It's so frickin frustrating when playing against a pusher. Every shot that you throw at him is a wasted effort because he keeps returning them to you. Alright! You feel like smashing the ball at him! Have you ever experienced this kind of agony?

If yes, then this is a great lesson where I am sharing for you to learn tips to beat the pusher in your upcoming match.

Learn to beat the pusher in your next match.


What the hell is a pusher?

A pusher is a defensive player who "pushes" back any shot that he chase down, without deliberately hitting a winner. The pusher can angle shots, aim deep, and produce effective lobs. Pushers are extremely quick and consistent, and they rarely making errors. At recreational level, some of them have ugly strokes and you simply feel so cross when you lose to them.

Does this sounds familiar? Very often, when you think you have hit an outright winner and blown the opponent away. And in the very next moment pusher just manages to return the ball back at you. Either you end up over-hitting the ball or dumping the ball into the net. As a result, you blow yourself away instead. And you scold yourself: “ What the hell am I doing! Why am I playing so horribly!”

So, what can you do?

Fortunately, there are ways to beat the pusher. If there weren’t, they would be winning Grand Slams and no one would be watching tennis anymore. Therefore, I am going to share with you some tactics and preparations that can help you overcome your dreaded pusher opponent.

First things first: Your mental state

The key to beat a pusher is to stay patient and calm. Why? Since, you cannot expect yourself to kill him in just 4 shots, so, be prepared to play more shots with such players. In case you commit any unforced errors, just keep your temper in check and breathe. Simply focus on the next point. Also, stay patient and calm. Furthermore, wait for the opportunities to use the tactics that I am going to discuss with you below.


Action steps:

  • If you already know that you are playing against a pusher, it is best to prepare mentally to stay on the court for sometime. Keep the tactics in mind and try to execute them to counter the pusher.
  • If you are playing with someone new and find out that he is a pusher, just stay calm and patient. Don’t get frustrated over your unforced errors.
  • Work out a routine to help you to focus on the next point. For example, either walk to the fence and wipe your perspiration or adjust your tennis strings to regroup.


Tactics to Beat the Damn Pusher:

Play down the middle

Just tell yourself, "Wait a minute, that’s not my style. I'm an aggressive base liner. And I love to whack the ball from corner to corner." Yes, you may be an aggressive baseliner, but when you are playing against a pusher, do not finish the point in 4-6 shots. What really you can do is, to play down the middle for the first few shots and keep the risk low. I repeat, keep the risk low. Don't go for the sidelines. Once you know that the opponent can't hurt you and then you’ve got to slowly work your way to open up the court. Just wait for the right opportunity to go for your favorite inside out or inside in winner.

Hit high, slow and deep

Sometimes, it is good to hit high, slow and deep shots to the pusher and make him uncomfortable. I know you must be thinking it is not glamorous to hit these kinds of shots. But, what we want to achieve is to make the pusher return a short ball for us to attack. And that will give us a better chance of winning the point.

Hit angles to pull the pusher away

"Now you are telling me to go for angles. Are these the usual cross-court rallies?" No, not really. If you play the usual cross-court deep shots, probably, the pusher is 1-2 metres away from the centre. And he is still quite comfortable returning the ball to you. Here, I want you to wait for the right ball and hit near the corner of the service line. Consequently, this will pull your dreaded pusher off to the sidelines to retrieve the shot. Then you can sneak in, to volley the next shot to the open court. Hence, Job Done!

Use an angled approach shot rather than a down-the-line approach shot

Most of the times, the coaches will tell you to hit down the line when you have an approach shot opportunity. However, in my experience, a good pusher will still be able to get the shot. And he can hit a passing shot either cross court or throw a lob at you. The next time you have an approach shot: go for the angles as described above, pull the pusher out of the court and you may have a better chance of a volley winner.

Short backhand slice cross court

Here is a nice 'trick' that you can use. In the midst of your gruelling rallies, you can hit a short backhand slice cross court. How short? So, you should aim to get the ball to land inside the service box. Why is it effective? The short backhand slice cross court is actually going to your opponent's backhand. Because of the slice, the ball is kept low. Therefore, your opponent will need to move up and hit the ball up towards you. If he decides to come up to the net, then you can go for the cross-court or down-the-line passing shot winner.

Serve wide and volley open court

If you don't like long, torturous rallies, then use this simple tactic to overcome the problem. You must serve wide and come in to volley to the open court. This is as Simple as that. Just one piece of advice that I can offer you is, if you do not possess a strong serve, reduce the power and go for placement instead.

Attack second serve

For the aggressive ones, whack your second serve return and dominate right away! Usually most pushers, especially, recreational players, have a slow second serve. But, what I want you to do is to move in closer to the baseline to return the serve. And take the opportunity to attack straight away. Also, you can either return with good angles or return towards their feet. Finally, go up to the net and get ready to poach the floating return.

Action steps:

You have 7 tactics in your playbook that you can use against the pusher.

Choose 1 or 2 tactics that you think suit your level of play and use them in your next match against the pusher.

Once you have tried and gained some success, try 1 or 2 more tactics in your next game.

“Ok Joel, let's do it!”

Hold on a second.

Let's do a reality check by asking yourself a set of following questions.

Are you ready for the gruelling battle?Do you have the level of fitness that allows you to slug for 2 hours on court with the dreaded pusher?

Remember! Since, it is a long battle and you don't want to start strong and end up losing the match due to lack of fitness. I have gone through the same pain & agony; therefore, I don't want you to suffer the same fate as me.

Once, I played against a pusher before and I was up 6-2 in the first set. But, fatigue set in and I was panting after every point. Consequently, I took longer to recover after each point and found it increasingly difficult to focus on the match. Also, the unforced errors crept in as I wanted to shorten the points by going for the winners. In the end, I lost 3-6 and 2-6 in the second and third set, respectively.

What a shame!

“But I don't have time to train for fitness!”

I know that time is precious and playing tennis is already a luxury activity for some of you. So, where are we going to find time to do fitness training?

Fortunately, I know of some effective and simple workouts that require little time and no equipment. I have gone through them and the results were amazing. You will be able to last through the whole damn battle with the same intensity.

So, are you ready?


Introducing the Tabata workout


The type of training I am referring to is a different form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) called Tabata. The basis of Tabata Training is 4 minutes of intense interval training/circuit training. A good example is sprinting for 20 seconds and then walking for 10 seconds - Repeat 7 more times for a total of 8 sets. That will take about 4 minutes.

Tabata Training can be done with a number of different exercises. The idea is to use an exercise that gets the whole body involved, or at least the major muscle groups.

A study by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata, who founded Tabata training, found that high intensity training improved VO2 max (or your maximal oxygen consumption) by about 14%, while anaerobic capacity improved by 28%. These effects will help you shed those extra pounds of fat, while also building lean muscle.

How is it helpful to me?

I find out that this type of workout is suitable for tennis players. Think of it as this way. A long rally may last about 20-30 seconds. If you are well trained and able to recover faster than your opponent, you definitely have an edge over him.

Sample workouts for you

For a start, if you are not used to HIIT, I suggest you reduce the number of sets. Do dynamic warm up exercises before you commence the Tabata workouts.

You can go to the Apps store of Google Play Store to download a Tabata timer. Just search for ‘Tabata Timer’ and you should see many results. Download one of them and you can start your workout by following the timing. It's very easy.

Sample Workout 1

Sprint 20 seconds

Walk 10 seconds

Do this 8 times

Total time: 4 minutes

Sample Workout 2

Burpee 20 seconds

Rest 10 seconds

Skipping with a jump rope 20 seconds

Rest 10 seconds

Repeat this cycle 8 times

Total time: 8 minutes

Sample Workout 3

Push up 20 seconds

Rest 10 seconds

Split jumps 20 seconds

Rest 10 seconds

Climbers 20 seconds

Rest 10 seconds

Repeat this cycle 8 times

Total time: 12 minutes


For the workout to be effective, your 20 seconds of work must be your maximum effort. I must warn you that these may seem easy but these are not. Listen to your body. If you are not feeling well, stop the workout immediately.

Action steps:

  • Assess your level of fitness : Do you workout frequently or are you just a weekend tennis warrior?
  • Download a Tabata timer app
  • Choose a workout that is suits your current fitness level
  • Start with dynamic warm up exercises before you start the workout
  • Commence your Tabata workout
  • Cool down with some stretches

Final words

If you are seriously frustrated about losing your tennis matches to pushers, my suggestions are to take the tips that I shared in this article and do something about it. With the right mindset, tactics and fitness, I am sure you will be beating the dreaded pusher in no time.

Do you have any other tactics that you use and find useful to beat the pusher? Share with us in the comment box below.

I read every comment.

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