How to play against a pusher

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The pusher... This style of play is so frustrating but you have to deal with it because there are a lot. How to play against them. This iw what this TecniMag article is about.

Young limeur

« I’’m making all the unforced errors, he is doing nothing!” This is the kind of feeling that can overwhelm you when you are playing against a player who is considered a “pusher“ . These players are recognizable by their style of play, consisting of great footwork (mainly lateral) and their aptitude to give very few free points. Their tactic is really simple: push you to go for tough shots and therefore make a lot of unforced errors. How do you deal with this common but frustrating kind of play? 

Identify the kind of “pusher“ you are facing 

There is not “one profile”. Every player is different. Of course, the basics of their game are the footwork and consistency, but some will also have unique characteristics. Let’s take the example of shot intensity. Whereas some will hit a very slow shot, others will put a lot of intensity and effort into it. Some will try to play mainly in the center of the court whereas others will try to make you run as much as possible. Indeed, when you are playing at a much higher level, the “pusher“ can have the ability to make some good attacking shots. It’s your job to anticipate and analyze those elements during the warm-up or the first points of the match. By doing this, you’ll be able to more precisely identify the style of play of your opponent and therefore create the right strategy. 

Medvedev limeur


Put him outside of his comfort zone  


Like many opponents, one of the keys to playing against a “pusher“ is your ability to mix your game. One of their main qualities is the sense of anticipation which allows them to return most shots. You have to look for patterns that they aren’t used to. Always keep in mind, you are not the first opponent he has played against. Mixing the depth and the angles of your shots is a good game plan against them. For example, if you are facing them on clay (which is the surface where their game is the most effective) look for opportunities to hit dropshots. His footwork at the net is perhaps not as good as at the baseline, you will use a shot which can surprise him. Once you have a good plan, use it in the right way. The worst thing to do is to be predictable. Keep other plans in your pocket. 


You have the keys to the match


Even if some hit big shots, most of them will let you dictate the point. Always keep that in mind. Against them, it’s you who is managing the point. This has to be a real motivation for you in order to not get frustrated. In any match, you will make unforced errors. Against a player like this, the ratio will be even more important, but that’s part of the game. Don’t leave the fight. Nothing is better for them than to see that you are starting to get frustrated. If you get to this point, next points / games will pass you by. Stay positive! 

Limeur Chardy

Play offensive or reverse the role? That is the question


There are two main ideas which are fighting each other: Should I be offensive or slow down my game? To be fair, there is not a good or bad choice. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Like we said before, it’s up to you to find the right strategy in order to mix it up when you are playing a pusher. If you want to go with the offensive side, here are some key points. First of all, don’t look for big shots every time. The trap of the “pusher“ is to make you believe that every balls he is throwing at you is easy to attack. That is definitely not the case. Putting speed on a “dead” ball is a pretty tough thing to do. You have to make your own “shot selection”. Play a waiting shot against a “pusher“ is not a shame. Quite the contrary, you have to use it. In addition to force you to make unforced errors, attacking every shot will tire you. On the other side of the net, the “pusher“ is relying on the rhythm of your ball and therefore is tiring less. It’s your job to put more speed on good shots. In addition to this, never forget to follow your shots. In order to shorten the exchanges, the net is your friend. When you are feeling your shot will put your opponent in a bad position, don’t hesitate to conclude your point with a volley. The time lapse is shorter for him and you will finish your point in an easier way. 
    The other idea is to “invert the roles”. What we mean by this is to convert yourself into a “pusher“. Just by imagining this idea, some of you will feel a real discomfort but this can be a very effective way to win. On the defensive side, a “pusher“ can appear a really impressive player but this can hide a lot of deficits on the offensive side.  You can judge this during the warm-up or first points of the match and then let him dictate the point if this seems to be a good strategy. Of course, this is a good one if you have what it takes to endure it. If your lateral footwork is bad, this might not be a good idea. Try and you will see…

    That sums up the different methods and tacticts you can use against the “pusher“ . It’s now up to you to select a good plan based on your style of play. We are aware, that it’s easier said than done. “Pushers“ have always been part of game and will remain. So good luck in advance!