May 23, 2011 - Pushing: Five out of Six Doesn't Cut It


When you push long, you must do six things. If you do four or five, your push might give intermediate players trouble. Most players do several of these things well, and never understand that if they did them all, even advanced players would have difficulty attacking their pushes. The six things that top players do when pushing deep to make their pushes effective?

  • Quick off the bounce
  • Deep
  • Low
  • Heavy
  • Angled
  • Disguised placement

If you do most of these, you'll give intermediate players trouble. If you do all of them, you'll give advanced players trouble.

A few notes on this. Angled placement doesn’t mean you never push quick to the middle—some players have trouble with that as they have to decide whether to use forehand or backhand—but most pushes should be angled to the corners. Disguised placement means not telegraphing where you are pushing, i.e. able to push to the wide forehand or backhand at the last second.

The first time I really thought about this as a set of six attributes was while playing a practice match with 13-year-old future USA team member Han Xiao. I liked to serve short backspin and loop with my forehand, but I was struggling to loop his pushes. After losing the match (he was already about 2400!), I mentioned how I couldn't serve and loop with any power and consistency. He said that's because Coach Cheng Yinghua (former Chinese team member and four-time USA Men's Singles Champion) had told him that if he did these things with his push, my loop would fall apart. It did.