Updated: Mar 23, 2020
When you want to improve your tennis game, there’s no substitute for practice, but how do you practice without a partner? One option is to whack the ball against a wall. Wall practice helps, but as you advance in skill, you’ll want something a little more challenging.
That’s where a tennis ball machine can come in very useful. Unfortunately, the best tennis ball machines are very expensive and even the cheapest ones will cost a fair whack. Why is that? Are they worth it?
Why are They Pricey?
These are specialist machines with complex moving parts and electronics. They usually come with a wide range of settings to allow you to practice at different speeds and to adjust the height and so forth. As a result, they work out a bit pricey.
Are They Worth the Price?
That’s something that’s going to depend on each player, so you’ll have to weigh the benefits to get an answer, which brings us to:
The Benefits of Tennis Ball Machine
+ You Have a Training Partner on Call
With tennis, the more you can train the better. A ball machine is there when you need to train, not just once or twice a week. This means that you can fit in a practice session whenever it suits you.
+ You Set the Terms
Another issue when you’re playing with a person is that you’re not in control of the situation. If you have specific drills that you want to practice, you need to get the other player’s buy-in. If they don’t want to practice the same drills, you’ll have to settle for what they will do.
With a ball machine, you set the timing, speed, and so forth. So, you get to control every aspect of your practice session.
Another issue when playing with a human partner is that they’re not going to be as consistent with their shots. Your partner is bound to get bored if they’re lobbing the same shots repeatedly. That’s assuming that they’re capable of replicating every shot every time.
With a machine, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s never going to get bored and will always be consistent.
+ You Can Advance at Your Own Pace
Playing with a more advanced partner is going to help you improve your playing, but you’re not going to have much control over how the session goes. With a ball machine, you can ensure that the settings are exactly to your liking.
If you have a good machine, you can practice hitting balls with a backspin, topspin, at different speeds, and so on. You get to advance at a comfortable pace for you without having to worry about keeping up with a much more advanced player.
+ You Can Focus on the Correct Form
Muscle memory is one of a tennis player’s best friends. The more you can practice repetitive shots; the more your muscles will get used to them. Over time, your body will learn to react instinctively to these shots.
That means faster reaction time for you and an overall improvement in your game.
There is a caveat here, though. Making sure that you’ve got the right form is important. That’s why it might be best to practice with a coach before you start practicing on your own. You don’t want to learn and reinforce bad habits.
Correcting your technique at a later stage is going to be hard, so make sure you’re getting it right from day one.
Cons of a Tennis Ball Machine
Overall, there are a lot more pros than cons. To make an informed decision for yourself, though, you need to take the cons into account as well.
Your average tennis ball machine cost starts at around about $500 for a very basic model. More advanced machines can set you back a few thousand dollars. To get a decent machine, with the basic features that make the purchase worthwhile, you’re looking at least $1,000 to $1,500.
Now, we know that tennis is not the cheapest hobby, but this cost may be prohibitive for some people.
You also need to factor in the cost of the balls that you’ll be using. The more you practice, the more often you’ll need to get new balls. Pressureless balls will last longer. They’ll outlast the others but tend to bounce more so that’ll have to be considered.
– You’ll Need the Space
Ideally, you should have a full-sized tennis court to play on. If you’ve got one at home, that’s great, but what if you don’t?
You can choose a portable model, but even the portable models are s heavy and somewhat ungainly. You’d have to figure out how to transport the machine to your practice area. Generally speaking, your best option is to use it at home.
– You’ll Have to Tidy Up Afterwards
While it’s fun to hit the balls, you’ll also have to go around afterward and collect them all. This can be a pain. Hoppers can make the task easier as they allow you to pick up the balls without bending. That does, however, add to the cost of having the machine.
– You Could Learn Bad Habits
One big downside is that you could be practicing bad habits. There’s no one there to check your form. That’s why it’s best to get a good grounding before you start taking on the ball machine.
There is no question that a ball machine can be a useful tool for the player that needs to get in more practice. It’s not going to be enough on its own, however. You also need to factor the cost of the machine into your equation.
Would it be a good purchase for you? That’s going to depend on how often you’re going to use it, and how much you want to improve your game. If you’re competing at a professional level, it will be a good investment in your future.
If you’re only going to use it once or twice a week, though, it would probably be a waste of money.
If you’re still undecided, speak to your local sports shop and see if you can rent a machine, or find out if there’s somewhere you can go to try one out. You may find that you don’t like playing with it after all. At the end of the day, a tennis ball machine can be a valuable tool to help you improve your playing. If you use it properly, it could well prove worth the price.