushers and how I put these tatics into practice and the (almost always..) desired outcome.

                John Yandell
                I only run into pushers in tournaments. And I'll never quit a tournament match unless I'm hurt. So I'll definitely engage a pusher. My point was to refute the claim that pushing is an "ok" style of playing. Its legal, yes, but just like you wouldn't repeatedly try to hit your hitting partner at the net out of respect, I don't constantly push and neither do my hitting partners. If I pushed against a hitting partner, I would soon find I no longer get invited to play. If pushing were truly a legitimate style, like serve and volley, then a pusher wouldn't get shunned by hitting partners. And finally, I leave it in the hands of spectators. Spectators hate pushers too. And if the pros all pushed, tennis would be about as popular as curling. Nobody likes playing a pusher (even another pusher) and nobody likes watching one. So pushers are like the trolls of tennis.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by aethyr View Post
                  I only run into pushers in tournaments. And I'll never quit a tournament match unless I'm hurt. So I'll definitely engage a pusher. My point was to refute the claim that pushing is an "ok" style of playing. Its legal, yes, but just like you wouldn't repeatedly try to hit your hitting partner at the net out of respect, I don't constantly push and neither do my hitting partners. If I pushed against a hitting partner, I would soon find I no longer get invited to play. If pushing were truly a legitimate style, like serve and volley, then a pusher wouldn't get shunned by hitting partners. And finally, I leave it in the hands of spectators. Spectators hate pushers too. And if the pros all pushed, tennis would be about as popular as curling. Nobody likes playing a pusher (even another pusher) and nobody likes watching one. So pushers are like the trolls of tennis.
                  You've clearly got strong views about pushers. You're not alone. But they fact is there will always be pushers and it is a legitimate style of play...by legitimate I simply mean it is allowed in the rules.

                  I like a blend of pushing here and there in matches. Take a look at the opening rally in the clip below. Mecir pushes his first two forehands up to Lendl's backhand so as to neutralize any possible attack from Lendl...clever stuff. Now go to the third point on the same clip (at 1:43). Watch Mecir push a very slow forehand up to Lendl's backhand off Lendl's return...then hit a bullet crosscourt backhand to win the point. Mecir was brilliant at cajoling and mixing up pace like this...a pusher one moment...an deadly attacker the next...crafty....intelligent.



                  I'm wouldn't advocate to anyone to become solely a pusher. It's too limiting a game-style by itself. But used here and there like Mecir's used it during his career can be very effective. He neutralised some really big hitters like this before picking his moment to attack. Andy Murray has a little of the same quality.
                  Last edited by stotty; 02-04-2013, 07:36 AM.
                  Stotty

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                  • #10
                    It may be time to agree to disagree on the issue of legitimacy here! As long as the rules are observed I agree with Stotty. It's perfectly legitimate. At one of the clubs I belong to the two great pushers are highly regarded on the 4.5 teams. I like to practice with them too because of the challenge.

                    Anyway if you run up against some hope the strategies in the article help.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by licensedcoach View Post
                      You've clearly got strong views about pushers. You're not alone. But they fact is there will always be pushers and it is a legitimate style of play...by legitimate I simply mean it is allowed in the rules.

                      I like a blend of pushing here and there in matches. Take a look at the opening rally in the clip below. Mecir pushes his first two forehands up to Lendl's backhand so as to neutralize any possible attack from Lendl...clever stuff. Now go to the third point on the same clip (at 1:43). Watch Mecir push a very slow forehand up to Lendl's backhand off Lendl's return...then hit a bullet crosscourt backhand to win the point. Mecir was brilliant at cajoling and mixing up pace like this...a pusher one moment...an deadly attacker the next...crafty....intelligent.



                      I'm wouldn't advocate to anyone to become solely a pusher. It's too limiting a game-style by itself. But used here and there like Mecir's used it during his career can be very effective. He neutralised some really big hitters like this before picking his moment to attack. Andy Murray has a little of the same quality.
                      Oh, don't get me wrong - its absolutely ok to push occasionally, just like it is to drop shot or lob here and there. In fact, you have to mix up shots, slice, push, drops and lobs to throw off the rhythm of your opponent. My issue is with pure pushers that push 80% of the time and the other 20% are lobs.

                      I'm not saying that only Maria Sharapova style of play is legitimate.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
                        It may be time to agree to disagree on the issue of legitimacy here! As long as the rules are observed I agree with Stotty. It's perfectly legitimate. At one of the clubs I belong to the two great pushers are highly regarded on the 4.5 teams. I like to practice with them too because of the challenge.

                        Anyway if you run up against some hope the strategies in the article help.
                        On a side note, what level will beat a pusher? For example, will any 5.0 beat a 4.5 pusher, due to superior strokes and technique? An extreme example, but a 4.5 pushed stroke would get utterly obliterated by a top 10 pro. Or can a pure 4.5 pusher beat a 5.0? 5.5? 6.0?

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                        • #13
                          Well, those ntrp numbers mean something. But they aren't the final word on anything and basically they are or should be tied to outcome. So if there is a so-called pusher who beats 4.5, or 5.0, or 5.5 players then he should be classified at that level.

                          That's how Arthur Ash beat Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon, btw, so the effect can go to quite a high level. Both great players but Connors was way above Arthur in career outcomes.

                          I know what you are getting out though--we've all seen a player who clearly can play at a high level--and might even have wins that a particular pusher couldn't achieve--lose to someone using slow ball consistent tactics.

                          As I mentioned in the article, if you really have the game for it, you can destroy a pusher with attack--off the ground or at the net or a combo.
                          The problem is that players tend to naturally have an inflated view of their level--and the less competitive experience and the lower the level, the greater the descrepancy in many cases.

                          Players who can hit a couple of hard shots consistently typically get a lot of help from opponents who try to play the same way. If you chart those kinds of matches the unforced errors tend to decide it.

                          To be truly at the level of your best shots means being able to produce them consistently under pressure and repeatedly and that takes not only skill but heavy confidence.

                          Hence the point of the article!

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                          • #14
                            C.a.p.

                            Tennis is about Consistency, Accuracy and Power. The more consistent player should almost always win. The more powerful (or accurate) player wins by forcing the slower hitting consistent player to try to play at a higher pace where he is no longer more consistent. Or the more powerful player drops down to the speed of the "pusher" to where he can actually become the more consistent player. Unfortunately, even if the power player has the ability to be more consistent at the lower pace, he probably doesn't have the shot tolerance to keep it up. That is the trap that the "pusher" draws most of us into. As JY's strategy in the article brings out, you have to use a combination of a lot of different things to overcome the superior consistency of the "pusher". Making smart choices in shot selection becomes really important. The "pusher" usually can't hurt his opponent, but he gives that opponent plenty of chances to hurt himself.

                            Before you try to overpower him, it is usually wise to give him a good tour of the real estate of the court taking advantage of your superior (presumed) accuracy at this lower speed. Even if you are not quite as consistent, your greater accuracy should put a lot of pressure on your opponent without making you play at a speed at which you will make significantly more errors than your opponent. And just hitting with more power is not enough to win a point against a steady, stubborn opponent with a decent pair of sneakers; you need to hit that big shot into an opening. You can create that opening with your more accurate play at the slower speed and then justify the increased risk you will be taking when you hit that bigger, more powerful aggressive shot. When you start to take that "pusher" out of his comfort zone by forcing him to deal with creating his own pace or responding to an off speed shot or even a drop shot, you are reducing his consistency and shifting the scales of victory in your favor.

                            Now, you are probably convinced you are a "better" player than that pusher. You probably say that you could play the dreaded pusher's game if you wanted to; but you don't want to. Well, if you can't actually be more accurate when you drop down to his speed, then are you really a better player? Or are you just hiding in the speed of your occasional winners. If you are more accurate, you should be able to open up the court where you will get sufficient reward for your somewhat less consistent big shots. Yes, you will have to demonstrate somewhat greater shot tolerance; but that doesn't mean you have to turn into a mindless retriever. Pick targets carefully and commit to them. Don't put those targets too close to the lines. But the mental challenge of picking those targets and committing to those shots will keep you mentally engaged so you aren't bored just hitting the ball back to the "pusher".

                            If you do this right, at first the "pusher" will stay with you and the points will be extended. But as you stay with this mindset, you will find yourself stroking the ball smoother and smoother. Keep your mind occupied with stroking the ball smoothly and hitting your targets. You must accept the fact that the ball is not going to go as fast as when it comes into you with greater speed. But as you continue, your natural stroke should free you up and you will gradually find a little more pace and your opponent's "tour" of the baseline is going to get more and more challenging for him. He will start to make more errors just as you begin to hope he gives you another chance to hit the ball. You will also begin to find openings to hit winners without even needing to hit a bigger ball.

                            But if you try simply to push with the "pusher" with no deeper tactic than trying to show you are more stubborn than he is, ...well, perhaps you are the rare player who can actually do this, but it is far more likely that you will fail and dissolve in a flurry of unforced errors that gives the match to your opponent.

                            Tennis is, always has been, and always will be ruled by the rule of C.A.P. It may not be obvious at first glance when players are hitting the ball so big these days and hitting so many fabulous winners. Just look at that final between Djokovic and Murray. They all make great shots. Certainly, Andy and Novak both do. Once they have equalized the parameters of consistency and accuracy, then a few more winners can make the difference. But to me, where Djokovic has the clear edge mentally is in shot tolerance. He knows he can make one more shot until he gets the opportunity to hit his winner if he gets the chance.

                            don

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                            • #15
                              Used these techniques to play a pusher

                              Hi John,

                              I played a pusher yesterday in a USTA league match, and I successfully used the techniques presented in your article. I used the modified all court attack which was mostly successful. It seems that the better pushers can produce effective passing shots when they must. I think the use of drop shots made the most difference in the outcome. I would rally deep to the backhand corner, and then when I got a short ball I hit a drop shot to the forehand side. This worked increasingly well as the match went on, because my opponent got tired.

                              There was also the psychological aspect. My opponent was considerably older than me, and of course we were the last match on the court, so our teammates watched the end of the match. At the beginning of the third set (in front of everyone), he asked me how old I am, and he said he had a son about my age. I knew what he was trying to do, and I just ignored his comment. I also showed him that I was patient enough to stay out there all day, and he faded in the third set.

                              Thanks for writing such a great article. It is the best I have ever seen about playing a pusher.

                              Aethyr, I find that playing pushers is a good motivation to improve aspects of my game. I have developed the drop shot and short angle shots to use against pushers, and it has made me a better play. I try to view it as a challenge instead of a drag to play them.

                              Thanks,
                              Blake

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