Tennis ball machines are one of the most underrated tennis tools of all time. The benefits you can get from using a tennis ball machine are endless. While anyone at any level can work with a tennis ball machine, you will even see the absolute best pros in the world using them. In fact, in the ’80s, tennis legal Tim Mayotte would use the ball machine not only in his preseason but during tournaments as well.
If you want to be a professional tennis player smacking backhands like Serena Williams, then a tennis ball machine is right for you. If you are a beginner that is starting tennis for the very first time, then a tennis ball machine is for you.
You may think it’s simple, and in some ways, it is as simple as putting a tennis ball in a machine and letting it fire off. But there is a lot to learn about tennis ball machines, from the different types themselves to the balls you can use, to maintenance and so much more.
Let’s start with what a tennis ball machine is and the types that are currently on the market.
Table of Contents
- 1 In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
- 2 What is a tennis ball machine?
- 3 Different types of tennis ball machines
- 4 Benefits of a tennis ball machine
- 5 Top 8 Tennis Ball Machines
- 6 Drills You Can Do with a Tennis Ball Machine
- 7 FAQ Tennis Ball Machines
- 7.1 Can any tennis balls be used?
- 7.2 How long do tennis ball machines last?
- 7.3 Can you operate tennis ball machines by yourself?
- 7.4 Is a tennis ball machine just as good as taking a private lesson?
- 7.5 How do I know what ball machine is right for me?
- 7.6 What if my warranty is only for a year?
- 7.7 How often should I be taking care of my ball machine for maintenance?
- 8 Conclusion
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
What is a tennis ball machine?
A tennis ball machine sounds exactly as it is. While there are a few different types on the market, a tennis ball machine replaces the need for a coach or friend to hand feed balls. It has a cart a feature that usually sits on the top of the machine to allow the ball to travel through a pathway and eject from the machine. The result is the ball coming from across the net replicating an opponent’s shot as if you were playing points.
The great thing about ball machines is that you can replicate points, or you can replicate a complete practice designed to work on your technique or tactics. If you need to work on hitting hundreds of forehands because it’s just not timing well on the court these days, no worries, the ball machine can help that. One of the absolute best uses for the ball machine is ironing out some shots that may be weaknesses. If the slice is wonky, then there is no better time to repeat this motion all day long so that when the grass-court season comes up, you are a master just like Roger Federer. Who doesn’t want to be hitting like Roger Federer?
A tennis ball machine also is a great replacement for when you have no one to practice with. You can practice every single shop you possibly can hit from forehand to backhand, approach shots, and even volleys. The serve is something you still need to do yourself because the machine won’t toss the ball for you in that way, nor should it. However, you can practice return of serve, and a shot often forgot, the first ball after you serve. How? You can time the ball machine, so it happens precisely would in a point.
Different types of tennis ball machines
There is a tennis ball machine out there for everyone. The range of prices makes some of them very affordable, starting at just a few hundred dollars. When someone wants to spend a little more to get more options, you can find yourself spending a few thousand dollars. For that kind of money, you very may well be playing Nadal. Well, actually, when you spend that kind of money, you can adjust the ball machine to play a variety of styles from flat baseline like Sharapova to a complete mix-up of shots like Barty.
There are a few different types of ball machines you will want to consider for your needs. The main categories can be divided into the following groups.
- Battery Operated
- Outlet Operated
Some of the ball machines you come across may come in a variety of the above because some portable happen to have electrical cords to plug in while others are battery operated. In best-case scenarios, you get one that does both. There are advantages and negatives to each one and let’s get into each one so you can pick out a ball machine type that best suits your needs and whatnot.
Portable tennis ball machines are a great option because, of course, you can bring them anywhere. Typically, the size is small to make it easy for transport.
- Because the size is so small you can bring a portable tennis ball machine wherever you go. If you are going to a tournament and you are finding a hard time getting a hitting partner to warm up with you before the match, there is no need! You can just use the ball machine to warm up.
- Portable tennis ball machines tend to be more affordable because they are smaller in size. However, if you want to get one that is more complicated you will see them start to get pricey.
- They get the job done. To have a practice all you need is someone to get the ball to you from across the net and this is exactly what the tennis ball machines do.
- The smaller portable tennis ball machines can only hold so many balls. Usually, you will run out of balls very quickly meaning you also will have to pick up the balls often. If you have someone constantly picking up for you then this is no issue.
- Sometimes the smaller portable tennis ball machines don’t offer a lot of features. They can be more basic in terms of how the ball comes out, the spacing between the balls fed, etc. This is why it is more ideal for warm-up than it is sometimes for more specific drilling.
- Portable tennis machines naturally can get more wear and tear on them because of constantly bringing them around in different places. This is opposed to one that just stays in one spot and never movies or is exposed to any elements.
Battery-operated tennis ball machines are ones that can run on batteries. These batteries can either be replaceable or charged depending on what kind of tennis ball machine you go with. As you can imagine, a lot of the solo battery-operated tennis ball machines are portable.
- Any of the pros listed above from having a portable tennis ball machine can be applied to this battery-operated machine. Being able to bring a tennis ball machine wherever you need to go makes practicing a lot easier. Accessibility to practice is one of the biggest benefits of a battery-operated tennis ball machine.
- No need for electrical outlets! This can be in fact a sustainable way to no use electrical energy. When you replace the batteries if they are recycling this is a plus and if it is a battery that can be charged even more sustainable.
- If you don’t remember to charge your battery or change the batteries you can a bit out of luck if it dies on you. This is why getting one with a good battery life regardless of whether it is replaceable or chargeable batteries is important. If the batteries are replaceable it may be easier to fix the problem on the spot as opposed to needing to recharge the batteries.
- Also dependent on what type of batteries you have will depend on your costs that are additional to the tennis ball machine itself. If the batteries are replaceable then you want them to last a good amount because replacing expensive batteries often will be not very pleasant. You don’t want to be demotivated to practice.
The more permanent solution is a tennis ball machine that is outlet operated. This is the type of tennis ball machine you typically see located in tennis clubs. They require electricity, and they are usually not portable. The reason being is that these tend to be the bigger ones that offer many different features.
- These are more durable and likely to last you a long time. This is why most clubs will have a tennis ball machine that operates off of electricity.
- They usually have bigger carts or areas to hold more balls since they are likely not as portable as the smaller ones on the market. This means more uninterrupted practice time and less of a need to constantly pick up the balls.
- If you are a club this is the most ideal option for renting it to members. This can turn profitable for the club as they are actually a very desired piece of equipment among members in clubs.
- More drills and more options with the more expensive non-portable ones making it easy to work on just about anything with your game.
- These also tend to be more expensive. The bigger they are and the more options you have for types of spin, the rate at which the ball comes out, the sspeed at which the ball travels, and pattern, etc., the more you are going to have to pay. While the more expensive ones might throw you off, you also get a lot for your money.
- These are more practice tennis ball machines as the only time you can warm up for a tournament with them is if you choose to warm up at your tournament and not at the site in which you will be playing at.
Benefits of a tennis ball machine
Now that we have talked about the different kinds of ball machines out there, let’s really get into all the benefits of using one. Often players will say that it just doesn’t feel the same as a live ball. And their right, the ball machine is predictable. Oh, wait! Some ball machines actually have a feature to make the shot selection random replicating a point exactly.
There really is nothing you can’t do against the ball machine…except for…beat the ball machine. The three main categories we will focus on are fitness, technique, and tactics. While the fourth element of tennis is definitely mental, and yes, there is an aspect of mental with the ball machine, we will just focus on those three.
Have you ever tried running back and forth and hitting tennis balls for, say, 200 balls? You may think it is easy, but it is really difficult. And why would you need to hit 200 balls? Well, yes, no rally has never lasted that long, but you can certainly make it into a point style. Hit 15 balls with a 25-second rest for 200 balls, and there you go, you have maybe played halfway through your first set.
Using a ball machine to train fitness can be a fantastic tool for an elite-level tennis player. There are so many different drills that one can do that focuses solely on fitness or incorporates technique. At what point in the match does your backhand break down. This is likely due to fatigue, and using the tennis ball machine is a perfect way to train that.
But you don’t have to be an elite tennis player to enjoy the fitness benefit of the ball machine. You could be any level of skill and just looking to have a fun aerobic way to get moving. Set the machine up for whatever setting pushes you without sending you to the grave. The more advanced the ball machine is, the better fitness session you can create. It will allow you to space out the shots and the speed you need without repeating the same thing over and over if you need to change it up.
As we mentioned repeating a motion is priceless. But it’s not uncommon to have a coach or a friend want to sit there for hours and hours and feed the same ball over and over again. The great news is a tennis ball machine can be your best friend when it comes to working on technique. There are so many different ways to use this when it comes to technology so let’s break down everything.
- Groundstrokes. You can practice the forehand, the backhand, or the slice shot from the baseline here with the ball machine. Whether you want to focus on an individual shot with repetition to get the technique down or you struggle to get the technique fast between shots, you can do it all.
- Transition shots. Transition shots aren’t practiced with the right technique and footwork to execute an approach or transition shot to the net. A ball machine can be adjusted so that you get a ball short enough to come in after and gives you enough time to either get back or give you a volley afterward.
- Swing volleys/volleys/overheads. The next under practiced shot is the volley and swing volleys. In quick scenarios at the net in singles or doubles often technique changes due to pressure and we take bigger back swings than normal. Setting the machine to a quick pace will allow you to practice that reflex technique. It also will let you get the repetition needed in high-pressure situations to get up to that swinging volley. The same can be said for overheads. How often do we miss a big overhead at the wrong time? Too often! Ball machines help get rid of those mistakes.
- Serve and the first ball. As we noted you would be getting any ball tosses for the serve. Something you can practice is the first ball after serve and the technique that goes behind that. It requires a lot of footwork technique and keeping the backswing at the right size depending on how quick the ball is coming back. It also can incorporate transition shots like approaches or even serve and volley.
- Return of serve. Return of serve is one of the most important shots behind serve because it gets the point going. You can even practice these returns over and over again with special ball machines to master this shot. This combines everything from groundstrokes to footwork, and request head speed.
Didn’t think you couldn’t train tactics with a ball machine? You are wrong!!! The tennis ball machine is going to be your toughest opponent yet. There is so much that you can do in terms of tactical development with a ball machine! Prepare to be mind blown.
- You can work on patterns with groundstrokes. Being able to decipher where to hit the forehand cross and line based on different balls is important. You can do this by adjusting your court position with a tennis ball machine off of one ball that constantly comes in a little higher and deeper. Take it early or move back and work on tactically the right shot.
- You can play points with the ball machine. Set it up and push the random button and thor you have it. You have no idea where the ball is going and you now have to work on not only your position but the decision of where the shot goes. As you get tired this adds the fitness element to it, the mental element to it, and the execution.
- Work on shot combinations to emphasize your strengths and work on your weakness. Serving wide to be followed with a ball on the opposite side of the court is important. Even setting this to random to work on the first ball is important.
- Tactics aren’t just for groundstrokes as we know. Knowing how to volley is important but knowing when and where to place the volley is equally as important. These quick-paced high-pressure situations and where tactics normally go out the window. Putting it on automate makes it a lot easier.
The options for tactics become absolutely unlimited and can really be designed to meet any needs you have to reaffirm your strengths and work out your weaknesses.
Top 8 Tennis Ball Machines
Now you know everything about tennis ball machines. There are different types ranging from how they are powered to whether they are able to bring to your tournaments or a more permanent solution within a court. More importantly, now you know that you can practice all the different areas (technical, fitness, tactical, and even mental) with the ball machine. We can talk about the top tennis ball machines available.
But what makes a good tennis ball machine? How do we determine the absolute best on the market? Well, there are different needs for different people which is why this list comprises of different ball machines ranging from great portable ones to more advanced.
Here are some things we need to consider overall when picking out the best tennis ball machines.
- Durability. How long is this tennis ball machine going to last you? Is it made from durable products and is it worth the price. You don’t want to invest in a machine that costs a lot but breaks down after a year. That’s why durability is one of the most important qualities to consider.
- Performance. You want to get the most functions you can out of the price you can afford. The more functions you can get the better practices you can do for yourself. Sometimes a beginner only wants to ball to come back but an elite player may want a variety of options to work with during their practice.
- Price. While a cheaper price does not mean worse, we take into account a variety of products because the price should reflect the features and durability of the product. This list will have a variety of prices so we can offer something for everyone.
- Portable vs Not. Neither portable nor stationary is better than the other but distinguishing what it is is important for the needs of the person. If their primary focus is to be able to practice anywhere at any time then portable will be the choice. But if you are looking for a more intense practice then we are going to consider some of the more stationary options.
1. Spinshot Player
Not all ball machines are expensive, but there is a reason that this one rates so high on our list. And being honest, the Spinshot Player ranks high on many people’s lists. The reason being is that it combines everything from portable to a great elaborate practice which is rare to find.
The Spinshot Player takes the tennis ball machine you love from the club and allows you to bring it with you anywhere. This portable ball spitting device pairs up with your phone to customize drills and work on every possible shot, combination, and more with this machine.
- This is one of the few portable ball machines that allows you to do everything a stationary ball machine would allow you to do. And it is just 45 pounds making it less difficult to lug around than some of the heavy stationary club tennis ball machines.
- Despite being battery operated the battery charges quickly meaning you don’t need to spend any extra money replacing the batteries. Charging is recommended after each use.
- Also despite being portable it can hold up to 120 balls at once which is fairly large for a portable machine.
- You can set 12 preset drills off your phone to work on tactical point play and more. These drills can consist of 6 shots at once.
- Can feed speeds up to 60 miles per hour which can really replicate the rally ball well. On top of that, it can deliver balls between 2 and 10 seconds which can be fantastic for reaction volley training like we spoke about.
- Having a mobile app is one of the biggest benefits. Often players get turned off from ball machines because of the annoyance of using a remote or having to run back to the control panel attached to the machine. This brings convenience and user face friendliness right to your phone.
- Depending on how intense you are the only downside is that the Spinshot lasts about 2-3 hours. While this is a good battery life for such a high level of technology this may feel short for a player and be inconvenient if they need to charge or it dies in the middle of the session.
- The price is high. While this is con the number of features you get with this ball machine may outweigh the price. It can be equivalent to about 25 private coaching sessions so the machine can actually save money in the long run.
2. Lobster Elite 3
Alright, we have gone up in price but hang on right there! It’s all for good reason. Truth be told, for what these ball machines can do, the price works itself out. The Lobster Elite Three is a recognizable ball machine because it is popularly used by tennis players of all levels. This company has been producing top ball machines for decades, and now, with the option to have a wireless remote control, doing it solo is a lot easier.
The Lobster Elite Three has a wide range of functions that make it easy for players to drill, learn tennis, or play “points.” It’s another fantastic option for a portable ball machine that offers everything a stationary can. With a 150-ball capacity, the convenience of not having to pick up the balls every 3 minutes is a big win.
- It doesn’t get any more point-like than this. The ball can throw randomly at a variety of wide ranges from your forehand and backhand. This allows for court coverage from alley to alley horizontally. Not only that but it also has a way of shortening and lengthening the depth. Now you are covered from every single part of the court.
- The height of the ball from lobs to flat drives can also be adjusted replicating any kind of shot and style. This is perfect for working on all the different types of shots and taking the ball early.
- Work on returning speeds up to 80 MPH or as slow as 10 MPH. This is another way to replicate different variations of shots and work on reaction speed.
- A single battery charge will last you up to four hours of continuous play which is great considering some of the other ones don’t last as long.
- While this is an absolute state-of-the-art machine recharging it can be a pain in the butt. If you don’t have a full charge you won’t get the full hours and it can take up to 24 hours to get it back to full. This means the frequency at which you use the ball machine may not be as often as you like.
- The wireless remote control does not actually come with the machine for the price. This is bought separately which is an additional cost and not a fan favorite.
- It has no mobile connectivity compared to the previous option making it a little less tech-savvy. This means any kind of stats you want to take will have to be hand done by a coach or a friend rather than data being incorporated right into your plan.
3. Spinshot Plus
Spinshot takes the cake having two of the first three spots dedicated to them. They make a quality product and offer subtle but important differences between their tennis ball machines. This particular model of the Spinshot tennis ball machines offers some upgrades. While you get a complete mix of the original pus and the customizable drills in front of the player, you also get in return an OLED screen. This model is more about beauty and luxury features.
It still offers a mobile app to allow you to control what is happening in court. This model is most compared to the Lobster Elite because of all the different oscillation options for groundstrokes, volleys, and more.
- Keeping on the theme of portable this is another great option to take with you as a hitting partner anywhere you need to go. The durability of these Spinshot tennis ball machines is great and can last you for quite some time as long as you care for them well.
- A variety of shots are available with this model making it easy to practice anything you need in technical terms. You can also play points and work on tactical things with a variety of height, horizontal distribution, and different spins.
- Something missing from the original plus that was upgraded to the Spinshot Plus-2 was the ability to make customizable drills just liek the Spinshot Player.
- One of the strongest assets, the Spinshot series do is that they have the mobile app taking advantage of technology. This allows players to easily access what they are doing without having to run around and waste balls.
- These are not cheap machines. But for the sake of not repeating ourselves too many times here, if you use it like you would a private lesson then this machine really makes a lot of sense. Those who are dedicated to the sport will enjoy having something available when they need it.
- The speed on this one only goes up to 68 MPH which is less than some of the other machines. This makes it harder to replicate first serves but since that is usually one of the last priorities on a list, it is not really a big deal to many.
- The Spinshot Plus has a lower capacity of balls. It can hold 120 balls at once which ranks lower than some of the other ball machines on the market. Having said that 120 is still a lot and can last you quite some time before needing to pick up at all.
4. Lobster Elite 1
Coming down in price probably is going to make everyone really happy. However, even though we are coming down in price, we are not coming down in quality. Going back to the Lobster Elite Series, we know we can rely on a really great brand that has held up for decades. This is one of the more basic ball machines hence why its price dropped. You can get a great workout, and for those who don’t need all the fancy, this is the one for you.
But just because you give up some things like advanced technology doesn’t mean you can’t gain in other areas. This ball machine can hold more than 150 balls making long-term drilling much easier. This basic ball machine is perfect for someone looking for some great baseline work.
- The price can be a lot more affordable than some of the other options on the market. It’s a middle-of-the-road option still up there in price. But with this tennis ball machine, you know you are getting quality and durability that will last you from a great company.
- Perfect for those who put an emphasis on baselining. It can feed up to 80 MPH which is great for replicating rally but it can also slow things down to 10 MPH for those who are picking up tennis for the first time. Or those who just need to work on technical matters.
- The large ball capacity allows for continuous play without needing to pick up often. Even better news? The ball machine can last 4-8 hours making it one of the longest-lasting ball machines on the market. However long you want to train is up to you and it can easily be made into a fitness session.
- Weighing only 42 pounds makes it extra easy to transport anywhere you need to. Its good size allows for a godo product without being an overhaul.
- The ways you can practice with this machine require some creativity. Because of the drop in price you are not getting some of the technology advancements that you would get if you went with some of the other options. Because of this, some find it better to just pay a little more for more functionality. This depends on your skill level and desired needs.
- Like the other Lobster Elite, the remote control is sold separately jacking the price up a little. While not a big deal to some, others think that it should be included given most other companies do include it
- There is no short ball or any length differentiation meaning that if you want to shorten the ball you have to manually move the machine itself.
5. Tennis Tutor ProLite
Ever go to a local grocery store, and they put your grocery in a small square wooden crate instead of grocery bags like the olden days? This is exactly what this tennis ball machine looks like. It is a tiny portable tennis ball machine that is perfect for anyone looking to get some balls quickly fed to them anywhere they are in a pinch.
The Tennis Tutor ProLite is a fantastic option for someone who is not looking for major frills, but at the same time, it has so much to offer. Weighing just 29 pounds, this machine is easy to pick up in a second and requires little maintenance. You may already be thinking that this ball machine can’t hold much, but you would be shocked to know you can hold 125 balls.
- For as little and portable as this tennis ball machine is it can do a whole lot. Starting with the ability to hold 125 balls you won’t be needing to pick up as much as you may originally think you would.
- While you can’t create drills you can get a wide variety of spots on the court covered to practice your forehands, backhands, and volleys. Shockingly you can adjust the height of the ball which even allows you to practice lobs, swinging volleys, and overheads. This makes it the ultimate match warm-up.
- Speed adjustment is available from 10-60 MPH making it easy to practice groundstrokes and reaction volleys. Manually you can still practice things like serve and first blal. It just takes a little creativity.
- This is an absolutely no-frills machine. The price is a major plus for those who are not looking to spend over $1000. The downside is you are limited in many ways from creating that perfect practice atmosphere. If you are using it in a pinch it is great but it doesn’t go much beyond that.
- The charge unfortunately only lasts 2-3 hours which makes it a little more difficult to have any longer sessions. This may be a problem for some but for the general audience who buys this machine that is usually OK.
- The remote is sold separately which means you either have to run back to the panel to switch off the machine or purchase the remote for more convenience.
6. Wilson Portable
It wouldn’t be a list if we didn’t list the kind of tennis companies with a Wilson ball machine up here. While Wilson is known for other things like their rackets they also make a pretty great ball machine worth noting. With lots of great features like providing a ball speed up to 75 MPH and the ability to do heavy topspin or a mean slice, you can practice a lot of different shots.
Something that Wilson has nearly every ball machine beat on is the speed at which they can feed balls out. They can turn a ball out every 1.5 seconds as opposed to the 2-second mark every other ball machine offers. They say in tennis, if you’re even a half of a second late, you may be mishitting the ball. The Wilson portable ball machine is in partnership with Tutor Tennis and offers great all-around produce.
- This is one of the longer-lasting battery-charged options on the market. You can drill for up to four hours with this machine and that’s not even the best part. The best part is you can charge this tennis ball machine overnight and it has a smart charger function that shuts it off when fully charged. You may think this isn’t a big deal but it can significantly save the battery life from dying not just short term but long term as well.
- Worth noting they have a three-year warranty which is about two years more than most of the products on the market. Most tennis ball machines come at a one-year warranty and this machine offers a better deal for a decent price,
- Has the option to adjust levels of height as well as wideness making every single shot possible to practice with. Because of the variables of speed, you can also work on racket head speed and reaction volleys.
- The theme of the remote that allows you to control the stop and start of the machine being sold separately continues. You have to unfortunately purchase this on the side and without the remote, your life becomes a bit more planning with the picking up of the balls.
- This is one of the lower ball capacity tennis ball machines. The Wilson portable only holds 110 balls at once. For some this is OK and for others, this makes picking up the balls less convenient and interrupts practice too much.
7. Slingshot T-One Launcher
A new kind of tennis ball machine has entered the game with a completely different look and design. The struggle of trying to transport your tennis ball machine is over with this design. Designed like a wheel airport duffle bag all in one, it holds the balls and is the tennis ball machine. Just becomes it comes at a better price doesn’t mean it is not a great contender.
Your one-stop shop for holding 144 tennis balls, slinging them out for practice like the other ball machines, having a way to easily transport it all around, AND finally having all the pockets to store any other valuable things you need.
You’ll find that this ball machine is an excellent price for all you get.
- The price is one of the biggest pluses on the list. If a super epxneisve ball machine isn’t affordable for you then this makes it more affordable for everyone. Despite being on the more affordable side there are so many great futures that make this bag worthwhile.
- Habing a way to store the bals is key. Because this is a all-in-one bag you don’t have to waste extra time setting up by getting the ball out and putting them in the cart so they can be dispensed out. This bag doesn’t require a set up instead you just wheel it out and it’s ready to go.
- Having the extra storage compartments are great for any other little things you need to bring with the bag. This may be your phone, your keys, hats, shoes, or whatever you need to make sure that you are having a great practice.
- The ball machine can produce a heavy amont of topspin which is great for working on this particular style of play. You can also adjust the height of the ball which means you can practice nearly any shot you want.
- A battery life of five hours means you can practice all day long. This is great considering some of the more expensive machines only last for two hours at a time and have a long charging rate.
- The particular tennis ball machine can only produce shots from 10-45 MPH which can feel very slow to more seasoned tennis players. In comparison to some of the other tennis ball machines this is almost half the speed of others that cna crank out tennis ball at 80 MPH.
- The fact that you can only work with heavy topsin can be a really big flaw for a lot of people. Not being able to practice with flat or underspin shots means you are missing out on a lot of commo styles of play.
8. Slinger Bag Grand Slam
The slinger bag grand slam is everything you get in the previous except you get a few more accessories with it. To spare you from rewriting the entire intro again here is what you can additionally expect from this little upgrade.
- A ball tube to help you pick up the balls is useful considering most people forget that they will have to buy a ball hopper to pick up all the balls that will be hitting around. This one comes with it.
- This one actually does come with a remote which is noe of the main flaws we have talked about before. This is really a necessary thing in order to have an efficient and productive practice.
- It doesn’t oscillate but it does come with an oscillator plate which allows it to perform this function like the other ball machines.
Any of the pros and cons that you can find with this tennis bag is going to be the exact same as the ones before, with the exceptions of the bullet list above. This is because it really is the same bag with the same amount of balls and speed. Please look up to hear about more features with this particular ball machine and tennis bag.
Drills You Can Do with a Tennis Ball Machine
While you can do basically anything imaginable with a tennis ball machine, it can be tough to drop up some inspiration. Think of any drill you can do with a partner, and you can basically do the same with the idea that it comes in a fed form. Any drill you do with a tennis coach that is hand-fed can mostly be done with the machines listed above.
When we think of drills, we can go back to those areas of fitness, technology, and tactical. That’s why we will break these categories down again with drills that work on that individual category and combination categories. Footwork could be its own category, but in reality, it applies to all three at different points in time.
Here are some great guidelines to know before we get into the drills.
- Know what your focus is. If you have a focus on technical then that is what you should be worrying about. Not how many balls you made or what your footwork looks like. This ii because when you focus on too many categories at once you tend to do a poor job in most of them.
- The exception to guide 1. If you are doing a combination drill this is because you are working on putting it together. No matter how bad it is you should try to do combination drills at least once a session because at some point you are going to have to resemble a point structure. Combination drills most replicate points.
- Know your limits. This applies in several different areas. If you are working on fitness then know when to give yourself rest. Push yourself to get better not to get sick or to injure yourself. Ball machines don’t offer rest until you take it so with repetition you don’t want to overuse something. Limits with speed is important too. If you are the networking on reaction volleys, know what a safe speed is. If you are a beginner don’t crank it to a high speed on random. This can cause injury.
These are a number of great drills to work on in different areas of your game. Always tailor the drills to your needs and what works best for you. That’s the great thing about a ball machine. You can practice how you want!
These are some of the more basic ways that you can train a tennis ball machine. All of these can be done by yourself, but it doesn’t hurt to film yourself if you can’t have a coach available. This allows you to work on video analysis and give yourself feedback that you are missing. We always think we are doing something one way, but in reality, we are doing it completely different from how we imagined it.
Setting up a simple GoPro or a tripod stand with your phone works fine. Enjoy these drills.
- Repetition Mode On:
There is no better time to go through the repetition of something than the beginning of your practice. This is a technical warm-up that can improve your game dramatically. Start with the forehand and work on staying in place and just hitting forehands with the right technique cross-court for 10 balls and then down the line 10 balls. You can repeat this for 50 or so balls or if you want, an even number on each side 60.
Move backward and do the same thing. Working on hitting the repeating shot 10 times in a row, improving the technique each time reviewing what needs to be done. Once you become comfortable with the technique, you can incorporate a little footwork by changing your stances from close and open depending on your relationship with the ball.
The drill can also be done with volleys and other shots you need to work on. Volleys and swing volleys can go cross and line as well as repeating overheads from both sides of the court going cross and line.
You guessed it, you can now work on repeating return of serve, alternating between the middle, down the line, and cross-court return of serve. Make sure that you get both the deuce and ad side as well as the forehand and the backhand.
You probably thought we forgot something….nope. Get your slices into two alternating and even throwing in some drop shots here and there. Or all the time if you need extra work on those.
Something that you really need to keep in mind here is that this is how overuse and tendonitis or tennis elbow develops. If you aren’t used to a high level of training and then go into repeating this motion over and over again you can really hurt yourself. Make sure to pace yourself appropriately and if you feel that you are developing one of these issues, use a softer string or racket that allows for some flexibility to ease up on your joints.
- Movement Around the Cone
There is no better time to go through the repetition of something than the beginning of your practice. This is great footwork and movement drill that can be simplified or made more difficult to incorporate a conditioning and fitness drill. Let’s start with the easy stuff.
Start with forehands and place a cone one foot to the right of the center mark at the baseline. It can be about 6 inches off the baseline as well. You will set the timing of the ball machine so that you can make it around the cone and hit the forehand continuously for however many balls you want before needing a rest. The more amount of balls you hit obviously will turn it into more or less conditioning and more or less footwork focus. You can change the width at which the ball is shot out to determine whether you want a closed or open stance. In fact, you can alternate between the two.
Everything that you just did on the forehand can be done on the backhand as well. It doesn’t have to end just at the baseline either you can make it more fitness-related by working on forewards and backward movement with volleys and swing volleys. Have a lob function? Yup, our favorite drill of touching the net and going back for the lob is a great one to do. In between overheads, run to touch the net and go back for another one. This replicates the most realistic scenario.
If you really lack footwork, you don’t have to have just one cone out. You can use foot ladders and other footwork trainers like small hurdles, stepping platforms, and more to work on agility and footwork while hitting the ball.
- Tactical Points
Being able to replicate points is a huge bonus of today’s modern technology, and the way it is used with ball machines is perfect. You can break down just the element of a point like serve and first ball or return and first ball, or the entire thing. Let’s talk about a few different ways you can do this.
Starting with the serve plus one. Time your ball machine so that you can work on a variety of different serves. This will be your outside serve and back to the same corner. Your outside serve to the opposite side. Your up the T serve with a volley. Any serve combination that you can think of that needs work is a great thing to repeat over and over again. This is a major plus of a ball machine.
The same can be done with return of serve plus one. This is an underlooked part of the practice as return of service is just as important as serve. Without being able to do so, you can lose half the match very quickly. Working on combination shots from first and second serves is vital in being able to do it in a real match. If the opponent has a weaker backhand you will want to work on getting it to the backhand side followed up with either a cross backend and forehand line if you are a righty.
- Random on Random!
Whether you want to play it like a point or you are simply going to do it as a fitness drill, random shots on random shots is a great way to train for anyone at any level. That is the most real you get to tennis and points, so incorporating this into your routine at any level is huge.
For points, you can work on random sequences of 6 shots and taking breaks in between. If you want longer points, you can obviously work towards 10-12 and sometimes even 15 shots at a time. You can even simulate your serve so that it feels like a real point. Or better yet, you can start with the return of serve and work from there.
For fitness allowing the machine to run on random for however many balls you can do is great for endurance. Sometimes players will do all the balls in the basket. This can be 150 or more. By increasing the speed and allowing it to randomly distribute, you end up doing many, many sprints. This is why it’s good to have someone or yourself monitor really how long you can go for at what speed. When you start losing the quality of shots, it’s good to recognize this without necessary stopping. This is where you push your fitness levels.
- Target Practice
Focusing less on your technique, footwork, and conditioning to put an emphasis on target practice is a great idea. Setting the cones up on the other side of the court and continually trying to hit the exact area is a great skill to practice. The best thing is you can do this for all the different shots.
Work on running forehands both down the line and cross-court is a great skill to develop. You want to slow the pace down of feeds because then it becomes a conditioning drill. Whether you want to go 10 to the same spot or alternate between the two is up to you.
Working on aim with approach backhands is another great drill that you can do with the ball machine. You will want to adjust your speed of the ball and the height to replicate the kind of approach shot you want to work on. You also want to keep the pace at which the ball is fed low, so you can have enough time to recover back to the baseline. You can alternate between slice and drive backhands.
While those are two great examples of shots you can practice, there is no shot you can’t practice target practice repeatedly, whether it be returns, volleys, overheads, or anything else.
FAQ Tennis Ball Machines
While we have gone over what a tennis ball machine is and what the different types you can get are there are still some things that pop up time to time among tennis players. That’s why we have dedicated this section to the most frequently asked questions amongst tennis players.
Things like knowing if certain tennis balls need to be used, how long a tennis ball machine should last, and many other questions are all valid and important to answer.
Can any tennis balls be used?
You should ONLY use tennis balls when you are filling up your tennis ball machine. Using anything other than a tennis ball can result in ruining the machine. This is because a ball will get jammed in the machine if it is not the right size.
Having said that there are some tennis balls that you want to use. The preference is going to be durability with tennis balls because balls that don’t have great durability will die quickly and become not useful for hitting. Deadtennis balls aren’t good for hitting anyways, but sometimes they won’t execute the same distance in the feed.
Some of the best tennis balls to use for the tennis ball machine are:
- Dunlop ATP Regular Duty
- Penn Championship Tennis Ball
- Wilson US Open Extra Duty
These balls will last much longer than any other kind of tennis ball, making it less expensive in the long run because carts of tennis balls to fill the ball machine can cost quite a bit. It’s always better to buy in bulk than individual cans because of the cost per can.
How long do tennis ball machines last?
While nothing is guaranteed, most tennis ball machines on our list should last more than five years. Many of them will have at least one-year warranties but if you are lucky you may find three-year warranties available. While higher prices don’t always mean a better ball machine, typically, some of the cheaper ones have been known to break down more quickly.
It is incredibly important to take care of your equipment well, especially if you are transporting it around a lot. Taking good care of your machine means cleaning it often and getting ball fuzz out of areas that it shouldn’t be. It means not banging it around when getting it where it needs to go. It also means making sure that you aren’t killing your battery by overcharging it or not charging it enough.
Can you operate tennis ball machines by yourself?
You can absolutely operate tennis ball machines by yourself. For some of the newer tennis ball machines that are operated by a mobile app, it becomes increasingly easier to do the entire thing by yourself. However, for those who sell the remote separately, it may be worth buying because without it, you will either be running back and forth to the ball machine, or you will need someone to operate it for you.
There is usually a panel with an on and off switch located directly on the tennis ball machine that also has the extra controls and options for the direction the ball is being fed and the level of height, spin, etc. The more options you have, the more controls on the panel you will have. These should also be the exact same on any wireless remote or on your mobile app.
Is a tennis ball machine just as good as taking a private lesson?
Nowadays, the tennis ball machines on the market offer nearly every single thing a coach can do with you. It can mimic the points so that you are having close to a live ball situation. The only major difference between working with a coach and working with a ball machine is that you don’t get feedback in terms of what you look like. You only know whether it is working based on whether the ball is going where you want it to or not.
The only thing is you can’t train unlimited time without need a charge or to fill the balls up and pick them up after playing a certain amount of shots. That’s why ball machines that have bigger carts to hold more balls are ideal for a better practice.
Other than that, any feeding that you can get from your coach you can also get from the ball machine. With more advanced settings, the more things you can do. Refer back to the drills section for inspiration on what to do during your session.
How do I know what ball machine is right for me?
This can be tough because getting a tennis ball machine takes a few weeks to ship and can have some complications with returning. While, of course, you can always return a product you don’t like, given their return policy allows for.
If you just need to see if you like a tennis ball machine for practice style in general, many local tennis clubs have them. You can rent the court for the hour and request to use the ball machine to play with all the different things you can do. If they have one you particularly like, this can be a great chance to know if you like that specific one.
What if my warranty is only for a year?
When a company offers a year warranty, this is scary and sometimes a signal that their product isn’t of great quality. If they don’t have much confidence and their product, then it is fair for you to be concerned about it as well. However, some companies will allow you to purchase additional coverage in an effort to preserve your tennis ball machine for many more years.
While this isn’t necessary, some people feel more comfortable spending the extra money to back themselves up. Read the fine print so that you can guarantee all parts are covered. Sometimes your tennis ball machine will be covered anyways.
How often should I be taking care of my ball machine for maintenance?
After each use, your should really be cleaning and storing the machine properly. While these aren’t delicate machines, they also aren’t indestructible. This means taking care of them after each use and cleaning them once a week is a good idea. If you use it more often, then you really should look out for ball fuzz and confirm there are no loose balls or balls getting jammed in the machine.
If you operate the tennis ball machine when tennis balls are getting jammed, you could end up significantly breaking the machine and causing permanent damage. This is why it’s important to make sure everything is working properly before you start your practice.
Choosing a tennis ball machine can be tricky. No matter whether you are choosing your very first one or you are deciding to go in a different direction from your past one, knowing all the facts is very important. A tennis ball machine should be able to do the very basic function of feeding baseline balls for you to practice. The more advanced a machine is, the more it will cost, with most of the machines costing higher than a grand.
Some of the most common tennis machines on the market have been around for years, like the Lobster Elite Series and the Spinshots of the worlds. The reason why these two brands continually come up on the list is that they offer some of the best quality and options on the market in terms of what you can do.
Some of the best options you can have for a tennis ball machine include being able to hit every part of the court with different speeds, heights, and spins. This best replicates a point, and having the random feature further helps that. When you have a wireless remote of a mobile app to help you start and stop the function of the ball machine, it helps the practice go smoother in a lot of ways, from not having to chase down balls to being able to time your practice better.
With this list of top tennis ball machines, you will be able to find a product that meets all your standards. If you find that you can’t afford the very top of the line, but you need features then you should write down a pros and cons list as well as a needs and wants list to really solidify what you can and can’t get away with.
Now that you know, get out there and hit balls all day long! Use our drills and pick a tennis ball machine that works for you! Just remember, ALWAYS use tennis balls, and the more quality balls you use, the more you will get out of them. Happy hitting!