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If you’re serious about tennis, or starting to get serious, chances are you’ve considered investing in a tennis ball machine.
Tennis ball machines give you the freedom to practice at any time, without depending on a coach or partner.
But if you’ve done some shopping, you’ll know that these machines can be pricey, and there’s no guarantee they’ll give you the same quality of practice as a traditional hitting partner.
If you’re asking yourself, “Should I buy a tennis ball machine?” then this is the article for you.
We’ll talk about some of the advantages, limitations, and disadvantages of tennis ball machines in order to help you make an informed decision of yourself!
Practice when you want
The first (and for many people the most important) advantage of a tennis ball machine is that it gives you the freedom to practice at any time.
Most of us aren’t professionals with access to a personalized coach at all hours of the day, which means that it’s important to work practice into an already busy schedule.
Couple that with a hitting partner with his or her own busy schedule, and there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself with time to practice but no one to play with.
We’ll go into more detail in the following sections about the strengths and limitations of practicing with a machine, but there’s no question that it’s more productive than hitting against a wall.
Variety of shots
Models differ widely in the features they offer, but a mid- to high-end tennis ball machine will let you practice all angles of shots at different heights, speeds, and even with topspin or backspin.
Some of the more basic models require you to reposition the machine in order to change the shot angle, but other models feature remote or programmable settings that can adjust the shot without the hassle.
One of the biggest advantages of practicing with a machine is that it’s a great way to target your weaknesses.
If you know that you’re especially weak on your backhand, or on your forehand, or on volleys, you can set the machine to drill these movements until you have them wired.
Another big advantage of practicing with a machine is that you can improve your consistency.
With a hitting partner you can never completely eliminate the variable of human error, but with a machine it’s possible to get the same shot, or the same sequence of shots, every time, allowing you to easily measure your progress and consistency.
This is the type of training that is best suited for a tennis ball machine, since the perfect repetition allows you to dial in your form without worrying about any other factors.
With that being said, there are some downsides to tennis ball machines. The first and most obvious is that buying a tennis ball machine can be a big investment, especially if you’re looking for one with all of the features described above.
The more features a machine has, the more it’s going to cost.
But it’s important that your machine have enough features for it to be an effective practice tool for you.
Also, a tennis ball machine will never be the same as a live partner.
As we mentioned above, machines are an excellent way to pinpoint weaknesses and improve form and consistency.
But with that being said, even the best machines won’t help you to learn the strategy needed to win a point against an opponent.
For this reason, it is a good idea to use a machine in conjunction with actual gameplay and other forms of practice to make sure that you’re developing a well-rounded game.
Finally, anyone who’s used a tennis ball machine can tell you that, while you’ll be hitting a lot of balls, you’ll be picking up just as many.
If you’re going to buy a machine, it may be a good idea to buy a hopper as well, either a manual or an electric one, to save both your time and your back.
Should I buy a tennis ball machine?
If it’s an option for you, a tennis ball machine can be a great tool for improving your game.
And the feeling of being able to practice when and where you want can be incredibly liberating.
Nevertheless, there are some things you should take into account.
A machine will improve your consistency and your form (provided that you have good self-awareness and are not reinforcing bad habits), but don’t expect it to improve your strategy, your reaction times, or your ability to read opponents.
Machines also involve some work in repositioning and collecting balls after each round, though higher-end features are available that can limit these inconveniences.
And finally, be sure to look into the specific features offered on each model.
Some features that vary are top speed (if you are an advanced player, for example, you might want a machine with high speeds to match faster gameplay), the ability to set top or backspin, and the power-source used, since many courts do not have an outlet nearby, and battery length varies from one model to the next.
In conclusion, don’t expect your tennis ball machine to perform miracles, especially if it’s going to be sitting in your garage collecting dust, but if you honestly put the hours in and use your machine to its advantages, it can be a great and even essential part of your practice routine.
Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com