Tennis pushers are the types of players that do not play glamorous tennis, yet they are able to win tennis matches through their keen use of tennis strategy and placement. Typically, tennis pushers do not have proper tennis technique, and they use their knack of using different spins and variety to throw off their more conventional counterparts.
In tennis, a pusher is a club player who doesn’t hit the ball all that hard but wins a lot of the time. The stereotype would be someone who has ungainly looking strokes but is able to run down almost every ball. His shots have little or no pace but he wins by properly placing the ball, using the right kind of spin and just out rallying and outlasting his opponents. He is a master of extracting errors.
Tennis pushers are usually dreaded opponents because they seem to make you beat yourself. Because they aren’t hitting winners or forcing errors through the power and spin of their shots, you get the impression that he is not a better player than you. If he is the stereotype pusher – the one with the ugly strokes – then you will feel even more like you should be better than him.
Psychological Affect of the Tennis Pusher
Then when you get to the court, you find that he is getting everything back and making you play one more ball point after point. Eventually, you will make errors. With each error, you get more frustrated. Suddenly, you find that you are behind in the score, about to be beaten and you think to yourself “this shouldn’t happen because I’m better than him!” This only adds to your anger.
Once a tennis pusher gains this reputation, he already has a psychological advantage over his most of his rivals. If you have to play him, you are immediately under pressure to play well or even at your best if you want to have any chance of beating him. If you are not playing well, the pusher will win from your errors. So even before the match starts, you will be afraid to make errors.
The Tennis Pusher’s Affect on Your Game
Naturally, the tendency from this kind of approach is to play carefully, sometimes too much. When this happens, your strokes will not be fluid, which, ironically, will lead to committing errors. With each error, the frustration and fear of losing grows. Playing a match with fear and anger will definitely lead to a loss. (You can play a match with anger if you are John McEnroe, but even he never played with fear.)
If you think that these tennis pushers are no fun to play against, then maybe you should just avoid them altogether. There’s no point to playing if you know you’re not going to have fun. But there are situations where you cannot avoid them. If you join a tournament, you will have to play against whoever gets in your way as determined by the draw. So the best thing to do is to just learn how to deal with them. You might even eventually learn to have fun playing them!
Learning to Play Against the Tennis Pusher
Learning how to play against tennis pushers is one of the great mental exercises in the game. The first thing that needs to be done is to respect the pusher. Whether they admit it or not, these players relish being seen as inferior players. They love to think “I’m not good, but I can beat a lot of better players!”
Even if you say to them that they’re good, they move so well and hit drop shots and lobs so precisely, they will say, “but I don’t know how to hit hard and play aggressively, like the pros, or like you.”
It is like a reverse psychological way of thinking and talking. Deep inside, you both know that results on the court counts for more than having nice, powerful strokes. In effect, this is his way of saying that he is better.
Winning the Psychological Match Against The Tennis Pusher
Pay no mind to his psychological warfare. Respect him because the pushing strategy is a valid way of playing the game, and the sooner you admit it, the better.
At the beginning of the match, take your mind off how annoying he is. This is easier to do once you have learned to respect him and the way he plays. Instead of focusing on the opponent, focus only on the ball. After all, it is his shots that you have to deal with, not him per se.
You might have heard of the phrase “give him a taste of his own medicine.” This is true to a certain extent. There are actually different ways to play a pusher type of game. The most common is to hit lots of floating slices, drop shots, angled slices and lobs. Other pushers like to loop the ball constantly, and then hit a few drop shots and lobs.
Tennis Strategy Against Tennis Pushers
If you play against a pusher who likes the slices more, you can probably be successful against him by using the moonballing strategy and vice versa. It is not advisable to try to do the exact same thing that he is doing because he’ll probably end up executing his shots a lot better than you since he is more experienced at doing so.
Another viable approach to playing tennis pushers is to play serve and volley. They generally do not have great passing shots and their lobs are usually well-disguised. But these players have great court coverage so be ready for the ball to keep coming back, even if you are already at net.
Pushers are usually better at moving side to side along the baseline than moving on a diagonal. Therefore, the deep approach-angled volley or deep volley-angled volley combination should work well against them.
Although the net rushing style is advised, you should do so with caution. Always keep an eye out for the lob. Patience should be practiced because being too aggressive will lead to errors. Playing against tennis pushers is actually a good way of improving on some basic things.
How to Beat the Pusher in Tennis
Movement is one of the keys to playing against tennis pushers. You should always keep your feet moving and adjusting properly to hit each shot. Another key is ball control. This always precedes power in terms of importance. Try to control your shots more when playing the pusher. Hit at ¾ pace and go for proper placement.
Don’t try to overpower the pusher because he likes to feed off your pace. Trying to overpower someone also means that you will be making more errors and errors are the most usual way for pushers to win points. Hitting a variety of shots is also effective. Mix up your serves, returns and rallying shots. Anticipation and early preparation are usually things one does when playing a power player but these are just as valuable when playing the pusher.
Proper mechanics need to be maintained because the pusher is always trying to make it as awkward as possible for you to hit your favorite shots.
Not Letting the Pusher Dictate Points
In terms of the mental approach to playing tennis pushers, always remember not to let him dictate the point. In particular, be aware if the pusher is trying to speed things up or slow things down. He is an expert at such subtle tactics of gamesmanship. He will usually speed things up when you are getting frustrated and slow things down when you are hitting the ball well in order to try to disrupt your rhythm.
As much as possible, keep the match going at a rhythm that is more comfortable for you and not for him.
For example, if he is trying to rush things when serving, try to slow things down by putting your hand up signalling that you are not fully ready to receive yet.
Above all, the most important thing to keep in mind is to never show fear or frustration, even if you are not executing well. Tennis pushers feed off your negative energy so if you can somehow find a way to suppress any negative emotion, you will not be giving them as big a mental advantage as they want. All this goes back to respecting them as competitors. If you can acknowledge that they’re doing a lot of the right things needed to win matches, then you can be calmer on court against them.
You will not be thinking anymore how superior you are and how it should be so easy for you to beat a pusher. The more you see them as equals, the less there will be fear and frustration at the prospect of losing. The more you can play without fear, the better your chance of winning and the more fun you will have.
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