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The best athletes spend lots of time honing their skills. With tennis, typically a two-man sport, it’s not always that easy to get in a good practice session.
Even baseball players use their own batting machines to practice, practice, practice. What options do you have to lock down your groundstrokes?
A tennis ball machine is the tool to sharpen your tennis game and become envied by your friends.
Practice isn’t what makes perfect; you are what defines that. A tennis ball machine is basically the tool you’re using to get there.
We’ve not only covered the best tennis ball machines, but we’ve gone underneath the cover (per se) to research everything you should be looking for when deciding to purchase one. There’s even a section on possible maintenance issues you might run into.
Anything that’s worth doing is going to be a challenge. Refining your groundstrokes will take time, but having a ball machine will allow you to hit shot after shot to be comfortable with in your technique.
Here’s the rundown of what you need to research a tennis ball machine and determine if having one would benefit you.
Ball machines are incredible tools, but they are a little pricey. If you determine that a ball machine is too far out of your price range, check out our reviews on tennis rebounders and portable tennis nets. No matter your budget, there’s a way to ensure you get ample practice time to improve your tennis skills.
Our Reviews Of The Best Tennis Ball Machines
#1 Spinshot Player Tennis Ball Machine
As far as tennis ball machine reviews go, people can get pretty nitpicky. Even so, there’s nothing but high praise for Spin shot and their legendary ball machines.
First and foremost, it’s programmable beyond what most people could ever conceive. The number of programmable drills is incredible.
Beyond that, it comes with preprogrammed drills that can be customized to your liking. Ball speed, ball spin, ball trajectory, ball feed rate, horizontal oscillation – you name it – it does it.
Use your smartphone as a remote control, the wide side panel, or simply strap the velcro button onto your wrist and tap it when you want the balls to start or stop coming.
The Spinshot Player has more than fifty feet of range so you can get the most out of your practice experience without having to be too close to the net.
One issue people do have with this is the battery power. It’s a 12V (and it gets the job done) but it could have a bit more juice to it.
Overall, it’s an excellent unit that’s worth the cost. This thing is a hoss that will keep you hitting tennis balls for years to come.
#2 Spinshot Plus-2 Tennis Ball Machine
This is the slightly beefier version of the best tennis ball launcher reviewed above.
It has a lot of similarities to the Spinshot standard model, such as the battery shipping separately and the wheels on the bottom for easy maneuverability and storage.
You still get all the great benefits of the controller, wrist button and the side panel for maximum usability.
Just like with original Spinshot, there are so many options with using this machine. The battery life is a seriously impressive feature. You can put this on max power for about two hours and only then will the power start to wane a bit.
Once that happens you can use the AC socket kit to plug into a cable if a power source is nearby. Then you can hit for hours on end.
It hosts the same 120-ball capacity as the smaller model and every bit of durability that its predecessor model boasts.
#3 Wilson Portable Tennis Ball Machine
We all know Wilson makes some of the best rackets imaginable, but they’re also in the business of making tennis ball machines that help you improve your tennis skills.
This ultra portable unit only weighs 38 lbs but still holds up to 110 tennis balls easily.
It does have wheels so you don’t have to pick it up and carry it back and forth to the court, but they’re relatively small casters that are somewhat difficult to maneuver.
Your battery life grants you about four hours on a full charge, but if you don’t put it at the maximum speed of 75 MPH shots, you can stretch that battery time to five or six hours. If you can hit with a ball machine for that many hours I expect to see you on the pro tour soon!
The oscillator is another great feature that will deliver randomly placed shots which mimics what you’d expect when playing a match. Your opponents aren’t going to use predictable methods, and Wilson is here to help with that.
This Wilson ball machine can serve up groundstrokes to lobs and everything in between.
#4 Lobster Elite Two Tennis Ball Machine
Whether you’re focused mostly on your backhand, forehand, volley or approach shot, this tennis ball machine could be your one-way ticket to stardom!
Designed with a triple oscillation method, you’re given random shots through sixty varying degrees to train you for anything that might come your way.
This lobster tennis ball machine may look small, but it actually has one of the best ball capacities out there with 150 per load.
Big things come in small packages, which is why Lobster made this small unit more powerful than it looks.
Ball feeds of up to 80 MPH with an eight-hour battery runtime to gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
#5 Lobster Elite Liberty
Lobster might have just made the best tennis practice machine out there.
Lightweight and versatile, you can use the easy pull handle to maneuver it where you want it and just leave it there.
Crank the power up to 70 MPH per shot and let the 150-ball capacity test your endurance.
There’s a spin control function to bring out some of the wildest shots a machine can throw your way.
The point of these machines is to prepare you for what your opponent might hit to you keeping that element of surprise alive and well.
This does just that with alternating shots between fifty different lateral degrees of motion. In addition to the battery there’s the option to plug it straight into an adapter.
The charger takes about eight to twelve hours to charge (small 12 V battery) but even then, it’s going to last for 3-4 hours on a medium setting. That may not seem like a lot of time, but it’s plenty for a solid practice session.
Lobster makes a solid product so you can’t go wrong with this model.
Tennis Ball Machine FAQ
What to Look for When Buying a Tennis Ball Machine?
This is for training not leisure. You’re training to be the best you can be, so having flat balls or topspin or slice/backspin heading your way is going to mimic a worthy opponent.
When there’s decent spin on the shot, your reaction times will have to be different. If someone is cranking topspin at you, the ball will bounce and quickly be upon you. If slice is hit, the ball will bounce much lower and may seem to die out a bit.
A tennis machine can be set to give you drill after drill to get you match ready. After a little practice changing up the spin options, your tennis skills will be on the rise.
How many different shot types does it have, and can it select them for you?
The last thing you want is for your time on the tennis court to be tedious.
You want variety so that it feels like you’re up against another opponent, or at least as close to that as you can be while knowing it’s a machine.
These variable modes are excellent additions to your training regimen.
When isn’t price going to be a factor?
The thing with these is that there’s no real budget-friendly option, there are just cheaper tennis ball machines.
With anything, especially mechanical items, you get what you pay for.
Just about every tennis ball machine has wheels on the bottom as portability is extremely important. A ball machine doesn’t do much good in the trunk of your car!
If you find a model that you can’t move on your own it’s not going to really work well for what you need.
If you look at the Spinshot on the top of our list, it’s just north of 45 lbs, and has convenient wheels on one end for easy maneuverability. The Lobster Elite Liberty is also super portable.
Consider picking it up from the bed of a truck or the backseat of a car and putting it back in, don’t just focus on how you would roll it around. Compact designs also help with portability.
This is something you usually find out in the comments or user reviews whenever you go to buy a tennis ball machine.
Durability comes down to the exterior materials, the quality of the mechanics, and may sometimes even include how much it costs to do a DIY repair.
This is an investment and it’s not cheap. It’s not like buying a racket or new tennis shoes; you should expect it to have great durability and longevity, so you can use it for years to come.
Take to the court of public opinion on this one and see what others are saying.
Ball Trajectory and Speed
Ball speed and trajectory… How high it can lob the ball and how fast it can go? These are benchmarks to look for.
You’re going to want a variety of different shots coming at you and will need the speed range and ball trajectory settings that work for you.
The goal is to have your tennis ball machine mimic the movements and shot speed of an opponent so you’ll be better prepared for your next match.
You don’t need a wide range here, but you’ll need more than one speed and height/direction.
What happens when it breaks down on you?
These things have warranties for a reason. Their warranties show how solidly they stand behind their products.
With the investment you’re sinking into this tennis ball machine, you’d better expect to have a warranty that will cover just about everything.
Most warranties are bound to cover six months to one year worth of manufacturer defects. After that point it’s impossible to prove what is your own doing and what was wrong with the machine.
Within those first six months, you’re likely to see if there are any issues that would have been from production.
Look out for fees and shipping costs for returns as well in the warranty details.
Remote Control/Smartphone Control
Based on how technically savvy you are, this one is big.
It is very convenient to enjoy your tennis ball machine when you can just flick a button and balls are sent your way immediately.
Personally, I’m a fan of using the remote that comes with the machine (if included) rather than a smartphone. If you drop a controller, it’s going to get a scratch and keep on going.
Drop your phone?
It may not bode so well. A cracked screen on a thousand-dollar iPhone is enough to ruin anybody’s day. But if it’s your preference to use your phone and there’s an option to do so, go for it.
At some point in the life of your tennis ball machine, the battery will die.
If replacing the battery makes you want to throw the whole thing out and buy a new one, that’s going to be incredibly frustrating.
Though a compact design, Lobster batteries are quite easy to change. Check it out!
How Does a Tennis Ball Machine Work?
Using a hopper, a tennis ball machine will feed one ball at a time into a designated chute.
A hopper (the spot on top where you put the balls) usually has a cone-like shape to the bottom so it only feeds one ball in at a time.
The edges of the hopper are usually slick so the balls will roll down and towards the center.
Your portable tennis ball machine will then use sensors to signify that the ball has reached its designated location.
At that point, the motor kicks in and sends the ball through a chute that hurls it out of the machine. These are more complicated now than they used to be though.
Now you have onboard computers that either communicate with your phone or a wireless receiver/remote, and rely on electronics to move the chute in various angles to achieve multiple hit patterns.
These wonderful inventions can be set up for horizontal oscillation, vertical oscillation, or random oscillation.
They can feed topspin or underspin shots.
Speed range is configurable so that balls can be fed as hard or soft as you’d like virtually anywhere on the tennis court.
Match simulation at your finger tips!
How to Set up Tennis Ball Machine?
It all depends on which tennis ball machine you get.
If you look at our top pick for the best tennis ball machine (the Spinshot), you have to connect the included battery pack to the right wires and download an app.
Pair it with the machine and program exactly what you want it to do. There are pre-configured drills and a panel on the side to manually configure it if you’d like.
That being said, on average you’ll have to connect the power source and configure the shot settings. You’ll need to make sure the ball trajectory clears the height of the net and determine the proper feed rate for your practice goals.
In most instances, you’ll turn it on and the machine will continue to shoot out balls until the hopper is empty or you’ve turned it off.
A tennis ball pitching machine is a specialized piece of equipment so it’s going to come with specialized instructions depending on who the manufacturer is.
Can You Practice a Slice Shot with Tennis Ball Machine?
If you get the best tennis ball machine, you can practice anything you want on it.
Select the type of spin you want – namely underspin/slice – and you’re good to go.
With a tennis ball machine, you can angle them to fire off just about any shot, and line yourself up to hit them back like a true champion.
Virtually all shot types can be fired your way with a worthy tennis ball machine.
Do You have to Use Pressureless Tennis Balls?
You don’t have to, but it’s recommended. The suggestion to do so is based on how pressureless tennis balls are made.
Their construction is what provides the bounce so you’ll get more use out of pressureless tennis balls compared to pressurized tennis balls in a ball machine.
They are a bit more expensive, vut because they last longer, it all evens out.
Used Tennis Ball Machine vs New one
Tennis ball machines have a lot of working parts. Unless you’re the first owner you can never really know what they’ve gone through before you end up owning it.
Was it stored in a garage? Out on the back deck in Alaska? Used daily for 3 hours or neglected for months and months? Unless it’s been yours, you just never know how it’s been treated.
It’s no secret that tennis ball machines are an investment, but how much of it is an investment versus a purchase is up to you.
What use are you going to get out of it? How often are you going to use it?
There are many variables to account for when deciding to get a pre-owned tennis ball machine.
It may look fine on the outside, but like with anything else in our modern manufacturing world, everything can be bought cheaper than most replacement parts end up costing (plus labor).
So are you really saving money by purchasing a used tennis ball machine, or are you just inevitably wasting money when something breaks?
A tennis ball machine is very specific; it’s not a new pair of shoes or a TV that someone just sells because they need quick cash.
There’s two ways to look at this.
Either they’re no longer into tennis, or they’re selling you something that currently has a band-aid solution and will fail after a short amount of time.
Only you can decide which way to go: new or used.
Get an Advantage Over the Competition
You don’t know where your current skills are going to take you, but there’s only one way to find out – KEEP WORKING AT IT!
Regardless of your age or current skill level, you can greatly improve your court skills with lots of practice.
Whether you call it a ball machine or a tennis ball shooter or a tennis ball thrower, these machines won’t get tired of practicing with you!
Ball after ball will come your way perhaps taking you from a beginner tennis player to an intermediate player or even an advanced player.
Maybe now is the time to pull the trigger…