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Like with any sport, improving your tennis game requires practice – lots of swing repetitions and repeating each shot until it feels natural. But finding a partner to practice with can sometimes be difficult. Thankfully there is one playing partner you can always count on – a portable tennis ball machine.
In the below article, we review and rank the best tennis ball machines on the market today – including feature-rich, top-of-the-line machines (like the Spinshot line) and also more value-focused ball launchers (much of Lobster’s line). We also discuss the different criteria you may want to consider when buying a tennis ball machine towards the end of this round-up.
But first (for those in a hurry) here are our top picks:
Tennis ball machines can serve as your partner for the sole purpose of practicing tennis. Just like your hitting partner ball machines shoot balls at you, allowing you practice return shots, and improve your overall skills. And the greatest part about them is that you can play where and when you want while focusing on specific areas of your game. Ball machines are suitable for all players, regardless of their skill level. They are the most effective way to improve your footwork and ball placement and develop reflexes and game strategies.
A Tennis ball machine can be expensive, and they sound quite complicated, but you should invest in one if you’re serious about improving your game. In this article, we’ll discuss what the top tennis ball machines are, and how to choose one for yourself.
Best Tennis Ball Machines: The Complete List
1. Spinshot Player Tennis Ball Machine
- For intermediate to advanced players
- Program from your smartphone – tweak each shot for Speed, Height, Angle and Spin
- Fully customizable
- Sturdy metal construction (not plastic)
The Spinshot Player is one of the best tennis ball machines we’ve ever seen. Its designed for intermediate and advanced tennis players. It offers extraordinary design, and a fantastic number of features, making this machine one of the greatest-selling ball launchers on the market. Whereas most tennis ball machines are made from plastic, the Spinshot Player is made of metal and thus is very sturdy and durable – its a great investment that you’ll use for years to come.
The Player machine is an excellent option if you’re looking for a device with a speed range between 30 and 68mph. This speed range is more appealing to intermediate and advanced players, but some beginners might still benefit from such speed. It also offers an adjustable feed interval, several different spin rates, and a fully customizable vertical and horizontal oscillation. Better yet, you can program and customize this machine from your smartphone, and even adjust each shot to alter the speed, height, angle and spin!
Also, the Player has 12 pre-programmed drills, which are also fully customizable, allowing you to improve your game skills further.
This battery-operated ball machine provides you with 2-3 hours of court time. You can also upgrade your device with an AC power module, which allows you to draw power from an AC power outlet.
- Free Remote-Control app for your smartphone
- Highly adjustable/configurable
- Can be upgraded to draw power from an AC outlet
- Sturdy, metal construction
2. Spinshot Player Plus-2 Tennis Machine
- For advanced users
- Top of the line product
- Amazing programmability options – use your smartphone to adjust each shot
- Sturdy, metal construction
Thanks to a fantastic number of high-quality features, and its ability to recreate the feeling of an actual match, the Plus-2 model is one of the greatest tennis ball machines. Of course, the device is packed in a recognizable green powder-coated aluminum body, which is pretty durable. It’s also resistant to ball hits, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally damaging it by a stray ball shot.
What separates this tennis ball machine from the rest of its category is the features, and adjustability options it offers. All the features are incredibly adjustable and fully customizable, allowing even the beginner-level players to practice with this machine.
This machine is very similar to the Spinshot Player and also the Spinshot Plus models, but slightly upgraded. Basically Spinshot took the best features of the Player and Plus models and combined them into one machine – giving you the smartphone app features of the Player with the OLED screen and control panel of the Player.
If you’re a beginner looking to improve, the Plus-2 ball machine can help you raise your tennis skills to an advanced level, by utilizing the full range of features it has to offer. A shorter court time of 2-3 hours is understandable, given the number of options this device provides. And seriously if you’re practicing for more than 3 hours at a time you probably need to grab a breather! (or work harder!)
Once again, the sturdy metal (aluminum) construction of a Spinshot tennis ball machine helps to justify their higher price tag, since you can expect it to last for many years.
- Lots of features
- Free Remote-Control app for your smartphone
- Amazing programmability
- Sturdy aluminum construction
3. Spinshot Lite Tennis Ball Machine
- For kids and beginner-level athletes
The Spinshot Lite by Spinshot Sports is one of the most suitable ball machines for children and beginner level players, offering just the essential functions and recognizable design.
With a speed range that is appropriate for children, beginners, and recovering players, this tennis ball machine is designed for practicing repetitive shoots at lower speeds, and slower rates. All the shots will be placed in the same direction, as the device lacks any adjustable oscillation, elevation, and spin. This lack of an advanced feature has an upside – incredibly long battery life court time.
With only two adjustable functions and long battery life, this ball machine is a perfect choice for tennis clubs with a lot of children and beginner-level members. However, it doesn’t feature remote control.
- Lightweight and portable
- Sturdy design
- Can only hold up to 50 balls
- Limited features
4. MatchMate Quickstart Tennis Ball Machine
- For kids and beginner-level players
- Great for repetitive shots
The Quickstart is one of the best ball machines meant primarily for children, offering age appropriate functions, a child-proof design, and a fantastic battery life.
This tennis ball machine is packed into rust-free aluminum body which has rounded edges, so a child can’t hurt themselves by any chance. Of course, caution should still to be exerted when children are nearby. It offers lower ball speeds and slower feed rate, both of which are adjustable, sufficient, and child-appropriate.
Still, this tennis ball machine lacks any advanced functions, and offers no oscillation, whatsoever. You can, however, elevate the shots by adding spacers beneath the device. Battery life is over 7 hours, providing plenty of court time for the young ones, making device one of the best machines for beginner training.
- Great for kids
- Lightweight and portable
- Has no oscillation features
- Not for advanced players – minimum customization
5. Lobster Sports Elite Three Ball Machine
- Offers some degree of customization
- Random oscillation
- For intermediate and advanced players
The Elite Three ball machine will provide you with high speeds, spins oscillations, and good battery life and court time. Though best suited for intermediate and advanced players, you can still benefit from it if you’re a beginner level player.
Other than a good speed range and feed interval, the Elite Three ball machine also offers adjustable spin, random horizontal and vertical oscillation. This model also provides electronic elevation, so you won’t have to bother with manually adding elevation spacers. However, the Elite Thee doesn’t have a working memory, so it doesn’t offer any preprogrammed drills.
Still, with such amazing features, it can offer you more than 4 hours of court time, providing for several training sessions on one charge.
- Long battery life
- Random oscillations
- Has no preprogrammed drills
- Takes a long time to recharge
6. Lobster Sports Elite One Tennis Ball Machine
- Easy to store
- Has four different adjustable parameters
- For beginner and intermediate players
The Elite One is one of the best tennis ball machines in the beginner-level category, offering plenty of features for those who repeatedly practice shot swings. It’s also quite lightweight, so you won’t have any trouble loading it onto the trunk of your car.
Encased in a red body of recognizable design, this tennis ball machine offers a speed range suitable for all players, and a 150-ball capacity. Other adjustable features include spins, elevation, and random horizontal oscillations, all of which are quite sufficient for beginner and intermediate players.
Unfortunately, the Elite One ball machine has no pre-loaded drills. But it does provide you with longer court time, which makes it a top machine in its class.
- Great battery life
- Four adjustable parameters
- Easy to store and transport
- Has no pre-loaded drills
7. Lobster Sports Elite Two Tennis Ball Machine
- Random oscillations
- For intermediate and advanced players
The Lobster Elite Two is another tennis ball machine on this list that provides a right blend of features, court time, and a reasonable price. It’s packed with features that’ll make your training session more challenging since it’s capable of shooting balls at high speeds.
For those wishing to practice different aspects of the game, the Elite Two is capable of adding spins to shots, and random triple horizontal oscillations. This is great if you wish to work on your forehand and backhands, while electronic elevation system takes care of overhead shots.
Aimed at intermediate-level players, the Elite Two ball machine lacks pre-loaded drills, but in turn, it offers longer court time. Overall, it’s a great tennis ball machine for those that wish to work on forehands, backhands, and footwork.
- Triple oscillation
- Wide speed range
- Good ball capacity
- No pre-loaded drills
- Remote control sold separately
8. Lobster Sports Elite Grand IV Ball Machine
- Six preprogrammed drills
- Short recharge period
- For advanced players
Offering a wide range of advanced features, combined with a portable design, and good battery life, the Elite Grand IV is one of the top tennis ball machines on the market.
Featuring a recognizable design, this tennis ball machine can turn an intermediate player into an advanced one, and continue to challenge him or her even further. It has all the functions you would expect from a tennis ball machine, like fully customizable oscillations, fully automated random program, and six pre-loaded drills.
Random programs are an excellent addition since it allows the machine to mix up ball speed, trajectory, spin, and oscillation, providing you with a feeling of a real tennis match. However, this feature, along with six pre-loaded drills, isn’t customizable like on some models.
Despite the significant number of features, the Grand IV machine provides 4-8 hours of court time. This is considerably more court time than some models of the same range have to offer.
- Full random oscillation
- Six pre-loaded drills
- Possibility to choose shot depth
- No programmable drills
9. Lobster Sports Elite Liberty Tennis Machine
- Large ball capacity
- For beginners and intermediate players
For anyone looking for a beginner-level machine, seeking to improve their shot technique, the Elite Liberty is a tennis ball machine to go to. The quality of its features places this machine at the top of its class and price range.
The wide astonishingly wide speed range makes this tennis ball machine one of the fastest machines in the beginner-level category, with a considerably wider feed interval, too. Though beginner-oriented, you’ll be satisfied with features this machine has to offer, like different levels of spins, and horizontal oscillation. The Elite Liberty has no working memory, so it doesn’t feature and pre-loaded drills. To get more exercise, you’ll have to rely on its other features.
Still, in terms of features, it’s one of the top entry-level tennis ball machines, more than capable of satisfying the needs of beginner players.
- Easy to transport
- Four adjustable parameters
- No programmed drills
10. Wilson Portable Tennis Ball Machine
- Eight different spin levels
- Random oscillation
- For beginners and intermediate players
The Wilson Portable is a highly sophisticated and reliable tennis ball machine best suited for beginner-level players. Through some optional upgrades, for an additional cost, this machine can even satisfy players of a higher skill level.
This tennis ball machine has a built-in elevations system and an oscillator, which can adjust the ball trajectory, and deliver the shots randomly across the court. You can combine these features with a Spin Control, which offers a degree of spin to the shots. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to enjoy training with pre-loaded drills, since Wilson Portable provides none.
This tennis ball machine offers up to 4 hours of court time and comes with overcharge protection supplied by the manufacturer. If you wish to extend your court time, Wilson provides an external battery pack for an affordable price.
- Easily portable
- The charger has built-in overcharge protection
- Simple controls
- No pre-loaded drills
11. AnBt Lightweight Tennis Serving Machine
- Starter machine – for beginners and young junior players
- Very light and easily portable
- Powered by 4 D batteries (or plug-in)
- Only 30 ball capacity
The AnBt Tennis Serving Machine is a very lightweight and easily portable option. Its great for beginners or those who want a tennis ball machine but don’t want to spend a fortune – this machine is typically available at most retailers for less than $300.
Its also convenient that its powered by 4 D batteries. This means you don’t need to remember to recharge it. Of course it also means you might go through some D batteries! Not to fret though, it does have a plug option too if you happen to have a power source near your courts.
The 30-ball capacity means you’re going to be reloading this machine pretty frequently, so its not as suited to the 90-minute practice session that an advanced player may want. But for beginners who are looking for consistent lobs or shots to return (and don’t have a consistent playing partner), its a great entry-level option to use for a year or two before upgrading to a Spinshot.
- Easily portable, super light
- Takes 4 D-batteries or plug-in for power
- 30 ball capacity is limiting
- Has limited power – more like a toss or feeder, not like returning hard shots
- No configurations for spin or speed
Tennis Ball Machine Buying Guide
Picking a suitable tennis ball machine can be difficult when there’s so many to choose from. This buyers guide will help you with the basics of choosing, and buying your very own, first tennis ball machine. If you already own one, and you’re looking to purchase a newer model ball machine, you already know what you’re looking for. Still, this guide may offer some fresh insight when it comes to tennis ball machines.
When choosing your tennis ball machine, you should consider the features you want your ball machine to have. Those will mostly depend on your skill level, and the skills and game areas you wish to improve. Keep in mind that a tennis ball machine can be expensive, and a number of features embedded in the device may significantly affect its cost.
In this guide, you’ll familiarize yourself with basic terminology and features of tennis ball machines, but before we get there, there are some things worth considering.
Your Skill Level:
You should pick the best tennis ball machine that suits your needs, according to your skill level. If you’re a beginner, it’s pointless to purchase a professional-grade machine with high shooting speed, and loads of preprogrammed drills. Beginners may still benefit from such a device, but they usually work on their groundstrokes, so opting for a machine with fewer features and lower shooting speed makes more sense. Due to the lack of advanced features and high shooting speeds, beginner-level machines are often pretty affordable.
Intermediate and advanced players are looking to improve their game skills even further, by improving their technique and strategy. These players will significantly benefit from a ball machine with more advanced features like spins, faster feed rate, different oscillations, etc. Most of these machines offer advanced functions, and some of them can be turned off, accommodating those with intermediate playing skills.
Tennis ball machines designed for intermediate and advanced players are more expensive, but they offer more in terms of function. They come equipped with preprogrammed drills, which are partially or fully customizable, allowing you to customize your own shots, and create your individual drills. These features are most beneficial to intermediate and advanced players, as it can help them target their weak spots, and progress even further.
Frequency of Use :
If you’re serious about playing tennis and improving your game skills, a tennis ball machine is a sound investment. They are a great way to practice and improve if you don’t have a training partner. If you do, you can still benefit significantly by practicing with a tennis ball machine.
Tennis ball machines are only worth it if you use them, as they pay for themselves a little more with each use. If you’re planning on practicing with it at least once a week, purchasing a ball machine is a good idea. However, if you’re not as serious, your money might be better spent on tennis lessons at a local tennis club.
The best tennis ball machines are expensive, and they cost a lot upfront, especially the ones offering better features. That’s why the price should be considered along with the frequency of use when choosing your desired tennis ball machine. Tennis ball machines do pay for themselves over time, but only if you actually use them for practice. If not, your money might be better invested elsewhere, like private tennis lessons.
Consider buying your tennis ball machine directly from the manufacturer, or a licensed retailer. That way, you’ll get the best offer in terms of price and warranty on the ball machine. Keep in mind that manufacturers of battery-operated tennis ball machines cover the battery with a different type of guarantee. That means that the machine may come with a 2-year warranty, with the battery being covered for only six months.Now that we covered the basic stuff, we can move on to the terminology and features the ball machines have to offer.
Ball Machine Capacity:
Ball capacity usually refers to the number of balls that fit into machine’s ball hopper, at one time. And while the industry’s standard for most machines is around 120 – 150 balls, the ball capacity depends on the machine type.
Ball Speed and Spin:
Ball speed represents the ball’s travel speed. This feature is usually adjustable and ranges anywhere from 10mph up to 90 mph. Actual speed range that ball machines offer depends on the machine type, and the skill level the machine has been designed for. Devices intended for beginners offer lower speeds, ranging from 10mph up to around 35mph, and are usually unappealing to more advanced players. In the same way, more advanced machines offer speed ranges that are unsuitable for beginner-level players.
Spin feature refers to the spin of the ball, and it’s usually omitted from the beginner-level machines, as beginners gain very little to benefit from it. It allows the machine to launch topspin and backspin shots, better simulating real match experience. More advanced machines can alternate between topspin and backspin shots, allowing intermediate and advanced players to benefit from this feature even more.
Feed rate, or feed interval, refers to the time interval between shots, measured in seconds. This feature should be present and adjustable on all ball machines , regardless of the price range and skill level. This is important because beginner players usually need more time between shots, taking that time to reposition and prepare themselves. More advanced players will be looking for a machine that can feed the balls more quickly, forcing them to think ahead and develop strategies.
Oscillation and Elevation:
Oscillation refers to the ability for the ball machine to shoot balls to both sides of the tennis court, which is ideal for practicing forehands and backhands. It pays to keep an eye out for oscillation function since it allows the machine to simulate real play better.
Elevation refers to the height of the shot, allowing you to practice lobs and overheads. This feature is usually controlled by an electronic system, on more advanced, expensive machines. On entry-models or budget-friendly ones, this feature is manually set, generally by some turning knob, or elevation spacers.
High-end ball machines offer fully customizable oscillation and elevation features, which can be combined. Some models provide a random program for such functions, throwing balls at a different angle and height, making the essential for practice drills.
Top of the line tennis ball machines offer preprogrammed drills, which are embedded and pre-set by the manufacturer. Drills consist of a six-shot sequence, with each shot being fired with different parameters. Many high-end tennis ball machines allow you to customize or even create your own drills entirely. You can adjust various settings, to create shots that suit your training needs. This can greatly improve your training sessions and your skills.
As they are not essential to beginners, preprogrammed drills are a feature usually excluded from the beginner-level machines. However, this feature is necessary for intermediate and advanced players, as it allows them to improve their skills, reflexes, and coordination better.
The power supply is more of a specification, rather than a feature. Nonetheless, it’s an important thing to consider, as there are several ways to power a tennis ball machine, each with its advantages and drawbacks.Older models of tennis ball machines were powered directly from an AC outlet. While this is an outdated method of power supply, it provided an unlimited court time, making those ball machines suitable for tennis clubs. However, that hindered their portability, as they were only usable in places that offered AC power.
Most modern tennis ball machines are battery-operated. Battery life depends on battery capacity and the number of features you use. The more features you use, the faster the battery will drain. Still, most high-end machines provide a minimum of 2 hours of playtime, which is more than enough for a serious training session with all the features enabled. Beginner-oriented machines offer more than 5 hours of playtime, only due to the lack of advanced functions. And while most modern ball machines are battery-operated, some manufacturers provide an upgrade to an AC power supply. This upgrade allows you to draw power from a standard AC socket, providing unlimited court time, making any machine suitable for tennis clubs.
Some models have a hybrid power module, which allows you to draw power from the AC socket, and the battery. This module is an excellent solution if you’re in an area prone to power failures.
There are two types of propulsion: spinning wheels or pneumatic pressure. Counter-rotating wheels are the most common type of propulsion, which is both more accurate and much quieter. The ball passes in between two high-speed counter-rotating wheels that shoot it out at high speed. This type of propulsion system can provide topspin and backspin shots by rotating the wheels at different speeds. However, it will wear out your tennis balls more quickly.
Pneumatic propulsion is more of an old-school method of shooting the tennis ball, using pressurized air. This propulsion requires more power, so it’s not likely to be found on modern battery-operated tennis machines. Though less accurate, and much noisier than counter-rotating wheels, some beginner-level devices still use a compressed air system.
Remote control enables you to control the ball machine from the other side of the court, and it’s usually supplied for free with more advanced models. Cheaper machines don’t usually ship out with a free remote control, but they do offer the possibility of adding one for an additional fee. Some entry-models have this function entirely left out, but they do provide a 10-second delay after turning them on.
Tennis Ball Machines FAQs:
Why buy a Tennis Ball Machine?
One of the biggest reasons for buying a tennis ball machine is that they’re a hitting partner that’s always available. Just take it to the tennis court and turn it on. Your hitting partner may not have enough time or has a busy schedule, but with a tennis ball machine, you can practice anytime you what.
Another great reason is that it can help you to improve your skills significantly. Some of the most prominent tennis players are known to use tennis ball machines in their routines.
Does a ball machine help improve my overall tennis game?
It does. Tennis ball machines are an excellent way of practicing shots and improving your consistency through repetitive training. Besides allowing you to practice anytime you want, they also allow you to focus on whatever shots you want to promote. Through repeated practice of your strokes, you create natural muscle memory and reflexes, significantly improving your skills and form.More advanced tennis ball machines allow you to adjust various settings to simulate the real tennis match better. They are more consistent and accurate than a live partner, allowing you to better focus on repetition and form, improving your skills and developing strategies.
How does a Tennis Ball Machine work?
The way the tennis ball machine works depends mostly on the propulsion type. When you turn the ball machine on, its carefully calibrated parts become functional. The feeder motor feeds the ball from the hopper, channeling it through a tube leading to high-speed counter-rotating wheels. The ball passes between the wheels, which propel it outwards. The ball speed is adjustable by changing the speed of counter-rotating wheels. With this propulsion system, you can add a degree of spin to shots, by having the wheels rotate at different speeds.
Once the ball is out, the feeder rotates once again, channeling another ball through a tube. Feed interval can be adjusted through a control panel, and it regulates the work of the feeder motor, and frequency of ball being fired.
With pneumatic propulsion, an electric fan draws in the outside air, pushing it into a canister. A ball feeder, powered by an electric motor, channels the ball into a circular tube leading to a small rubbery ring, called a detent. Air pressure forces the ball into the detent, causing it to seal off the end of the tube. At the same time, a plastic flap covers the entrance to the tube, which causes the air pressure to mount.
Eventually, the pressure pushing the ball overpowers resistance from the detent, causing the ball to shoot down the barrel and onto the court. The pressure inside the tube is now eliminated, which releases the flap covering the entrance, allowing another ball into the tube. The process is then repeated.
Why are Tennis Ball Machines so expensive?
Tennis ball machines are specialized machines with complex moving parts and electronics, so the price depends on several factors. Some models offer just the essential functions, like entry-level models, and cost less than others.
Ball machines that allow you to adjust different parameters or completely customize preprogrammed drills are the result of sophisticated engineering. They also generally are designed to do this while operating off of a large battery, since typically AC power is not available on most tennis courts. As a result, you get a machine with advanced functions, which can be a bit pricey.
Ball machines cost a lot of money, upfront. But are they worth the cost? Well, that depends entirely up to you, as a tennis player, since you’ll have to weigh the benefits to get the answer.
What are the best tennis balls to use with your ball machine?
Selecting the right kind of tennis balls to be used with your tennis ball machine is as important as choosing the right ball machine itself. Most tennis balls feel and look the same, but they do have subtle yet serious differences. Keep in mind that low-quality balls may not suit your ball machine, as they can cause more frequent jamming, which can lead to severe damage.
Professional and championship-level balls are filled with pressurized gas. The pressure gives them a more significant bounce and speed; however, as the gas escapes the ball, the bounce and speed decrease. The lifespan of a pressurized ball is about two weeks, and many of them are only used for a single tennis match.
The balls best suited for recreational play, and practice with tennis ball machines are balls without the pressurized gas. Pressure less balls achieve their bounce from the rubber shell structure, and not from the pressurized gas inside. As the rubber softens over time, pressure less balls actually gain more bounce, unlike pressurized ones. Due to their ability to retain their bounce, pressurized balls are better at maintaining consistency, making them extremely durable. They’re manufactured in accordance with the rules and standards set by Tennis Associations and approved for ball machine use by International Tennis Foundation.
Final Thoughts on Buying a Tennis Ball Machine
Practicing with the best tennis ball machine you can afford is a great way to improve your skills further, regardless of your experience. They can help you improve your ball placement through repetitive training, your speed, endurance, strength, and much more.
Tennis ball machines differ in the number and quality of the features they offer. There are also specific differences in design. Some devices are better suited for beginners, others for intermediate and advanced players. Certain models have a smaller ball capacity and a shorter battery life but compensate in terms of portability.
Each tennis ball machine is slightly different, and you should pay attention to all the details discussed in this article. Think about the most crucial features, whether you can benefit from them or not, to figure out which machine fits your training needs.