Tennis is one of the fastest growing sports in the world among all ages and both the pros and casual players are getting better and better each year. While many people still prefer to go with the old fashioned way of practicing with a partner, there are now a few new methods that you can use to essentially speed up the training process and also train your skill on your own time.
If you plan on playing at a competitive level, having a tennis ball machine becomes very important as it allows you to increase your practice intensity and duration even i you don’t have I partner. Through years of experience playing tennis and selling equipment I have created this guide to help you find the best tennis ball machine for your skill level and budget.
What are Tennis Ball Machines?
Tennis might not be the cheapest sports activity of all but it definitely provides the ultimate thrill and does require a great deal of physical strength and stamina. To practice your tennis skills, you would ideally need a court, a coach, and a partner (or even an opponent) – not mention the equipment.
Courts are out there, so are coaches. But what about partners? Sometimes it’s not easy to find a partner with matching skills, who is motivated enough to keep you busy all the time.
Moreover, tennis is not always about powerful strokes and blazing smashes. A lot of the times you just have to practice basic moves and shots to become a more efficient and skilled player. It is hard work but it needs to be done.
This is where tennis ball machines come in. They allow you to practice efficiently at a great pace just by yourself, thus saving you time and effort.
In order to develop your ball hitting technique, you need a tennis ball machine that fits your style, skills, training program, and budget.
Here in this article, we will walk you through some of the best tennis ball machines that are currently available on the market to make your choice easier.
But before we delve into that, let’s take a glance at some of the features you might want to be looking out for when shopping for a tennis ball machine.
Top Tennis Ball Machines Comparison Chart
Tennis Ball Machine Buyer’s Guide
There are a few key things you should keep in mind while looking for a tennis ball machine. I would split them into two main groups – general features (things that matter for any kind of purchase) and specific features (features that are specific to tennis ball machines only).
General tennis ball machine features usually include:
- dimensions (length, width, and height)
- capacity (the maximum number of balls it can have)
- price (well, obviously:-)
- manufacturer’s warranty
Specific tennis ball machine features typically include:
- propulsion (affects the top speed of the ball and the ability to spin balls)
- feeding interval (defines the intensity of an exercise)
- oscillation (the ability to feed balls in more than just one direction)
- power type (A/C-powered or battery-powered) (cord or cordless)
Optionally, you may include things like design or ergonomics but these are always subjective, unlike the ones listed above.
Now, let’s take these features for an in-depth study, starting with general ones first.
Tennis ball machine dimensions matter simply because you would want to move this thing around a lot, let alone store it in some place. Generally, bigger dimensions are a result of bigger capacity but it’s not always the case.
Some tennis ball machines can be folded for easier transportation, others cannot, which is another thing for you to consider, depending on how much you are planning to drive that thing around.
In the world of tennis ball machines, capacity is the maximum number of tennis balls your machine can carry. Minimum capacity is 50 balls, while the high-end models can allow up to 300 balls.
Why would you need a bigger-capacity tennis ball machine? Well, simply because it allows you to train longer and save time on gathering balls and refilling the machine.
This will be great to ensure that you are not spending more time reloading the hopper than you are spending in the actual training session. You will also be able to buy brand-specific hoppers separately and use them in conjunction with your machine. So this feature might not be extremely important, but if you can get a good hopper with the machine, why not save some money.
Much like capacity, weight is crucial when it comes to moving your tennis ball machine around and transporting it.
Be mindful of the fact that bigger weight usually means bigger capacity – if weight is too important for you, you will have to find a perfect balance between it and the capacity of your machine.
The price range for tennis ball machines is quite wide – cheapest models start with a few hundred dollars per piece while some high-end models can cost you up to $10,000.
Generally, budget-friendly models are anything below $1,000. Mid-range models cost from $1,000 to $2,000. Any tennis ball machine with a price higher than $2,000 that can be considered top-range but don’t quote me on that – I’m just trying to give you an idea of pricing:).
This is another important thing on the list. Whenever buying a product, you want to be sure it’s well-protected from any production faults or construction flaws. Having a good warranty will make life so much easier and many of these warranties might include free services as well. The warranty will ensure that your back is covered if anything happens that could potentially damage the machine. We recommend paying the extra money for a decent warranty.
Most tennis ball machine manufacturers provide a 2-year warranty on their products, which should be quite enough for moderate use.
Propulsion refers to the way the machine will dispense the tennis balls. There are two general types of ball propulsion in tennis ball machines – air pressure propulsion and spinning wheel propulsion.
Tennis ball machines that feature air pressure propulsion, which means that balls are shot through a special tube using air pressure. This type of propulsion is usually featured on budget models. Some of these models require gas that needs to be replenished regularly.
Tennis ball machines that use spinning wheel propulsion have two spinning wheels inside them to feed the ball, much like a pitching machine in baseball. This is the type of propulsion you would expect to see on mid-to-high range tennis ball machines as it allows you to spin the ball, which makes for more challenging practice.
Feeding interval generally means the intensity, with which you are going to receive the balls. There is hardly any secret here – the more variable you are with options, the better.
Some tennis ball machines provide fixed intervals like 3, 6, and 12 seconds. Others allow you to set a custom interval between 1 and 60 seconds.
Oscillation is the ability of a tennis ball machine to feed the ball in multiple directions – you would definitely want this for your tennis practice.
Oscillation can be:
- random (machine decides where to feed the balls itself, based on a random algorithm)
- programmable (you can set a specific practice routine that suits your training goals best)
Of course, it is much better to have a tennis machine with programmable oscillation – it gives you more variety and challenge in your practice.
Remote Control & Programmability
Many of the top tennis ball machines are equipped with some decent programs that will get you started and also advance your skill when you are becoming a better player. The remote control is expensive, but it will be a great addition to have if you plan on controlling the tennis ball machine from afar. This will also allow the coach to vary up the workout routine without you noticing and giving that occasional curveball to keep the player on their toes.
Tennis ball machines can be A/C-powered or battery-powered. A/C is not our first choice as not all courts have a power source available with a couple feet from your training spot. Plus, you have to deal with the power cord, which is a hassle, so to say.
Battery-powered tennis ball machines make for greater mobility and, generally, are more convenient than A/C powered ones. However, the battery life is limited – it usually doesn’t allow you to play for more than 3-4 hours straight. Typically most professional quality machines are battery powered.
Best Tennis Ball Machines Reviews
Lobster Sports Phenom II Club Series Machine
Hands down, this a monster (lobster;-)) of a product. Fully programmable and highly customizable, this tennis ball machine allows you to dial in your own drills and practice to the maximum.
Phenom II features fully random oscillation that throws the balls all over the court mixing upspeed, depth, and spin parameters.
Huge capacity is another big advantage – 250 balls are more than enough for some intense practice.
In other words, this is a top-of-the-range tennis ball machine capable of delivering great court experience.
Now, for the downside. If you don’t mind the high price (well, it does offer something in return), you would probably mind the weight of this thing, as it’s over 150 lbs (68 kilograms). Definitely not something that is easy to carry around. I really wish this thing was a little bit lighter.
Another disappointing thing is that the remote control unit shown in that beautiful picture of the product actually has to be purchased separately. What? For THAT amount of money asked, I would expect a free pair of racquets and a hundred balls as a gift.
- extreme training versatility
- lots of helpful options
- large capacity (250 balls)
- quite heavy
- remote control has to be purchased separately
Overall, it’s a great machine capable of handling the demands of even the most dedicated player.
Lobster Sports Elite Grand V Portable Tennis Ball Machine (21x14x 20- Inch)
Coming in a thousand dollars cheaper than the Phenom II, this machine is, nevertheless, strong and packed with almost the same number of features, save for the ball capacity.
This battery-powered tennis ball machine features 6 pre-programmed drills along with attack/defend, approach, and forehand modes.
You can also program shot locations, feed rate, ball spin, and speed. The oscillation is also fully random meaning that this machine will make you work hard to hit those balls in all areas of the court.
The ball capacity is somewhat mediocre for this kind of machine – only 150, which is something most competitors offer as well. The control panel is LCD utilizing touch-buttons – I find it quite up-to-date and easier to use than many of the competing options.
Another thing worth mentioning is the remote control, which, again, has to be purchased separately. However, the system itself is quite intuitive and does a great job of making your tennis practice a highly enjoyable experience.
- lightweight and packed with features
- fully random oscillation
- long battery life
- remote control has to be purchased separately
Lobster Sports Elite Grand V Portable Tennis Ball Machine is one of the top choices out there, almost unbeatable in the mid-to-high price range. If you value quality and consistency, this is definitely a machine to consider.
Lobster Sports Elite Grand IV Portable Tennis Ball Machine (21x14x 20- Inch)
Lobster Sports Elite Grand IV tennis ball machine is slightly less compact than the Grand V model, yet most of its elder brother’s features are in place: 150-ball capacity, fully random oscillation, and programmable drills.
Featuring a great variety of drills, this machine will make you sweat instantly. My personal favorite is the Grinder Drill – with its unpredictable shot trajectories, it will literally exhaust you, both physically and mentally.
Another thing that I do like about this machine is that it can easily fit in your car trunk, or even a backseat – it’s that portable.
My only complaint with this product would be the price – I wish it was more budget-friendly.
- great drill choice
All things considered, Elite Grand IV is a great training machine and an excellent simulated player.
Lobster Sports Elite 2 Portable Tennis Ball Machine (21x14x 20- Inch)
Although having the same dimensions as the Elite IV model, this Lobster Sports Elite 2 tennis ball machine lacks quite a few features that I really liked in its elder brother (or sister).
First of all, the oscillation here is no longer full random – you have horizontal, vertical, and horizontal/vertical modes. For most amateurs that may be enough but when you want to really challenge yourself, you might lack this wonderful ability.
The ball capacity is rather standard – 150 balls with a programmable feed rate ranging from 2 to 10 seconds. Maximum serve speed is 80 mph, which is good.
The machine is not that heavy and it features a weight of 44 pounds. It also includes 2 oversized wheels that will allow you to easily move it around to wherever you feel like having that practice session.
Be prepared to recharge your battery after 5 hours (on average) of court time, which is much longer than similar competitors.
Other nifty options like simple remote control and fast charger storage can be ordered only separately.
- very reasonably priced
- good serve speed
- no random oscillation
- fewer drill choices than in Elite IV and V models
For the money asked, this might be one the best value tennis ball machines on the market, even though the training options are somewhat limited compared to the top-range products.
Lobster Sports Elite 1 Portable Tennis Ball Machine (21x14x 20- Inch)
Now, don’t get me wrong – I have nothing personal against this tennis ball machine. Yet, I think that Lobster Sports Elite 1 model is not the best option you can possibly get.
While most of the options from Elite 2 model are intact here (ball capacity, maximum serve speed, feed rate), it does lack the vertical oscillation – something that you would really want for a complete practice.
This machine, however, tries to compensate this lack by adding up to 60-degree lobs (which is a good thing, by the way) but to no avail.
Topspin and backspin options are also here – to train your defensive skills.
- good serve speed (up to 80 mph)
- up to 60-degree lobs
If you were able to cough up the money for Lobster Sports Elite 1, give yourself a favor and find another couple of hundred bucks and get an Elite 2 model – much better investment.
Lobster Sports Elite Liberty Tennis Ball Machine
This baby of a machine was designed mainly for beginners and intermediate players, who are just starting to find their own style. Nothing too fancy here – just the basics.
The tennis ball machine weighs only about 35 pounds and it features 2 huge wheels that can be used to move it to any desired location you need effortlessly
Although there were a few compromises made, this tennis ball machine still stands strong with the core features: the capacity is 150 balls like you would expect from a mid-to-top-range machine. So is the maximum serve speed – 80 mph. Oscillation, however, can be only horizontal.
But, just like I have mentioned above, there were a few compromises made. What are they? First, it’s battery power – it allows only 2 hours of court time maximum (as opposed to at least 4 hours in Elite II and higher models).
One thing we really like about the machine is the fact that it can be operated with a remote. Unfortunately, the remote is quite expensive and you will need to purchase this separately, but it will make life much easier for you. The machine already includes a decent charger, but if you want a stronger charger, you can also buy this separately for a faster charge.
In terms of pricing, this machine is actually really affordable and you will certainly be getting your money’s worth when you do decide to make the investment. The only thing we did not like was the fact that all the extras are expensive, but they are actually worth is as well. This tennis ball machine will be ideal for beginners and intermediate players.
The elevation is manual-only, ranging from 0 to 50 degrees. What I really like about this tennis ball machine though is that it’s really lightweight – even a kid could lift it. Definitely a good feature.
- lightweight and compact
- has most of its elder brothers’ features
- low battery life (up to 2 hours only)
- All the extras are quite expensive
If you’re a beginner/intermediate player and looking for a product that will help get to the next level, look no further – Lobster Sports Elite Liberty Tennis Ball Machine is for you.
Spinshot-Player Tennis Ball Machine with Phone Remote Supported
Moving on to a different brand, I have got to say that Spinshot-Player is one serious tennis ball machine. It may not look as futuristic and ergonomically perfect as Lobster machines but, hey, it does the job.
Spinshot-player features horizontal, vertical, and fully random oscillation to suit your tennis practice needs. It’s quite bulky, though, with its dimensions and weight.
Programmable personalized six-ball drills are also present allowing you to dial in whatever you want.
What I love the most about this machine is that they don’t ask for an additional charge for the remote control. It’s just there, along with their iPhone app that can be used as a remote control as well. This app comes preloaded with programmable training modes to customize your practice and focus on improving your specific weaknesses.
- very solid and reliable machine
- good range of training options and drills
- full random oscillation
- no additional charge for the remote control
- unusual shape
- quite bulky and heavy
I would definitely put this Spinshot-player tennis ball machine next to the Elite IV model by Lobster – it’s that good.
SPINSHOT-PRO TENNIS BALL MACHINE
Spinshot-Pro is almost the same as its sibling – Spinshot-Player. The only major difference is the ball capacity – this model can feature 30 balls less than Spinshot-Player, only 120.
The official product review highlights the fact that it’s the only tennis ball machine out there not made of plastic. Whether it’s good or bad, is up to you. My personal experience says that things made of metal are generally sturdier and more durable.
All the things needed for great tennis practice are here: random oscillation, adjustable topspin, and backspin, as well as adjustable stroke angles – from groundstroke to lob.
One major downside is the battery power – it can last maximum 2 hours, which kind of disappoints me. My tennis practices usually last a bit longer than that. Also, depending on the version you buy, you may have to purchase a rechargeable battery separately (which isn’t cheap!)
- great selection of practice options
- full random oscillation
- low battery life (up to 2 hours only)
- somewhat low ball capacity (120 balls)
Overall, it’s nice product by Spinshot. However, I would recommend setting your eyes on the Spinshot-Player models, which outperforms this one by a long shot.
Match Mate Rookie by Match Mate Tennis Ball Machine
We’re in kids’ department now, and this is one of the finest examples of a tennis ball machine for beginning tennis players. It’s worth your attention for several reasons.
First of all, the price – it’s quite reasonable for the amount of fun that you get. Secondly, it’s the build quality and construction – despite being made of heavy grade aluminum, this tennis ball machine is very lightweight (only 22 lbs). And, finally, the battery life – Match Mate Rookie battery allows up to 5 hours of court time. You will get tired faster the battery dies.
Now, for the downside. Since this machine was made for beginners, the maximum serve speed is 28 mph and the maximum ball capacity is only 70 balls. That won’t be enough for serious practice.
However, the low maximum speed makes it possible to use this machine even at home – if your room is big enough to run around with a racquet in your hand.
- lightweight, yet reliable
- long battery life (up to 5 hours)
- low maximum ball speed (up to 28 mph)
- low ball capacity (70 balls)
Overall, it’s a great tennis ball machine for rookies (hence the name), younger children, and even a few more intermediate players.
Quickstart Tennis Ball Machine
We’re still in the kids’ department. This machine was designed for beginners and children who are just starting out, which means a competitive player probably won’t get that much fun out of it.
However, it does the job well – there aren’t any particular flaws in the design and construction. Yet, it does seem a little bit weird and awkward at first.
The top speed is 30 mph, which rather humane given the fact it will be used by kids. This is a good speed to simulate basic gameplay with scaring intimating young players.
- easy to operate
- low ball speed
Quickstart tennis ball machine is an OK beginner product at best – if I had a choice, I would prefer the Match Mate Rookie to this one.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
We would like to thank you for reading this article and we certainly do hope that you have a better understanding of how a tennis ball machine works and why you should consider investing in one if you want to seriously improve the productivity of your practices. In terms of recommendation, we would highly recommend the Lobster Sports brand. They have a wide variety of tennis ball machines that you could choose from and they are also extremely well priced for a variety of different needs and budgets. The additional remote is also highly recommended as it allows you to customize your experience and work on specific weak points and returns.
Please let us know in the comment section what you think of our selection and also tell us if you think we might have missed any of your favorites.