how to choose a tennis ball machine

What to consider when choosing a tennis ball machine?

So you have decided to purchase a tennis ball machine — an excellent investment.

It will turn your tennis game up a notch, for sure.

However, choosing a tennis ball machine is not easy with so many different models and features available. And, given the considerable investment you are about to make, you don’t want to regret that your machine doesn’t perform that drill you were dying to train.

So, how to choose a tennis ball machine?

We have you covered.

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Ball Speed

Ball speed relates to how fast a tennis ball machine can launch the ball. 

All models can launch balls slowly – starting at about 10 Mph (16 Kph) – for you to train those accelerations.

Higher-end models can launch balls as fast as 80 Mph (129 Kph).

The Tennis Tutor Plus is the model we have tested that launches the fastest balls – 85 Mph (136 Kph).

Remember that 80 Mph (129 Kph) is an astonishing speed, and you will only require such ball speeds if you are an advanced player – a recreational player will probably not be able to hit balls as fast as that. 

If you are an advanced player, keep an eye on this feature when choosing a tennis ball machine, so it can feed you those fast balls players return to you in-game. 

As a recreational player, virtually all tennis ball machine models will satisfy your ball speed needs.

Capacity

The tennis ball machine’s capacity relates to how many balls it can store and how many balls it can feed you without having to refill it.

It is not pleasant to feel that you spend more time picking balls from the court than hitting them.

In truth, this is a “nice to have” feature – while it does not impact the machine’s performance, it impacts your ability to focus. 

Most tennis ball machines can hold up from 70 to 150 tennis balls.

Machines from the Lobster brand, such as the Lobster Elite 2 or the Lobster Elite Liberty, if you are on a budget, are a great choice if you require your machine to hold up many balls – all their models can hold up to 150 balls at once.

Feed Rate

The feed rate is the amount of time between each ball that is launched.

This feature is an important one to consider, especially if you are an advanced player.

Serious tennis matches are played at incredible speeds, so if you want to mimic that level of intensity, you’ll need a machine whose minimum feed rate is low. 

Combine a low feed rate with a left-to-right oscillation (or any other drill type, for that matter), and you’ll struggle to hit those balls.

The tennis ball machine’s feed rates range from as slow as every 12 seconds or as fast as every 1.5/2 seconds (Wilson portable tennis ball machine can shot balls every 1.5 seconds, for example).

Programmability

In our opinion, the most crucial feature of a tennis ball machine.

Programmability refers to what degree you can program your drills. 

Cheaper models will only allow for a ball to be launched a certain way, repetitively – maybe with a left-right oscillation. While this kind of training has its advantages, such as training a specific type of shot hundreds of times in a row, it doesn’t do much for simulating real match situations.

Some tennis ball machines come with a set of predefined drills. 

Higher-end models, however, allow you to fully program your drills – for example, receiving full power, high topspin baseline hit to the left, followed by a slow backspin to the net, and another full power topspin to the left. Or any other real match situation you wish to train.

You get the point.

The tennis ball machines we have tested that offer the most programmability options are, by far, the Spinshot Plus 2 (similar to the Spinshot Player with extra features) and the Lobster Elite Grand 5.

We recommend you pay close attention to the programmability options when choosing a tennis ball machine so your training sessions progress at the same pace as your skills.

Spin

how fast do tennis players hit the ball

A good tennis ball machine will feed you much more than flat balls. 

To simulate real match situations, you can define how much top or backspin you wish to apply.

The higher-end the tennis ball machine is, the more levels of spin there will be, and it will feed you more consistent balls, especially at higher speeds.

Battery Life

This feature might (or not) be important for you, depending on how you plan to use your tennis ball machine.

If you are planning to go to the court, perform a training session with your machine, and go home, battery life is not something you need to worry about – the vast majority of the models can last at least 2 to 3 hours on court. It is implausible that your training sessions surpass that time range.

However, if you’re a teacher with multiple training sessions per day, wish to rent your tennis ball machine, or simply want to make an hours-long training session with many friends, you’ll want a tennis ball machine that can surpass the 3 hours of uninterrupted use mark.

Luckily, most tennis ball machine models have an option to connect an AC plug, so you just have to plug one into your tennis club, and you’re good to go.

If this is not an option for you, some models can last up to 8 hours on the court (for example, the Lobster Elite 2).

Finally, you can always purchase an extra battery to replace if your tennis ball machine runs out of power mid-session.

Controls

There are 3 ways you can control your tennis ball machine:

  • Built-in controls in the machine itself – all tennis ball machines will allow you to control and define everything you need in its control panel.
  • Specific controller – some models will have an extra controller (like a tv remote) to keep in your pocket and control the machine.
  • Smartphone App – some models have Android and IOS connections, allowing you to control the machine directly from your smartphone.

Reliability and Durability

Since you are investing your money in a machine, you’ll want it to be as reliable and durable as possible.

This boils down to 2 criteria: brand and budget. 

Some brands are well-established in the market and have a consistent history of producing sound, reliable models. We advise you to look for these brands when purchasing a tennis ball machine – since they give a little more confidence and reliability than unknown brands.

Spinshot, Lobster, Wilson, and Tennis Tutor are all well-known, reliable brands you can feel safe purchasing from.

As happens with virtually all products, the budget also comes into play. For example, if you buy some sneakers, you already know that the 150$ model will last longer than its 30$ counterpart, even from the same brand.

The same logic applies to tennis ball machines.

Higher-end models are made from premium materials and more complex mechanisms that ensure consistency and reliability in the long term.

Budget

The budget you decide to invest in a tennis ball machine will significantly impact what you’ll purchase.

There are tennis ball machines as cheap as hundreds of dollars, such as the Spinshot Lite up to 2000 / 3000$.

The more you are willing to invest, the more options and reliability you’ll have on your machine.

We have compiled our top-rated tennis ball machines that feature the best models by budget and functions, so be sure to check that out to help you decide. 

If you are on a tight budget, we reccomend you check our guide on the best tennis ball machines under $1000. If you plan to spend less than $500, our recommendation is the Tennis Twist ball machine.

Skill level

It all boils down to how experienced a tennis player you are. 

If you are a beginner, you probably won’t need all those programmability options higher-end models give you.

An advanced player will probably require models that can launch balls at high speeds and low feed rates, simulating real match conditions. 

We recommend you check carefully and realistically all the functionalities of the tennis ball machine you are planning to purchase to buy the perfect model for your needs.

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