Saturday, August 4, 2007

Pushing along (or, "Oh yeah, I play tennis, too, Part 2")

I played a match last night in a USTA tournament at the club I belong to, Roosevelt Island Racquet Club. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have tournament playing issues, but still continue to compete in them. I've been going back and forth with this for the past few months whether or not to enter 3.5 or 4.0 tournaments: 3.5 because I haven't won a tournament in what is approaching half my lifetime and I figure I should be able to pick up a title there, or 4.0, which I should be playing because that's my skill level.

Anyway, I went for the 3.5 division this time around because I have more ranking points there, and I figured if I made it to be the number-one 3.5 player in the tri-state area, that's pretty legit, right? Well, those plans hit a snag last night after my first-round match. I played this guy last night that some (myself included at times) would call a "pusher." But in all honesty, that's an unfair term to put on him: I guess some of the best words to describe him would be "heady" and "determined." After warming up, I figured there'd be no way this guy could beat me: I just had too much firepower for him. (I like to think I have pretty big groundies.) But this guy returned everything. EVERYTHING! Granted, we were playing on clay, which slows my balls down, but I still can usually get around that as I think I've become a decent clay-courter over the years.

During the match, I was constantly changing my game plan, trying to remember what you do to beat a grinder like that: Do you keep trying to hit through them? Do you try to outrally them? Do you hit drop shots to draw them forward? Do you hit their moonballs on the rise or even take them out of the air? Do you serve and volley and chip and charge? I tried them all, except for the serving and volleying because I'm fighting a pretty tender Achilles tendon and would hate for it to blow up on me trying to push off that leg. The outrallying idea kind of works against me because I'm a pretty aggressive player: I figure if you got big shots, why not use them?

So this is all part of my dilemma: If I keep playing 3.5's, I'm likely to run into that, which can be extra frustrating. And that hurts my chance of winning that elusive second singles title. Or do I play 4.0's where at least I'm playing to the best of my ability, even though it might be even longer before I win again, if ever.

Any suggestions on which way to go? Or at the least, how to beat someone super-consistent?


jamie said...

Hey Van,

Jamie Again. Tough loss yesterday, sorry to hear. My suggestion is Patience. The thing about a 3.5 pusher/grinder is they usually can't hurt you, so if you can selectively pick your spots of've got a good chance. However, you really have to be consistent yourself and not get bored exchanging groundies. You brought up a good point which is to draw them in with drop shots. Some of those guys are poor volleyers, so that in some cases can work. But you need decent passing shots and you have to be able to hit the drop shot so that they are hitting their reply below the strike zone.

Consistency is a big part of tennis at all levels, especially on the dirt. In my last tourney (on hard courts), a Men's Open at SJU in Queens- the player who beat me was a 5.5 grinder.
Yeah, he had shots but his style was kick serve, deep topspin groundtrokes, great court coverage and pinpoint passing shots. A high-end variation of the pusher.
He just didn't miss easy shots (ever)and the depth and spin on his groundies
didn't give me much to work with. I fought back to 4-4 in the 1st after falling behind 0-3, but man was I winded. It was my 2nd match of the day (but I won the 1st 6-0,6-2...I'm just outta tourney shape). The only success I did have was engaging him in 15-20 shot rallies, just keeping my groundies deep and angled waiting for an opportunity to attack. Eventually, it seemed to undermine his confidence and he'd give me a short ball. But because of fatigue (I'm 10-15 lbs over fighting weight), from 4-4 I tried to force the issue too much and his excellent passing shots and all court coverage meant my approaches had to be impeccable or I'd have to hit outright winners. I ended making several unforced errors to lose that set and then the match b/c I knew I had to hit lines to hit winners. My opponent hit fewer shots worthy of the highlight reel but he was the better player because he constructed points better, willing to hit as many shots necessary to win points regardless of how long that took.
As for me, I need to work on my conditioning. I've gotten soft and if I am gonna play Open tournaments
I have to be able to play 2 matches a day against good players in the heat/humidity of New York summers.

Anonymous said...

dude. just get better or get stronger mentally. you should never let anyway dictate the way you play no matter the level. you should never use your opponent as an excuse why you lost unless they're good. bring them in, lob them or pass them. get a better serve.

Anonymous said...

Dictate the point and come to the net every opportunity.

SpunkysamSF said...


Sounds like your a bit of a head case - never underestimate your opponents. Pushers can pull off the biggest upsets. Pushers are used to players trying to hit through them. My suggestion is to mix it up (spins, drops, lobs), be patient, and take them out of their comfort zone - the baseline.