Ball Machines – 10 Tips for the Best Model

A ball machine is the optimal training aid to practice your own shots and refine techniques. With a good machine you can recreate all the game situations from a real tennis match. Forehand or backhand shots, volleys and much more are no problem for most models.

So if your training partner doesn’t have the time, you can simply reach for the machine. In no time at all, you have set up the ball machine and adjusted it for training. Whether you want to play tennis early in the morning or late at night, your ball machine is always ready for use. So you always stay flexible.

In this article, you will learn all 10 points that will help you find a tennis ball machine. At the end, you will get a great tip for training with ball machines.


How Does a Ball Machine Work?

diagram of the construction of a tennis ball machine

For better understanding we have sketched a ball machine. A main component of this machine is the ball basket into which you fill the tennis balls. Through a funnel the balls go into a pipe. There they are stopped at a barrier.

When the barrier opens, the ball falls through the pipe and reaches the acceleration rollers. These rollers are driven by two motors in opposite directions. They pick up the ball by means of rotation, squeeze it slightly and then catapult it out of the machine onto the tennis court.

1. Ball Capacity

photo of a large quantity of tennis balls in a basket

The first important feature to check on a ball machine is the ball capacity. In this case, it depends on the size of the basket. It makes a big difference whether the basket can hold 120 or 300 balls. The more tennis balls that fit in the basket, the less often you have to interrupt your training and collect the balls. On the other hand, you will need more balls for your training.

2. Speed

The speed of the ball is also of great importance. In general, beginners would like to start with slow balls, whereas advanced tennis players prefer higher speeds. Therefore the speed should be adjustable. Also make sure you check the maximum speed of the ball machine. In general, the speed depends on the rotation of the accelerating rollers and thus on the power of the motors.

3. Vertical Oscillation

Good ball machines give you the option to adjust the height of the balls. The machine changes the angle at which it shoots the balls. In combination with the speed, you can also adjust the trajectory as well as the height of the ball. Here you have the possibility to vary between drop shots, volleys, lobs and a lot of other strokes.

4. Horizontal Oscillation

The machine should be able to shoot balls in several different directions. For this purpose, ball machines have a swivel device that aligns both acceleration rollers to the left or right accordingly. Thus the balls are placed over the entire tennis court. For you this means an easy change between forehand and backhand strokes.

5. Spin

For most tennis players it is extremely difficult to hit back balls with spin. Both topspin and slice balls have the problem that they bounce unpredictably on the ground. It is helpful if the ball machine supports you in training these shots.

To create balls with spin, the machine lets both acceleration rollers run at different speeds. If the machine turns the upper roller faster than the lower one, it creates topspin. If the lower roller rotates faster, it creates a slice.

6. Customization

In order to simulate real rallies from a game, some machines have the possibility to switch on a training mode. This consists of an random sequence of different shots. Here the machine distributes the balls anywhere on the court. In addition to this mode, you can also create your own training programs in which you determine the ball sequence yourself.

7. Power

In general, you can choose between battery-operated ball machines and models with mains connection. Battery-powered machines have the advantage that they are very flexible. You can set them up anywhere, so to speak. However, the battery life is limited, because the battery is empty after a few hours and needs to be recharged.

You don’t have this problem with machines that are connected to the mains. This ball machine offers you a much longer playing time. However, please note that you absolutely need a power outlet nearby.

8. Remote Control

Especially in the beginning, you have to make a lot of adjustments on the machine. You want to test all functions first. But now you have to walk all over the court to get to the ball machine And you only have to press one single button.

This becomes very cumbersome in the long run and takes away your valuable training time. Some models also have a remote control that allows you to control the machine from a greater distance. As an alternative to the remote control, there are also apps for use with smartphones.

9. Portability

If you want to transport the ball machine regularly, you should pay attention to the weight. Usually compact models have a weight of less than 20 kg. In contrast, larger models can weigh twice as much. However, almost all machines have wheels on the underside to make transport easier So you don’t have to carry them all over the tennis court.

10. Durability

In principle, the purchase of a ball machine always involves a higher price. It is important that you get a model with high durability so that you can train with it for many years. High-quality models are made of a very stable material, usually metal or thick plastic. This is because the machine is exposed to various weather conditions on the court.

In addition to the material, you should also consider the duration of the manufacturer’s warranty. If the machine has a fault, you can have it repaired without any problems. The battery and the acceleration rollers are particularly susceptible to wear and tear. Therefore it is helpful if the manufacturer offers spare parts for replacement.

Tip: For training with the ball machine it is best to use pressureless tennis balls. Above we have explained that the machine compresses the balls with its rollers. Gas-filled balls would lose their internal pressure quickly. You would have to buy new balls in a short time. Pressureless balls do not wear out as much in a ball machine. This way you can save a lot of money.