DEVELOPING ISOLATION TO TAKE YOUR DOUBLES PLAY TO A NEW LEVEL.
I have mentioned isolating the player in the past and this month’s tip looks further at this strategy.
We are looking to establish sound fundamentals in doubles partnerships.
Too often , doubles players are taught to ‘hit and get to the net’
but if you ask the players why they do this, they will tell you ‘Because the pro
to’. our students should be able to tell us why a particular strategy is beneficial; whilst we tell the players it is best for them to both be at the net, they
should understand why this might be advantageous, also how and when they should be there, how do they get there etc.
The philosophy of isolation:
Two players working as a unit to control the flow of a point
through high percentage shot-making, two-on-one team play, isolation targets and
positioning before and after each shot.
The key to doubles play
A key ingredient to successful doubles play is finding
opportunities for, and executing, isolations.
To isolate a player involves finding two-on-one situations, and exploiting that strength and all of it’s advantages. By focusing attention on a single player,
your team will remain balanced as individuals and as a team, staying in high-percentage shot and target mode, and you will minimise your own possible
mistakes. If you can successfully create an isolation situation, you are placing your opponents under pressure and forcing them to play low-percentage
shots; this means you are effectively taking one of their pair out of the game.
Moving for isolations.
Having successfully isolated one of your opponents deep in their
own half of the court, the object is quite simple: the crosscourt player covers
of the court and the D.T.L. player stays in front of the ball. This positioning allows your team to cover the two highest percentage hitting areas for your
opponents – the tramlines and the court centre. Having achieved these positions, you should be able to maintain the isolation.
The extreme crosscourt shot and the lob can at this stage be left
unguarded, they are difficult shots for the player under pressure and you cannot
the whole court anyway. But remember – there must be continuous pressure on the isolated player, do not let them off the hook.
Why do we Isolate?
1/. Your team are essentially taking one of your opponents out of the game. This gives you an opportunity to subsequently make the other player a target.
2/. Your team is keeping the ball and the shot selections in a
constant target area. Reversing the target area, even occasionally lowers your
of consistent hitting the ball to an area, because changing the angle of the ball is more difficult than returning it the same way it came.
3/. By isolating one player, you are keeping your shots in a high
percentage mode and putting extra pressure on that one opponent. Most doubles
play doubles because they like to have a team mate assisting them. Just by isolating a player for a few shots removes their comfort zone.
4/. By isolating, your team does not need to shift laterally.
5/. By hitting forcefully at the one player lowers their return percentage; this keeps your own team in control, you are in the right place ant the right time.
6/. You are creating a power wall around the isolated player and this eliminates the easiest options of your opponents.
7/. Your team has a set of plays and therefore a sense of unity
that develops team work and co-operation. You and your partner’s anticipation
continue to improve.
When and How to Isolate.
1/. Opposing a deep player. Firtly, find the deep player, continue
to play deep to that half of the court; make your isolation shiftand wait for an
a green light and your team can put the ball away. You are trying to force an error rather than trying to produce winners. By isolating, your team is
staying within a high-percentage game plan, reducing the possibility of unforced errors from you.
2/. Server stays back after serving. A key time to isolate for
your team is a chip and charge return of serve. Target the side line T and
into your isolation positions.
3/. Receiver stay back after returning. Serve and volley, targeting the side line T for your first volley, therefore creatring your isolation play.
4/. Opponents switching on a lob. When your team has put up
a good lob and you find the opponents switching sides, advance to the service
pick a player to isolate. Stay with the isolation of the deep player.
5/. Anytime you find a player behind the service line, isolate that player at will, particularly if they are the weakest of the pair.
6/ Playing a serve and volley opponent. This is quite a tough
isolation but keep your side line T target and the ball low. Keep them isolated
receive a high ball.
7/. Playing a chip and charge opponent. This is another challenging isolation. Use the same tactics as the last one.
8/. In general it is a higher percentage play, when picking the
weakest player to isolate.
Your opponents are successfully lobbing you.
should not affect your isolation plans and they can still remain intact; you
court positioning will need to be changed and you will
need to be a little further back from the net to counter this tactic.
job now is to read whether the opponents is going to hit a lob or try to hit the
ball through or past your isolation wall. As the
game progresses, you will quickly recognise the preferencies of your opponents – their shots and their targets. You can make
adjustments to your isolation game plan.
How to finish the point during the isolation.
now have your opponent caught in your isolation trap, they are in a deep
position on the court; you should now continue the isolation
until you have the opportunity to hit close-to-close. You need to have three factors in your favour to carry this out:
1/. A ball coming towards you, that your team will hit, must be above the height of the net.
2/. You must be balanced as a player ready to hit the ball.
3/. You must be inside the service line.
you do not have any of these sactors then you must maintain the isolation and
look for the next chance to hit close-to-close. The
following factors are all reasons to continue the isolation – low balls, reaching volleys, very deep volleys or difficult angled shots.
you feel good about the position of the ball, you feel comfortable about the
shot you should execute a forcing volley or overhead
at the player closest to you or go for an angled winner. If hitting to the close player the ball should be aimed right at their feet or down
the opening in the middle. Anything just wide of that player has the tendency to come back.
area you must be very aware of is that you must shift laterally with every
change of direction of the ball. Many teams get into
difficulty because they do not shift correctly when changing the direction. The centre panel player must now shift in fron of the ball and
the player who was in front of the ball must now cover the centre of the court. You are changing positions with your partner in order to
cover the opponents easiest targets.
AN ISOLATION DRILL:
SDIS1901 2 ON 1 dRILL
Object: 2 on 1 isolated opponent.
The pro feeds to start the drill and can feed either to player B or player A.
Player C (in the example) is the cross court player and covers the centre of the court with D covering
The point is played out but without any lobs, the focus is on keeping B isolated with a pattern of shots and targets.
The pro feeds alternatively to B & A. Play is to 7 - 9 points and everyone moves round one place.
Variation: To become more game specific, lobs are allowed; however, if there are too many lobs, the net pair
are not doing a good enough job of isolation.
ANOTHER ISOLATION DRILL.
SDIS1902 - Serve and Volley.
Objective: To form an isolation situation from the serve.
When serving and volleying – this is the first opportunity in which
to create isolation.
Focus on a good split-step at the correct time and target the sideline T with
the first volley. This will form
an isolation situation on the
Initially, whilst practicing this isolation drill, do not allow any lobs,
however, once the players become
more proficient, lobs should be
Variation: To become more game specific, lobs are allowed; however, if there are too many lobs, the net
pair are not doing a good enough job of isolation.
Another ISOLATION DRILL:
SDIS1903 - Against a non-serve
Objective: To form an isolation situation against the serve.
This is an instance when the receiving team should isolate immediately. The receiver returns crosscourt
and moves in covering the centre of the court.
Receivers partner also moves closer to the net.
The server should be isolated until an error is forced or until a close-to-close opportunity presents itself
against the server's partner.
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