How To Use A Tennis Ball Machine: Transform Hitting Practice!
Want to know how to use a tennis ball machine to maximize your performance?
We will show you how to set up your tennis ball machine for perfect practice.
Let’s take a look at how to use a tennis ball machine.
Tennis Ball Machines – Advantage You!
The one drawback to being a tennis player is relying on other people. How often do you have available practice time but everyone is busy? Okay, hitting-wall sessions will serve a purpose but they cannot compare with using a ball machine.
So, if you have read our expert guide on the best tennis ball machines and have invested yourself, or if you are fortunate enough to regularly access a ball machine, congratulations!
A tennis ball machine will help revolutionize your schedule, enabling practice sessions whenever it suits you. And with this guide on using a ball machine, you can optimize your sessions.
The Key To Using a Tennis Ball Machine
The biggest fundamental behind using a tennis ball machine is to keep a goal firmly in mind. It is too easy to ‘go through the motions’ and mindlessly hit ball after ball without focus.
Think of using a tennis ball machine as the equivalent of professionals who have a hitting partner at every tournament. Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas may appear to be merely ‘hitting’, but in every session, they will have specific objectives and will ask their partner to cater for this during their sessions.
Ergo, if you use a tennis ball machine, ensure that your sessions are focused and planned. Use this guide to help you get the most from your practice.
Step 1: The Basics
As we know from our excellent analysis of all things ball machines they come in a variety of different models with a host of features relative to budget, right up to the excellent Spinfire Pro 2 but even the most simple of machines will reel off a succession of balls to a level that will improve your game.
Firstly make time to familiarize yourself with the controls and capabilities of the machine before your session starts as this will save valuable time and add real quality to your practice. There is little point in getting into a smooth groove of hitting only to stop while you fathom out how to change a setting.
But once you are confident in your machine start by setting it to pop pedestrian balls over the net enabling you to warm up with a few gentle volleys and half-court shots. We often see players dive straight into full-court shots but we prefer to use the initial few minutes to engage our hand-eye coordination and fully warm up our tennis muscles.
And as with any practice, especially with a tennis ball machine where repetition can lead to a lack of focus, always pay close attention to the quality of each shot.
Remember, practice makes permanent (not perfect) and your work has to be focused to be effective, so ensure your shots are finding their intended spots. A good idea is to place targets such as these target discs or cones, something to use as a focal point to really sharpen your skills.
Step: 2 – Drills For Skills
Once you have warmed up it is time to move on to drills.
We see so many players fail to use a tennis ball machine for anything other than hitting full shots and frankly this is ineffective. As we saw in our great guide on tennis ball machine drills, there is so much we can do with a machine.
In fact, we can often do more with a machine than with a playing partner given that the machine won’t get tired or bored. Especially if you desire to repeatedly practice specific elements of your game.
Watch practice footage of any ATP or WTA professional and you will see that they invest considerable time into specifically addressing key parts of their game as well as indulging in a full-bore hitting session. Nearly always they will isolate a certain facet, something such as their forehand, backhand or footwork and will structure their session accordingly.
And what we see in tournament play is the culmination of these sessions, where all of the components meld into a cohesive and often complete game.
So, when you use a tennis ball machine remember you have free range to select exactly what you wish to work on so do not waste this golden opportunity.
Step 3: Make Practice Life-Like
This is the fun part, where you get to start hitting full shots – but again, be mindful and intentional with your practice.
Firstly, let us assume you are familiar with your tennis ball machine’s full capabilities in terms of its ability to create power, spin, direction, and variety. Ideally, it is better to have access to a machine with an extensive menu of shots – and if possible, try to use a machine that can readily alter the type of shot (more on this later).
You will never come across a player who robotically fires down exactly the same ball in competition so it is wise to avoid being a slave to repetition unless you are focused solely on a key mechanic or shot type.
If your end game is to develop a match-ready approach then variety is your friend and using a tennis ball machine capable of many different shots is favorable.
That said, if your machine has a limited array of options you can still replicate many of the ‘in play’ demands that will be asked in a match.
We see many players limit the potential of their practice by simply standing in readiness for the machine to do its thing, aware of exactly what to expect. For example, when you use a tennis ball machine feel free to change your starting position.
Stand in a variety of places and distances away from the area in which the ball machine is directed. This will encourage you to rehearse scrambling, and hitting balls from being out-of-position and on the run. Not only is this good for replicating in-play situations but your fitness will improve too.
Using a tennis ball machine is a similar concept to one that faces golfers who think they are practicing effectively by beating balls on the range with the same club and in the same position – much like tennis, golfers do themselves a huge disservice by practicing in a way that doesn’t attempt to mirror ‘real life’ match situations.
Step 4: Be Match Ready
Let us not forget the reason why you have invested heavily in a tennis ball machine, or indeed made the effort to seek one out. You’ve done this to improve and hopefully win more matches. Thus, it makes perfect sense to use your machine’s ability to remain tight-lipped about your practice by honing your competitive chops. No machine will reveal your secrets in the locker room!
For example, when you use a tennis ball machine you get the opportunity to imagine a match situation, you can ratchet up the speed of the balls to replicate a particularly aggressive player and simultaneously, you can focus on your recovery positions, breathing, and stamina.
In this phase of practice notice how your quality of shots changes relative to the cadence of each imagined point. In our experience, these small and almost intangible elements are seldom given time by club players but can have a real impact once mastered – the sort of secret ‘edge’ you may prefer to keep to yourself!
And in terms of the bigger picture, never lose sight of where the ball is going and evaluate each shot you hit. Remember, practice makes permanent and if your sessions see powerful but inaccurate shots, or you are routinely finding the net, it is time to press pause on your ball machine and take time to adjust your radar. Again, the ball machine won’t complain about how often you stop and you are in full control of the session.
Now You Know How to Use a Tennis Ball Machine Like A Pro!
Ultimately, we practice for a clear end goal. Anything we can do in practice to mimic match conditions is beneficial. So when you think of using a tennis ball machine, do not assume that using one means a production line of cookie-cutter shots.
Yes, we can mindlessly stand in one spot and monotonously face the same ball in a very compromised form of practice, but with a little imagination, we can lean upon a tennis ball machine to train with variety and real effectiveness.
From simply ensuring you alternate between backhand and forehand to maintain balance on both wings, there are a whole host of things you can do to ensure you use a tennis ball machine optimally and of course, you can always combine any of our highly regarded courses with using a ball machine for enhanced ‘skill specific’ practice!
Providing your machine’s battery is charged or there is a power source available you can practice long and hard and importantly without the constraints that come from needing a playing partner. The type of freedom that can seriously elevate your game!
Browse our extensive range of online courses and take your game NEXT LEVEL!
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