Playing the pusher?

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vineRipeTomatoes
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Joined: 06/28/2011

Hi Larry, one of my new hitting partners is playing pretty well against me lately, and I think it's due to her relatively good pushing game (and maybe her being left handed as well). Her pushes are often very angled, so I find myself running side to side to keep up, they're always low so I usually don't feel confident going for a flip (especially since I'm often put off balance by her placement), and they usually only go long when I'm too out of position to attack it. Some ideas I have to deal with this: look to go for the flip more when the push is not too angled, use more well placed deep pushes to get her to give a long push back, make a better attempt to attack the balls that do go long even if they're not exactly where I like them, do something to improve my footwork/anticipation/recovery. Do you have any thoughts?

Larry Hodges
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Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: Playing the pusher?

Hi Tomatoes,

If you push long, it's unlikely she'll push short. However, sometimes when a player pushes right off the bounce it seems like it's going to go short, and so players find themselves thinking they are short when they really are long.  

If you can get away with a long push, then do this every chance, and expect a deep return. Also, if you push to the middle, it takes away the extreme angles. If you push wide, then you have to guard against the angled return, meaning you have to leave the down-the-line return open - and you still might have trouble with the angled returns, especially if they are wide into your backhand. 

From what you are saying, it sounds like she doesn't attack much, and so you can take your time on the attack. So you shouldn't have to worry about flipping short balls; wait for a long one to loop. One thing you can try is to push to her weaker side, and then anticipate where her return will be. If you are right, loop it; if you are wrong, push.

If you can loop with both backhand or forehand, then simply serve long backspin or push long, and get ready to loop with whichever side she pushes to. Focus on consistency, spin, and depth. 

When serving, serve very deep backspin (if you want a backspin return to loop), often to the middle, and get ready to loop. This is the one time in the rally where you can really be ready for the return. 

Most players push crosscourt, especially with the forehand. So if she pushes with her lefty forehand, push deep there, and you'll probably get a long push to your backhand (assuming you are a righty). 

Another thing you can try is to mix in no-spin pushes. The return will tend to be popped up. 

If you are really having trouble looping the pushes, then you've just figured out the problem - it's not her, it's your loop! In this case, you know what needs practice. You might want to have a coach or top player look at it. 

Hope this helps!

vineRipeTomatoes
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Joined: 06/28/2011
Re: Playing the pusher?

Yes, it's very helpful and gives me a lot of ideas to work with, thanks!

You're right in that her offensive game is lagging somewhat behind her control game.

I am able to loop underspin on both sides, but of course it can always use more practice and improved consistency, especially in less-than-ideal circumstances.

I've become a little leery of using long serves too much because in principle those are the ones that good players can attack, even though in reality, against the people I actually play against, the long serves give them the most trouble. I feel like as my level of play improves (as well as my opponents'), I'll have to learn how to attack off of serving short as the long ones become less effective. Sort of a paradox.

Larry Hodges
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Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: Playing the pusher?

Never avoid using something because you feel you shouldn't. If long serves work, use long serves! Pradeeban Peter-Paul, many-time Canadian champion, likes to serve long every chance he can. So do many 2500 players. It's not that you have to serve short; it's that you should be able to serve short if your opponent can attack your long serve. I know many 2200 and 2300 players I compete with where I serve more long than short. Also, master the tweeny serve (also called the half-long serve), where the second bounce is right about the endline. This makes it hard to loop, hard to flip, and hard to drop short. It's the most popular serving depth in the world at the world class level. 

Here are some articles on serving long: