Tennis Ball Machines
|Want to practice your stroke? With a tennis ball machine, you don't even need a mate to help work on your backhand. Alright, so a machine isn't an exact substitute for a competitive human partner, new technology can mix up the shots at an impressive rate. Most models will offer random left to right shots, as well as high speeds and tall lobs. More expensive models can also offer horizontal and vertical oscillation (up and down, left and right) as well as two-line drill features. While tennis ball machines can get pricey, it can be an extremely rewarding purchase for a player who's serious about improving his or her game.|
Things to Consider
As in all tennis matters, your choices depend on your expertise. When it comes to practice, particularly, you'll need to consider what types of shots you need to work on, and what types of shots you expect to work on in the future. Related to this: How long do you plan on using the machine? Where will you use the machine and how often? Your final decision will ultimately come down to a balance between price and variables.
- How the Balls Are Shot
- Speed Control: Ranging between 15 miles per hour and upwards of 100 mph for some models
- Spin Control: Put top or backspin on the ball.
- Feed Rate: How often the balls are shot.
- Where the Balls Are Shot
- Elevation: Controls the trajectory of the ball. Many models require this be done manually, but others have electronic controls.
- Lob Height: Maximum height the ball may reach out of the machine on a standard shot.
- Oscillator: Controls where ball is shot, left or right, forecourt or backcourt on gadgety models, fixed location on basic ones.
- Program Oscillator: Allows the user to pre-program the direction of a series of balls into the machine.
- How Convenient Your Machine Is:
- Remote Control: A luxury feature that allows you to change settings from across the court. Some remotes have other options as well. This is typically only available on more expensive models.
- Portability: Some machines are built to be carried around easily. Others are built to stay put.
- How Long You Can Play
- Lower-end battery-powered models last around two hours while more expensive machines can last as many as five.
- Some machines offer removable second batteries for extended play.
- Many models allow you to plug the machine into an AC outlet, drastically increasing the time you can enjoy the machine.
- How Much You'll Pay
- Machines can range in price starting from £250 for the cheapest models. Decide which options are important to you, and which you won't use.
With these machines, the more features the better -- if you're a beginner you can always set a good machine to lower, fixed speeds and steadily increase them and vary shots as you advance. The first machine listed below, the "Tennis Twist," and similar machines are great for working on a basic stroke, but they can lead to lazy footwork and a poor sense of the court's geography. That said, it's the cheapest machine, -- a quality cheap machine at that -- and cost is likely a factor in a field with such a wild range of prices. Pay for what you'll use: the simplest advice. Here are some suggested models for different cost brackets.
Lobster Ball Bucket
- Cheapest of full-feature machines.
- 50 ball capacity
- Timer, multiple speeds, delivers lobs and ground strokes
Wilson Portable Ball Machine
Recommended by Forbes.com.
- Sends balls to forecourt and backcourt.
- Good for two players or multiple shot practice.
- Gets three to four hours per battery charge.
- Lightweight, portable.
Playmate PC Ball Machine
Recommended by Forbes.com.
- For any level, pending income.
- Very high end, at a luxury price.
- Computerized drills, complex and otherwise.
- Multiple speeds and features.
- Holds 300 balls.
- Great for multiple players.
- Tennis Balls -- Pressureless balls are best for machines.
- Ball Retrievers -- Also known as mowers; machines that collect all your balls when you're done playing or practising.