Using a tennis ball machine is a great way to improve your game, regardless of whether you have a hitting partner or coach to play with.
Ball machines give you the ability to practice consistency, technique and fitness on your own, as they will feed balls to you continuously.
You can also use them as a training aid to add another level to your coaching sessions, as you can focus on returning the ball from the machine whilst your coach takes a closer look at your game.
One of the oldest and most innovative tennis ball machine brands over the last 50 years has been Playmate.
They started producing tennis ball machines in 1973 and have been consistently delivering high quality products to tennis players ever since.
But, are they still at the top of their game?
That’s what we are here to find out!
Who Are Playmate?
Playmate is an innovative tennis company that entered the tennis ball machine market in 1973.
This coincided with the famous Battle of the Sexes between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, a truly historic year for tennis.
Billie’s coach took notice of the original Playmate machine, a robust and innovative pitching machine that revolutionised the way that coaches worked on court.
Playmate’s founder then developed a robotic ball machine in 1975 that could feed balls at different heights and depths.
This revolutionary ball machine was aptly named the ‘Genie’, as it brought a new, magical dimension to the ball machine market.
The Genie is still in production today, after being honed over the years to keep up with modern technology.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Playmate introduced more products to their line due to increased competition from the likes of Lobster.
One of the most unique products that Playmate offers is a machine that actually mimics a professional player’s serve.
The vast majority of ball machines will be based on the court and feed ground strokes to the user.
However, with the Playmate Grand Slam machine, both professional and recreational players could practice their return of serves as well as ground strokes and volleys.
Since the introduction of the Grand Slam machine, Playmate followed up with modern twists on their original machines, with the Chameleon series, freedom kit and iPlaymate.
These bring Playmate’s machines in line with modern technological advances, where more and more tennis ball machines can connect to smartphones and have interchangeable accessories.
So, now we know that Playmate has a rich history of innovating and delivering some of the most revolutionary designs on the tennis ball machine market, let’s take a closer look at the most popular models in their current line up!
Playmate’s Tennis Ball Machine Models
Since the inception of Playmate back in the early 1970s, they have shown to be a market leader in the tennis ball machine space.
Nowadays, they still offer a wide selection of tennis ball machines and accessories that can enhance your on-court sessions.
Staying true to their heritage, Playmate have re-engineered their classic Genie tennis ball machine for the modern game.
Their top selling ball machine for recreational tennis clubs now comes with is incredibly easy to use, with an intuitive control panel that allows players of all ages and experience levels to fine tune ball feeding to suit their game.
First, set the difficulty level to easy, medium or hard. Then, you can pick from a range of different shot choices including rally balls, moon balls and short balls.
You can also change up the spin type between topspin and backspin and even customise up to 3 specific shots.
So, if you are used to playing against a left hander that whips the ball into your backhand, you can work on that shot specifically and have better results on court!
The iGenie also comes with its own dedicated smartphone app, so you can control which shot it is firing from anywhere on the court.
The machine holds a massive 300 balls, comes with a remote control and is even compatible with Playmate’s signature serve lift functionality.
The iPLAYMATE brings modern technology to the Playmate line up, offering integrated smartphone connectivity.
The ball machine has a built-in workout tracker that tracks the number of balls you’ve hit along with your time on court, so you can easily keep track of your intensity.
This is all controlled via the “Like My Drill” app, which allows you to share your playing data with other users and even design your own drills!
You can add complexity and difficulty to your tennis drills too if you are really looking for a challenge, and the best part is that this can be done remotely through the mobile app.
The iPLAYMATE tennis tracker is no longer the absolute cutting edge of modern smartphone connectivity technology, with this becoming a lot more common in the market nowadays.
However, the iPLAYMATE still remains a robust, reliable and connected tennis ball machine that won’t let you down!
The popular base model in the Playmate line up, the iSMASH is a great foundation for the user that wants a reliable and functional ball machine.
It is easy to set up and intuitive to use, 7 different programmable positions to feed balls from. The best thing about the iSMASH is its versatility.
You can add any of Playmate’s upgrades to the iSMASH, meaning it is easy to customize it to suit your needs down to the ground.
So, if you want a machine that is smartphone compatible, but then later want to add serve lift, you can do this with the iSMASH.
This is a great all rounder that serves as a high quality entry point to the Playmate lineup.
The Grand Slam
The Grand Slam by Playmate is one of their most innovative products to date.
This commercial electric ball machine fires balls down faster than any other ball machine in the world!
It is specifically designed to mimic a professional tennis player’s serve, reaching speeds of up to 120mph!
The Grand Slam can ‘serve’ both right and left handed, as well as fire the ball flat, with topspin or with slice.
You can also set the Grand Slam to serve at you down the Tee, out wide or into your body.
The machine can also mix up the ball spin, speed and placement to really keep you guessing.
This feature alone makes the Grand Slam stand out from the crowd.
No other ball machine offers the amount of versatility when it comes to replicating the serve, even up to the level of an ATP professional!
It really is the perfect tennis ball machine for anyone wanting to fine tune their return of serve and take their game to the next level!
Overall, Playmate offers a range of tennis ball machines that can be customized to suit your needs.
They have a long, rich history of creating market leading innovations that have always sought to bring the most life-like ball machine experience to both recreational and professional tennis players.
It is easy to see why Playmate has remained such a popular brand in this space for the best part of half a century!
They offer high quality, reliable and intuitive tennis ball machines that are trusted the world over.
Their reputation speaks for itself and Playmate continues to produce high quality ball machines even as technology progresses in the tennis world.
Playmate position themselves at the high end of the market, so you don’t expect to get a bargain from these guys.
However, their quality and reputation for innovation means you really do get what you pay for when you buy a Playmate tennis ball machine.
From their original Genie machine that took the tennis world by storm in the early 1970s, to the state of the art iPLAYMATE, to the one of a kind Grand Slam machine, Playmate machines have stood the test of time and are well worth considering as your next tennis ball machine.