Re: How to play against pushers?
You need to find a way that works for you, with your game. Pros and very strong amateurs can beat pushers simply by virtue of their power and big games, or excellent netplay, or strong serving/returning which takes the pusher out of their game from the beginning of the rally, but it seems like you need something different.
You say that you have problems with him resetting the rally after you pull him wide. And as you say, you aren't comfortable rushing him with volleys/swing volleys to prevent that reset. So my analysis of the situation is: you don't have the ability (currently) to consistently hit very big, aggressive groundies that will eventually open the court and extract the weak short ball from the pusher, leading to a winner. You don't have the power and precision to hit a winner off the lobbed "reset" ball. You also don't have the ability to finish him at the net. Lastly, you probably don't have the ability to outpush him.
A very tough situation indeed, since you cannot use the most common strategies applied by stronger players to beat pushers. (Apart from the last one- outpushing a pusher is a lower level strategy).
Here's what I suggest. You have to try to force him to play in a way that differs from his preferred Caro-web strategy. You want to try to turn the match into a faster-paced one. Focus on hitting firm, hard, flattish shots repeatedly into the court. Your aim is to be as consistent as possible with these relatively fast and low shots. At club level, the shot probably doesn't have to be too deep- just beyond the service line should be okay, deeper is great if you can do it consistently. You are not really trying to open the court. Hit hard repeated shots into the weaker wing, some to the stronger wing as well. You can still hit corners when you feel in position, but you don't have to do it very often.
By not aiming to open the court your consistency will increase. You are hoping that by hitting hard and low and not opening the angles too much you can draw him into hitting harder and lower as well. He will hopefully tend to reset the point less. If you get a shorter ball you can hit it quickly through the court and try to rush him for time. If an opportunity present itself you can still hit winners. But overall you are trying to make him misjudge or mistime the ball, to force an error from him. You should be trying to turn the point into a battle of "who can keep up rallying at this pace for longer". If you are the better ballstriker, you should have a good chance of forcing an error out of him in this way.
Essentially, you are trying to lure him into using your pace and hitting fast balls back and forth with you. By keeping the ball low you are trying to make him hit lower. And you are banking on winning that kind of faster paced rally. He should miss more than before and you will also have more pace to work with if you see an opening.
In order for him to beat you when you play this way, he could do one of two things:
a) hit fast rally shots with you more consistently than you
or b) open the court first himself.
If he's good at doing these things he's probably just better than you. Otherwise, this strategy is worth a shot.
The plus thing about this strategy is that if you are able to lure him into using your pace you will enjoy the match more regardless of whether you win or lose, because he won't be pushing anymore. You don't need to hit the balls up the centre: you can try to establish a fast cc rally.
It's possible that he might be good at absorbing the flat shots and slowing his shots down. This is quite tricky for most club players, but maybe he has this skill. Generally most players cannot absorb the pace from a flatter shot without giving up a short ball, which you can then attack.
One thing to remember: you aren't trying to hit so hard that you make errors. Actually, you are trying to hit at a hard but comfortable pace for yourself, so that you remain consistent. If the balls start coming back too fast you can always slow it down a little, but still keep it low and reasonably quick. You aren't even really trying to stay "on top" of the rally. You are essentially trying to find a rally speed which makes it tough for him to slow the ball down and at which you are the more consistent player. The reason you don't want to use too many angles is because, unless you have a lot of power, by the time he tracks down your angled shots the ball will have slowed down quite a lot. Instead, you want the ball travelling through his contact zone quickly all the time.
Good luck in trying to draw him into your game!
P.S. If you try this strategy, please PM me and let me know how it goes!
Last edited by HowardH; May 16th, 2011 at 10:35 AM.