Can a Tennis Ball Machine Improve Your Tennis? Top Tips & Help

Want to know if a tennis ball machine can really improve your tennis?

In our quest to improve our tennis, few things can beat solid practice. However, finding an available hitting partner can often prove difficult, Plus, hitting-wall sessions are handy but do have limitations.

However, if you are super serious about your game and willing to invest in a tennis ball machine, it could exponentially accelerate your progress and here, we dive into the world of using a tennis ball machine to help you decide if the outlay is merited.

How to Use a Tennis Ball Machine

There are a wide variety of tennis ball machines to choose from, and as you would expect, we have you covered, but nuances and price points aside, the fundamental premise is the same – you have the luxury of having a hitting partner but on your terms and schedule. 

We have previously explored using a tennis ball machine effectively in practice but to recap, even the most basic machine offers you an opportunity to focus on specific areas of your game. The machine will consistently pump balls in your direction and you can groove whatever shot you wish – whether that is running around a backhand to unleash an inside-out forehand, or really working on your biggest weakness, a ball machine won’t tire or miss a beat. 

More sophisticated tennis ball machines offer a whole menu of options that includes various types of spin, velocity, intensity, and direction, all designed to faithfully replicate the shots faced in real-time play. Here, you can really get granular in terms of honing your strengths or addressing a flaw in your game. 

Do you struggle when facing top spin, or will you soon face someone who hits hard and deep?

Whatever needs work, there are tennis ball machines that can be programmed to deliver these types of balls to order. And with many machines having remote controls and/or mobile apps from which you can tweak things ‘on the fly’, the experience doesn’t have to be monotonous either.

So, in a nutshell, a tennis ball machine is a versatile and almost indefatigable hitting partner against whom you can do most things.

Tips for Using a Tennis Ball Machine

There is something wrong about the old cliche that says ‘practice makes perfect’, the version we prefer is ‘practice makes permanent’. So when using a tennis ball machine we have to be vigilant and work hard to ensure our technique remains on-point, especially as we will fatigue before the ball machine and there is no coach watching on to correct our form.

So, mindful that we have to be self-aware during ball-machine sessions, how else can we really optimize our investment?   

Our article on tennis ball machine drills is a solid starting point to help you get the most from your machine, but as a general concept, it is worth reiterating that you can replicate match conditions and demands when practicing with a ball machine. 

For example, imagine the ball machine is set to hit top-spin shots down the center of the court and you are positioned accordingly, routinely firing these back without issue.

To change things up, why not put yourself out of position, maybe in the tramlines so that you need to hustle and hit the next ball on the run? 

This is also a great way of developing your agility too, and our course on footwork pairs beautifully with the benefit of having a tennis ball machine at hand. 

Also, do not neglect the opposite side of the net by just unconsciously firing each ball over the net. Instead, double down on where the ball is going and focus on hitting your spots as if you were trying to pass an opponent or expose their weakest wing. 

Consider placing cones or discs at certain spots and aim to hit these for improved accuracy. Maybe visualize your next opponent and the type of shots that will be necessary to beat him/her. Then, doing this while also putting yourself in awkward positions and having to run onto shots, you are beginning to mimic an actual match situation and this brand of intelligent practice could start paying dividends.

Can a Tennis Ball Machine Really Simulate ‘Real Tennis’?

We can understand skepticism when it comes to making this sort of investment, and we can appreciate why some players prefer to practice against humans, but do not underestimate just how lifelike the hitting experience can be, especially with advanced tennis ball machines that offer a wide range of customizable options. 

For those with deep pockets, the Rolls Royce of tennis ball machines are made by Spinfire and  Lobster, both of whom manufacturer a variety of models to cater to every nuance. And Lobster’s top-of-the-range model offers a mindblowing array of options that replicates any type of shot faced in ‘real’ matches. 

Here is a summary,

  • Fully programmable so that the machine will present a variety of shots 
  • Ball speeds between 20mph and 80mph 
  • Intervals between balls of between 2-seconds and 12-seconds (to replicate intensity)
  • Shot-specific programming – so you can choose to practice against moon ball shots, sliced shots, power shots, etc. 

Ultimately, this type of machine is a huge financial commitment, but for those who refuse to compromise in their quest to improve, having the ability to practice on your terms and schedule against the exact shots of your choosing is a huge advantage. 

And let us not forget the luxury of being completely selfish!

Even the most benevolent of hitting partners will want something from their session with you – unless you are paying a coach/advanced player specifically for the privilege. If you have merely arranged to hit with a buddy it is unlikely that they will spend an hour catering exclusively for your desired type of shot alone. 

With a tennis ball machine, you can be completely self-indulgent, focusing solely on ‘exactly’ what you deem necessary. 

Buying a Tennis Ball Machine 

As you would expect, here at Tennis Bros we have tennis ball machines covered in detail with our comprehensive guide to the best machines. So, here we will assess other key criteria that underpin a purchase of this significance, to make certain it is right for you.

Have you got the time? 

Firstly, you need to be sure that you will get value from your investment and that means having the time to spend on-court with your new purchase. So the big question is whether you can spend quality time practicing, at least 1-2 hours per week. 

Another way of looking at this is to consider tennis lessons which can cost between £20-£50 ($25-$60) on average. So, if you are buying a £1500 ($1800) tennis ball machine it means that you can have up to 70 lessons for the same level of investment. 

Also, do not forget that a tennis ball machine is designed to supplement and not replace a coach, so you will need to budget for lessons too. What represents better value for you, lessons or the option to practice without condition? 

What about lessons?

Furthermore, if you are increasing your practice because a ball machine is a far more convenient option compared to finding an available hitting partner, you may need lessons more often. Just like a car, increased mileage means more regular servicing, and remember our adage that practice makes permanent not perfect! 

This said you can always rely upon our excellent courses to supplement your purchase. A seriously strong combination for elevating your game!         

What are your ambitions? 

If you are a social player who is happy to have the occasional game then we would advocate for lessons rather than a ball machine. The acquisition of a ball machine is really for those players willing to invest not just money but time in a bid to improve exponentially and you ideally need to have some lofty ambitions to help substantiate the outlay. 

How is your health?

A ball machine can hold and dispense anything up to 150 balls and this means a lot of repetitive hitting – over and above your lessons and games. Make no mistake, this will put a lot of strain on your body, most notably your hitting arm. 

If you have any degree of arm sensitivity then you will have to think carefully about what it will mean to practice more regularly and intensively. And if you do have arm issues but are adamant that a tennis ball machine is the way forward, would you be prepared to reconsider your frame and string, opting for something more compliant? 

These are the sort of questions that players only consider after spending big and if you need help with finding a racket that helps ensure your body can handle the added intensity, we have you covered with our excellent custom fitting program.

Can a Tennis Ball Machine Improve Your Tennis? 

Firstly, you can still become a very good player without a tennis ball machine. You can even be effective when practicing solo as The Bros can tell you. But, without question, having a tennis ball machine can really help to accelerate your progress.

The flexibility and degree of specificity are unparalleled. You can work on any aspect of your tennis at 3 am if the mood takes you, but with a tennis ball machine comes much responsibility – most notably the ability to practice with purpose and discipline. 

Making this type of investment only to have your technique decline or repetition fatigue descend is pointless. You need to be clear and purposeful when electing to hit balls unsupervised and constantly monitor the quality of shots being produced. 

With our help, however, you can maximize the benefits that come with owning a tennis ball machine. 

Once you have purchased your machine we have courses that will help ensure your practice is optimized. From volleying and mastering the forehand to conquering the backhand, our courses are the perfect complement to help ensure your sessions are always effective. 

So, if we have piqued your interest and you feel a tennis ball machine is right for you, check out our tennis ball machine buying guides and then trust our expertise to help get the most from your investment.  

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