The dreaded “pusher!” We have all played them and been beaten by them. You may think they have no skill, but somehow they are beating you anyway.
What exactly is a “pusher?” Usually, we call someone a pusher if they don’t hit the ball very hard, don’t have the best strokes, run down almost every ball, and win a lot of matches. The pusher is a master at placing the ball, outlasting his opponent and extracting errors. Overall, the pusher makes you beat yourself.
So how do you beat the pusher? DON”T BEAT YOURSELF!
Step 1. Learn to respect the pusher and their game. Whether you like it or not the pusher can beat you. If you go into the match without the respect for your opponent you are not going to be as vigil at maintaining your technique and composure during the match.
Step 2. BE PATIENT. The pusher is going to try to outlast you and wait for you to make an error. Don’t rush the point or force a shot that is not there. They know you hate to play this kind of tennis and are hoping that your distaste for it will cause you to rush the points to end it quicker. You generally have the better technique so take a little of your shot and focus on the placement of the ball and try to out rally them. When they drop a ball short, go in and attack. When you are focusing on your technique keep in mind you need to accentuate the follow through because of the lack of pace they are giving you.
Step 3. Be ready for the ball to come back to you. They are the master of running down balls so always expect the ball to come back, even if you think your shot should be a winner. The returned ball won’t be a good one so try to put it away again. Keep expecting it to come back. You may have to make three great “put aways” before it is actually “put away.”
Step 4. Keep your feet moving. The lack of pace on the ball slows down the match, don’t let it slow down your feet. You have so much more time to move to the ball and be ready for the shot it is easy to fall back on your heels and be late to hit the ball. Keep your feet moving and make sure you are taking your split step. Stay up on your toes. Waiting on the ball makes both our feet and mind lazy.
Step 5. Control the pace of the match. The pusher likes to control the pace of the match, rushing you when you are frustrated and slowing it down when you get a rhythm. Make sure you stay in control of the pace. When they are trying to rush their service game, stick your hand up to have them wait while you adjust your strings or shoe lace. If they slow you down on your serve don’t get frustrated. After their delay tactic, take one of your own so they know you are in control.
Step 6. Try to throw in a serve and volley. This comes along with controlling the pace of the game. They will be forced to make an aggressive return or a great passing shot. They don’t like to be rushed so this takes them out of their comfort zone.
Step 7. Don’t forget to go to the net. When you go to the net they are going to be forced to lob, pass or hit the ball back at you. Generally, they don’t have a powerful passing shot so you can get control of the point. Be ready to take the lob as an overhead. Be aware that some great pushers have learned the art of the passing shot to deal with this particular strategy, so make sure you evaluate your opponent’s response to what you are doing.
Step 8. Move them around (or not). This is the text-book response to playing the pusher and I have some hesitation with this approach. Generally, if you can move them around enough they will hit that short ball you can come in and attack. My problem is that some of these players hit their best shots running from side to side because that is what they are used to. Try hitting the ball right at them down the center so they don’t have to move. You may find that they can not hit the ball down the center or standing still. Think outside the box if nothing else is working.
Step 9. Don’t show your frustration. Do not let them see that you are getting frustrated. They feed on this and it will give them the advantage. Make them believe you can stay here and do this all day!
Step 10. Did I mention BE PATIENT. It is so important I will mention it twice. Be patient and remain focused. You will be more mentally than physically exhausted after playing a match against a pusher.
Good Luck, and remember, you need to get by the pusher to get to the match you enjoy playing.
don’t show your frustration