A ball machine is a great tool for any tennis enthusiast to use to improve their game through repetition.
Tennis ball machines provide a unique selling point: you can control the incoming ball. Tennis is usually a very reactive game.
More often than not you will choose your shots, court position and approach to a point based on what your opponent does.
In fact, the only shot you really have absolute control over is your serve.
And whilst you can hit baskets of serves until the cows come home, this will only improve a small part of your game.
If you want to improve your overall game, you will of course need regular hitting partners or match play.
However, particularly in a global pandemic, both of these can be very hard to come by.
So, there has never been a better time to invest in a high quality ball machine.
This piece of equipment allows you to practice all elements of your game, from running forehands to low backhand volleys, whilst being in complete control of the oncoming ball.
This is a rare situation that you may only be able to replicate with a skilled coach that can feed very accurately.
Now, whilst individual coaching is a great thing, it is quite expensive and of course time limited.
Therefore, if you really want to hone your skills and get high quality repetitions then a tennis ball machine is the way to go.
A tennis ball machine is also a great investment for a coach or club.
It can make a massive difference to your coaching overhead and efficiency if you can automate the repetitive work of feeding.
This gives coaches the freedom to analyse their players up close and give better feedback.
A club or coach can soon make up their initial outlay in coaching fee savings and increased revenue from more court usage.
However, if you are going to make this kind of investment into your tennis game, it is very important to make sure you are putting your money into something you can trust and that will cater for your specific needs.
That’s why here at Thetennisbros.com, we have put together a guide of the best tennis ball machines to help you find the perfect match.
What to Consider When Buying a Tennis Ball Machine
Trawling through the internet to try and find the best tennis ball machines can be an onerous task.
There are a wide variety of manufacturers on the market, with an array of different features and capabilities.
So here are some of the main factors to consider when purchasing a tennis ball machine.
Probably the most important consideration when buying a tennis ball machine is how much it will cost you.
Achieving value for money can be difficult if you don’t know what you are looking for.
Prices tend to range anywhere from $700 all the way up to $10,000, so deciding on your budget is the first place to start.
Most of the tennis ball machines tend to fall in the $1,000 to $5,000 range, so you certainly don’t need to break the bank to get a reliable and robust product.
Oscillation refers to the change in direction of the cannon arm on the ball machine. If the cannon can change direction, from left to right and up to down, it significantly increases the versatility of the ball machine.
Horizontal oscillation refers to the machine’s ability to feed balls to both the forehand and backhand side, whereas vertical oscillation refers to feeding at different heights.
This means you can practice returning high topspin balls as well as short slices or drop shots.
The maximum speed the ball machine will feed to is an important factor to consider.
Most machines will feed balls between 20mph and 95mph, so consider the audience that it will be used for.
Beginners may only need a machine with a maximum speed of 60mph, whereas more experienced or athletic players may require a faster ball speed.
Both of these tools will improve your data collection during a practice session and help you get a better grasp of your progress.
Having a machine that can offer balls with topspin and backspin are a great addition to a tennis ball machine’s capability.
This allows for a variety of shots to be practiced, along with the ability to change tactics and work on specific technical skills.
You can also adjust the level of spin on most tennis ball machines, meaning you have a greater degree of control when it comes to practicing.
Most advanced players will want to replicate match situations in practice, so having a machine that can hit flat, topspin and slice balls is a great asset.
The best tennis ball machines will have different modes and settings you can use to create patterns of play.
Although machines with more modes will be more expensive, it is worth considering how many different modes you’ll need depending on who will be using the machine.
A less expensive machine may only be able to feed in one direction, at a few different speeds and have a couple of different speed settings.
Whereas a more expensive and advanced machine will have custom drills, be able to feed to different areas of the court at different speeds, meaning you can really customize your sessions to suit your needs.
Here are some of the best tennis ball machine drills for you!
The size, weight and battery capacity of your ball machine is also a point worth noting.
If you are looking to move this machine around a lot and use it on multiple courts throughout a session, you may want to consider a smaller, lighter weight, portable machine.
However, if you plan on keeping it where it is, a bigger and heavier machine may do the trick.
Whilst most decent tennis ball machines these days have a rechargeable battery, some machines will only work from a plug socket.
You’ll also want to think about how long you’ll need to use the machine in one stint, as most machines’ batteries will last anywhere between 2 and 8 hours.
Another key factor is how many tennis balls a ball machine can hold at any one time.
This basically means how many balls will be fired before you need to go and pick them all up!
Again, this really depends on your audience, budget and what size machine you are after.
Most machines will have a ball capacity ranging from 50 up to 250 balls, so you really need to consider how many you’ll need before purchasing!
Also, it is worth considering what sort of tennis balls you’ll want to use with your new machine.
Pressureless tennis balls are very often used in tennis ball machines due to their durability and consistent feel over a long life span.
The Best Tennis Ball Machines
So, now we have taken into account all of the important factors you need to consider when looking to buy a tennis ball machine, let’s take a look at some of the best options on the market!
All of the following tennis ball machines are great options, ranging in price, capacity and capability.
Lobster Phenom 2
The top of the range model from one of the best brands out there, the Lobster Phenom 2 is a class leading tennis ball machine.
Lobster is renowned for making high quality, reliable machines and the Phenom 2 offers all you could possibly need from a tennis ball machine.
The cannon will fire balls between 35 and 85mph, offering a great breadth of ability and catering for all playing levels.
It will also hold up to 250 balls at any one time, a very impressive figure that is unmatched on the ball machine market.
This machine also comes with six pre programmed training modes, along with customizable programmes that can string together up to 18 shots in sequence.
You can also control this ball machine using the iPhone or Android app, or the remote control, giving you true flexibility!
What’s more, the Phenom 2 can feed with backspin, topspin, vary the height and width of feeds as well as feed a random selection of balls to really keep you on your toes!
The 2 line mode can fire the same ball at different distances, helping you improve your depth perception.
Overall, the Lobster Phenom 2 is one of the best tennis ball machines on the market. It comes with a fast recharger and 4 to 8 hour battery life, making it truly portable.
Whilst this is one of the most expensive machines on the market, it is an investment worth making as it is the only tennis ball machine you’ll ever need!
Lobster Elite Grand 5 LE
This lighter weight, more portable tennis ball machine from Lobster is a less expensive alternative to the Phenom 2.
With many of the same features as the top of the range Phenom 2, the Lobster Elite Grand 5 LE offers great value for money as a middle to upper range machine.
Its 150 ball capacity and 38lb weight make this a smaller, more portable machine.
Whilst its 35-80mph ball speed range and 0° to 60° automatic height adjustment makes this a versatile machine for all playing abilities.
You can also plug this machine in to the mains to have an almost unlimited practice time!
Spinfire Pro 2 (v2)
The Spinfire Pro 2 builds on the success of the successful all rounder, the Pro 1.
The high quality Australian brand has really come into its own with the Pro 2, with a 150 ball carrying capacity and options for internal or external batteries (along with an AC adaptor).
This machine can randomly vary the horizontal oscillation, which with its dark coloured cannon interior to help disguise the ball flight and direction, really keeps you on your toes when training with the Pro 2!
The large transport wheels, retractable travel and carry handles and remote control storage make this more compact design a real user friendly tennis ball machine.
The ball hopper packs down to make this machine as compact as a medium sized suitcase, making it easy to store and wheel around.
The upgraded electronic components and simple LCD screen means the Spinfire Pro 2 performs better than ever, whilst its extreme spins give it an incredible breadth of ability!
Spinfire Pro 1 (v2)
The Pro 1 from Spinfire is a high quality ball machine that delivers a reliable, high performing tennis ball machine at a reasonable price.
With ball speeds ranging from 20 to 80mph, the Pro 1 can cater for all needs.
While most ball machines will change directions by moving the external wheels of the machine itself, the Pro 1 uses internal rotation.
This allows for faster ball delivery and more disguise (especially with its blacked out cannon)!
One of the most compact and convenient ball machines on the market, the Pro 1 can deliver balls at 2-15 second intervals and at either narrow, medium and wide horizontal oscillations.
This less expensive version of its bigger brother the Pro 2 is a great option for someone looking for a compact, reliable and good looking ball machine that one’t break the bank!
Lobster Elite 3
Lobster’s best selling tennis ball machine, the Elite 3, is a great entry level ball machine.
Arguably the best value offering on the market, the Elite 3 comes with a remote control and can fire balls between 20 and 80mph, allowing you to cater ball speed for your audience.
Whilst the Elite 3 does not have programmable training modes, you still have a great deal of flexibility with this machine, as the height, depth and width of feeds can be adjusted automatically.
You can also vary the spin types with this machine, making it a great option at the low price point.
Tutor Tennis Tutor 2
The Tennis Tutor 2 ball machine is a great option for beginner and intermediate players.
It offers simple and easy to use modes, with beginner, intermediate and advanced settings.
The Tutor 2’s player model system also varies the speed, spin and direction of feeds continuously, providing a realistic match-like experience.
The Tutor Tennis Tutor 2 offers very reasonable value for money.
Its compact design, remote control capabilities and 150 ball capacity makes it the ideal travel ball machine. Very impressive considering it is only 12 inches tall when folded down!
Overall, if you are looking to invest in your tennis game or business, a ball machine is a great asset for you.
It can help with improving your game, increasing your profitability and efficiency on court. In terms of factors to consider, set a budget and stick to it.
It is easy to get side tracked by added extras and special features with tennis ball machines, so stay focused and be consistent with your actual needs.
The best tennis ball machines from the list above will give you a great foundation for your search, so happy hunting!