What Is A Pusher In Tennis? (How To Play Against One)

By Lin
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Playing against a pusher in tennis can be a long, uphill battle. Considering these types of players are some of the hardest to beat, what is the reason behind the “pusher” mentality in the sport? Are you finding yourself to be more of a moonballer in tennis?

The phrase pusher in tennis refers to a defensive player who “pushes” back any shot they can chase down. Moreover, you may find a pusher using deep shots and being proficient in lobs. Pushers rarely make mistakes on the court and are considered incredibly consistent.

You may be wondering what gives a pusher the edge. Luckily, we’re here to iron things out and explain how to play against one: keep reading!

Table of Contents

What Makes A Tennis Player A Pusher?

When you’re considered a pusher in tennis, this is essentially someone who acts as a “wall” for their opponent. Like practicing against the wall: pushers always get the ball back to you.

Understandably, this can irritate players who want to win matches and has become a point of contention in the sport. Although not always highly skilled, pushers are reliable hitters, rarely missing a return shot.

Luckily, if you can learn to push back against the pusher of the game, that’s when the playing field becomes more even.

How To Outplay A Pusher (3 Challenges)

One of the best ways to outplay a pusher in tennis is by hitting shots that make them move diagonally. Pushers usually play in a straight line, keeping their movement short and minimal.

Therefore, producing serves and returns that make the tennis pusher move from all sides of the court can ensure a point for you.

Mastering the drop shot may also be a good idea, as it will force the pusher to run to the net and hit from closer to the ground.

Here’s a video explaining how to play against a pusher:

1. Respecting The Pusher

One of the first things to remember when playing against a pusher is that they want to get in your head. Avoid showing your emotions to them, but start choosing shots that make their chance of return less likely.

Keep things professional, and don’t let the pusher see you sweat.

2. Shot Selection Against A Pusher

The next way to outplay a pusher is by choosing the right shots. As mentioned, you want to use shots that get the opposing pusher on all sides of the court, ideally in a diagonal pattern.

For instance, try rallying with them for a while, then interrupt the rhythm and play a slice forehand or backhand (cross-court direction). That is one of the best ways to break up the “wall” effect.

These 14 tennis shots are worth mastering, so you’ll have the edge over a pusher during your next match.

3. Your Mental State While Playing Against A Pusher

The last and most important thing to remember when playing against a pusher in tennis is to keep calm and stay precise. The mental hoops a pusher in tennis will put you through can be frustrating: don’t let that show.

Remember, you want to hit shots that get them moving, so don’t let your face show what you’re about to do. Tennis is a mental sport, so train your mind and body to work together.

Why It’s So Frustrating Playing Against A Pusher

When playing against a defensive “pusher” player in tennis, this can be incredibly frustrating. You may be a better player skill-wise, but up against a consistent returner that never misses a shot: it’s understandable to get upset.

However, there are ways to combat these feelings and turn the game around in your direction:

  1. Keep the ball out of the pusher’s “wheelhouse.” Force them to move beyond where they’ve been standing.
  2. Use a slice.
  3. Use topspin for your shots.
  4. Keep your shots deep.
  5. Surprise them with drop shots.
  6. Don’t let rallies go on too long.
  7. Take the net: make the pusher run for it.

It’s also worth seeking out pushers for everyday matches, as playing against them WILL make you a better athlete.

How The Pusher Thinks

Regarding how pushers think, they almost always use a defensive mindset during a match. Remember, pushers are consistent, almost becoming walls against their opponent. The mentality of this is close to someone who knows they are stronger than someone else, almost intimidating them on the court.

Of course, intimidation is nothing new to tennis, with many players using this as a defense mechanism. However, you can get past this, even beating the pusher at their own mind game.

Focus on trick shots, near-net shots, and getting your pusher to move from all sides of the court rather than volleying or rallying.

Should I Play Defensively With Pushers?

The best way to play against a pusher in tennis is by using technical shots. Because pushers are often not technical players but rather consistently good at intermediate shots/strokes: use that to your advantage.

For example, we recommend using speed and the element of surprise in your match play. To start: hit fast serves that your pusher won’t expect or be able to reach, and throw in drop shots now and then. The slice serve is a perfect example of this.

The Differences Between A Pusher And A Moonballer In Tennis

Comparing a pusher and a moonballer in tennis, those who are consistent but aren’t usually very skilled are pushers. In contrast, a moonballer hits deep and high return shots and is often highly skilled. These can be used against a pusher, who may not be technical enough to return them.

Furthermore, a pusher works as a wall during match play, playing slower. Moonballers also use a slower stroke but move from all sides of the court.

In Conclusion

This article covered what it means to be a pusher in tennis, as well as how to beat a person that plays like this. It’s crucial to master these three things when playing a pusher: respect, shot selection, and mentality. Good luck, and don’t be afraid to use technical shots!

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Editor of All Points Tennis and a huge Roger Federer fan, I've spent countless hours studying his moves, especially his forehand and one-handed backhand. I also love writing about all the technical stuff like rackets and strings. I'm super pumped to share my insights with fellow tennis lovers here.