Tennis Ball Machines – All you need to know

Maybe you remember Andre Agassi’s autobiography (if not, then you should read it definitely). His fierce enemy at Las Vegas home court was his black tennis ball machine. However, look at what he has proven during his career. We definitely can say that the machine was one of the important factors in his road to success.

It does not matter what type of player you are. The tennis ball machines can be useful for the beginner, immediate, or „almost pro“ player. Choosing the right machine is not easy. Every player has different needs and every machine has different features.  Prices start well below a thousand dollars for a basic model. Models with more features costs north of $1000 so you have to be very picky in choosing the right one. Here you will find all you need to know about tennis ball machines before you make a decision.

Weight

Let us make it clear from the beginning. We are talking about real tennis, so the ball machine has to be solid and stable standing on the court. So let us skip tennis ball launchers you have to hold in your hands. It is good for a dog’s fun, not for serious tennis practice.

For example, Bazook Tennis Ball Launcher is really light, with just 2 pounds weight, but you will have the problem to shoot the ball in the same direction two times in a row. So leave this toy really just to dog fans or for fun.

The ideal weight is around 40 pounds (ca. 20 kilograms). Almost all types have wheels that ease manipulation and transport. Be aware, that the ball machine will be moved a few times on the court. Before practice and after it and even during it when you would like to change the angles of strokes you practice. So it is necessary for you to choose a light but stable tennis ball machine. With appropriate weight, even girls or juniors will be able to push it around without extra help or substantial effort.

The weight and design are important when you need to transport a tennis ball machine between the tennis club and your home. Rectangularly shaped machines can be lifted by one person and you do not an extra pair of hands.

Tennis Ball Machines with the lowest weight

   

Weight

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1.

TENNIS TWIST

11 lbs

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2.

SPINSHOT LITE

22 lbs

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3.

TENNIS CUBE

24 lbs

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$

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4.

TENNIS TUTOR PROLITE

29 lbs

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$

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5.

LOBSTER ELITE LIBERTY

35 lbs

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$

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6.

LOBSTER ELITE FREEDOM

35 lbs

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$

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Power

The second important parameter you need to consider is the power supply of your machine. Depending on the place where you will use a tennis ball machine you will choose either Battery Only or Cord Power Supply (A/C). Naturally, if you play mainly on outdoor courts you will choose a Battery-powered machine. The durability of a battery is usually between 2 to 4 hours, some models offer court time up to 7 hours. For me, anything more than 2 hours is enough for any practice. Power Cord (A/C) machine makes sense if you practice indoors with an electric socket next to the court.

The battery tennis ball machine definitely gives you more flexibility. Moreover, most of the advanced models offer a possibility to add also a power module for the A/C supply for an additional fee.

Battery Powered Tennis Ball Machines with Longest Court Time

   

Court Time

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1.

TENNIS TWIST

5 to 10 hours

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2.

LOBSTER ELITE ONE

4 to 8 hours

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3.

LOBSTER ELITE TWO

4 to 8 hours

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4.

SPINSHOT LITE

5 to 7 hours

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Ball Capacity

Ball Capacity is in general very overestimated parameter. Many people would like to have as many balls in the feeder as possible. But keep in mind, that during practice you need time to stop and relax for a minute. Even in a tennis match, you have a break after every second game. Nobody can play 500 balls in a row, perhaps except those training for the fitness marathon. If your aim is to improve the quality of your tennis strokes, the ball machine with capacity from fifty to three hundred is sufficient. The market standard is space for 120 (Spinshot Tennis Ball Machines) to 150 balls (Lobster Tennis Ball Machines) in a machine feeder.

Propulsion and Oscillation

Let`s have a look at the technical parameters of the best tennis ball machine.

A way of feeding the ball

Tennis ball machines use either two spinning wheels to feed the ball or air pressure. There is no difference between these two ways of shooting the balls. They are reaching the same level of speed. So it does not matter which one your machine will use.

Top Speed

Depending on your tennis level you will need the machine with a different speed range. For beginners, 60 mph speed will be enough. Intermediate and pro player will probably look for machines with a higher maximum speed (80 mph). The minimum speed usually starts at 10 or 20 mph.

The possibility to have different speed shots in one drill is very welcome. It enables to simulate real match exchanges, with quick changes between baseline hits and stop balls at the net.

Tennis Ball Machines with Highest Ball Speed

   

Highest Ball Speed

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1.

TENNIS TUTOR PLUS & PLUS PLAYER

85 mph

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2.

LOBSTER ELITE LIBERTY

80 mph

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3.

LOBSTER ELITE TWO

80 mph

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4.

LOBSTER ELITE GRAND FOUR

80 mph

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Feeding Interval

It is better to have more flexibility. The ability to adjust the feeding interval with your playing progress is important. You will find machines with strictly set intervals (e.g. 3, 6, 12 seconds) and those with a wider range of feeding intervals in seconds (1 to 60 seconds). The usual time range is 2 to 10 seconds.

Ability to feed the ball with spin

When buying a tennis ball machine you should have a clear idea of how it should help your play. In case you want just to hit hard flat strokes you can choose a cheaper machine without a spin feature.

However, if you would like to improve the wide range of different strokes, you should definitely choose a tennis ball machine with the ability to feed the ball with spin (topspin and backspin (some manufacturers call it underspin)). Better models provide options to pick the spin rate for both spins.

Note: Even machines without spin feature shoot balls with slight topspin, however, you do not have the option to change the spin rate.

Ability to feed the ball in a different direction (oscillation)

Probably you do not wish to stop practice at the moment you want to change forehand to backhand strokes. In this case, you should go for a tennis ball machine which is able to feed balls in a different direction.

There are two basic oscillation modes: horizontal and vertical. The simpler machines offer just random horizontal oscillation. Random horizontal oscillation means the machine moves from left to right and back at the preset sequence.

Better machines have both oscillations embedded and you can pick one of them or combination of both (called two-line oscillation pattern). The best and most expensive tennis ball machines have the possibility to set up different sets of shots (different angles, length, height, and speed).

Oscillation is an important factor, as it really can make a difference during a practice. It is most important in simulating match conditions.

Elevation control

There are two possibilities, electric or manual elevation. The electric elevation is more convenient and usually comes also with the possibility to program it. Manual elevation uses the handle you need to pull and move to change the height of the shots.

Remote control

This feature is pretty important. It gives you a chance to control the machine from the other side of the court. Without remote control, you need to switch on a tennis ball machine and run to the other side of the court. Of course, there is a few seconds delay between the switch on and the first shot of the ball. But it is really hard to be prepared and focused on the first few shots without the remote control.

The practice is much easier with remote control if you are alone on the court. It is usually supplied for free with more advanced tennis ball machines and a lot of cheaper machines gives you the possibility to buy a remote control for an additional fee.

Remote control can be either in the form of two buttons handy case or as an application in your smartphone.

Programmed drills

The best tennis ball machines come with programmed drills features. Drills are sequences with a number of shots with different parameters. The individual shots or full sequences can be adjusted by a user or reprogramed totally.

Generally, the more parameters and drills you can set before, the better the practice you will have. Your practice session can really be refreshed if you can program a sequence of shots with a different spin, direction, height, and speed.

Battery Powered Tennis Ball Machines with Most Programmable Drills

   

No. of Programmable Drills

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1.

LOBSTER ELITE GRAND FIVE LE

24
(12 preloaded drills + 12 custom drills)

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2.

LOBSTER ELITE GRAND FIVE

18
(12 preloaded drills + 6 custom drills)

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3.

SPINSHOT PLAYER

12
(12 preloaded customizable drills)

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$$$

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Different Play Level requires different Tennis Ball Machine

Beginner player needs to practice a lot, mainly flat strikes with less topspin and backspin. He needs a cheap but reliable machine that will be his opponent for practicing the same hits again and again.

   

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1.

LOBSTER ELITE LIBERTY

««««

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2.

SPINSHOT LITE

«««

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3.

LOBSTER ELITE ONE

«««

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4.

TENNIS CUBE

«««

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5.

TENNIS TWIST

««

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Intermediate players need tennis ball machines that have more features. They need spin, at least horizontal oscillation but vertical oscillation is welcomed too. Tennis ball machines for intermediate players are more expensive but often come with remote control, and some of them even with custom pre-programmed drills.

   

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1.

SPINSHOT PLAYER

«««««

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2.

SPINSHOT PLUS

««««

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3.

LOBSTER ELITE TWO

«««

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Advanced players should look for a tennis ball machine that simulates real match conditions. Full programmability, vertical, horizontal, and random oscillation, a lot of different spin levels are necessary requirements.

   

Our Rating

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Price

 
1.

LOBSTER ELITE GRAND FIVE LE

«««««

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2.

SPINSHOT PLAYER

«««««

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$$$

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3.

LOBSTER ELITE GRAND FOUR

«««

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$$$

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Posted in Reviews, Reviews, Tennis Ball Machines.

Tennis Pro Guru

Simon is the leading editor of TennisProGuru.com from 2015. He is an avid tennis player from age of 5, however, he never reached the pro level. Still, he likes playing tennis on different courts, with different rackets, and against different opponents. In his free time, you can find him watching all possible tennis matches he can find on the web or tv. Challenger or Grand Slam? It does not matter, just tennis matters.

He currently plays with:
Racket: Wilson Clash 100
Strings: Babolat RPM Blast
Grip: Head Xtreme Soft
Shoes: Asics Gel-Game 5 Clay (for clay courts), Lotto Court (for hard courts)
Balls: Dunlop Fort All Courts and Head Championship

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