Best Tennis Ball Machine 2017: Backhands, Forehands & Slice

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Best Tennis Ball Machine

Tennis is a great sport to play for people of all ages. Unlike team sports you don’t have to arrange for more than ten people to come together to play a match. If two players can meet up the game is on. But even with those low requirements, there will be days where it can be hard to find someone to practice against. What do you do when you want to practice on your own? That’s why the tennis ball machine was invented.

A tennis ball machine is a device that automatically fires tennis balls out in a manner that mirrors a player hitting the ball across the court. This allows individual players to practice on their own. It’s perfect for players who want to get in practice without the inherit competition of playing against an opponent or the cost of hiring a teacher to hit the balls to you. Sure, buying a tennis ball machine is always going to cost more than buying a machine, but every time you use your machine, it will become more cost effective. If you are serious about improving your tennis skills, then a tennis ball machine is one of the best investments you can make.

Tennis Ball Machine Buyer’s Guide

The job of a tennis ball machine seems simple at first, but these machines are like the game of tennis. They may start off simple, but they can quickly become more complicated and much more powerful. With quality tennis ball machines clocking in at hundreds of dollars you need to make sure that you get a machine that suits your needs. You must know what separates one machine from the next, and how these differences impact your experience as an aspiring tennis player.

Settings

A skilled tennis player knows that they need to be prepared for anything. A player who always serves and returns the ball in the same manner is too easy to predict and defeat. Quality tennis training uses diverse training methods and strategies to keep students from growing complacent. Tennis ball machines help players prepare for this aspect of the game by modulating their firing based on a range of settings. Settings include firing interval, power, elevation, and spin. That’s right; you can set some of the better machines to fire off balls with added topspin or backspin. Tired of getting thrown whenever an opponent puts a little topspin into their returns? You don’t have to be blindsided anymore! With the right ball launcher, you can quickly face hundreds of perfectly spun returns until you are prepared to face the spin next time you face off with your rival.

The most basic machines usually come with basic settings that can’t be changed. There might only be two settings, on and off. The fancier the machine gets, the more settings it is likely to have, moving from one speed to dozens. These advanced machines might cost more, but they’re designed to help you every step of your journey. From lobbing softballs as you learn your way around the court to firing off blistering backspins, the best tennis ball machines can do it all. It’s up to you to decide how much your dream machine is capable of.

Power

The basic job of a tennis ball machine is to fire tennis balls across a court. Some fire off slow balls at ten mph while others fire off at blistering speeds of 70 mph and more. Most machines have the option of choosing the speed you want, sliding between the minimum and maximum speeds. The right machine for you is the one that fires off the sort of speed you need. If you’re buying for a child, who is just starting to play you might want to find a launcher with a low minimum speed for the most basic levels of training. Consider getting a machine that throws balls at a speed you aren’t quite comfortable with, yet. You should have room to grow, so you don’t have to buy a new machine too soon.

Ball Capacity

The experience of practicing with a tennis ball machine depends on how many balls it can fit. The large a machine’s capacity is the longer you’ll be able to hit balls without having to stop, gather up your balls, and reload. Tennis ball machines can hold anywhere from a dozen balls to hundreds of them. When looking at different machines, you should think about how many balls you would like to hit in one go before you have to go out and gather them up.

Remember that there are pros and cons to smaller and larger ball capacities. If a machine can only carry 50 balls, you might not be able to practice for as long as you’d like in one go, but once the tank is empty it won’t take you too long to gather up the fifty balls and reload for the next round of practice. On the other hand, if you get a machine that holds 300 balls you’ll have to spend quite a bit of time reaching down for balls after a lengthy patch of swinging. You should also keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for the balls in addition to the machine, and while an individual tennis ball may be cheap buying for more than a hundred of them can get pretty pricey.

Portability

If you’re an individual, who will be taking your ball machine with you to any courts you want to practice on you need to think about the practical implications of the machine’s design. Most machines are designed to be portable, but some are easier to carry than others.

The first thing to think about is weight. What is the heaviest machine you can carry on your own? How much would you feel comfortable carrying? Of course, you aren’t required to lug these machines around in your hands; many larger machines come equipped with wheels that allow for easy transport.

Size is another thing to consider. It’s related to weight but subtly different. There are smaller machines that are heavy because of the dense machinery used to construct it and larger machines that are surprisingly light. Don’t judge the size of a machine from a thumbnail picture, check the dimensions and compare them with the space available at home and in your vehicle. You don’t want to spend hundreds on a high-quality ball launcher just to find that it won’t fit in your car.

Extras

While it’s essential to get a machine that can handle the core job of firing off tennis balls it’s also worth looking at some of the additional benefits that come with different models. For example, a remote control isn’t necessary to run a tennis ball machine, but it makes the whole process that much more fun and intuitive. Nobody wants to have to run over to their tennis ball launcher every time they want to turn it on or off; this can quickly lead to wasted balls that are fired off while you’re running to get into place.

If you’re serious about learning the game of tennis, you should also think forward to the future. Players who know how to put a tennis ball machine to good use discover that even the best-made machines can face issues after years of heavy use. That’s why you should try and get a warranty if possible. A high-class tennis ball machine can come with a hefty price tag. Skipping the warranty might seem like a money-saving move, but in the end, you could end up spending hundreds of dollars on repairs or replacements when a relatively inexpensive warranty would have saved the cash and trouble.

Tennis Ball Machine Reviews

In the world of tennis ball machines, there are two leading manufacturers, Spinshot and Lobster. As such the review section of this article will focus on the top models from these brands. In the end, we will also look at a few models from smaller companies, but before we get there, we will look at these two brands and their leading products. By the end of this section, you’ll know the basic details of the ten most reliable machines on the market today.

Spinshot

There are a lot of companies out there that make tennis ball machines, but most of these companies divide their attention between different products and sports. Not so with Spinshot. This is a company that was built from the ground up on the promise of creating the best tennis ball machine they could. The reaction to their products shows that they have succeeded in tapping into the market.

Spinshot has taken the concept to the next level with their line of Spinshot Tennis ball machines. The machines are available in four different models, each with their own features and price points. These range from the barebones Spinshot-Lite to the fully loaded Spinshot-Player. In this article, we will focus in on the three most powerful and popular models, the Player, Plus, and Pro machines.

1) Spinshot-Player Tennis Ball Machine with Phone Remote Supported

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The Spinshot-Player is the most advanced machine that Spinshot makes. It’s fully decked out with all the features you could want in a tennis ball machine. It can hold up to 120 balls and fire them at close to 70 mph. Of course, you don’t have to start off hitting fast balls, the machine allows for customized training. Modify power, pacing, oscillation and more. The Player offers the best training experience you can get with customized drills that can help players work on their trouble areas in the most effective manner.

One reason to go with the player is the fact that phone remote support comes standard. Why take a remote for your ball launcher and your phone to the court when one device can handle everything you need? Most of us are attached to our phones, using them constantly throughout the day. This upgrade to the Spinshot base model allows you to give your smartphone even more power.

Some shoppers may skip over the Player because it’s the priciest option, but this might be a mistake. The Player does cost more than Spinshot’s other models, but that’s with good reason. The cost pays for extra features like the custom training and phone remote support. If you want to get the most out of your Spinshot, then the Player is the way to go.

2) Spinshot-Plus Tennis Ball Machine With Phone Remote Supported

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While the Spinshot-Player comes standard with phone remote capabilities the feature is optional in the Plus. This means that if you want to take advantage of this extremely helpful feature you need to double check to make sure it comes with the model you’re ordering. If it doesn’t, you can usually ask for an upgrade. The ability to control the full power of the Spinshot from your phone is well worth the additional cost.

One feature that the Plus lacks that can’t be added on later is customized drill setting. This feature is unique to the player, and absent from any of the other Spinshot models. So, if you are looking for an automated training routine tailored to your specific needs, then you should spend extra on the Player. But if you are looking to save some money then the Plus still has more than enough features for the average tennis player.

3) Spinshot-Pro Tennis Ball Machine Portable Training Partner

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If you’ve looked at the Player and Plus and found that you want to spend even less, then there’s always the Pro. The final Spinshot we’ll look at is the Pro. This machine is even lighter and less expensive than the last, weighing in at 37.5 pounds. Compare this with the 40-pound Plus and the 42-pound Player. The difference in wait and price is explained by the difference in features; the Pro lacks some of the more popular features from its more expensive counterparts. For starters, the Pro isn’t equipped to handle phone control. Instead, the machine has a simple 2-button remote. This remote does the job but doesn’t offer the same level of convenience.


Lobster Sports

The next company we’re going to look at is Lobster Sports. This is another company dedicated to improving your tennis experience. They produce a variety of tennis machines, both electric and battery powered. In addition to their machines they also produce a variety of tennis accessories, so if you’re looking for one company that you can trust to outfit you on the court Lobster is a company worth considering.

Lobster Sports is building off a legacy that goes back over 40 years. The company’s founder, Harry Giuditta, built his reputation by purchasing a failing tennis machine company, recalling all their machines, and returning them to buyers after repairs and upgrades. All for free. This attitude of excellence has kept the company in business for almost half a century, and it’s reason enough to look at their current offerings.

The other limitations relate to range of motion. While both the Plus and Player have vertical and 2-line oscillation the Pro is limited to horizontal oscillation. This means that it can move left and right automatically but not up and down. This is fine for a beginner, but as a player gets more comfortable with the machine, they’re likely to plateau in their skills without the additional range of movement to push them even further.

4) Lobster Sports Elite Liberty Tennis Ball Machine

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Lobster’s flagship product is the Elite line. This collection of six different models accounts for their most popular and affordable battery-powered tennis ball launchers. We’ll look at all of them, but we need to start somewhere, so why not start at the Elite Liberty? If you look at this machine, the first thing you’ll notice is the distinct red and gray design. It’s a fun look, the sort of thing that’s just begging to be played with. If you look closer, the next thing that might jump out at you is the control panel. The Lobster machines allow for an intricate level of control. This model allows you to change feed frequency, pitch speed, the degree of spin, elevation, and orientation with just a few flicks.

The Elite can launch balls at speeds between 20-70 mph. The hopper can hold up to 150 balls so that you can get plenty of practice on one load. To keep you on your toes it has random horizontal oscillation. All of this in a 36-pound package, with wheels that make it easy to move across the court and into place.

5) Lobster Sports Elite 1 Portable Tennis Ball Machine

The Liberty is a fine machine, but it is also one of the more basic options in the Elite line. If you want even more from your tennis ball machine, you need to look further down the product list, starting with the Elite one and moving up to the Elite Grand V Limited Edition. All of the Elite line models are identical in form and aesthetics. The slight differences will come in other areas as described below.

The first step up from the Liberty is the Elite 1. This model takes the features of the Liberty and adds onto them. For example, while the Liberty can fire off at speeds of up to 70 mph the Elite 1 can reach speeds of 80 mph. While the Liberty packs enough power for 2-4 hours of court time the Elite 1 cranks it up to 4-8. While the Liberty can reach 50 degrees of elevation, the Elite one can stretch up an extra ten degrees to reach 60. Maybe not the biggest changes, but each adds something that the seasoned tennis player will appreciate.

6) Lobster Sports Elite 2 Portable Tennis Ball Machine

The Elite 2 continues the trend of evolution as it builds on the Elite 1. This machine adds to the training experience with an even wider variety of oscillation movements. The Elite 1 and Liberty both come with horizontal oscillation but the Elite 2 has horizontal, vertical, and a combination of the two. This means that you can expect a wider variety of shots, keeping you on your toes and training you for an actual match with even more realism.

7) Lobster Sports Elite 3 Portable Tennis Ball Machine

If you’re looking to get more variety out of your training, the Lobster Elite 3 is a worthy investment. In addition to the full range of random oscillation found in the Elite 2, the Elite 3 adds in two-line oscillation. This means you can narrow or widen the firing range to customize your training regiment. Want to focus on balls hit to near the center of the court? You can do it! Want to run from one side to the next? You can do that too! Once again, a subtle but powerful change that will help tennis players reach an even higher level in their game. Remember, this is all on top of the features available in the previous models. This level is where the Elite series begins to leave competitors behind, offering a wider range of options so you can take your game to the next level.

8) Lobster Sports Elite Grand IV Portable Tennis Ball Machine

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As the Elite line goes along Lobster adds new features to improve the experience, making a day with the machine a little more like facing a real player. This process takes an even greater step as we move into the Elite Grand models. These models come with pre-loaded drills that offer players a new level of challenge. This tool uses a computer to control the way the machine moves and fires, switching things up on the fly to improve flexibility and reaction speeds. It is truly the next level of machine training. The grand IV comes with six pre-built drills designed to prepare you for a variety of situations. There’s the moonballer to train for players who like to lob it up, the all-courter to keep you running around the court, and the lefty for preparation against left-handed players. And there are three other drills included! With this start to the Elite Grand series, we get to a point where you can get a serious lesson when you’re all alone with your tennis ball machine.

9) Lobster Sports Elite Grand V Limited Edition Portable Tennis Ball Machine

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The Elite Grand line reaches its peak with the Elite Grand V Limited Edition, also known as the V LE. This machine builds off the 4 by adding in twice the pre-loaded drills, customizable drills, and a wide range of shot locations so you can truly tailor your experience.

It’s difficult to understate the training potential of this machine. You can use this machine every day and experience something unique as you mix up the different drills and settings. It has 24 pre-programmed drills and by using the customization options who knows how many different ways there are to practice with this machine! You can use it to train for a wide variety of situations in a comfortable environment. It’s the closest you can get to training with another player without having to find one. While this is the most expensive electric launcher from Lobster, it’s also the one that’s best equipped to replace expensive training sessions with teachers.

10) Match Mate Rookie Tennis Ball Machine

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If you’re in the market for an affordable tennis machine that can handle all your basic needs, then Match Mate’s Rookie is worth a shot. The basic design, a plain blue box, may not be the most exciting, but it gets the job done. That’s the Rookie, in a nutshell, it doesn’t have some of the fancier features that other machines brag about, but it makes up for this with usability and affordability. And at just 22 pounds it’s fairly easy to move, although the lack of wheels means that you might need to bring a cart if you want to move it across a large distance. It does come equipped with a handle built into the casing so carrying it doesn’t have to be too much of a chore.

The machine is equipped to fire balls at a speed of 30 mph over a distance of 50 feet. If you’ve read through the rest of this guide, you know that this is relatively slow compared to some of the other machines on the market. Still, it’s power is enough for a beginner who is looking to get off on the right foot. After all, you’ve got to be able to hit a 30 mph ball before you can hit a ball barreling at you at 70 mph. This machine is especially good for teaching children; it has an 18 mph soft pitch mode that protects children from getting injured during use.

For the price of a few lessons with a good tennis coach, you can purchase this durable little machine and practice your game whenever you want. It’s aluminum shell can keep a licking while keeping the mechanical interior safe and operable. You can batter it with quite a few balls, and it will still keep running. The only thing you have to worry about is making sure it’s charged, and once it’s fully charged, it can keep going for up to five hours without a recharge. It’s all a novice could want in a tennis ball machine.

11) iSam Extend Tennis Ball Machine

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If you want a machine that can keep the balls flying for the whole afternoon, then the iSam is ready to go to work. When fully charged, it can fire off tennis balls for up to 7 hours at a time. At this level of stamina, the iSam Extend Tennis Ball Machine is the longest lasting machine in the world. This is a machine that can keep going until even the pros call it quits. It’s worth noting that to achieve this longevity the iSam has fewer bells and whistles than some of its competitors. Still, it covers the needs of most tennis players.

The machine can fire balls at speeds between 15 and 70 miles per hour. This makes it a choice that can work as you develop your skills, starting off slow and building up to top speeds. You can also adjust oscillation, elevation, and rate of delivery for a more personalized experience. The machine isn’t the most portable, it weighs 39 pounds and has a design that can be a little unwieldy to carry. The design is something that could be polarizing; it has an old-school feel that may attract some while driving away others. Design is a matter of taste; the actual machinery will suit just about anyone who wants a machine to launch the balls right down the line.

Please note that it does not come with a remote. You will have to walk up to it every time you want to make adjustments. If this is a deal breaker, then you should look back at some of the other machines covered in this list. But if you can live without the remote and want a solid, if old-school machine, then the iSam is worth the price.

Conclusion & Recommendations

Each of these ten machines has something to offer tennis players of all experience levels. There isn’t one machine that will suit everyone, as a shopper you need to decide what your needs are and find the machine that fits you like a glove. If you’re ambitious and willing to spend the money, then machines like the Lobster Sports Elite Grand V Limited Edition Portable are ideal. The V LE’s wide range of features and deep level of customization is almost enough to replace a regular human training partner. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want something solid and affordable to start out with then you can always try out the Match Mate Rookie.

Look over these machines and compare them to one another and your expectations. If you haven’t already take the time to look back at the buyer’s guide and consider the different criteria. Anyone feeling overwhelmed should narrow in on the features that they need before the start looking at the bells and whistles they can live without. Any of these machines will help you improve your game but if you take the time to find the best machine you can reach your full potential.