Anyone that wants to become a top level tennis player or professional will know that they need a ton of repetitions. You lean on friends and teammates as much as possible, but there are just times when you can’t get them to work on your game with you. In moments like that, you don’t want to have to be sitting around doing nothing all day long. Instead of doing that, a tennis ball machine is just the answer you need.
It might not be able to talk to you and give you that personal touch, but it can cut down on wasted time and allow you to get some ever important reps in. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at the best tennis ball machines on the market in 2019. We’ll also be answering any questions that you might have and then reviewing the most popular machines after our buying guide. Let’s get going!
Top Tennis Ball Machine Comparison Chart
|1. Spinshot Player Tennis Ball Machine w/ Phone Remote||Spinshot||$$$$|
|2. Lobster Sports Elite One Tennis Ball Machine||Lobster||$$$$|
|3. Spinshot Lite Tennis Junior Training Machine||Spinshot||$$$|
|4. Lobster Sports Elite Two w/Remote Control||Lobster||$$$|
|5. Spinshot Pro Tennis Ball Machine||Spinshot||$$$|
|6. Lobster Sports Elite Two Triple Oscillation||Lobster||$$|
|7. Lobster Sports Elite Freedom Machine||Lobster||$$$$|
|8. Playmate Smash Ball Machine||Playmate||$$$|
Tennis Ball Machine Buying Guide
Setting a Budget & Determining a Price
The first tip you need to know about picking out the best tennis ball machine for YOU is that you need to set a firm budget and stick to it. Having an idea of what price you want to pay in mind is important because it will make sure you don’t go off the reservation. You’ll be tempted to buy something that isn’t within your price range if you don’t set a firm target, so keep that in mind.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t want to set your price on the floor, either. A machine that costs too little could lead to quality problems, and that will negate any usefulness it might have had. With tennis ball machines, the higher the cost is, the more high quality they are. It’s not always like this in sports, but with this it is very much that way. Getting what you pay for is going to occur, so you do not want to skimp out.
With that said, you can still find yourself getting a lot of enjoyment and a lot of mileage out of your machine and can get a good price if that’s what you want and need! Furthermore, just know that tennis ball machines do not come cheap. This is essentially going to be a playing partner for you, so you don’t want something that is unreliable. Compared to the vast majority of sporting goods, this is a relatively expensive thing to buy. So just be prepared for that.
One thing that you absolutely must have in order to be a top tier player is a wide variety of shot types. Being able to forehand, backhand, drop shot, and volley are all essential to being among the best. Very few can master all of them, and it does take a lot of work. But with the right tennis ball machine, you can work on each of those skills, and you can do so in a real life way. With certain machines, you will get the chance to be able to hit these shots at random. Some tennis ball machines, though, will only spit out the ball toward you at the same angle and pace every time. It’s still better than nothing, no doubt, because no one wants to play all by themselves or to just sit around and eat potato chips on the couch, but you can do better than all of that! Things you should be looking for include options to have the spin, the height, and the speed changed on you.
Ball Spin Rate
The spin is huge. If a ball is spinning at the same rate every time, you will become an expert at that shot type, but you’ll be struggling when it comes to an actual opponent that puts different levels of spin on the ball. If you can find a machine that does that, you can get very good at various spin types as your return game improves. The speed is another one you would love to see differ. Some players that you encounter are going to be powerful players that will seek to jam the ball in as hard as they can. Others will be quicker, more agile, and they will be looking to outlast you by placing the ball into certain areas rather than hammering the ball at you.
With a top class machine, you will have the chance to prepare for both extremes as well as the average player that seeks to get in the middle of that, too. The height is important as well, because not every shot is going to bounce just perfectly for you so that you can tee off on it. This isn’t tee ball with the kids, after all. By mixing up the height, it allows you to get better at returning both the lob shot as well as the shot that has bounced right in front of you. Both are equally difficult to master, but they are totally different and must be practiced to get the best out of your game.
Oscillation & Randomness Features
The other thing you will want to have is randomness. Yes, you actually do want randomness because it will allow you to hit the ball from all corners of the court. In tennis ball machines, this is called “oscillation.” You need a machine that oscillates, meaning that it will hit them all over the court. In a match, you won’t be standing in one spot waiting for your opponent to hit it there (unless you have figured out their game plan, of course). A good opponent will be spraying the ball around to all corners of the court, and that means you have to get a machine that is able to be programmed so that it makes you move.
Remote Control Included
Having a remote control might seem trivial, but it’s a huge life saver for sure when it comes to tennis ball machines. Think back to anytime you have been on the aforementioned couch and couldn’t find the remote. It’s awful, isn’t it? You really want to watch your favorite show, but you just can’t find it. You’ve got everything set up, but now you have to get up and go change it manually. Heck, some TV’s won’t even let you do that anymore! It can be just as annoying with a tennis ball machine to not have a remote. Instead of you having to jog over and change the settings, which can be very diverse and varied, you can use the remote control to do so. If you want to work on specific shots one at a time, you can do that, and when you are ready to move to the next one, the remote will allow you to do that. This saves a lot of time, so if you’re on a time crunch or you just want more practice time, this is the way to go.
Ease of Access
One very big thing to keep in mind when buying a tennis ball machine is how easy it will be to use it. Some machines are bulky and difficult to lug around. Since you are by yourself, since no one wants to get up at 6 A.M. and hit the court with you, you don’t have the luxury of having a partner to help you tote it around. Whether you like it or not, though, this thing is going to have some bulk to it. You can’t have a machine with this many parts that isn’t a little bit heavy.
So what that means is that you need something that has wheels and handles, or some other functionality to it. If you can’t carry it, you won’t use it. That’s a rule that is simple and plain as day, but too many people forget about it in the world of sports. Don’t make the same mistake by disregarding this please! Another thing to consider is how much space it takes up. If you are unable to get it into your car, you’re not going to be able to use it very much. So, making sure you have space and that the machine takes up as little space as possible is a component that can’t be forgotten, either.
How It Is Made
How the machine is put together is just as crucial as how the machine serves the ball toward you. The best machine should be made out of either metal or seriously heavy duty plastic. You need something to be sturdy, so that is a major factor in your search. Having something that is not can be very bad for you. Weather is something to keep in the back of your mind. No machine is going to be waterproof, as it could fry the circuits.
However, there are some ways you could get around it. You could always get some sort of tent or cover for it. Another reason you’ll want something sturdy is because of the wind. If you’re outside, there is always a chance that the wind come pick up and start to blow things around. If it’s horrible out, you should get out of dodge, but sometimes it’s tough to know how awful it will get. This means you will want that sturdiness just in case things get thrown around and hit it. You also should watch out for the controls on it. If the machine has the controls on it, it would be nice to see a cover or something that makes sure that they don’t get scratched off somehow.
Just as with any item you could possibly buy, you want to know how good it is. If a manufacturer is very confident in their product, especially if it’s pretty costly, they will offer a warranty. A warranty is a great way to help the consumer’s mind rest at ease. When you spend a lot of money, the last thing you want is to be worried about the machine lasting. With a warranty, you will know that you can get it fixed or maybe even fully replaced if something goes wrong. Ever warranty is different, so you should read the agreement before buying. Thing happens in production to even the best of products, so this is a good way to make sure that you are protected in the event that something unforeseeable happens.
How many balls the machine holds is also a critical thing to know. Most people would assume that the more the better, but that might not be the case for you. Unless you are Serena Williams or Rafa Nadal, you most likely don’t need to have a machine that holds 500 balls. You’ll want to take some breaks more often than that, since your opponent in real life can’t just hit one back at you one after another.
In general, the standard capacity of a machine is around 150. If you are looking to improve the quality of your game, and not just your fitness by hitting ball after ball, then you should be looking to get a machine that holds between 50 and 300. 50 might seem like too little for you, but it can be a daunting task to hit that many the first time. Plus, you have to have and purchase 50 balls, too, so that’s not the easiest of things for some people to do, either! Overall, this is not that big of a deal in relation to other pieces of the puzzle, but it is worth a look for sure.
Speed & Intervals
Right up there with the amount of balls that a machine can spit at you is the intervals at which you get them. What you’d love to see in a machine is one that allows you to switch it up. Sometimes, you will want to work on your agility and quickness. In that instance, you’ll want the settings to be set as quick as possible. Other times, though, you will want something slower.
For instance, you might want to practice returning serves. This would be an effective way of doing so, and since you don’t have an opponent loading his or her balls and smacking them at you like a machine gun, then this is a good way. Just imagine if Isner were allowed to do that… At any rate, what you want to see is versatility. You want options, that way you can set the machine to the lower end of the spectrum to begin with until you get more used to it.
Perhaps the thing you should be most concerned with above all else, though, is the source of power from which the machine will be running. A tennis ball machine isn’t going to run on love (get it?) or magic. It, like your car and your house, needs power to be supplied to it. There are two main ways in which this can occur. Some machines utilize battery only power. This type is pretty self explanatory really. This type is best for people that play outside on open courts and don’t have power running to you.
In most cases, that is going to be the way it is, so battery life becomes key. Batteries typically last anywhere from two to four hours before they need recharging, so you should be able to get a good session in before having to go back and charge them. If you are inside, or if you just so happen to be lucky enough to have access to power, then a machine with a power cord could work for you. With this type, you can literally play all day long if you choose and won’t have to stop, unless the power goes out, that is. This type is likely to set you back some more, but the upper echelon players are going to adore it.
We did discuss how easily it was to access the machine earlier, and one thing that is closely related to it is the issue of weight. Weight can be vital at deciding what to get. You don’t want anything that is way too heavy, because it will be tough to lug around, but you also do not want to go with a choice that is flimsy. There are tennis ball launchers (think the t shirt guns you see at sporting events) that are super lightweight, but those aren’t really that good for this purpose. If you are a dog and want to be the next Air Bud, this would be awesome, but you’d only get a few balls to hit. Instead, look for something between about 30 and 50 pounds.
Most will fall under this category, and even at that weight you could feasibly carry it if you just really had to. Taking age into account is a big thing here. If you are buying for a kid or junior player, something a little smaller- unless they are very strong- might be the best way to go for now.
Believe it or not, a certain type of ball is best used with these machines. The type that is recommended by most companies are pressureless balls. While no machines are going to discriminate based on brand or anything like that, they do require you to make sure and have a regulation ball. If yours aren’t up to that standard, they will not fit. Pressureless balls, nevertheless, are best because they are very durable due to the ball being able to keep pressure within the core. This makes them bounce true for a long lifespan.
Consistency and durability is the hallmark of value, and that type is going to get you the most out of your dollar. Something else to look for is the color of the balls. If you are buying for a child, you will see several colors. Green, orange, and red are common. Most machines are going to allow you to use green and orange but will not take reds. Red balls are bigger and just usually will not fit into the machines. Another thing to look out for is the felt of the balls coming off. If you are noticing that a lot of it has come off of them, then it is time to replace the balls. This can make the machine have problems spitting them out.
You might not have any issues, but you could, and it’s best to just try and avoid that altogether. The machine could throw out a ‘bad’ ball with it hitting the net, while a good one hits at the baseline as intended. You could blame it on your tried and true training buddy, or you could fix the problem at hand with the balls themselves. Don’t assume that all tennis balls are the same, and equip yourself properly to ensure you have the best experience possible playing and practicing.
Best Tennis Ball Machine Reviews
Spinshot Player Tennis Ball Machine w/ Phone Remote
Starting off our list is one of the pricier machines on it, but it does pack quite the punch with it. One thing about the Spinshot is that it does look a little too boxy for my like, but it has a ton of purpose behind it. Sporting a remote on the machine itself and allowing you to use your phone to change the settings make your life much easier. The phone remote allows you to program drills in and then save them, and you can use any type of oscillation, which will give you a ton of versatility as you seek to change your game.
Instead of using any plastic at all, it uses metal, which does make it more durable. You would think it would be ultra heavy, but it is not that heavy at around 42 pounds. So it’s not super tough to get around. One thing to note is that the handle on it is not all that noticeable, unlike some others we’ll see, so be prepared for that. A big issue seems to be the app that you use to program, with many feeling it comes up a little bit short of their expectations. Some users feel that the pace of the balls isn’t great enough for them, so that is also something to consider.
- Not flimsy at all
- Tons of shot types and choices
- Able to control from your phone
- Has been known to have troubles with the app at times
- Balls don’t come fast enough for some players
Lobster Sports Elite One Tennis Ball Machine
The other big brand in this field is Lobster, and the Elite One leads off their version of the list with a middle priced option relative to the list we have. This machine comes with a battery that has an advertised life of between four and eight hours, which is immense to say the least. It also is pretty convenient at just 42 pounds and is very easy to maneuver around with very nice wheels that are good on all terrains on the bottom and a clear handle to pull it with. The bucket that the balls go into fits 150 balls.
The oscillation on this set is not as advanced as others in their line, but you still get horizontal oscillation from this product. The ball can be placed at speeds between 10 and 80 MPH and can be adjusted to have both top and back spins, so that is another big plus to look at with this selection. A feature that it has is that it will lob the ball to you at 60 degrees, which is not something that most out there can offer you.
If you want a remote, though, you will have to buy it with this offering. That is one negative to think about. Another thing that people don’t like is the handle. It’s not as sturdy as you’d like it to be, despite how great it might look. It can also cut you because it is quite sharp around that area.
- Decent price
- Lots of options and plenty of capacity
- Can practice lob shots
- Handle has a slew of issues related to it
- Very tough to get in and out of your vehicle
Spinshot Lite Tennis Junior Training Machine
If you want something more manageable to lug around either for you or a junior player, this ‘Lite’ machine from Spinshot is worth a look for sure. Coming in at low price tag for a machine of this magnitude, it is also quite appealing to the wallet. If getting it around is your biggest concern, there really is no better as it is advertised as the most portable on the market. Shipping in at 29 pounds or so, meaning the machine will be a little less when it’s all said and done, this is one for the junior player for sure.
The thing that also indicates that is the fact that the machine only will throw the balls out at just over 30 MPH. This means it’s not going to appeal very much to older players, but could be just perfect for the child learning the game or even a very new adult to the game. The ball capacity is lower, between 40 and 50, than most, but it’s still a lot of balls for you to hit before you have to go and round them up all over again. If you want the machine to shoot balls at you from different angles, this isn’t the one for you, either, as it just shoots them on the same plane over and over again. This isn’t a bad thing for a beginner, and it has to commended for what it is!
- Low price is ideal for starters
- Good for young players
- Excellent portability
- Doesn’t ‘hit’ very quickly at all
- Will have to be moved to change the angle for shots
Lobster Sports Elite Two w/Remote Control
Coming equipped with a remote, the Elite 2 is an improvement upon the earlier Elite 1 we reviewed. This offering comes in at a little higher price, but still offers most of the same features as earlier that we discussed along with the remote, which is a huge savior for many that just don’t want to be bothered with their phones while on the court. It oscillates both vertically and horizontally for you.
You can also work on your lobs as well with this machine, which seems to be a constant from Lobster Sports that you can’t get elsewhere. The capacity is unchanged at 150 balls, more than enough to get a serious sweat on before changing them out, has four to eight hours of charge, too, and also weighs about 44 pounds.
Look out for the same issues to be present in regards to transporting it as discussed earlier, with the handles not being the best. Also, the screws that surround the battery case are very small and easy to lose, so it can be tough to do so if you have poor eyesight or aren’t prepared for it.
- Comes with a remote
- Random three way oscillation
- No more phone distractions
- Handles lack a lot
- Battery case is tricky to open
Spinshot Pro Tennis Ball Machine
Also coming with a remote, though it just has two buttons compared to ten above, is the Pro machine from Spinshot. This machine is in the middle of the price range really, and it offers a lot of versatility. It ranges in speeds from 6 MPH all the way up to around 75, and it offers the ability to get you moving from side to side without having to move the machine, which is just annoying for so many.
Unlike the first one we reviewed, there is a clear handle to hold on to that is quite sturdy and the machine also has the remote that means you won’t have to fool with your phone. The battery holds charge from about two to three hours, so it’s not quite as long as the others but still does last plenty of time to get a good workout in. The main issue people seem to have is that the machine does not shoot the balls out at the pace that it claims to, and that has been a sore spot for them, for obvious reasons. Another issue is getting it to fit in your car, with many finding it tough to get inside the trunk and requiring some other arrangement to be made.
- Reasonable price for this market
- Sturdy handle to use
- Comes with two button remote
- Hard to fit into vehicles
- Some find it to be slower than promised
Lobster Sports Elite Two Triple Oscillation
This option is just about identical to the Elite Two above, only this one does not come with the remote. That means you’ll have to stop and walk to the other side of the court in order to set it to your liking. The Elite Two is very good for battery life and the ball capacity, meaning you’ll be able to play for quite a long time. You’ll probably drop before it does, truth be told, unless you’re some kind of fitness savant.
With triple oscillation and the lob feature, you will be able to hit just about all of your shots, and you’ll be doing so at a little cheaper price than the one that comes with the remote. So if you don’t feel it’s something you want or isn’t worth your time, then you can skip out on it. It’s still got some issues with the carrying, as the handles aren’t that good and the wheels are a little lacking and in need of more traction in averse areas.
But if you are on normal pavement, you should be good to go. One gripe to be had is that the charger takes a long time to do its job and that in order to get one that is faster, you have to pay an added price. This hasn’t made some consumers happy at all.
- Large ball capacity
- Good battery life once charged
- A little bit cheaper without the remote
- Doesn’t come with the remote
- Charger takes an age to fully work
- Handles, handles, handles again
Lobster Sports Elite Freedom Machine
If you are looking for something that emphasizes portability and comes in at a cheaper price and want to stick with Lobster Sports, then this is the one for you. The Elite Freedom is the lowest costing product they offer, yet it still comes with a ton of awesome features.
One of them is the fact you still get 150 balls to fit into it despite it being lighter at about 35 pounds instead of the usual 42. It’s not a massive difference, to be sure, but it will help you when moving from one place to the next. It shoots balls out at a pace between 10 and 70, which is still plenty good for most beginners and those that just want to get more reps out on the court.
The elevation is going to be dependent upon you, so you won’t be able to get it to randomly change that up for you, unlike the others before. But it still does oscillate from side to side, and that it has a battery that lasts between two and four hours, so that means you’ll still get a whole lot of use out of it and can improve from line to line.
It does not come with back spin, and the charger is going to need to be upgraded to get it to charge quicker. The handle is also a worry still, but if you can overlook those things, this is not a bad one to go with.
- Lowest priced Lobster out there
- Lighter but still has same capacity as the others
- Has horizontal oscillation
- Handle has issues
- Charger problems
- No elevation changes
Playmate Smash Ball Machine
IF you don’t mind breaking the bank, so to speak, here is an option for you to look at. The Player Smash is very expensive, but it has a massive capacity and a very professional look and feel to it. Just looking at it makes you feel like it should be at centre court at Wimbledon. It has a remote control that turns it on and off, the height is varied to your liking, and you can program a ton of options into it.
Both backspin and topspin are available to be worked on with this machine, and the 300 balls you can hit without it going empty is just a huge plus to have. With handles in the middle of it, it makes it easy to wheel, unlike some of the others we’ve looked at. This machine is really great if you are a teacher or at a club, but it’s hard for many to fathom the price and just won’t swallow this big of a pill. This is a commercial option, so unless you just absolutely have to have the best, you might want to look elsewhere.
- Huge capacity
- All sorts of programs can be put in
- Handles are very handy
- Massive price
Conclusion & Final Recommendations
Tennis ball machines have come a long way over the years. They used to be decent enough, but in the past couple of decades, they have seriously ratcheted up to a whole new level. Because of this, you can get the utmost out of your practice time and improve your game to levels unseen previously without a partner to help you out. A tennis ball machine can be your best friend and your worst enemy all rolled into one exquisite piece of machinery. That does make it a bit complicated at times, to be fair, and that is why we’ve gone to such lengths to help you in your search. This guide has helped break down the ins and outs of the machines and has introduced the most popular machines to you. Now, the choice is left up to you!
FAQ’s About Automatic Tennis Ball Machines
Will a Machine Really Help Me Get Better?
If you use it often and do so properly, then absolutely. No, it does not have that human touch, and if you have mental issues in-game, then it might not help you much in matches. But in terms of your overall form and level of play, it will definitely help you if you put the hours of hard work in. You’ll get much better at a wide range of shot types, especially if you have a machine that can switch up the shots randomly on you.
A machine can also help you learn to better position yourself, too, which is sure to help your experience. If you happen to be a very good player, for your age and area, you might even find that the machine is a better opponent than the people you are playing against. While this might be a touch bit sad, it’s the case for many. Andre Agassi went through that growing up, and you, too, might be facing it. That’s when you should go out and play older players, as well as using your machine, too.
What Tools Might I Want Along With A Machine?
So, if you are asking this question, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. If there are going to be a minimum of 50 balls out on the ground, how do I pick them up? The answer is to get a hopper of some sort. One such is called a BallTube and it picks up and holds 18 balls at a time. It will cut your time down a lot. A simple bucket works, too, though, you’ll have to bend over and pick them up.
Also, you’ll want tennis balls. Don’t forget those. Your machine won’t work very well without that component! Another good thing you might want, if it doesn’t come with your machine already, is possibly another battery pack. This could double your amount of on-court time and keep you from having to charge as much if you want to put in long hours on the court.
What Kind of Speeds Do Machines Usually Throw Out At You?
While it does range from machine to machine and company to company, most machines are going to have settings that range between 10 and 80 MPH. 80 might not seem like that much, but it is more than plenty for you to get great practice out of. There is almost no way to practice for those girls and guys that serve ultra quick, other than to play against them, unfortunately. But 80 is going to develop your fundamentals a ton, and it will help you to overcome them when you are able to get your racket on the ball.
How Does the Machine Work?
Without being too technical here, a tennis ball machine works by using wheels that rotate in opposite directions. Others can take the technology of a vacuum and basically reverse. The only problem with that kind is that they can’t add spin to the equation, unlike our first example. If you want to learn more about the ins and outs, you can look into it on Google. There are plenty of better resources that can answer your curiosities on this subject.
What is the History Of Tennis Ball Machines?
It’s actually a real cool story, and you might be a little surprised to learn how much there is to it. The first documented use of such a machine was in the 1920s by French player Rene LaCoste. In addition to playing the game, he turned out to be quite the businessman, developing a hand cranking tennis ball launcher in conjunction with Dunlop. You still needed a partner for this at the other end, but the first step had been achieved and the first victory had been won for tennis players the world over.
Around 30 years later, electric powered ones started to show up at tennis clubs. From there, things just got better and better and have led us to today where machines are truly able to be used so that players can practice all by themselves or so that their coaches can watch them without having to worry about serving them the ball or setting up cameras to try and watch them play.
Can You Rent a Machine?
A lot of places, whether it be clubs or even stores, will allow you to rent a machine. This is a good idea if you are just dipping your toe into the water and want to find out what it is all about and figure out how to use one. By renting, you can get a grasp on what it would be like to own one, and you wouldn’t have to foot the bill if you are a little unsure.
If you happen to like the specific machine you rented, it also would take out the issue of searching for one you do like. Over the long haul, if you are going to be using one consistently, it’s best to buy, however. By purchasing, you’ll get much better value than paying every single time you use someone else’s equipment.
Which Brands Should I Look For?
It really just depends on what you want, but there are a couple that lead the industry in the more affordable price ranges. Those two are, obviously, Lobster Sports and Spinshot. Everyone else is playing catch up to them because the pair of them are very good at providing a wide range of choices to consumers. You can buy machines for younger players, experienced veterans, and they also have a bevy of different features to them at various prices as they go up and down the range.
That’s a big part of their appeal, and that can’t really be overlooked. Still yet, there are plenty of others out there as well. You can evaluate them yourself using our guide. Some even have technology like cameras that come with that analyze and score your shots as if you were actually playing a game, which could be the added touch you’re looking for.