Let’s continue to learn how to unravel the various types of opponents that you would meet on the tennis court. Last time we talked about the Big Hitter and the Slice and Dicer. Now we’ll tackle two more: The Net Rusher and the Pusher
In Your Face
This player can be very annoying, especially if you aren’t prone to take the net yourself. Every time you look up, they are right at the net waiting to hit another volley. It gets even worse if they serve and volley. Points can end very quickly so you don’t have much of a chance to settle in.
The key here is to relax and assess exactly how proficient your opponent is at their net game. Volleying is becoming a lost art in the pro world, mostly because you can get away with a big serve and a good ground stroke. At the club level, however, you’ll find that having incomplete games in your arsenal will hurt you.
First of all, does the net rusher have good ground strokes? Can their play from the back of the court (i.e. ground strokes, approach shots) create opportunites at the net? Or are they simply running up there at the first chance they get. If the latter is the case, hit your ground strokes deep in the court. They more than likely can’t push you around with their ground strokes, so make them beat you with their worse shots.
Another thing to look for is whether or not your opponent has a good serve. If they serve and volley, the serve has to be good. Not even just pace wise, but placement. If not, let them have it. Make them pay for every second serve or poorly placed serve.
Also, adjust your thinking. The points will go much faster playing a net rusher. Think of it as a chess match, and pick where you’ll be hitting your returns before they serve. When hitting passing shots, don’t concentrate so much on blasting the ball past them because most volleyers like the pace. Instead, think about making your opponent hit tough volleys. Hit the ball at their feet, stretch them wide, and lob it over their head. It’ll give them something to think about the next time they want to charge to the front.
We’ve all seen this opponent before. Heck, we probably were this opponent as one time or another. They get everything back. Just run, run, run…they can be horribly boring to watch and play against.
The dangerous thing about playing a pusher is that more times than not they aren’t going to beat themselves. You’ll have to take it to them. But you have to play in a smart way. Don’t just bash the ball and hope it goes past them. They actually like it when you do that. A pusher will just feed off your pace.
The key is to hang in there and pay attention. You have to stay forced. If you have an opening for a winner, go for it. But don’t be surprised if you have to hit two or three shots that would’ve been clean winners against other people.
Pusher like to be comfortable. They get into their little groove by getting everything back…from the baseline. They usually like to run. Make them do what they don’t like to do. Hit up the middle of the court so that they don’t have a chance to move around as much. Draw them into the net so that they’ll have to volley on your terms…must pushers really hate that.
next: Mr./Ms. Can Do