Tennis Ball Machine Buying Guide
By Ben Lilly
The complete tennis ball machine buying guide, here are some considerations to look at when purchasing a ball machine:
Power: How fast can the ball machine throw the ball at the top end. This indicates the limits of what the machine is capable of. For beginners this may not be much of a concern as most ball machines can give you a good work out, but this indicates the top end of their performance. If the ball machine can throw the ball at 85 mph, then you can do a lot more things than if it can only throw it at 40 mph. You might be thinking 60 mph is plenty fast, and you would be right but when you add in the spin that can slow it down considerably. For reference the average ground stroke speed of the pros on the men’s side is 70 mph. Just be aware when you are looking at ball machines as to what they can do.
Battery or Power type: Many machines out there have a battery and need to be charged, some are AC only and need to be plugged in at all times when working. For me the AC only seems outdated and you should be looking for something that has both AC and DC capabilities, meaning it has a battery but can be plugged in to a wall outlet as well if that option is available. So basically 3 options (this is simplifying it quite a bit, there are a lot of differences in battery types but I love simplicity) Battery, Corded AC, AC/DC (basically a hybrid of the first two).
Function: Knowing what you need out of the ball machines function will guide you to what kind of model you are looking for and basically there are 3 categories (FYI -These are my made up categories not an industry standard)
1) Ball Shooters – They shoot a ball out and let you hit it. It is the most affordable model but it has little in the way of bells and whistles. Basically it shoots the ball over the net and lets you grove your strokes
2) Ball Machines – This is the most crowded of the categories and the hardest to differentiate. There are many different options that can do some or all of the following: oscillation (or sweep), adjust feed rate, adjust speed, add spin, shoot lobs, pre programmed drills, like the two line drill. These are just some of the functions of ball machines.
3) Tennis Systems – This is the highest end and these machines have full customizability to give you shot sequences and save them to come back to them as well as having all the functions of a ball machine but usually providing better accuracy.
Capacity – For a quality machine you want to know about what capacity you want. Usually the lower end models have less capacity. The capacities range from 50 to 350 and it depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for a lower end model for you child and you plan to pick up balls while she hits them then the lower capacity is not going to be a problem. For me, I would at least want 250 to give me a good interval if I am working by myself and no one else. It just depends on how you plan to use the machine.
Here is a comparison of a few machines at different levels of features:
|MatchMate Rookie||70 balls||35 mph||Feed and Speed control, no Oscillation. Shoots with topspin||Battery 5-7 hours||$499|
|SAM P1 Value||250 balls||85 mph||Feed, Speed and Oscillation control||Battery 5-7 hours||$1435|
|Precision Tennis System||300+ balls||85 mph||Feed, Speed, Spin, and Oscillation. Fully customizable routines, can do anything!||Can work plugged in or on the battery 4-6 hours||$3995|
Conclusion: There are a lot of great machines out there but you need to identify what is important to you and how you plan to use your machine. Identify what features you want out of a machine and focus on getting that. There are a lot of great machines out there, make sure you are comparing things straight up, some companies have the machine at a low looking price but then you have to buy a remote, a cord to plug it in, and shipping added on. Getting a quality ball machine can be the best and most cost effective way to improve. While you definitely need to play to get the strategy, nothing helps you more than hitting balls and the most efficient way to do that is with a ball machine (don’t tell tennis pros I told you this). Thank you for reading my ball machine buying guide and comment to let me know if you would like me to go more in depth on a topic.