Long pushing is far more useful than most players would care to realise, particularly in forcing errors and setting up counter loops.
A long push is not simply an intermediary shot that players use between attacking - although sometimes you may push because you are not in position. It is more of a tool to open up the opportunity to attack, or to shut your opponent down.
Here are some tips on long pushing and how it can be strongly utilized to help you perform better in matches.
1. Using the speed
Often a good firm long push actually has quite a bit of speed on it. Having a firm grip and really driving into the ball to get solid backspin and depth can take you opponent off guard.
The most effective place to use the speed on a long push is to your opponent's body or wide to the wings, especially if you can mask the direction of the wide one until the last second. A long push into the body is often enough to surprise your opponent and give you an easy ball.
Open Long Push Drill
A good exercise to practice is to long push from two set points and then choose a ball and try to play a long push which will catch your training partner off guard. After that push is played either player can open to attack. This is a good exercise for using a push to setup an attacking ball or force an error.
2. Setting up a counter loop
Long pushing, when used effectively, is very good for setting up counter loop strokes. The push has to be firm and spinny in order for this to work and the best placement is usually to the crossover, so the opponent is forced to pivot.
The result of a strong push is the player pivoting and playing a slower spinnier forehand loop which has a high arch and bounce. This is the perfect shot to take advantage of if you are proficient in counter looping as you can close your bat angle, take the ball at the top of the bounce, and take control of the point.
Blocking is not as effective in this situation as a follow up because when the loop coming to you is slow and spinnier it presents more time for your opponent to see what you are doing. It is also harder to block with pace while maintaining control.
Push and Counter Drill
A great exercise for developing this skill is to have your partner serve short. Go straight in and push long and firm into the crossover, they pivot and spin the ball up, and then you aim to finish the point with a counter loop. The exercise is a success whether you win the point off of the quality of your push, or with a successful counter loop.
3. Why bat angle is important
Bat angle determines your reaction to a long push coming to you. If you are push returning a long push, you need to be aware of how the bat angle reacts to different spin.
If a ball coming to you has more backspin on, you need to have a more horizontal bat angle to catch the ball more on the bottom. Try and have a less firm grip and of course remember the stroke of your push should be the same angle as your bat.
If a ball has less spin on it then you can make your bat angle more vertical and give it a much firmer push.
What happens if you get these the wrong way around?
If you push a less spinny push with a horizontal bat angle then the ball will float up and you are in trouble. If the ball coming to you has more backspin and your bat angle is more vertical then the net is your first port of call.
4. Playing choppers
Long pushing can be very useful when playing against choppers, especially the ones that don't attack as much. You can push until you find yourself in a comfortable position to attack.
Also you can vary your pushes to spin and no spin to try and force errors or open up easy balls.
5. Baiting players
Baiting players is more risky. It essentially involves pushing to an angle where you can predict the response, i.e. pushing to the wide forehand and predicting a crosscourt forehand loop return.
You are leaving yourself open to your opponent's attack, with the intention of preempting the response and using the speed of their attack to launch a powerful counter-attack or to achieve a particular placement.
So, there are a few tips on long pushing, it really is a more useful technique than people care to realise!
Other backspin techniques include chopping and chop blocking - chop blocking being a much more advanced and complex technique.
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by Matt Hetherington